Like something out of a picture-perfect fairy tale, the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, is a walled medieval city set right on the sea, with drawbridges (used in the 1991-92 war) and 18-ft-/6-m-high gates guarding the main entrances. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it's also very much a living, breathing city.
From the crenulated ramparts and watchtowers, there are some perfect vistas of the medieval city, with its cluster of signature bright red clay roofs, and outwards to the Adriatic Sea, nearby islands and mainland mountains. Because the Old Town is blissfully free of motorized traffic, the main streets (Placa or Stradun), squares and alleyways are perfect for exploring the city on foot.
Most of the inhabitants of Dubrovnik live outside of the Old Town's city walls. However, inside those walls, several hundred residents still live in historic homes, and the streets and alleyways are crammed with tiny shops, bars, cafes and restaurants that spill out onto the street.
The serious damage from the Serbia-Croatian War in the early 1990s has been completely repaired. Locals are still keen to point out the shrapnel and bullet damage that has been retained as a reminder of those dark days, which still come up frequently in conversation.
Dubrovnik also offers a spectacular natural setting, which includes soaring rugged mountains running along the coast, dramatic cliffs plunging into the sea, tiny deep coves with pebble beaches, offshore islands and unbelievably crystal-clear waters. This draws visitors as much as the historical medieval town.
In addition, many of Dubrovnik's stunning luxury and boutique hotels are destinations in themselves, easily commanding some—or much—of guests' leisure time. Many visitors return year after year to luxuriate in their favorite hotel or resort.
Dubrovnik has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe because of its warm climate, seaside setting and its rich historic and cultural heritage. In addition, many Game of Thrones fans visit the city to see the original locations that were used in the popular TV show. Dubrovnik's increased popularity also means that the city is facing the challenge of accommodating more visitors, especially during the busy summer season. Therefore, the number of visitors in the old town at any one time is limited to 8,000 people in order to protect historic buildings.
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