When you visit Dubrovnik, it is almost impossible to avoid the city’s main drag, the Stradun (Straw-DOON) or Placa. The Stradun itself one of Dubrovnik’s tourist attractions, and it’s the place to wander and window shop. The Stradun starts from the city bus stop outside Pile Gate and runs about 300 meters to the clock tower at the other end of town. It is a pedestrian zone, so visitors can walk with the comfort of knowing they won’t be bombarded by vehicles.
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What you’ll see
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Right inside the Pile Gate sits the Franciscan Monastery, which houses one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, operating since 1391. On the right is a rustic polygonal fountain, Onofrio’s Large Fountain. On the eastern end of the Stradun there is a second fountain, Onofrio’s Small Fountain, carved by the sculptor Pietro di Martino in 1442 according to designs made by the engineer Onofrio de la Cava of Naples. St. Blaise’s Church, a quaint Italian baroque building, is also on the east end of Stradun. Gothic Rector’s Palace, built in 1441 is there as well. The palace now serves as a museum with furnished rooms, baroque paintings and historical exhibits. At the very end of the Placa on the east side, sits the most superb building, the Sponza palace, built in the period from 1516 to 1521. Across the street is a bustling morning market.
What to know
The cobbled surface surrounded by buildings’ façades on both sides was at one point in time completely underwater. Years ago, Stradun was a sea channel, which separated the two settlements that founded Dubrovnik in the early Middle Ages. After the channel was filled up, Stradun became a street. Though there are several theories about the way Stradun came to be, this is the established explanation. Stradun suffered significant damage in the earthquake that shook Dubrovnik in 1667. Stradun also suffered other damages during the Homeland war in 1991, when numerous missiles landed on the popular street.
Where to shop
The pavement is made of limestone and shines bright after rainfall. The houses on each side date back to the 17th century, with their height and style all in uniform. For the most part, the shops have the characteristic “na koljeno”—combined door and counter. The “na koljeno” type consists of a door and window in a single frame spanned by a semicircular arch. In the past, the door was kept closed and goods handed over the sill, which acted as the counter. Though it’s become a bit touristy over the years, shoppers can find authentic Croatian items along with the typical souvenir offerings. Restaurants offering traditional Dubrovnik-style seafood can be found along Stradun, as well as Vinoteka, (the Croatian word for “Wine Shop”) which sells Croatian and Slovenian wines alongside olive oil and truffles. You can find the shop at the entrance of the Stradun. Other items to buy are Croatian spirits, such as grape-herb and plum based brandies like grappa, travarica and sljivovica, which are to be drunk as aperitifs. You might see bottles crammed with herbs and spices. These lovely packaged bottles make wonderful and unique gifts.
Early bird gets the chair
There is definitely a cafe culture on the Stradun. As soon as the sun rises, cafe owners can be seen setting tables and chairs out for the day. You have to be early and quick to find a seat if you want to spend time people watching on the busy street. It is definitely first come first served. Come back in the evening for a few drinks when things quiet down a bit, and just observe. It’s the best place to be after a long day of sightseeing or playing in the water, and the best place to explore for shopping and eating in Dubrovnik.