Best way to get your bearings of Dubrovnik’s Old Town is by making a tour of the still largely intact city walls (Gradske zidine), 25m high and stretching for some 2km, completely surrounding the city’s historic heart. The full circuit takes about an hour, longer in high summer when crowds may slow down your progress. The path along the walls is narrow in places and you’re not allowed up there if you’re wearing a backpack.
The walls are encrusted with towers and bastions, and it’s impossible not to be struck by their remarkable size and state of preservation. Although some parts date back to the tenth century, most of the original construction was undertaken in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. A major campaign of renovation and expansion then took place in the mid-fifteenth century when fear of Ottoman expansion was at its height. Once you’re on top, the views over the town are of a patchwork sea of terracotta tiles, punctuated by sculpted domes and towers and laid out in an almost uniform grid plan – the Ragusan authorities introduced strict planning regulations to take account of the city’s growth as early as the 1270s, and the rebuilding programme which followed the earthquake of 1667 rationalized things still further.