If you were to start from scratch to build the perfect walled, medieval seaport, you would end up creating Dubrovnik. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is about as picturesque as you could ask for. The Old Town is also very concise, so that you can see the major sites, walk the famous wall, have lunch in a charming local eatery, and do a little unscripted exploration of your own, all in one day.
The city’s 7th Century origins are currently a matter of scholarly debate. Some combination of Greek and Slav settlers, possibly looking for a location secure from invading armies, settled here and built the port. (Dubrovnik: A History) Its strategic location, halfway up the eastern Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, seems to have attracted the attention of all the major empires. Though it began as a Byzantine colony, over time it was also ruled by Venice, the Hungary-Croatian Kingdom, and the Ottomans. Napoleon made his appearance, claiming the city for his Kingdom of Italy. Ultimately, it became part of Yugoslavia. When that Communist country unraveled in 1991, the city became part of the new Republic of Croatia.
At its height, it was a Mediterranean merchant maritime power to rival Venice. The fleet flew white flags of neutrality that were generally welcome around Europe. The city avoided direct involvement in most major conflicts and was a prosperous trading center.
Fortunes changed after a mammoth earthquake in 1667. Dubrovnik was never again as important in maritime trade. The city was rebuilt in the manner you see it today. When Yugoslavia fell apart, war broke out between the new republic and the Serbians who shelled the city in spite of international condemnation. Most of the damage has been repaired, with the result being that the city looks exceptionally well-scrubbed today.