Most of us still remember the conflicts which blighted the regions around Croatia, however we forget that this country offers some of the most stunning coastlines and historic cities in Europe. The golden walled city of Dubrovnik serves as an ideal destination for those seeking more than just a beautiful coastline, which undeniably it also has in abundance. It attracts a large number of tourists from all over Europe and it is easy to see why, due to the beauty of the surroundings coupled with an old city that has been carefully restored.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is one steeped in history with challenges from nature and man alike. Set within vast city walls, stunning Renaissance and Baroque architecture feature alongside a bustling vibrant town with cafés and restaurants offering an abundance of dishes with the emphasis proudly on the wealth of fresh seafood available.
We visited Dubrovnik, one of the country’s oldest cities, situated on the Dalmatian coast, where we visited two of the city’s luxury hotels and sampled the local food and culture.
Our early arrival was immediately greeted with warm smiles and swift attendance as we were directed to the hotel’s large terrace for a relaxing post-journey coffee overlooking the bay whilst our suite was being prepared. Dubrovnik’s Hotel Bellevue is perched some thirty metres above the picturesque Miramare Bay overlooking the stunning crystal blue of the Adriatic Sea.
The hotel has strived for a luxury yacht design concept which gives great emphasis to a sensation of open space and tranquillity throughout the hotel. In notable appreciation of Croatian culture, the hotel is adorned with traditional artwork, local photography and artefacts with no attention to detail spared, adding a warmth and personality that can often be lacking in large hotels.
The beautiful hotel terrace provides panoramic views of the bay and coastline and a more than adequate area for whiling away the hours over a few drinks. Alternatively a quick trip down the hotel’s private lift takes you directly to the beach area, the more informal beachside restaurant, and the local bay for swimming and soaking up the Mediterranean sun.
The hotel features 91 spacious rooms, including Superior, Deluxe and Bellevue Suites, all of which offer simple elegance, are well equipped and, most importantly, provide stunning panoramic sea views. Our Presidential Suite was well worth the short wait and boasted spacious rooms with a stylish, fresh interior. This suite comprised a large dining area, separate living room, two substantial bathrooms (with an “intelligence” shower system to confound many a guest) with the option of extending to a further second bedroom, if required. The balcony was excellently positioned to benefit from the sun throughout the day and more than large enough for two people.
A visit to the Hotel Bellevue’s restful spa and wellness centre was perfect for a somewhat overcast day. The spa offers a relaxing sauna and steam room area as well as an indoor infinity pool, suspended 20 metres above the Adriatic Sea. An extensive range of relaxation and detoxification body treatments were available for those seeking further stimulation of the senses.
For those keen to explore, the hotel was conveniently located just 800 metres from the historic old town, although it felt a little further on the return journey with the steady incline representing the price you pay for the hotel’s stunning views . Having ventured out, a great range of bars and restaurants can be found in the Old Town. Alternatively, the hotel also has its own restaurant offerings, Vapor, the hotel’s signature fine dining restaurant, and Nevere, the aforementioned more casual beach restaurant alternative.
Excelsior Hotel & Spa
The second hotel of the visit and sister hotel to the Bellevue, The Excelsior Hotel & Spa is located further along the coast, just 300 metres from The Old Town. Having been delighted with the Hotel Bellevue, this hotel had a lot to live up to and it did not disappoint.
In operation since 1913, but with significant recent renovations, this is Dubrovnik’s iconic luxury hotel. Overlooking the island of Lokrum and the Old Town it holds a breathtaking and unrivalled location that has been maximised with the extensive Palm Garden Terrace, a delightful area for dining, enjoying a cocktail, or simply a coffee and afternoon read.
The Excelsior features 141 standard rooms and 17 luxurious suites, as well as the newly renovated Villa Agave, a three bedroom luxurious summerhouse surrounded by five terraces with a choice of breathtaking views. Whilst naturally smaller than the Presidential Suite of the Bellevue, our room was of a standard size with comfortable fittings. As one of the hotel’s Deluxe rooms, it benefited from a beautiful sea view overlooking the island of Lokram, enjoyed from the balcony. As with the Bellevue Hotel, the rooms were excellently equipped, modern and again housing the interesting work of local artists.
The hotel offered a superior spa and leisure area with a large indoor swimming pool and a small additional side pool, perhaps favouring those accompanied by children, whilst still maintaining a relaxed and intimate feel. The sauna and steam area was a joy with lighting and aromas to promote the ultimate in escapism. The indoor swimming pool was located with access to the large sun-lounging and sea-bathing area, where you can take a dip in one of the cleanest coastlines in Europe, with staff as ever on hand to serve drinks and food whilst you do so!
Both hotels provide an excellent in-house concierge facility, Adriatic Services, offering an extensive array of options that could keep any guest busy for weeks on end. Fishing trips, chartered yachts, excursions, tours are but a few of the services offered. The staff were extremely helpful and keen to tailor your stay accordingly from arrival to departure.
Dining in Dubrovnik
The city has many restaurants catering for all tastes, a number of which can be found in the Old Town.
The Vapor restaurant at the Bellevue offered superb views of the bay and alfresco dining, making it an easy choice for a relaxing dining experience with the benefit of high quality food to match. In particular, the smoked oyster starter was a salty delight and John Dory Risotto for main was full of creamy flavours, both recommendations from the confident and knowledgeable staff.
Four exceptional restaurants await at The Excelsior with eclectic scents and tastes of authentic national and international cuisine. Sensus is the signature fine dining restaurant or for a turn away from the traditional, venture into Satu, The Excelsior’s excellent new Japanese restaurant.
One of the city’s most celebrated restaurants is Nautika, located just outside of the Old Town city walls. This restaurant prides itself on sourcing local food and recipes, keeping dishes simple but elegant. This pride in their food shone through from the warm greeting at the door to the enthusiastic and helpful waiters. The Fisherman’s plate starter demonstrated the quality of the local fresh fish, the smoked mussels standing out in particular. The veal with potato pea purée for the main course was cooked to perfection. The wine list boasted a large selection of superb high quality wines from the local region which won’t leave you disappointed. The food, coupled with the picturesque view of the coastal city wall, made this a memorable dining experience.
Seeing The City
A VIP tour of the Old Town, the aptly-named oldest part of the city, was arranged through Adriatic Concierge Services. The knowledgeable guide was clearly passionate about the city’s heritage and regaled stories of the city’s turbulent past. A clamber up onto the steep city walls is well worth the effort providing a better understanding as to the layout of the town but also the damage inflicted during the wars and subsequent repairs and reinforcement.
A cable car service, a mere 200 metres from the main Pile gate of the Old Town, will take you to dizzy heights, to the top of the hills over-looking the city, offering the best views of the city and coastline (over a coffee or glass of wine at the hilltop restaurant if you wish). The trip, as you’d expect, is primarily for the panoramic views over Dubrovnik, but there’s also a very interesting small war museum detailing this region’s history and beyond for the more discerning guest.
We were fortunate enough for our visit to coincide with the famous Summer Festival of Music and Culture (July-August). We experienced a cultural dance evening set spectacularly within one of the oldest forts of the Old Town. Each year the festival includes theatre, opera, music and dance events at various open-air venues around the city, and many are suitable for those of us who do not speak the local language.
Dubrovnik is more than a historic city settled on a beautiful coastline, it is a city that understands the value of its heritage, benefits from the quality of the locally sourced food and wine and is fully-equipped to cater for any visitor looking for quiet comfort and luxury.
For further information or to make a reservation, please contact your concierge.