Photo Credit: Simon TongMost 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. It attracts a large number of tourists from all over Europe and it is easy to see why: 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 features 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.
Hotel BellevueOur 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 meters above the picturesque Miramare Bay overlooking the stunning crystal blue of the Adriatic Sea.
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 and 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.
Excelsior Hotel & SpaThe second hotel of the visit, The Excelsior Hotel & Spa has been in operation since 1913, but with significant recent renovations is Dubrovnik's iconic luxury hotel. Overlooking the island of Lokrum and Old Town it holds a breathtaking and unrivalled location maximized 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.
The hotel offered a superior spa and leisure area with a large indoor swimming pool and a small additional side pool, 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 on hand to serve drinks and food whilst you do so.
Dining in DubrovnikThe 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 the John Dory Risotto entree was full of creamy flavors, 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 food, coupled with the picturesque view of the coastal city wall, made this a memorable dining experience.
Seeing The CityA VIP tour of the Old Town was arranged through Adriatic Concierge Services. The knowledgeable guide was clearly passionate about the city's heritage and regaled stories of its 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.
A cable car service, near the Old Town gate, will take you to dizzying heights atop the hills overlooking the city (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.