The last time I was in Croatia, it was over a weekend in October and it rained nonstop for two days. Even then, I fell in love with the country. There is a beauty here and a richness of history that has not only made it a hit summer destination for tourists, but also a favourite with film studios. Seen Game of Thrones lately? Dubrovnik is actually Kings Landing. No joke. Star Wars fan? There are a few places you’ll recognise as backdrops here. How about the new Robin Hood? Yup, filmed here. And the new James Bond is rumoured to feature Dubrovnik as well. I could go on and on, but you’re most likely not reading this as a film enthusiast but rather a travel addict! So let’s get down to business: what to see and do with a trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Let’s start with where to stay. For our 72 hour adventure, we were guests of the Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik. You will be hard pressed to find a better view of the Old Town. Our balcony overlooked the clear blue seas and the red tiled roofs. It felt like something out of a fairytale. On the outside, the view showcased a historic past, indoors the hotel embraced a more modern and comfortable decor for guests. Service always came with a smile, our breakfast room service was, if I’m being honest, the most impressive I’ve had in any hotel, and the sunworshipping opportunities around the property were plentiful. Basically, this is THE luxury hotel to stay in while in town. Plus, who doesn’t like imagining they are sleeping in the same bed as a cast member of Game of Thrones? Ok, may be getting a little carried away there, so let’s move on.
Ok, I’ve shown you the room, the balcony, the pools, the water, the bath and the room service. Let’s take a look at some of the food you can indulge in around the hotel, starting with lunch with a view at The Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik:
This was our first meal in Dubrovnik and I must say it set us all up for quite the culinary adventure. I have to come clean and tell you I had no idea what to expect when it came to Croatian food. Throughout the three days, I was shown a country that has incredible tales to tell through food. Rich in flavour and full of locally sourced ingredients, this is just your first look. Wait for it. Let’s take a look at The Old Town Dubrovnik before we go any further.
There is so much to see in the Old Town. You will explore and come back with thousands of pictures. My advice is to get lost. Just wander. Make sure you climb the wall. That is an absolute must! This is a city that deserves your thigh aching (from climbing so many steps). The view is breathtaking. Make it happen. It costs about $20 and it takes about an hour. Wear sturdy shoes and make sure to bring the sunscreen! If you’re going alone, bring the tripod. You’ll want a selfie moment.
After our first day of exploring the Old Town and dining in and around the hotel, we spent our second day moving further afield. Although, our first stop wasn’t too far away. We simply walked up the street to another Adriatic Luxury Hotel property, the Villa Sheherezade. This property would easily be mistaken for a Hollywood movie set. Every single step is a photo opportunity and here’s the proof:
Ps. Who’s in for booking this villa with me next summer?
After breakfast we took a short drive to Ston, where we took a traditional fisherman’s boat out on the water to experience a Ston Oyster Farm fresh tasting. As the fisherman brought up the nets to show us how they farmed flat oysters in the water, they also brought a few out for his to try, with a sip of white wine. With the ocean air in our hair and the salty sea smell lingering in our noses, we all began to understand how much more magical eating oysters can be when you are in their natural habitat. Across the way, a group of American tourists were doing the same and raising their glasses in happiness as they saw us tuck into our first oysters. This was pure joy. The views, the food, the people and the scenery made it feel unbelievable. This would be a theme…. the feeling of “is this really real?”
If you have the time, and are interested in oysters and wine, make the journey out to Ston to visit oyster farms and vineyards to buy from the locals. Your hotel can help you set this up and guide you in the right direction. It’s an experience that will truly transform your tastings for the duration of your stay.
After an afternoon at sea, followed by a tour of one of local vineyards and a stop in for a seafood lunch in Ston, our day was nearly complete. Just one meal to go before we sleep! For dinner, we headed to another Adriatic Luxury Hotel property at Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. At the Tavern Maslina we were treated to a sunset cocktail with a view. The colours in Dubrovnik at sunset are magical and there are literally dozens of bars, hotels and viewpoints available for taking in the show.
Day three in Dubrovnik was our last and most definitely my favourite. In the morning we boarded a yacht that had been privately rented for us for the day. Now, anyone that is familiar with Croatia will tell you that one of the best ways to really see Croatia is by boat. The waters here are clearer than anything you’ve ever seen before. The Caribbean needs to watch out. Whether you choose to sail through your stay or simply take a day or two out by boat, make sure you schedule at least one day at sea. For our yacht tour, we made our way around the Elafiti Islands, stopping occasionally for a swim off the boat or a dive into a cave for exploration. I won’t lie here, 80% of the time I could be found with the wind in my hair, laying flat on the front of the boat, catching as many rays as I could take.
After working up a hefty appetite, from rigorous sunbathing and the occasional float in the sea, it was time for lunch and there was an epic surprise in store. As we pulled around the corner of what looked like a deserted island, three huts came into view with a smattering of yachts in front. This was BOWA Dubrovnik and I’ve never in my life seen anything like it before. This was our lunch spot. We jumped off the yacht and walked into a hidden paradise, where we were served more courses than I can remember and copious amounts of Rose. We swam and sunbathed between courses and the hours flew by too fast. This is available for public booking! So make sure and add this to your “must visit” list while in town. It is desert island chic living at its finest. If that’s even a thing! Ha!
And just like that we were down to our last few hours in Dubrovnik. We returned to the hotel, showered and changed and headed back into the Old Town for dinner. Our last meal was at Proto, the highly acclaimed fish restaurant in the heart of the city. From foie gras to lobster, we managed to sample all the best luxury dishes on the menu and I can definitely say it’s worth a visit. For veggies and non fish eaters, there’s plenty of choice on the menu, so never fear. And if you’d rather not indulge in super rich foods, you’ll find things as easy as a simple burger on the menu.
It all ended too quickly, in my opinion. While a long weekend is doable in Croatia, and will of course allow you to see quite a lot, I would highly recommend booking a stay for at least a week and planning your excursions ahead of time. The team at Hotel Excelsior were a wealth of information in helping us plan many of our personal trips into the Old Town. Remember, most hotel staff know their area like the back of their hands and are all too happy to offer up their local knowledge. Take advantage of it. But above all else, get yourself to Dubrovnik. This is the trip of a lifetime!
Fashion Foie Gras was a guest of Adriatic Luxury Hotels