The Weekender: 48 Hours in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Clear blue waters, fresh seafood, a town full of history - discover Dubrovnik, the must-visit Europe holiday destination
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Everyone talks about the the Cote D’Azur being the absolute place to go to experience a luxurious, laidback lifestyle on holiday. But the lesser known Dubrovnik, a city on the Adriatic Sea of southern Croatia, has a vibe like no other. Spend just a few days there and you’ll quickly adopt the Dubrovnik lifestyle, one that includes lounging around at the beaches where crystal clear waters lap up against the shore, eating the freshest seafood such as oysters and clams that the city is known for farming, trying the wines of the region that are hand-grown by small families for generations and soaking up the sun in some of the most elegantly designed hotels in Europe.
Stepping off the plane from London where the horizon can seem so small, Dubrovnik’s picturesque landscape is a sight for sore eyes. It’s no wonder much of Game of Thrones was filmed there – rugged coastlines and landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see and the historic town is full of cobbled side streets and steep hills with steps that, when the top is reached, reward you with breathtaking views. The peak of Dubrovnik’s luxury tourism offering, which makes a cool base for a holiday there where everything is available, everything is allowed and everything is stylish and modern, is the Hotel Bellevue. Just one of the Adriatic Luxury Hotels group’s properties, the Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik represents more than just one of many slices of Croatian luxury found in the city. It represents (especially after its recent refurbishment) the strength of the city, how it’s prevailed through violent tough times to become known as, once again, a fantastic European holiday destination to visit all year round.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
Walking into this grand hotel after a hot half hour drive from Dubrovnik Airport, the open-plan lobby with minimalistic (but not cold) grey and white interiors is simply chic and cool (partly down to the contemporary interior design and partly down to the very necessary air con on full blast). Immediately greeted by welcoming staff ready to help you check in, this first interaction tells you all you need to know about the hotel and the company behind it. Their aim is to help their guests experience Dubrovnik in the best way possible by providing comfortable rooms, sophisticated amenities such as the michelin recommended restaurant and private beach, and operating fully-bookable services to all the tourist attractions that best show off the city, such as walking tours and boat rides. Because of this, the Hotel Bellevue makes the holiday process in Dubrovnik easy, taking away any possible stresses, laying them out on a silver platter and serving them to you answered and organised so that all you have to do, is enjoy.
The rooms, more like mini-apartments, are flooded with light thanks to the terraces looking out to the sea and huge windows with electronic blinds ready to block out the sun when a good night’s sleep is needed. Each room boasts everything a guest with a love of luxurious hotels could want; a large, luscious bed, plenty of wardrobe space, fresh flowers, a minibar area, it’s own living room and the terrace of course, all spread breezily across polished wood floors. The bathrooms (of which Executive and Deluxe Suites have two) are havens of beige stone and grey marble surfaces with high powered showers, thick bathrobes and L’Occitane products. This is a room anyone would be excited to return home to after a long day of exploring the islands.
Even if you never leave the hotel, Bellevue gives a satisfying taste of Dubrovnik life and the staff execute every detail here with class, swiftness and elegance. On the lower levels of the hotel, make use of the spa facilities where a massage is particularly recommended after travelling, the outdoor terrace where you can order nibbles to go with a perfectly crafted cocktail, and the restaurant which is where guests can enjoy a buffet or hot breakfast in the morning (we particularly recommend a mushroom omelette with coffee and a glass of sparkling wine to start the day) and equisite suppers in the late evening whilst the sun goes down on the horizon which is easily seen from the restaurant’s terrace. The menu is carefully curated and offers something for everyone, from a truffle risotto for vegetarians to a plate of oysters on ice for fish lovers. NB: if thinking of ordering the chocolate souffle, don’t be fooled by thinking you can share one. Get one for yourself – trust us, you’ll finish every last crumb of the rich baked-to-perfection pudding.
Where to Eat in Dubrovnik
Having a michelin recommended restaurant (Vapor) on your doorstep (inside the Hotel Bellevue) means you’ll never go hungry and every dish offers a different taste sensation experience made with the freshest ingredients on the island. If venturing outside, here are our recommendations:
Posat Fish Restaurant
Book a table and head into the old town for dinner at the artistic Posat restaurant. Well known for being one of the finest fish restaurants in the city, the menu is best experienced on the roof terrace where you can watch the flocks of swallows circle the streets as they do in the summer every year. Each dish is imaginative and is paired perfectly by the waitors with either sparkling or still wines. The best thing to do is to go with the recommendations of the waitors who really know what’s best, and try the catch of the day; whatever it is, it’s cooked to perfection and served in a perfectly generous portion. We highly recommend the fish carpaccio to start and the fruit salad to sweeten your palate at the end of the dining experience, which will most likely leave you happily waddling back to the hotel.
You don’t have to be a guest at the Hotel Excelsior to dine there, and what a treat that is. The perfect place to go to after spending an evening walking through the old town, Hotel Excelsior is contemporary to say the least. But the intense, dark interiors lighten up as you step onto the terrace, offering a sweeping view of the sea and surrounding island. Whether you’re with family, friends, a partner or by yourself, start by relaxing on the plush furniture in the centre of the terrace and order a pint of Maestral, a craft beer brewed in Dubrovnik. When the sun is setting and the nuts and crisps arent quieting the hunger pangs, move onto supper made by the charming and talented chef, Peter Obad. The menu is all about taking mediterranean classics and switching them up with exciting flavours and paired with a variety of white and red local wines, makes for a perfectly elegant supper.
What to See in Dubrovnik
The City From Above
…via a cable car that allows a bird’s eye view of Dubrovnik, the Adriatic Sea and the numerous surrounding islands. Built in 1969, it is said that to see Dubrovnik from above is the second best way to see it (the first is from the sea). Ideal in the early morning to avoid doing the steep walk in the heat (uber is available in Dubrovnik too), enjoy a refreshing drink at the Panorama Restaurant & Bar after the ride.
The City Walls
Walk along the city walls with a guide or by yourself. It takes about an hour and a half and the walk is 2km long. Along the way, stop to explore museums and for an ice cream when it gets too hot.
Right in the heart of Dubrovnik’s old town is the St Savoir Church built in 1713. Music nights are hosted there often, and the echoes of the antique church make for an atmospheric music experience. On now: Dubrovnik String Quartet, soloists, and Quartet Sorkacevic.
What to Buy in Dubrovnik
Milos is a well-known winery in Ston, a mini village near Dubrovnik, that makes certified organic wines on the south side of Croatia. The wine, Milos, is made of 100% Plavac Mali grapes which are handled by hand, with no machinery, due to the steepness of the sun-trap of a hill they’re grown on. The family-run winery also makes olive oil with their own trees, desert wine, red wine, a distinctively deep rosé, and white. The family, who’ve been there for 500 years, produce 50,000 bottles a year which are then shipped to the finest luxury hotels and restaurants in Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the US. Book a wine tasting and afterwards buy some to take home. Our favourites are the Stagnum rose with a tangy aftertaste, the perfect accompanyment to oysters and sushi; the Plavac 2016 red which is dry, fresh and woody; the Stagnum desertni, ideal with dark chocolate; and finally, the Stagnum 2009 red, a premium wine which is aged for 10 years before going to the market. It’s earthy, smoky, less bitter than many red wines and is a real gem amongst Croatian wines.
What to Do in Dubrovnik
Hire a Boat
What better way to explore Dubrovnik and its surrounding islands than to set off on a private boat for the day? Book a full day boat tour via the Hotel Bellevue and spend a day in the sun swimming and snorkeling amongst the many beaches, exploring hidden caves and coves, and learning about the history of the islands. It’s a great way to keep cool in the sun and spend some time away from the tourists who flock to the old town.
Learn about Oysters and Mussels
Board a long boat in the small village of Ston and in three minutes you’ll be on a small floating island with a kitchen area and seats – this is where you can learn about oysters and mussels from the real experts. Let the fishermen show you the process of picking and shucking oysters and mussels before tasting them, fresh from the sea, with just a squeeze of lemon for the oysters and a spot of oil for the mussels. Think you know fresh seafood? Think again. This activity is the real deal and is a completely unique experience worth doing in Ston which is known for it’s fresh fish.
Spend the Day at Bowa Restaurant
Even if you’re only in Dubrovnik for 48 hours, a day trip to Bowa Restaurant is a must do. Take your boat there or get there by car and allow the restaurant’s private boat to pick you up before settling in at a table or, for the best experience, in one of their treetop seating/lounge areas which each include a large table and private space with two sunbeds. In between each mouth watering course, take as much time as you want to snorkle and swim in the surrounding water, lounge around on their private beach and enjoy a drink at their bar.
The menu offers a selection of fresh local fish, Croatian delicacies and crisp fruits and vegetables prepared in combination with other foods atypical to English cuisine – altogether Bowa offers a laidback all-day fine dining experience like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. A day spent here is a day spent lapping up the luxurious lifestyle of Dubrovnik.
How to Get to Dubrovnik
Fly via Easy Jet from Gatwick to Dubrovnik from £300 this August. Book a Deluxe Suite Sea View Balcony room at the Hotel Bellevue, starting from €2,192 for one person for two nights. Fly back via British Airways from Dubrovnik to Gatwick from €200 this August. All the activities mentioned above are available to book through the Hotel Bellevue.