Dubrovnik has enjoyed an emergence of popularity in recent years, and for good reason. The breathtaking cliffs, winding hillside roads and amazing blue waters are a thing of postcards. The city has become of the premier tourist destinations in the Mediterranean since bouncing back from the shelling of the Old City in 1991. The beautiful Baroque style buildings and marble lined streets in the Old City beckon even the most hard to please of travelers. Dubrovnik is a gem amongst the gems on the Adriatic Coast.
I have long longed to explore Dubrovnik but have had to rearrange those plans a couple of times. So when the opportunity recently arose to take a week long vacation, I immediately knew it was time to explore Croatia’s stunning gem along the Dalmatian coast.
Dubrovnik is an old Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea, in the region of Dalmatia and the center of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean and in 1979, the city of Dubrovnik was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Dubrovnik’s Old City is legendary. The Old City is fortified, surrounded by the famous walls that span over a mile long. Historically, the city’s walls were built for protection of the city, but today, they have become one of Dubrovnik’s main attractions.
The Old City is completely surrounded by these walls. There are 3 entrances to access the Old City; one on Stradun by the Pile gate, one by fort Saint John’s and the last at the Custom’s House gate. Within those walls, the Old City is entirely car free.
Other than the walls, there are many other nuggets of beauty outside of the Old City…
Want to go?
Dubrovnik Čilipi International Airport (IATA code DBV) is located about 12 miles from the city center. You can get to the city center by taxi, bus or by pre-arranged car service like I did for just $20. There are plenty of flights from cities within the European continent that fly directly into Dubrovnik, but if you are flying from North America, you will likely have to connect – most likely through Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb.
The likely best case scenario would be connecting from a city with direct flights into Dubrovnik, such as Lufthansa’s itinerary which goes from Newark to Munich, and then Munich to Dubrovnik or Austrian Airlines’ itinerary from JFK to Vienna and then Vienna to Dubrovnik. Other economical ways would be a 3 segment flight, which is what I took on Delta Airlines – first with a flight to Paris, then Paris to Zagreb and then a separate round trip flight on Croatia Airlines (a member of Star Alliance) from Zagreb to Dubrovnik.
Either way you decide to fly, your total flight costs may be over $1,000 (though I have seen tickets as low as $800 in off-peak months), and in the summer months, could go as high as $2,000 depending on the airline, class of service and when you go. If you have miles and luck out with low mileage award availability, as I did, then you can fly to Zagreb on miles and then book a separate round trip flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik. I was able to book my flight to Zagreb on Delta with 60,000 miles + $120 in taxes and my roundtrip Zagreb to Dubrovnik flight on Croatia Airlines for an additional $133. All together, the trip costs me $253 + 60,000 miles – but keep in mind, November is off-season. It would be extremely difficult or virtually impossible to find an itinerary this favorable in peak months (April through September).
Americans and Canadians, will need a passport to visit Croatia. The passport should be valid for at least three months after the date of planned departure. You don’t need a visa if you are coming for tourist or business trips of less than 90 days within a six-month period. Visit the Embassy of Croatia website for the most current visa information.
Although Croatia is a member of the European Union, note that it is not yet a member of the Schengen area, and a passport is required for travel between Croatia and other European Union member states. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see the State Department’s Schengen Fact Sheet.
Climate and seasons
Dubrovnik has a borderline humid subtropical and Mediterranean climate. It has hot dry summers and mild wet winters. Typically, in July and August daytime maximum temperatures reach 82°F, and at night drop to around 73°F. In the Spring and Fall season (April/May and September/October), maximum temperatures are typically between 68°F and 82°F. Though I went mid-November, I enjoyed some high 60 degree weather on most days, but also quite a bit of rain on other days. I reckon the Spring and Fall seasons will be the sweet spot of when to visit (great weather, and not as crowded as it would be in the summer).
One of the most attractive things about Dubrovnik is the abundance of fairly priced accommodations. You will find decent 3-4 star accommodations for as low as $70/night. Though I traveled during the off-peak season, I still found it spectacular that even the most expensive hotels were just about $130/night for standard rooms. Compare that with other cities in Europe which could be as high as 5 times that for standard accommodations.
As mentioned, there are many hotels to choose from, and I decided to split my stay into 2 nights each at 3 hotels; Hotel Bellevue, Rixos Libertas and Excelsior Hotel.
Carved into a cliffside, the peaceful seclusion of the five-star Hotel Bellevue makes you feel as if you’re on your own private island. From the moment you arrive, you are immersed in a world of luxury, elegance and impeccable service. Yet this boutique hotel in Dubrovnik is just round the bay from the Old Town, so you have the best of both worlds: a five-star retreat with a beautiful 6th-century city on your doorstep. (Source: Hotel website)
Not always is a hotel’s description of self spot on, but in this case, I’d even say the hotel is being modest. From the time I arrived, I had a feeling I was royalty and had arrived in paradise. The staff was incredibly courteous, even without me having any loyalty status with Adriatic Luxury Hotels group. When I got to my room, I felt like I was gazing at the most beautiful painting right outside my balcony. The view is simply breathtaking.
The hotel is ideally located – just a scenic 15 minute walk from the Pile square entrance of the Old City. The amazing thing is that each room at the hotel has a view of Miramare Bay, so you don’t have to splurge exorbitant amounts of money just to get a decent view.
The amenities in the hotel were also top of the line. I think the L’Occitane products may have won me over!
For the price I paid (it was $138/night, but I got the room using my American Airline miles), I didn’t know what to expect at first, but this hotel far exceeded any expectations I could have had. What’s more, breakfast was included in the rate and the restaurant area has one of the most amazing views and backdrop I have ever seen.
It was the first hotel I checked in, but the moment I got there, I already had a feeling I should have booked my entire stay at the Bellevue, but I really wanted perspective on other properties, so it was only right I split my stay.
For everything this hotel offers, I couldn’t believe how affordable it is. Though I stayed during the off-season at a rate of $133/night in my superior room, the price does not increase that astronomically during peak season. In fact, I just priced a stay in April which is coming up to $158/night for a classic double with sea-view. To upgrade to a superior double with balcony, it becomes $202/night.
Hotel Bellevue was by far my favorite hotel during this stay, and I would rate it overall, a top of the line 5-star hotel.
The Rixos was literally right next to the Bellevue, about a quick 5 minute walk down Liechtenstein street. This hotel surprised me the most because it was the least expensive of all, so I expected less quality. I pre-paid $130 for 2 nights at the Rixos Libertas, but upon check-in the attendant informed me that my room rate is a view of the street and I could upgrade to a superior sea-view room with balcony for just 20 addition Euros per night (about $27/night more). After having enjoyed amazing sea views at the Bellevue, I decided to take the upgrade and I am very glad I did!
The service at the Rixos was also top of the line, however, not quite like the Bellevue. This is a huge hotel with 11 floors, stores in the lobby and about 6 different restaurants to choose from. This is probably one of the biggest hotels, if not indeed the biggest, in Dubrovnik.
Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Rixos and would rate it as a strong 4-star hotel.
Since opening in 1913, the Excelsior has become an iconic landmark among the five-star hotels in Dubrovnik. This time-honoured building – a blend of old and new – is uniquely located on a cliffside, with magnificent views from every floor, over to the island of Lokrum in one direction and the Old Town in another.
Excelsior was the 3rd and last hotel I stayed in Dubrovnik this time around, and unfortunately, I enjoyed this stay the least. This hotel is rated equivalently or sometimes even higher than the Bellevue, so I expected it would be great, especially after my amazing stay at Bellevue and being that they are both owned by the same management, Adriatic Luxury Hotels. However, I did not find the location as appealing, the views as breathtaking, nor the service as top of the line, as the Bellevue was.
The Excelsior is located closest to Old City with entrance by the fort of Saint John’s. It is just about a 7 minute walk to the entrance, but from there, about another 7 minute walk to the main square where the action is. Though also a picturesque walk, I preferred the route entering through Piles Square gate. I also found the area the hotel is situated to not be as quiet and desirable as the Bellevue’s location.
But overall, my biggest disappointment was with the room. It was tiny and unwelcoming, with the view of the weed overgrown courtyard/street. I also used miles to book the Excelsior, but I used a lot more miles than the Bellevue and got way less. Perhaps if I had also gotten a superior sea view room, my opinion may be different.
In dollars, the prices for the Excelsior and the Bellevue are comparable – around $152/night for a classic room and $227/night for a sea-view room with balcony in April.
When I return to Dubrovnik, I plan to stay at the Bellevue again, but also check out some other properties that have come highly rated, such as Hotel Dubrovnik Palace (also by Adriatic Luxury) and the Royal Princess.
Where to eat
Food options in and around the Old City are plentiful. Expect really amazing seafood right from the Adriatic Sea. The specialty of Dubrovnik is Oysters, but since I don’t eat Oysters, I gladly indulged in some amazing lobster and shrimp.
Vapor Restaurant is located in the Bellevue hotel and is one of the most highly rated restaurants in Dubrovnik. I found my dinner there excellent, such that even after checking out, I returned to Vapor a couple of times for dinner.
For desserts, Dolce Vita is a gem. You can find it just along the main street in Stradun. If you get lost, just ask someone how to find Dolce Vita and you will be pointed in the right direction. They serve delicious ice-cream and crepes (which they call pancakes). I may have overindulged on their crepes + ice cream combo a bit (the Dolce Vita flavor ice cream was my favorite).
There’s quite a few things to get into while in Dubrovnik. Depending on the time of year you go, you could:
– Take a Cable Car up to Mount Srd to see amazing panaromic views of the city
– Cruise to Elafiti Islands on a replica of a historical galleon
– Take a Game of Thrones walking tour to get to know the fictional city of King’s Landing
– Go sea kayaking and snorkeling in Betina
– Take a walking tour of the Old City (which I did and felt was brilliant in helping you get to know the nooks and crannies of the Old City as well as some history)
In addition, because of Dubrovnik’s location, it is in close proximity to other wonderful countries/cities along the Adriatic Coast.
(More detailed posts on Montenegro and Bosnia to soon follow).
Overall, Dubrovnik has so much to offer and I’d highly recommend putting it on your list of cities to visit. Try to get your visit in before Croatia officially joins the Schengen area and starts using the Euro (estimated to be within the next 5 years). For now, Croatia uses the Croatian Kuna and prices are quite affordable for all you get. Even after joining the Eurozone, I doubt Dubrovnik will lose its charm and status as one of the most desirable locations to visit on the European continent.
I greatly enjoyed my time in Dubrovnik and can’t wait to return!