Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik
WORDS: PHOEBE HUNT | IMAGES: NATALIE OBRADOVICH AND ADRIATIC LUXURY HOTELS
It all started with a photograph. Flicking through an album of whimsical, white-washed photographs by Natalie Obradovich, who shot our Italian hidden gems along the Amalfi Coast in the first issue of TIDE, I stumbled upon this image one grizzly January evening. It was of an aquamarine, marble-lined swimming pool built into the rocks, the bay of Dubrovnik stretching out in the foreground.
Summer felt impossibly far away, but that night I booked my flights to Dubrovnik, seeking out the very hotel which featured this mythical swimming pool. Adriatic Luxury Hotels are a homegrown Croatian brand with a few other properties to their name too – Hotel Bellevue and Hotel Dubrovnik Palace among them – but five star Hotel Excelsior is their crowning jewel.
Arriving in Dubrovnik in late July, we silently thanked Natalie for sparking the idea to book this trip. The Excelsior is located just a five-minute walk from the mediaeval fortress walls of the Old Town, and yet it feels perfectly removed from the tourist footfall. Built in 1913, the historic villa has welcomed famous guests such as Queen Elizabeth II, Roger Moore and Elizabeth Taylor over the years, cementing its position as one of the most prestigious spots in town.
The lobby features marble floors, high ceilings, and beautiful chandeliers, creating a welcoming and sophisticated atmosphere from the get-go. The hotel’s guest rooms and suites are equally luxurious, with comfortable beds, cool linens, and modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and minibars. Many of the rooms and suites also have private balconies or terraces, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful views of the city and the sea from the comfort of your own room. On the ground floor, you’ll find a large spa, fitness centre and indoor pool, complete with a Finnish sauna, Turkish hammam and Roman bath.
For anyone who does fancy venturing into town, the hotel is the perfect base for exploring all that Dubrovnik has to offer. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to a wealth of historical and cultural attractions, including the reinforced City Walls, Dubrovnik Cathedral, and the Rector’s Palace.
What you’re really here for, however, is the exclusive beach club and pool perched below the hotel. The utter luxury of a private patch of coastline is what really sets Hotel Excelsior apart, especially for those stopping over for a couple of nights in Dubrovnik before or after a sailing trip. Lined with purple jacaranda trees, the gardens lead down to a sun-drenched stone platform, which in the summer months becomes a haven for international jetsetters wanting to be just close enough to Dubrovnik. Guests can order a platter of fritto misto (deep fried fish) and a cocktail to their deck chair, alternating between sunbathing and swimming.
Come sunset, cocktails move from the waterside to the famed terrace, which takes full advantage of the west-facing views across both the Adriatic Sea and the old town walls. There are multiple dining options to choose from: casual yet romantic Prora restaurant is right down by the waterside, with white tablecloths and dripping candelabras, while Sensus is a fine dining destination serving creative international dishes paired with the finest Croatian wines. We opt for the latter, where a strong influence from the Italian coastline (which is, of course, just a short hop across the Adriatic) is felt in both the cuisine and the hospitality. Scallops with roasted corn cream, orange and pomegranate are a stand-out dish, as are the regularly changing pasta dishes, handmade by the hotel’s Italian sous chef Marco.
A lavish breakfast buffet is served in the light-filled Salus dining room, and features a wide variety of hot and cold dishes, including eggs, bacon, sausage, pastries, cereals and fruits. In addition to classic breakfast favourites you’ll also find a selection of Croatian specialties such as pastries, cheeses, and cured meats - a great opportunity to sample some of the local flavours and ingredients from Dubrovnik.
Overall, Hotel Excelsior is a top-notch choice for travellers looking for a luxurious and sophisticated place to stay in Dubrovnik before setting out to explore Croatia’s islands. With its beautiful architecture, excellent amenities and breathtaking views of both the city and the sea, the hotel is the perfect place to relax and unwind while exploring all that Dubrovnik hasto offer.