How To Experience The Best Of Dubrovnik

ALH_By Josipa KosanovicPhoto Credit: Josipa Kosanovic/Shutterstock.com

Before arriving in Dubrovnik, you know one thing: It’s a major filming location for HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which already lends it an allure that cannot be ignored. You know it’s on the Adriatic Sea, that the weather tends to be warmer, and little else. But then again, you like to be surprised. Well, you’re in for the mother of all surprises, because Dubrovnik—which also happens to be a major tourist hub of the Mediterranean—hits you full force with its charm from the moment you arrive, so much so that you can’t help but gasp in childlike wonder as you drive past the glittering sea.

There is so much charm here. The hospitality at our 5-star hotel, Villa Orsula, was off the charts. It’s extreme luxury, but the staff is so welcoming and friendly that you feel like you’re among family. The island of Lokrum—a major “GOT” spot—is overrun with bunny rabbits, and it’s adorable. Cobblestone streets, hidden caverns accessible by boat, yacht or kayak, bistros galore and a gorgeous array of wine tasting rooms are located in the golden walled Old Town, which is encircled with massive, 16th century stone walls that effectively manage to keep all that charm reigned in.

Basically, we love it. And we hope you will too—which is why we’ve created this handy guide to the best of Dubrovnik. Go, be merry, relax a little and enjoy life. Whatever worries you have will melt away here, we guarantee it. There is just no point to being miserable in paradise.

STAY

VILLA ORSULA

ORSPhoto Credit: Adriatic Hotel Group

Villa Orsula may be small, but it’s mighty. What sets this Adriatic Hotel Group property apart from other hotels (including its nearly adjacent sister, Excelsior) is its size: the crème de la crème of travelers stay in this exquisite 11 room, two suite manse (including, of course, your favorite “GOT” stars). Think picturesque cascading seafront gardens with breathtaking views of the Adriatic, Lokrum Island, and the Dubrovnik Old Town, luxurious vintage 1930s style meets modern minimalist décor and both bed and carpeting so plush you could sink into them. The property, which opened in 1939, had a massive overhaul in 2012, and it shows in the small things, modern touches like surrealist artwork, bespoke beauty products and modern espresso machines, while the sunken tubs and white-washed balconies hint at its past self. Our suite was endless, and the staff warm and accommodating.

Royal Suite balcony
Royal Suite balcony

Photo Credit: Adriatic Hotel Group

A private limo whisks you from the airport to the property, allowing you time to truly drink in those magnificent views, which you’ll find are also accessible from the private bathing platform (with loungers and towels at the ready year round). The manager will greet you personally as she does every guest, fostering an environment that is both warm and comforting, regardless of whom the client happens to be. Beyond it’s obvious beauty, it is the staff here that makes the property such a standout.

ALH_O bathroomPhoto Credit: Adriatic Hotel Group

We enjoyed picture-perfect views both day and night at the hotel’s signature eatery, Victoria, which is located on a grapevine-draped terrace overlooking the sea. The dishes here are Peruvian-Adriatic fusion, created by chef Roberto Chavez to tempt your taste buds. Don’t leave without trying Chavez’s signature dishes, which include the inventive Tuna Tataki Tiradito, a seared tuna ceviche with burned green tomatillo sauce, avocado “leche de tigre” and garlic chips and Chaufita, work quinoas, tiger prawns, asparagus and broccoli in a BBQ-Panca chili sauce.

If you’re looking for a gym or spa, the neighboring Excelsior has both, which are available to guests of Villa Orsula. At the Spa & Beauty center, guests have access to a fresh water pool, two Jacuzzis, a steam bath, Roman bath and Finish sauna. We recommend a Sisley facial, such as the Phyto-Aromatic Radiance facial, which uses the French brand’s products to give you glowing and luminous skin. While over at Excelsior, treat yourself to a dinner by the sea at the fine dining concept, Sensus, a Mediterranean focused eatery with cool and contemporary interiors. Unconventional and creative dishes are prepared from fresh, local fish that are carefully paired with fine Croatian wines (which truly give those Napa cabs a run for their money) from wine celler shelves with dot the walls. Go at sunset; the views are magnificent.

PLAY

Victoria restaurant
Victoria restaurant

Photo Credit: Adriatic Hotel Group

Wander down any alleyway and you’ll find dozens of intriguing options. You may even feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and finding curious “eat me” and “drink me” options. Satisfy that curiosity; you won’t be disappointed. Go to D’Vino, Dubrovnik’s first real wine bar, to sip at 100 varietals (76 of which are available by glass) of the best Dalmatian, Slavonian and Istrian wines, and Buža II for cliff-face charm and breathtaking views. If you fancy some nighttime action, make your way to Banje, a beachside Mediterranean eatery by day that doubles as a hot cocktail bar by night. Ball like a native and get there by boat, which you can dock in a private pier. There’s also Culture Club Revelin, a true hot spot for those who want to dance—the world’s top DJ’s, including Nervo, Afrojack, Sebastian Ingrosso, Martin Solveig, Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Paul Van Dyke and even Boy George spin their on the reg.

GET GAME (OF THRONES) READY

ALH_enchanted_fairy : Shutterstock.comPhoto Credit: Enchanted_fairy : Shutterstock.com

Last but not least, you can’t go to one of the primary “GOT” filming locations and not tour them yourself. Take yourself to Fort Lovrijenac, which doubles as the Red Keep in King’s Landing; Gradac Park, the scene of the Purple Wedding feast where King Joffrey met his demise in season 4; the City Walls—a UNESCO World Heritage site that also served a fortification system of the Middle Ages—throughout the series; Minčeta tower, the highest point in Dubrovnik that also served as the House of the Undying in Qarth; the 16th century Ethnographic Museum on Dominic Street, a one-time granary where most of the market scenes in King’s Landing were filmed; the Jesuit Staircase, which doubles as the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing as well as Cersei’s infamous Walk of Shame in Season 5; and last but not least, Lokrum Island. Lokrum serves as the city of Qarth. This one-time quarantine area—which also used to be a Benedictine monastery—is a landmark for all things “Game of Thrones.” It explains the shooting locations, offers fans a map to other “Thrones” locales in the country and even has the actual “GOT” throne, which is perfect for selfies. Just saying.

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