If you’ve been missing the dream European vacation — a luxury hotel along the Adriatic Coast, fantastic regional food and wines and an iconic view you’ll never forget — picture yourself having sunset cocktails on your private balcony at the Hotel Excelsior, overlooking the red tiled rooftops of the famous walled-city of Dubrovnik. And, while much of Europe remains closed to American travelers, Croatia has recently opened its borders to them. So forget about Paris and Rome, and discover all the beauty and history that Dubrovnik has to offer.
“We are very happy to welcome Americans back to Croatia, especially here in Dubrovnik.” says Zrinka Marinovic, Public Relations Manager of Adriatic Luxury Hotels, which operate multiple properties in Dubrovnik, including the Hotel Excelsior. “We’ve added measures to make sure our guests are as safe as possible, but we have designed those enhancements to be as discreet as possible, to make sure our guests still feel like they are on a luxury vacation.”
While it’s been an important destination for centuries, Dubrovnik’s tourism increased dramatically in the last decade, due to it being the inspiration for the fictional King’s Landing on HBO’s Game of Thrones. And while filming the show, many cast members have stayed at the Hotel Excelsior. But the hotel has always been drawing celebrities, with guests such as Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Taylor enjoying vacations here. And the views make it easy to see why. Perfectly situated along the curve of the coast — you can dip your feet right into the Adriatic Sea from the lower level — the hotel’s rooms, restaurants and public spaces feature straight-on views of the old town, while also being close enough to be inside those famous walls with just a short walk.
Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik has 158 rooms and suites, combining the building of the original 1913 hotel Villa Odak with the modern addition, The Tower. Guests seeking a more private experience can also book the private three bedroom Villa Agave, with five terraces, private pool and 24-hour butler. Along with the views, which also include the island of Lokrum across the Adriatic, guests can indulge in massages at the spa, which also includes jacuzzi whirlpools, Turkish and Roman baths, the pool and beauty and wellness treatments. “The only change is that our steam baths are not in use at this time,” says Marinovic, “but traditional saunas and treatment facilities are fully open for guests to enjoy. All of our staff wear masks at all times and that includes those working at pool, restaurants and spas.”
Dining options at the hotel include the Prora Restaurant, where you can sit on the outdoor patio, right next to the water, and enjoy a seafood lunch or dinner. The Abakus Bar is perfect for drinks with the views. The Sensus Fine Dining Restaurant, run by chef Peter Obad, brings a modern touch to Croatian dishes using local ingredients, like Sea Bass with potatoes, saffron, zucchini and beetroot cream as well as Sea Scallops with peas, black Slovenian bacon and mini apples. It’s also the place to start diving into the world of Croatian wines. The country has a rich history of winemaking, and many of its own varietals, so don’t worry about names you’ve never heard before, and ask the sommelier for some guidance — you can start with the country’s three most planted grapes: Plavac (a parent of Zinfandel), Mali Graševina and Malvazija Istarska.
There’s much to explore in the old city of Dubrovnik. One can see the city from above, walking atop the city’s medieval walls — don’t worry, there are exits and entrances along the route, you don’t have to do the entire distance, which is about 1.2 miles. Walking inside the city is fun even without a destination, but be sure to look for the Sponza Palace, Onofrio’s Fountain, the Rector’s Palace, now a museum, and The Dubrovnik Cathedral, built in 1763. A 3-minute ride on the Dubrovnik Cable Car, takes you to the top of Mount Srd, for an even more impressive bird’s eye view. And, depending on the season, a boat ride through the islands in the Adriatic Sea is a must.
While Americans are welcome for tourism in Croatia, there are some important things to note. You must have confirmation of your paid hotel booking when entering the country and, most importantly, you must must present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 that is not older than 48 hours upon arrival — so you must plan for a test that can be given very close to your departure with fast turnaround for results. If you meet these requirements, you will not be subject to any quarantine measures. Of course, things may change, so check the Croatian COVID-19 English language website, as well as the Croatian U.S. Embassy website to stay up-to-date.