Dubrovnik is a tough town in terms of where to stay: you either have ridiculously expensive or 3-star or below. I honestly don’t think that there is anything in between. I chose to stay at the Hotel Excelsior and, in all honestly, I wouldn’t recommend you stay here unless you have a written guarantee of a sea-view room; don’t be fooled by a “garden view” room because there is no garden. In fact, the hotel – like most things in Dubrovnik – is located on a hill sloping down to the Adriatic so there is no room for a garden and thus, no such thing as a garden-view room.
And thing before I forget: 2 other sites referred to the Excelsior as “art deco” in style. Don’t believe them. If you are looking for late 1980s Sheraton Hotel furniture, rugs, décor, and ambiance, the Excelsior is your place. But quite honestly, it’s not a 5 star hotel and definitely not worth the price.
In my search for different accommodations after I couldn’t stand looking at a wall any longer (the so-called) “garden-view” room, I found 2 hotels that I would be willing try should my travels bring me back to Dubrovnik: the Hotel Grand Villa Argentina (www.hoteli.argentina.hr) or the Pucic Palace (www.thepucicpalace.com). I didn’t stay in either, but the Argentina is on the Adriatic and looks stunning whereas the Pucic Palac is inside the city wall and I thought it looked stunning. But since I didn’t stay at either, your guess is as good as mine.
Most of the restaurants in Dubrovnik seem to be situated around the city wall. Despite my best efforts to either obtain information, or find it on my own, I couldn’t find any restaurants more than a few city blocks from the city wall. But all is not lost; you just have to be prepared to put up with all of the tourists that descend on the town.
My personal favourite restaurant was nishta (www.nishtarestaurant.com) which is completely vegetarian (with vegan options if you prefer). Not only did I love the restaurant because it was vegetarian, but its selections from around the world were truly stunning. Located on Prijeko street within the city walls, it can be a bit tricky to find, but search out the only restaurant with purple table covers and purple chairs, and you are there. But be sure to make a reservation; people were constantly turned away both times that I ate here.
Another place that I enjoyed was Chihuahua (no website), a Mexican restaurant just outside the city walls. I know: why go to Dubrovnik and have Mexican food. Well, for starters, if you get tired of the grilled fish and meat all over the place, you might welcome a little bit of a change. But Americans be warned: even though the food is really quite good, don’t come with a hankering for avocado. They don’t really seem to have avocados here. And, in fact, not one entrée listed avocado as being included and although they had guacamole listed as an available “side,” my bet was on light green stuff from a jar so I avoided that. But, that said, the salads was fantastic and the enchiladas spicy and full of flavour. And they had Mexican beers, local beers, and my favourite: Stella!
And finally, if you need one more suggestion, I would suggest Mimoza (no website) which is right across from the Hilton hotel. The downside to the Mimoza is that, like most restaurants in Dubrovnik, there is a “hawker” outside inviting you in to their restaurant. This is a huge turnoff for me and I typically turn away. But Mimoza came highly recommended by the one person at the Excelsior who I liked and trusted and it wasn’t too bad. For a vegetarian, like most places, the menu wasn’t very inventive, but the restaurant was full (and not all tourists) and everyone seemed to enjoy their meals. And the fact that the waiters were great is a plus in my book.
Dubrovnik doesn’t really have much to offer apart from the Adriatic. Don’t get me wrong: the Adriatic is stunning, the water crystal clear, and the temperature divine even in early July. But if you are looking for more than sunning and eating/drinking at night, Dubrovnik may not be your place.
The above said, there are a few things that you can do that I certainly recommend very highly. Although it sounds a bit trite, the walk around the city wall really is amazing and worth the price of admission. (But don’t bother buying the booklet; it really doesn’t tell you much that you need to know.) The views down in to the city with the walls are really spectacular as well as the views out to the sea and the rest of the surrounding island.
Another trip that I highly recommend is taking the cable car to top of the mountain to the original fort.
First of all, the views looking down upon the old city are breathtaking (literally and figuratively). Likewise, the views as you descend the mountain are equally amazing. Note: it is possible to walk up and down from the fort. The hike up is a doozie so I would recommend taking the cable car up and then walking back down the meandering path. And once you are at the fort, be prepared for truly amazing views: not only can you see down to the fort but you can see so much more of Dubrovnik and the surrounding villages, as well as the mountain ranges beyond the fort that you cannot see from “down below” in the city center. The remnants of the old fort are interesting but I honestly don’t think they were worth the price of admission.
And finally, a trip to Dubrovnik wouldn’t be a trip to Dubrovnik if you didn’t do the three island tour. Okay, yes, it is a tourist trap bar none, but if you want something different and want to get away from the beach for a bit, do the trip: it’s an all day event (some with lunch, some without) and seeing the islands really is amazing, not to mention the views to the “mainland.”
One of the islands has about 150 inhabitants, another 300 and then the largest 600 all of which rely completely on tourism. So, a word to the wise: bring your own food and water and don’t buy anything because you will pay 2 to 3 times the price in already expensive Dubrovnik. One other note to the wise: the end of the tour is a 3+ hour “beach time” and if you are beached out (or sunburnt) and need to avoid the sun, bring a book and an ipod because there isn’t much to do once you’ve walked the promenade.
So, if your travels get you anywhere close – or you just want a little side trip from Italy – go to Dubrovnik; it really is a gorgeous place and something that you should experience at least once in your travels.