If you spent your entire stay at Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik with eyes a-glue to the lobby views, we wouldn’t blame you: behold the Old Town and the Adriatic. Other items worth gawping at in wonder include the rocky beach with its sun-beds and city views, the debonair staff in their ink-black uniforms and preppy polo shirts, and Excelsior’s on-the-money mish-mash of old and new, which spans a historic villa, a modern Tower, concrete floors, pops of colour and bold sea-green and blue velvet furniture.
Double rooms from £118.62 (€139), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.70 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast (pick from Continental, American, buffet and à la carte options).
Architecturally speaking, this hotel has something of a split personality: there’s the handsome historic section, Villa Odak, which dates back to 1913, and the modern – but equally majestic – Tower.
At the hotel
Beach (rocky, not sandy); spa; hairdresser; fitness centre; gift shop; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, free WiFi, desk, air conditioning, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities, black-out curtain, L’Occitane bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We love the Superior Rooms set in the historic Villa Odak, especially number 208, which has high ceilings, a ravishing terrace, an antique carpet and a bath tub with an overhead shower. This room is dangerously romantic (you might put a ring on it, if you haven’t already).
Rub your flippers together with glee, mermaids and mermen: not only does the hotel has a heated indoor pool, but the Adriatic is right on its doorstep (you'll need to walk down the coast a little if you want a sandy beach). Guests do get access to the hotel's rocky beach, which has daybeds and a delightful beach restaurant.
Even indecisive Smiths can expect to enjoy decision-making at Excelsior’s spa, which goes a little something like this: Jacuzzi whirlpool first, or begin with the steam- or Roman baths? Soak up the intense heat of the Finnish sauna, or succumb to a massage by an expert wielding Sisley products? There’s an air-conditioned gym too, but we really don’t expect you to use it.
Bring deck shoes, diamonds and an appetite for seafood.
The hotel has a hairdresser and an on-site gift shop, should you need your barnet beautifying or a little something for the folks back home...
Little Smiths are welcome (water-babies will love it here). Families can request interconnecting rooms and there are lifts, so no buggy-lugging is required. Extra beds for over-2s are €50 a night; babysitting is €20 an hour (book a day ahead).
Work out your favourite view and pick accordingly (tables outside win hands down, in our book).
Deck shoes and diamonds for Sensus; ‘kini and cover-ups (or the male equivalent) for Prora.
Fall hook, line and sinker for Excelsior’s three brilliant restaurants. Salin Restaurant serves breakfast on a dreamy terrace; landlubbers will also love elegant Sensus, where you can spy on the chefs in the open kitchen, or nab tables on the terrace and soak up the cityscapes. The clever chef hails from southern Croatia and knows his way around local ingredients: toothsome lobster comes with home-made pappardelle, baby tomatoes, olives and pepperoncini; sea scallops are served with Romesco pesto, courgette, spaghetti, white wine and a zingy pink-grapefruit sabayon. There’s also a beachside restaurant called Prora, which comes with knee-weakening views. Unless you’re cursed with a seafood allergy (poor thing), do not bypass the local oysters – they’re famous for good reason. The just-plucked-from-the-waves fish is another obvious highlight.
Laid-back Abakus Piano Bar is sitting pretty on the ground floor, with spectacular views: come for sunset and stay put until your thirst is quenched (or your shoulders shiver). Live music performances are hosted here throughout summer; resident DJs also take to the decks. Don’t miss the interesting Croatian wines, especially the moreish white. (Add light bites from the bar if you’re peckish.)
Sensus and Prora are open until 11pm; breakfast is served at Salin til 10.30am.
Rejoice, nocturnal nibblers: you can order treats to your room 24/7. The menu includes breakfast options, salads and other snacks.
We reckon Excelsior occupies the very best patch of Dubrovnik: right beside the water, with wonder-inspiring views of the Old Town. It’s a five-minute walk from Ploče Gate, the eastern entrance to Dubrovnik's Old Town.
Dubrovnik airport is a half-hour drive away. Let Smith24 know if you’d like help with flights and hotel transfers (they’re €45 each way, in a car). EasyJet flies to Dubrovnik from major cities in the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Flights across the Pacific arrive via Dubai (or Charles de Gaulle airport) and Frankfurt.
Smith24 can sort your car hire from Dubrovnik airport. Free parking is available at the hotel; plenty of parking spaces await. If you're travelling through Croatia, Split is a three-hour drive away.
Jadrolinija (www.jadrolinija.hr) runs ferries daily between Italy (Bari) and Dubrovnik, from May to October.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start with what’s just beyond your bedroom: splash in the sea and top up your tan on Excelsior’s rocky beach. Visit the spa for some Sisley-product pampering before hitting the beachside restaurant. Toast the sunset with ice-cold drinks at the bar; you might get to watch a band play or a DJ work the decks. The hotel can arrange guided Old Town tours, which last two hours and end on a high with wine or cocktails at the top of Srđ Hill (accessed by a cable car), while enjoying Dubrovnik’s panoramas. Join a tour that takes in the neighbouring wine region and oyster farms, where you can taste some succulent bivalves (they’re something of a local headliner). Spend a cultured afternoon ticking off the city’s museums and galleries. Set off on a day trip to the neighbouring islands, or make a beeline for beautiful Banje Beach.
Seek out Smith stablemateVapor, the pearl in the crown of the elegant Hotel Bellevue. Croatian produce stars in bold dishes that look to the Med and the decor is as stylish as the plating. Friendly Pantarul at 1 Kralja Tomislava serves unpretentious food that puts a spotlight on local fish, meat, game and produce; expect to be bowled over by the delicious homemade bread and pasta, charming waiters and highly gluggable Croatian wines. Nautika has swoony views, thanks to its prime perch at the very edge of the sea at Pile, by the western entrance to Dubrovnik's Old City. Highlights include lobster from Vis and other Adriatic seafood; this romantic restaurant is housed in the former Dubrovnik School of Maritime Studies, which has welcomed seafarers since 1881.
Get a taste for Dubrovnik’s relaxed nightlife at the exemplary, cliff-hugging Café Buza at 9 Crijevićeva. Pleasingly, it’s accessed through a sneaky little hole in the wall, marked with a wooden ‘cold drinks’ sign; in a city that doesn’t stint on sunset spots, it’s one of the best options. Villa Orsula, just next door, has a lovely garden terrace bar that serves Peruvian food.
In prime position in Croatia’s Unesco-protected capital, Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik is historic, has gorgeous interiors and some incredibly special spots for swimming. Spending two nights here is not enough, but it’s perfect for a quick getaway, and is ideal for switching off and chilling out.
The Excelsior is an easy 30-minute ride from Dubrovnik Airport, which makes arriving from an early morning flight bearable. It’s been built into a rocky hillside overlooking the Adriatic – a dramatic setting that wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond film. In fact, it has hosted Bond: Sir Roger Moore once stayed, as well as A-listers such as Elizabeth Taylor and Francis Ford Coppola; Queen Elizabeth II, too. A recent renovation divided the hotel into two parts: the original Villa Odak, built in 1913; and the more modern Tower wing. I would advise booking a room in the villa, formerly a royal residence, which has more traditional charm than the Tower’s mirrored-glass block. I stayed in a spacious Superior Sea View Room, which had cinematic views of the Adriatic’s sparkling waters and the medieval Old Town. Really, though, every room offers breathtaking views, and if you book a Deluxe Room or suite, you’ll have your own private balcony too, with a table and retro white-wicker chairs.
The aerial views of manicured terraces, crowds of cacti and waves crashing against the rocks below seemed straight out of a Slim Aarons photograph. Inside our room was chic and effortlessly cool, dressed with navy headboards, Carrara marble tables and pale-pink velvet chairs. As if this stylish sanctum wasn’t enough, we were also given chocolate and candied-orange treats to welcome you. Anyone would be in heaven here.
We headed straight to the sunbathing deck to catch the last of the summer rays. With only the sound of the waves occasionally splashing over the rocks, the atmosphere here is wonderfully relaxed. The Dalmatian Coast is famous for having some of the cleanest waters, so you must remember to bring your goggles for diving, as the water is crystal clear and you can see for miles – a reason by itself to travel to Croatia. As well as wild swimming, the hotel’s extensive spa has an enormous indoor pool, plus a Finnish sauna, steam room and snow fountain. This was an added bonus and I made efforts to hop into the Roman baths or soak in the Jacuzzi whirlpool before my morning swim. The snow fountain is an incredible way to rejuvenate your circulation and it left me buzzing all the way to breakfast.
After spending all day reading and sun-soaking, it was time to explore Dubrovnik. Excelsior is just a five-minute walk from the town centre. For food, avoid the tourist traps and hunt down the street-food cafés. We particularly liked Barba for its octopus burger. For date-night dining, waterfront Orhan offers delicious seafood and overlooks a secluded harbour. Aside from guessing which parts of the town featured in Game of Thrones, I loved clifftop Buza bar, where soulful music played as we sipped Croatian wine and watched the sunset. You can’t go to Dubrovnik without walking round the medieval stone wall to find more panoramic vistas and to understand the scale of the fortress. I would advise going first thing in the morning or at 5pm to catch the last opening hour, as daytimes get very hot.
Breakfast at Excelsior is served in a bright white courtyard and offers fresh blueberry smoothies, chocolate croissants and a medley of eggs any-way-you-fancy. It’s included in the room charge and is incredibly good value. On our second day it was time to tear ourselves away from our room and make time for some island hopping. You can find many kiosks offering trips on your way into town and we managed to find a reasonably priced excursion to see the neighbouring island of Lokrum. The snorkelling here is again out-of-this-world and there are a few beautiful spots for cliff-jumping. I also saw a few sunset tours which take people round the Walls of Ston, which is a fun way to see the town from the water and get your bearings.
We ended the holiday with one last swim in the dazzling blue waves and a drink of Croatian Pošip wine on the terrace. If visiting Dubrovnik, this peaceful, elegant stay gives you a chance to hit pause, and replenish your body and mind.