Villa Dubrovnik is Croatian through and through: built from grey Brac stone, styled by two local designers, and boasting Adriatic views that a seagull would migrate for. Days here are idled away at the serene spa and ambitious Mediterranean restaurant that’s worthy of a Michelin star.
Get this when you book through us:
A 30-minute 'Diamond Bed' treatment (a multi-sensory experience using colour, sound, light and smell) in the Villa Spa, for two guests
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £365.35 (€405), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.30 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include breakfast and transfers to the Old Town.
Bored of your holiday read? The hotel’s library has a stash of fashion and design tomes.
At the hotel
Spa with steam room, bio sauna and several treatment rooms; gym and aerobic studio; library. In rooms: standard TV, minibar, flatscreen TV, WiFi, Etro bath products; suites have espresso machines (and more generously sized bath products).
Our favourite rooms
If sitting in an alfresco tub makes you smile, book one of the two Jacuzzi-equipped deluxe suites (we like 418, which has a grey chaise longue looking out to sea and a soft stripy rug in its cosy lounge). For a glorious view of the Old Town, book 218; for a balcony overlooking Dubrovnik, book 416.
The large indoor pool has French doors – the perfect escape on the rare drizzly day. There are breathtakingly beautiful sea views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and a fleet of sun loungers from which to lie back and admire them. Prefer saltwater? Hop along to the rocky beach, which has concrete platforms for sunbathing (sounds Spartan, feels fine) and a five-step ladder to the sea.
Villa Spa uses organic Sodashi products for its facials and massages, and OPI nail lacquers for its pedicures and manicures. The Villa Spa Experience Massage Diamond offers the chance to test out the hotel’s ‘diamond bed’, which uses light, colour, sound and scents to stimulate the senses.
Small swimwear; giant sunglasses. Deck shoes for the transfer to Dubrovnik; minimal Prada or Calvin Klein to match the restaurant. Leave the bucket and spade at home – the hotel’s beach is rocky, not sandy.
Accommodated, but not pandered to. Cots for under-3s (free) or extra beds (€50 a night for kids aged 3–7; €60 a night for ages 8+) can be added to parents' rooms. The hotel can supply booster seats and babysitting is available, subject to availability.
Sit in the corner by the windows for the best views of the sea and the Old Town. At lunch, eat out on the terrace or down by the grill area.
Island A-list: crisp shirts, flowing dresses, vibrant jewellery.
Like the chef’s concoctions, Pjerin is smart and elegant. Chairs are chic grey and white, tables are topped with crisp linen and decorated with a sprig of rosemary and artfully shaped cutlery and glasses. The glass walls overlook the terrace and the sea, so that what’s outside shares the limelight with the delicious food: dishes such as home-made artichoke-and-ricotta ravioli and rabbit fillet with hazelnuts and wild mushrooms. Giardino, the casual bistro, has wooden tables and chairs crafted from purple rope set out on the terrace. There’s also an outdoor grill area where seafood and meat sizzle enticingly.
Downstairs, there’s the pale and interesting Library Bar, dotted with light grey armchairs and charcoal sofas; lime-washed ceiling fans whir gently in the background, adding a cooling breeze. Romance levels rise a notch or two at the sultry rooftop Prosciutto & Wine Bar, where comfortable sofas sit under a canopied pagoda. The glass balcony overlooks the hotel’s roof, and has hypnotic sea views. All the classic cocktails are present and correct (alongside some signature drinks – try the Villa Dubrovnik cocktail), and there’s a sexy soundtrack of jazz and soul to accompany a variety of – you guessed it – prosciutto and wine.
Drinks are served from 7pm until 1am; Pjerin is open from 7am until 11pm.
Villa Dubrovnik is set on the cliffs above St. Jacob, a short drive from Dubrovnik Old Town.
Dubrovnik’s airport (www.airport-dubrovnik.hr) is 18km away – a 20-minute drive. 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.
There's an Avis car-hire booth at Dubrovnik airport. Free parking (and valet parking) is available at the hotel; there are plenty of parking spaces. If you're travelling through Croatia, Split is a three-hour drive away. The hotel offer free road transfers to and from the Old Town.
Jadrolinija (www.jadrolinija.hr) run ferries daily between Italy (Bari) and Dubrovnik, from May to October.
Worth getting out of bed for
Spend some time relaxing in the spa, which has a respectably sized indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and several treatment rooms. Gym bunnies can work out on the eight or so machines and there’s also a small room dedicated to Pilates and yoga classes. Take a boat to Lokrum Island and admire the fortress, botanic gardens and lake. The hotel can also organise various outings and activities, including private tours of historic Dubrovnik, Peljesac peninsula, Zagreb or the Elaphiti Islands; horse-riding in Konavle, evening cruises, sea kayaking, visits to the wine regions, trips to the oyster farms, and meals at a Croatian family home.
Sit in the romantic stone alleyway and sample flavoursome fish – including excellent sea bream and saffron shrimp – at Proto (+385 20 323 234), in the Old Town at 1 siroka. Not a fan of fish? Try the smoked ham and olive starter. 360 Dubrovnik (+385 20 322 221) is named for its panoramic views; the Mediterranean cuisine is immaculately presented. Nautika (+385 20 44 25 26) is perched right by the sea, so the menu’s seafood focus figures. Try the lobster or the sea bass fillet with olive oil, cooked Konavle-style. Olivia Gourmet (+385 20 324 076) at 2 cvijete Zuzoric is a cool and characterful little joint that serves tasty Italian food. Sit outside on a balmy summer evening and watch the world go by.
Gradska Kavana (+385 20 324 747) at 77 gorica Sv. Vlaha is an elegant setting for morning coffees or nocturnal imbibing, thanks to its parquet floor, brass balustrades and shiny chandeliers. The pretty terrace looks out over Placa. The cliff-hugging Cafe Buza at 9 crijevićeva is a good introduction to Dubrovnik’s relaxed nightlife: accessed through a hole in the wall marked with a wooden ‘cold drinks’ sign, and the best place to watch the sun set.
The motto of Villa Dubrovnik is ‘romance forever’. But after a couple of months of a rainy London, we would happily take ‘romance temporarily’ such is our desire for a weekend away together. We just want to be sun-baked piggies that eat too much and do very little.
As Mr Smith optimistically tries to pay the driver from the airport in euros (der – Croatia has its own currency), I spot the mediaeval Old Town across to the right, and watch a gaggle of glossy superyachts gleam arrogantly in front of our hotel. I’m in a real-life Instagram photo, and I am fidgety with anticipation.
At the hotel’s entrance is a futuristic lift door flanked by a small wall. Thanks to the breathtaking views of the sparkling Adriatic sea below, it’s hosting a pair of pretty young tourists taking ‘selfies’ with the watery horizon as their backdrop.
Exiting the lift we’re thrust into the modern, minimalist space. Completely renovated in 2010, the hotel is resplendent in light, airy wood and stone textures, punctuated with cream lounges and latté fixtures. Relaxed and sophisticated, this is not your standard Eastern Europe seaside hotel. This is the new guard. This is fresh.
Passing a cluster of tanned guests barricaded by piles of LV luggage, we are checked in and given a tour. Our third-floor room has a full, glorious sea view, and is a medley of timber, sand and taupe. Understated and comfortable, it feels deceptively spacious. Bulgari toiletries and Egyptian linens catch my eye. Being a man midway through a bathroom renovation back home, Mr Smith scrutinises the taps, sinks, toilet and the fact that we’ll shower at no cost to the view thanks to a large glass wall. For this modest Mrs Smith there is heavy linen curtain available.
After a long, grubby day of travel, I wrench open the huge glass doors to our balcony and we devour the vista of deep green pines and grey rocks clashing with fantastically clear aqua water. Like all 56 rooms at Villa Dubrovnik, we get full ocean frontal: the hotel is built so that all rooms are treated to the money shot.
‘Swim?’ Mr Smith asks as he furiously tries to capture into his camera what our eyes are seeing. 37 degrees outside, and the Adriatic ocean at the foot of the hotel. There is no option but to dive in. Except for maybe an activity involving icy cocktails. (Which we also do; my advice is to skip the too-sugary daquiris.)
After a slightly confusing skip down to the sea (you have to walk through the fine-dining Restaurant Pjerin through a picturesque, pine-shaded stone terrace and the more casual Al Fresco Bar Giardino, down more stairs and through a tunnel), we find ourselves in a scene from a 1960s’ movie.
A huge rock shelf, modified with steps and levelled-out platforms, it still feels gloriously natural with its undulating, imperfect rocky mounds. Despite being almost 7pm, the area is still peppered with swimsuited guests who are lazing on blue-and-white-striped deckchairs only rising occasionally to dive directly off the platform into the deep, flawless bluey-green water before returning to their lovers, friends, or sunkissed, goggled children.
Moments we’re in that water, babbling to each other just how clean, and clear and perfect it is, and unlike what we’re used to. No bities or nasties or stingies. A stylish wooden Riva boat glimmers to the side, and we watch as well-dressed, perfumed guests, (they’ve been here a few days, you can tell by their unhurried, loved-up dawdle) climb aboard for the 10-minute trip to the Old Town for dinner and maybe some artisanal pepper shakers/teaspoons/salad servers. We have no energy for such things, and settle for zingy margaritas and sharing platters in the hotel’s rooftop SkyBar lounge.
We rise early enough to hit the gym and earn ourselves some lunchtime burgers. We’re not the only ones up: after a glimpse at the indoor pool we see that the sun deck is already full and the gym is also packed. Maybe we’re all eating burgers for lunch. After a day of swimming and reading and lunching by the ocean (and flirting dangerously with heatstroke) there is no other option than to head to the Villa spa.
Australia’s organic Sodashi products are the headline act in the quiet, cool, dark spa, so I immediately sense that we are in good hands. As it transpires, we are quite literally. We find hotel spa massages can be a bit so-so; we prefer the pain and torture of sports massage, but our Croat therapists are strong and experienced, and as we drift out into the corridor and back to our room, eyes glazed, hair knotted, muscles limp, we resolve that a nap is the only option.
That evening, mimicking the guests we’d seen the night before, we dress in our resortwear finery (bejewelled sandals for her, white pants for him) to take the Riva into town, forgoing hotel dining for something a little more… traditional. We tick all the tourist boxes – ice-cream, useless souvenirs, photos in the heaving town square. Then, back at our oasis, we’re delighted that a late check-out will permit another morning of sleeping in, blueberry pancakes and jumping off the rocks into the magnificent emerald sea.
Mirthfully we realise we are now the unhurried, loved-up hotel guests dawdling along, feeling fond of each other. ‘Romance forever!’ Mr Smith shouts, startling the reception staff as he does so. We laugh, and despite making fun of the motto, quietly concede its pertinence with a kiss. Then we order room service dessert. Because we’re pigs.