Just before sunset, as the car rolled through the mountainous coastline of Dubrovnik, I caught my first glimpse of the bluer than blue Adriatic Sea. I knew right away that Croatia was a very special place. I was about to begin a short week of discovering the Land of Blood and Honey.
I stayed at and would recommend the fabulous and historical Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik. There are many lovely 5-star hotels in Dubrovnik, but I chose this hotel because of its rich history, perfect location (ten minute walk to the old city) and incredible views. Former guests included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Princess Grace, Margaret Thatcher, Orson Welles, Sophia Lauren and Jacqueline Kennedy to name a few. Excelsior is built into the side of a cliff with huge terraces and direct access to the clear blue and refreshingly cool sea. The sunsets in Dubrovnik were of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
On our second day, after a 5 minute cable car ride, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the breathtaking terrace at Panorama atop Mount Srdj overlooking the old city. Later, we walked around the old town through markets and churches and just before the Pile Gate, stumbled upon an incredible Franciscan Monastery that had been converted to a museum and pharmacy.
Dinners were spectacular. My favorite dining experience was Restaurant Dubrovnik which was on a rooftop in the middle of town, not much of a view but very romantic with delicious seafood and incredible service. Nautika was fabulous for its view and ‘chic factor’, but a truly favorite place was a little sidewalk “local” spot Konoba Pupo.
The second portion of the trip we spent on the island of Hvar. There are many islands to discover along the coastline of Croatia, but we heard that Hvar was a fun and hip spot to spend a couple of days. The hotels were all on the smaller side and not quite as grand as in Dubrovnik, but the beauty and magic of the old town itself and the access to all of the islands made it worth the trip. We spent one afternoon at the historic and uber chic Bonj Les Bains Beach Club and the other two exploring small islands by boat. The nightlife and music scene is very exciting and there many wine bars, clubs and shops that are worth checking out.
We ended the trip in Zagreb, which was architecturally splendid with a rich Austria-Hungarian history. With only one night we still managed to check out the new museum of modern art, and the splendid Umjetnicki Paviljon as we toured around the old city admiring the architecture. We stayed at the incredible Art-Nouveau Esplanade Zagreb, built c. 1925. While it has been renovated and modernized, somehow it felt as if time had stopped in a most glamorous place. -Joe