The Hotel Excelsior might not be Dubrovnik’s oldest building – but it certainly holds a firm foot in the city’s history. The modernist building, which for decades has been an jewel in the crown of the prettiest part of the Croatian coast, has played host to royalty like Queen Elizabeth II and movie stars such as Elizabeth Taylor. And, like the well-heeled tourists who visit, they come for the views.
The hotel’s location a five minute walk along the shore from the old city walls provide it the perfect vantage point for watching the sun set over the ancient town. In 2017 the hotel had a complete revamp, bringing it up to the super-modern and super-luxury standards associated with the best five star hotels in the world. The team of Croatian architects and designers have breathed a new lease of life in to the property.
Entering from the road, the hotel is hidden behind a cliff, making for a small, but boutique, unassuming lobby. Purposely void of fuss, it is the floor to ceiling windows that flood with daylight and provide eye-popping views like an IMAX screen across the Adriatic. It’s only when venturing beyond the lobby then, that the scale of the property becomes apparent. The modern and elegant design fuses earthy blues, sea greens and greys with granite and walnut; reflecting the colour of the materials used to build Dubrovnik over the centuries.
Wonderfully mish-mashing old and new, each of the 158 rooms are split between the 1913 historic royal ‘Villa Odak’ and the hotel’s modernist ‘The Tower’, and contain custom-made furniture with elements of Scandi-style, well curated finishes and flashes of the hotel’s signature yellow hue. Bathrooms, complete with L’Occitane products, also go big on the glass windows – with some rooms having enormous, soaking tubs that overlook the city or the island of Otok Lokrum.
There is also a new restaurant, which has quickly given the city’s exploding fine dining culture a jab in the arm. Sensus, run by head chef Peter Obad, fuses the best of local and Mediterranean cuisine, using the freshest sea food and prime cuts of meat – topped off with one of the most extensive and well selected Croatian wine cellars to be found. Reflecting the rest of the hotel’s glossy new sheen, expect stainless steel and monochromatic woods – think 21stcentury Art Deco. However should the mood take you (and the weather be fair) guests can dine under the hotel’s cobbled arches with views across the sea.
Upstairs, the hotel’s Abakus Piano Bar, is famed for its terrace. The extensive veranda, with, you guessed it, live piano music, is undoubtedly the chicest spot in town for style conscious drinkers. Its easterly position also offers the perfect vantage point from which to watch the sun go down over Dubrovnik’s ancient, UNESCO protected fortifications.
And if that wasn’t enough to make you want to never leave the hotel, it offers an huge indoor pool, spa and gym complex, and is one of only a handful of hotels in the area to have its own private (rock) beach-cum-jetty. The latter, has to be one of the most Instagram-able spots this writer has ever come across; as the stunningly turquoise waters for which Croatia is so well known lap the edges of the honey stone, you can cool off after a morning sight-seeing, or just sit, drink in hand, and admire a view that hasn’t changed for centuries. The loungers are also lined up in front of the wonderful Mediterranean sea food restaurant Prora, where white linened tables jostle under historic archways.
While Dubrovnik’s history is well known and the path to its churches, towers and – yes – pharmacies are well trodden, it has also upped its cultural currency in recent years. As well as being known as the filming location for Game of Thrones, it has played host to a several new world-class contemporary art galleries and cultural festivals. Never has their been a better time to visit the pearl of the Adriatic, and staying at the Hotel Excelsior is the without doubt, the most stylish way to do so.
Words by Toby Mellors
The Hotel Excelsior, Dubrovnik, Croatia, with room from €234 per person, per night