Dubrovnik, Croatia travel guide

Author: George Epaminondas
Photography: George Epaminondas

STAY
Hotel Excelsior
Royals and rock stars have lodged at this century-old villa. The hotel has 158 handsome rooms, most of which have staggering views of the Adriatic Sea, and a stellar location a few minutes' stroll from Dubrovnik's medieval walled Old Town. On-site restaurants include Prora, set under dramatic stone arches. Frana Supila 12.

Villa Dubrovnik
Carved into a cliff and wreathed in bougainvillea and oleander, this property has 56 sumptuously designed rooms, each with a generous terrace for marvelling over the views. There's a private beach, an indoor-outdoor swimming pool, a spa and a pair of restaurants, including Pjerin, which serves the likes of rabbit fillet with hazelnuts and wild mushrooms. As a glam touch, guests are ferried to the Old Town on a Venetian vaporetto. Vlaha Bukovca 6.

PLAY
Island-hopping along the Dalmatian coast during a city stay is mandatory. Lokrum, a 10-minute ferry ride from the Old Town, has rocky beaches, a botanical garden and a pride of peacocks. Or rent your own craft and drop anchor to swim inside Kolocep's Blue Cave at nearby Elaphiti Islands. The other two close islands, Lopud and Sipan, are both blissful.

At Lopud, dine at Obala for freshly caught fish (18 Iva Kuljevana). At Sipan, head to Konoba Kod Marka for local delicacies such as octopus rissoles (20223 Sipanska Luka).

SHOP
In a town awash with shops selling tchotchkes to tourists, venture to Maria Boutique for brands such as Céline, Lanvin and Azzedine Alaia (Ulica sv, Dominika). Find Croatian olive oil, preserves and candied orange slices (I found these addictive) at Oleoteka Uje (Placa bb, Stradun). Clara Stones Jewellery sells spectacular bijoux; owners Anja Mucic and Vittorio Ceccarini specialise in fashioning Adriatic red coral (collected under strict quotas) into show-stoppers and are a font of knowledge on the city's hotspots (Nalješkovieva 8).

DRINK
Café Buza
Accessed through a hole in a wall, Café Buža is the ideal vantage point from which to appreciate Dubrovnik's technicolour sunsets. The café comprises two adjacent bars - Buza I and Buza II - that jut from the southern rampart of the Old Town. Their style is informal, the drinks list unadventurous, but the accompanying light show is magnificent. The twin bars can be tricky to locate - use Gunduli Square as the starting point. Crijevieva ulica 9.



EAT
Lady Pi-Pi
Ascend a staircase in the Old Town to this delightful eatery on a rooftop terrace. I opted for a languid lunch of fresh mussels and langoustines in a marinara sauce so exceptional it deserves to be bottled. Ignore the restaurant's peculiar name. Antuninska 23 Peline bb.

Gil's Little Bistro
Wedged into a side street, this bistro is small in stature but big on ambition, with a cult following among locals and visitors. French chef Gilles Camilleri creates some of the most adventurous food in the Old Town, including lamb and truffle sausages, and shrimp ravioli. Petilovrijenci 4.  

Proto
One of the oldest restaurants in town, founded in 1886, is also one of the most polished. Some dishes, such as clear fish soup, are inspired by recipes handed down by generations of Dubrovnik fishermen, but here they are rendered breathtakingly modern. Choose a table on the cobblestoned street or the terrace upstairs. Široka 1.



WINE NOTES
The refreshing acidity and vibrant citrus notes of pošip, the white wine grown along the Croatian Dalmatian coast, make it the perfect accompaniment to grilled seafood. One of my favourites is Sur Lie by Krajancic.

LOOK BACK
War Photo Limited is a fascinating gallery established by New Zealand photojournalist Wade Goddard that documents the fate of the UNESCO World Heritage city during the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. Antuninska 6. 

Getting there
British Airways flies daily from Sydney to London Heathrow, via Singapore, with connecting flights four times a week between London Gatwick and Dubrovnik. 



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