by Ben Narasin
In Croatia, one of eight Balkan states created from the breakup of Yugoslavia, the oceanside walled city of Dubrovnik showcases a mélange of three styles. These distinctive styles will be familiar to any traveler who has visited an ex-eastern-bloc Soviet Union component state: the historic European beauty that predates communism, the cinder block and cement utilitarian ugliness that embodies it, and the trappings of tourism and trade that has been newly installed upon the Communist party’s departure.
Dating back to 1913, Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik offers a fine example of this hodgepodge in architectural form. Each of the property’s buildings is reflective of its era externally, and renovated inside to modern standards. The original building is majestically clad with large, hand-wrought, sandstone-colored stone blocks, speaking to a rich European history and construction that pays homage to the nearby historic walled city. The newer building pursues a modern feel with sleek balconies of metal and glass, reminiscent of Miami a few decades ago. Elements below and between show bits of communist construction such as old mortar, leaving gritty hints of the party behind.
Guest rooms are luxuriously appointed, with balcony views of the ocean, bordered on the right by Old Town and on the left by anchored yachts and the Dalmatian coastline. Ahead is the island nature reserve of Lokrum, surrounded by the glorious Adriatic Sea.
The location is convenient, the building grand and the recently renovated facilities reach international standards. These facilities include the Energy Clinic spa and wellness center, with treatment areas and a fitness center, and a selection of restaurants and bar. Seafood specialties are served amid ancient stone arches at Prora Beach Restaurant, while Japanese flavors fill the menu at Satu Sushi Bar & Restaurant. For wining and dining with a view, Abakus Piano Bar and Restaurant features five-meter-high glass windows overlooking Old Town.
This property is one of a small number of top lodgings in the “close to town” category of hotels, and most likely the best of the bunch with direct sea access. But take the elevator down to the waterfront just beyond the modern-day pool, and you will find an old, crumbling cement-and-stone jetty lining the building’s length. Lawn chairs, cushions and well-worn towels might bring to mind oversized party bosses wallowing along the shore in less friendly times, but the modest steps to the sea invite guests to swim in pristine waters that wash away this gray, dated contrast to the rest of the hotel’s renovated spaces.
Drifting in the clean, cool sea, it is easy to forgive the hotel for leaving this sliver untouched. And it makes the hotel all the more appealing when you return to its tasteful, modern interior.
Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik
Frana Supila 12
20 000 Dubrovnik
+385 20 430 830
You can click on each photo to enlarge.