Croatia,  Europe,  TDM,  Travel Journal

2 Days in Dubrovnik (Croatia): Hotel Excelsior & Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing

In Montenegro, we are currently under curfew every day from 22pm to 5am and it is forbidden to move between regions on weekends. That’s why we spend a few more days in Croatia before crossing borders on Monday morning. We choose to spend them in Dubrovnik because it is the closest place to Montenegro that we can reach by bus from Split.

Note: this article is part of our series of articles “Road trip Croatia – Montenegro in 2 weeks”. To read the 1st part, click here

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Split – Dubrovnik by bus

We leave Split very quickly because there are travel restrictions between Croatian regions that will be put in place in the coming days (end of December 2020) to limit post-Christmas Covid contaminations. For our peace of mind, we jump on the first Flixbus found online (16€/person). The schedules are horrible (2h35, 5h15 in the morning or 18h45) during the low season for a 4h trip (+1h delay). The worst option, if we had not found a bus, would have been to privatize a car 200€ (price probably slightly negotiable). Or a car rental with a penalty to be paid by returning the car in another agency than the one of departure.

I have already told you about it here, the border crossing with Bosnia is so smooth, it’s just a formality. They checked our passports twice and that’s all (at the entry of Bosnia then at the entry, again, of Croatia). We are 1 hour late and everyone has already booked a cab or is being picked up by a relative at the bus terminal of Dubrovnik (we arrived at 11:45 pm).

As for us, we opted for Uber (which arrived in 2 minutes), 51 kuna. In Dubrovnik, Uber are also cabs.

Excelsior Hotel

There are only 6 hotels including 3 5-star hotels in Dubrovnik (during the low season. In any case, the other options are bed and breakfast / airbnb)

  • Hilton Hotel (Booking link), historic, 2 centuries ago the location may have been the place to be, but now the view is completely obstructed. It’s just outside the old town
  • Hotel Rixos Premium Dubrovnik (Booking link), massive, with swimming pool and access to the beach. It is the farthest from the old town
  • Hotel Excelsior (Booking link), with a historical part closed in winter and a modern part. Direct sea view and there are even pontoons for diving directly into the sea. Only 4 minutes walking distance to the old town.

Thanks to our last minute booking, we have an incredible offer for the Excelsior hotel, 325€ for 3 nights with upgrade, breakfast included. Before arriving, we ask the hotel how to get to there from the bus terminal ahahha. It is like writing to the Ritz in Paris to ask how to get there from the Eurolines terminal in Gallieni and how much the subway ticket costs. They replied that the cab costs around 100 kuna which is twice as much as Uber.

We have a double room with balcony on the sea <3<3 and view on the old town, look at that!

And just opposite, the island of Lokrum. Waking up with such an incredible view and a lot of sun in the middle of December makes me feel happy.

Low season + Covid = we have the whole swimming pool + sauna + jacuzzi all for ourselves. The swimming pool is at 29°C, the jacuzzi at 36° and the sauna, very spacious, is very well heated too. It’s perfect even for me. The treatments are really expensive on the other hand, just enjoy the pool! During this covid period, only the hammam was not available.

In the summer, you can have access to this absolutely incredible seawater swimming pool. It reminds me too much of the pool near Bondi beach in Sydney. So, we have the virtues of sea water but the tranquility of being in a pool. This part of the beach is full of rocks, it’s a bit less agreable…

but if you move a little bit further away, the water is deeper and it’s perfect for snorkelling. The water is exactly like this for real.

There is another pontoon near the historic wing, the water is shallower.

The Excelsior Hotel (Booking link) is a very good choice. As the restaurants are closed at the moment in Croatia, you can enjoy, in the evening, room service (between 20€ and 30€ for two people) and the service is luxurious. We’ve never had such a room service 😉 folding table with wheels, some of the dishes are delicious.

Banje Beach

This beach, very lively in summer, has more sand than the other beaches you see around here. Even in December, there are many swimmers who swim to the other beach and come back. They are so brave! I still can’t believe the color of this water! There are almost no waves, it’s so quiet. Sometimes, we see fishes, we don’t even need to snorkel 😀

The old city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by ramparts, so to enter, you have to cross bridges, sometimes real medieval bridges. It reminds us of Carcassonne in France, but I admit that I prefer Dubrovnik to Carcassonne, you’ll see why later. Its old port is really photogenic, and there are many benches on the old pier, always busy at sunset.

Frankly, this whole city looks like a movie set. It’s beautiful, it’s clean, it’s full of incredible details. The Game of Thrones crew must have been overexcited when they saw so much potential in this city. Besides, Dubrovnik is, for Game of Thrones’ fans, King’s Landing. Even if some scenes from Qarth were filmed here

From the old port, we can see an abandoned hotel, this is where the horrible battle scene between the Mountain and Oberyn was filmed. Of course I didn’t go there, this scene still traumatizes me lol 😀

The view from the pier is so romantic. Come here with a coffee or a beer and sit on a bench like the locals.

We are in front of the Rector’s Palace, a Gothic mansion that has become a museum. It is decorated with olive leaves for Christmas, and just the exterior alone deserves to linger, there are incredible details on the facade.

There are 2-3 cats that have taken up residence there. They each have their own piece of cardboard in the 3 corners to rest comfortably. Yes, the territories are clearly defined. There are a lot of cats in Dubrovnik. They look healthy. On the other hand, there are hygiene problems. In some places, cat poo and pee are everywhere. And the pee of uncastrated cats is stinking!

Not far away, there is a statue of a famous Croatian writer. You have to touch his nose to get something (??!!). Anyway, that explains why his nose is all shiny and golden.

Here is the famous bell tower! Filmed in Game of Thrones, it has a very important role. It’s the bell tower that must be rung to signal to Daenerys that the city is surrendering. But Daenerys went crazy in 2 seconds, without any explanation – while we had 8 seasons to build a credible psychological profile. anyway.

If you look at that bell tower on the side, there’s a statue that’s supposed to ring the bell.

Next to it is a nice little fountain. Its full size version is at the end of the shopping street. The water is drinkable, I saw several locals stopping there to refresh themselves.

Not far away is a Dominican monastery with a very photogenic cloister. Unfortunately, it is closed until January 2021. We were able to take a small picture by passing the camera behind the fence

This is the busiest and largest shopping street in the city. At the moment, there are only premises, the children take advantage of it to go cycling, running… local and festive atmosphere. There are no tourists. It is very authentic. Considering the number of tourist agencies, accommodations, restaurants, … all closed, I guess that in summer, it must be swarm with people.

From the main street, there are small streets going up and down like this, never ending. Even in these alleys, both sides are either airbnb or restaurants. In high season, even these small streets are full to bursting, there are tables of restaurants, tourist agencies, ATM … but it’s quiet in December, it’s difficult to imagine what it could look like in summer.

The most cinematic entrance to the old town is Vrata od Buže, because one is immediately plunged into the past, between alleys, bell tower and huge stairs.

Since restaurants and cafes are closed, it is a bit difficult to find take-out restaurants. A delicious smell brings us to Food Bar Guloso. Their burger (with beef or pork, secret family recipe) is so good! Fries are excellent too. This grey cat agrees with us. He begs but with a lot of grace and class, making discreet meow meows and winks like “I love you”

Walk of Shame

We head to the Historic Stairs, where an important scene was shot in Game of Thrones. It is from here that Cersei’s Walk of Shame begins.

Cersei vs. Me

The staircase itself is very beautiful and impressive. It’s true that when I saw the series, I said to myself “I want to go there”, this place impressed me so much. Now my dream has come true.

At the end of the stairs is the church of Saint Ignatius, a little dilapidated, not that memorable

We continue on our way and JB notices a “Cold Drinks with a View” sign. We work in marketing but we’re always being fooled by marketing so we follow the sign ahaaha 🙂 It’s while observing a cat that we discover a small door in the wall, at the level of the arrow “Cold Drinks”.

Here’s what’s waiting for us: a bar at the edge of the cliff, isn’t it cool? The picture on the left comes from Google because it was taken from the ramparts, to which we don’t have access.

Of course, the bar is closed in low season. On Google, there are a lot of negative opinions like it’s too expensive (7 euros the local beer!), the drinks aren’t even cold etc. but there are stairs leading down to the bottom, where you can swim. It seems to me that there are 3 secret beaches like that at the foot of the ramparts, accessible through small gates, but you have to know where it is. Anyway, follow the cats 😉

We leave the old town to find the small pier at DUBROVNIK WEST HARBOUR. This is where two scenes in Game of Thrones were filmed. I particularly remember a scene where Sansa finds Little Finger at the end of a pier. I remember it very well because the place chosen doesn’t look like a secret place to plot together. In any case, the water is very beautiful, we see lots of fish and the view on the fortresses of Dubrovnik is worth the visit.

I admit that we didn’t come to Dubrovnik to visit the filming locations of Game of Thrones. We learned it by seeing many souvenir stores in the city. It’s a nice discovery because I like to go to the filming locations (I was in the footsteps of Khaleesi in Morocco, hobbits in New Zealand and Sally & Harry in New York). I have a good memory and it’s always a pleasure to recognize places. I’m going to put 3 pictures of the locations of the series, only minor scenes. There are “Game of Thrones” guided tours for 20€ (2h walk in English or Spanish, Viator link) for fans. You can also book the tour in French online here (Civitatis link)

This very complete French blog lists all GoT locations in Croatia with Google Maps. There is even the Iron Throne on the island Lokrum (accessible for free) for fans.

Along the stairs to the Lovrijenac Fortress (closed), you can reach an incredible viewpoint over Dubrovnik.

We have a very beautiful view on the Hilton hotel. This hotel reminds me of Winter Palace in Luxor. Imposing building, old stone, historical hotel… I like it very much. Its architecture melts perfectly in the surroundings. Unfortunately, of the three 5 star hotels in Dubrovnik, this one has the most disappointing view.

While on the other side, we discover a small cove with transparent water and a small beach. Ohlalala. It is the 1st time that we discover the Adriatic Sea and it hardly disappoints us.

Following another panel “best view of Dubrovnik”, we arrive at the Viewpoint Minčeta Fortress. It is here that we realize the size of the ramparts, and that we have a good view on the fortresses of the city. It is possible to reach the ramparts (there are several accesses including one behind the old port), between 9h and 15h. It is necessary to pay 200 kunas (almost 26€) which is a little expensive, but we will pay the next time we come back. The visit of the ramparts also takes 2h30.

The next day, we are motivated to go to a viewpoint to the side of the Homeland War Museum. Usually, everyone goes there by cable car (20€/person), but the cable car doesn’t work in low season. We decide to go there by Uber (70 kunas/day). The driver agrees to wait for us (we told him 20 minutes) and we pay him the return in cash.

The way up here is a bit dangerous, there is only one lane and Croatian drivers are crazy, so be careful. In any case, our driver is happy to wait for us because it would have bothered him to take the insinuous road alone in the opposite direction. There is a hiking path too, in zig zag, it takes 1 hour to go up and 40 minutes to go down but don’t count on me to test the hiking paths

In any case the view from above is out of this world. The view isn’t 360°C but there is a way to look from all sides by changing platforms.

The possibility to observe the city from the heights is the difference between Dubrovnik and Carcassonne. I prefer Dubrovnik because of the view, but moreover, the castle of Carcassonne was a big disappointment. However, this position was also the weak point of the city, because it is very easy to bombard the city from the heights, an opportunity that the Yugoslavs did not hesitate to seize at the time of the siege of Dubrovnik in 1991.

Most of the houses are made of stone and because of the bowl shape of the city, there are many houses that do not see daylight. It’s cool in the summer, but in winter, if we spend a month here for example, to avoid being frozen like in Morocco, it would be nice to find an apartment high up and overlooking the sea so that we will have the sunshine all day long.

the old city of Dubrovnik
the new city of Dubrovnik. You can see the huge hotel Rixos from here
the heavenly islands in the distance, accessible by ferry (about 2 hours)
the mountains on the other side

I’ll end my travel diary with the picture of a small fishing boat at sunset.

There are a lot of places we haven’t explored yet. It is possible in winter to privatize a boat to make the tour of the islands. A boatman offered us a tour from 4€/person, but we’ll keep some places for our next stay in Dubrovnik. We like this city very much! I see us spending one month there in October for example, the water will remain hot and we will be able to benefit from the peace and the beauty of the place without the tourist horde.

See you soon for more adventures in the Balkans

Part 2: Practical Tips

Budget

  • Transportation
    • Split – Dubrovnik with Flixbus: 16€/person. Come 15 minutes in advance, the bus is always in advance. You have to pay 10kunas/luggage directly to the driver
    • Bus terminal Dubrovnik => old town: 51 kunas in Uber
    • Old town => Viewpoint: 70 kuna in Uber
    • Dubrovnik – Herceg in Montenegro : 45€ with private transfer
    • For transfers Dubrovnik airport – Dubrovnik city center, click here (Civitatis link)
  • Hotel Excelsior (Booking link): a little more than 100€/night, double room in winter, balcony with sea view, breakfast included
  • Room service: between 20€ and 30€, order to be made directly on the room’s TV set
  • Restaurant: take away: 40 to 50kunas/person
  • Supermarket: 20 to 30 kuna for lots of fruit

Did you like this article? For more articles on Croatia, click here. For excursions or guided tours, check out the offers available on Civitatis or Viator (a Tripadvisor company)

All the places mentioned in this article are available on my custom Google Maps. Click here

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