where to go in croatia

Dubrovnik Travel Guide


Once again, it's Tuesday and I'm so excited to share another travel guide! Last week I introduced you to Hvar, Croatia: how it was incredibly clean, had some of the friendliest people I've ever interacted with and the water was clearer than anywhere else I've seen in my life. From Hvar, we took a ferry 3 hours south to Dubrovnik- where all my previous sentiments about Croatia still apply (but throw in a slew of Medieval history on top of everything else). 

Dubrovnik is one of the southern-most points in Croatia (flirting with the Montenegro border) and nestled right on the coast of the Adriatic sea. It's best known for it's Old Town, which is encircled in massive stone walls and dates back to the 16th century. If you're a little rusty (or lacking entirely) on your knowledge of the Medieval times, fear not: they also film Game of Thrones here (can't go wrong with a pop-culture reference). 

There's so much more I wanted to see and do but just didn't have the time. Three days felt rushed and I would have loved more time to be able to relax there and sight see. But even if you can only  get there for a few days, it's still worth every second it. And when you go- here's where you need to visit:




villa dubrovnik luxury hotel croatia
villa dubrovnik croatia luxury hotel

If you're asking yourself where to stay in Dubrovnik, let me help you out. Everything about Villa Dubrovnik is Hotel GOALS. They tick all the boxes you normally would look for: cleanliness, great service, etc. But there's so much about this property that I found to be unique.

First,  I've often said a hotel only really needs to be somewhere clean and safe to sleep at night-- but I love how Villa Dubrovnik maximizes every opportunity for guests to enjoy their views of the city and the sea (which are epic). The walls facing the water are floor to ceiling glass- even from the bathroom (don't worry, they all have curtains if you want privacy) so you don't even have to take your eyes off that sparkling Adriatic while you brush your teeth. Some rooms even have bathtubs on the balcony... swoon.

But if you can manage to pull yourself away from your room, the rest of the property is equally as wonderful. We spent an afternoon at their spa (which was incredible) and then enjoyed dining alfresco on their beautiful terrace at sunset. They also have a rooftop Prosciutto & Wine Bar lounge with surprise- more great views! Aside from how beautiful everything was, the meal was also one of the best I've had on my entire trip so far. 


villa dubrovnik croatia
villa dubrovnik croatia luxury hotel

They're about a 15 minute walk from the hotel to the Old City which allows for a little more seclusion and privacy. But if you're worried about convenience- fear not. They have a shuttle that runs non-stop from the hotel right to the gate where all the action is so that you can have the best of both worlds. 

There's no doubt that you'll have an amazing experience staying at Villa Dubrovnik. And if staying there is still a little out of your price point (rooms start around $375 depending on the season and can range up to $1,000 if you really splurge) it's definitely still worth going for dinner or a spa treatment to soak in the views and take a break from all the energy in the city center. 


Quick disclaimer: I always try to visit a few places everywhere I go in order to provide options (I realize everyone has different specifics they're looking for and budgets to work with). With that said, I only include them as a recommendation if I would actually recommend you stay there. Unfortunately, one of the places from this trip (an apartment we booked using Booking.com) isn't one I'd suggest. While the location was great and the room was clean, we found the communication (from both Booking.com and our host) to be poor, the check out process to be confusing, and the payment methods to be significantly more complicated than it had to be.  I've never used Booking.com before this, so I don't want to let my one negative experience say to never ever use them, but I would advise to proceed with caution if you choose to do so. My personal takeaway is to stick with Airbnb (where I've always had great experiences) if I'm looking for something other than a hotel. 

With that said, I know there are LOTS of wonderful places to stay in Dubrovnik (and you can't hit the nail on the head every single time). If Villa Dubrovnik is out of your price range, my friends over at The Glass Passage recently came to Dubrovnik as well and loved their time at Hostel Villa Angelina in Old Town, so if you're looking for a option on a tighter budget you can always check that out as well. 



There are so many amazing and local places to eat in Dubrovnik! Some of our favorites included: 


marco polo restaurant dubrovnik croatia where to eat

For dinner our first night, we went to Marco Polo- a small family restaurant nestled in the narrow streets of Dubrovnik's city-center. While hard to capture on photos (hence the daytime shot I pulled from online above), you'll swoon over the romantic, dimly lit atmosphere that allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of town and relax. The team was so hospitable and we instantly felt right at home while they encouraged us to try traditional Dalmatian food that we weren't too familiar with-- I was blown away by all of it. I recommend trying the Octopus Carpaccio, Croatian Cheese Platter, "Precious Blue" Tuna Steak and definitely leave room for "My Grandma's cake" for dessert. In my opinion, Marco Polo was one of the best value restaurants in all of Croatia: incredible food and atmosphere for a great price. Be sure to add them to your Dubrovnik itinerary!

marco polo restaurant dubrovnik croatia tuna
nautika dubrovnik fine dining

Nestled right on the coast of the Adriatic and overlooking the fortresses of Lovrijenac and Bokar (aka- what you'd recognize from Game of Thrones) you'll find Nautika- one of the most romantic restaurants in the world (voted by Condé Nast Traveller). It's also housed in the former Dubrovnik School of Maritime Studies, and you'll notice the nod to the former seafarers in the decor and ambiance. 


Brenna and I came here on our first afternoon in Dubrovnik for Happy Hour, and I'm not quite sure how we'll ever top it. Pictures can't even begin to do the view justice- but it's breathtaking. Then on top of that, our cocktails were the most elaborate I've ever seen. Brenna's arrived in a birdcage with rose petals surrounding it. Mine came on a silver platter (literally, not metaphorically) and had "blood orange essence" in a perfume bottle that our waiter sprayed and then left the bottle for me to add more to my liking. I've never seen cocktails with so much attention to detail (and they tasted incredible too). We already had dinner plans so we stuck to cocktails and a spread of fresh fruit, but next I'm in Dubrovnik I definitely plan to eat dinner there. With cocktails so incredible, I can only imagine what the food is like! Whether you go for Happy Hour or an entire meal, be sure to do yourself a favor and add this spot to your itinerary. 

restaurant nautika dubrovnik
restoran dubrovnik croatia restaurants

It's fun to get a combination of panoramic dinner views overlooking the water and also to dine within the buzzing energy of the city walls. When you're looking for the latter, Restauran Dubrovnik is a solid choice. They have a reputation for being amongst Dubrovnik's top class restaurants and serve consistently good quality food with a distinctly modern Dalmatian twist. The rooftop terrace allows you to feel some seclusion from everything going on within the city walls, but still be able to enjoy the enchanting streets. The service was exquisite, the ambience was elegant, and our food was incredible. I started with a martini with truffle and rosemary, which was so unique and delicious. For my food, I did the chef's tasting menu which let me try a wide variety of items... and literally everything was delicious. Order anything that sounds good to you on the menu, because I can almost guarantee it will be good. 

restauran dubrovnik menu items

A few other places worth checking out:

Buza Bar  is literally a bar nestled right on the edge of a cliff. It's casual and serves pretty standard drinks, but you can't beat the view. Grab a drink at sunset (and if the views weren't enough, you may see some crazy people cliff jumping like I did for some extra entertainment). 

Lady Pipi: a strange name and an even stranger statue out front (I'll spare you the visual) but hands down the best tuna steak I've ever had in my life. Go for lunch and enjoy the view from the terrace.



There are endless must-see attractions and things to do in Dubrovnik. We were only there a few short days, but our favorites included: 



banje beach dubrovnik croatia

If you're wanting to take advantage of the beach during your time in Croatia (which you definitely should) be warned it's not just hopping over to any old beach like we often do in the states. The beaches in Europe are predominantly rocky, which means you'll have a much more enjoyable experience if you go somewhere with chairs instead of trying to lay on rocks. With that said, there are a few sandy exceptions now and then, and Banje Beach happens to be one of them.  We spent our day in the sun there and loved  relaxing on the day beds. They have servers that wait on you so you can eat and drink throughout the day (and umbrellas for some shade when you need a break). We loved ordering a bottle of champagne and salads after working up an appetite swimming in the Adriatic. If you're wanting a little more of a party scene while you're in Dubrovnik, you can also come here at night when the venue transforms into a night club. Whenever you choose to visit, Banje Beach has an ideal location with incredible views and is sure to provide you with a good time. 

banje beach dubrovnik croatia
dubrovnik cable car croatia

There's no question that you have to ride the Dubrovnik Cable Car to the top of the city for an unparalleled view of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic. I heard lots of people tell me I had to do this, but when we tried to go for sunset the line was LONG. I'm sure the view is incredible then, but if you're like us and don't want to deal with crazy crowds or lines, go first thing in the morning. There was no line and we still had an incredible view. Also, we could actually get a table with a view at the Panoramic Restaurant  (which is impossible without a reservation if you want to go for dinner).  We sat up there for over 2 hours while we drank cappuccinos, ate breakfast, and read. It was the perfect way to start our day and I loved how tranquil it was compared to the thought of fighting all the crowds later in the day (although maybe next time I'll get brave and go then so that I can see the sunset!)

dubrovnik cable car and panoramic restaurant.

While Dubrovnik is arguably the most popular destination in Croatia, it's still not visited nearly as often as other destinations in Europe-- but it should be. I fell completely in love with the city and so many places in it. I was so impressed and I can't wait to come back again someday. 


If you have any questions about planning, feel free to send me a note! theblondeatlas@gmail.com


I'm off to soak up the most of this pretty London sunshine and get with some friends (we are going to a Mexican place in Covent Garden, and I haven't had guac in almost 2 months so I am PUMPED!) Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great week!




Hvar Travel Guide


Ahhh, Hvar. I didn't even knew this gem existed a couple months ago. Originally when I planned to meet my friend Brenna in Europe, we were headed to Istanbul- and I was so excited about it.  I was flying from Milan, and Brenna from a mission trip in Zambia, so the plan was to meet at Atatürk airport. Well it's no secret that at the end of June (just a little over a month before our trip) a terrorist attack occurred at the very same airport- killing 45 people and injuring more than 230. 

Even then- we were still going to go. I pride myself in not giving into fear or letting world events keep us from exploring the beautiful places that are meant to be discovered. I went back to Paris just weeks after the tragic attacks last November. I spoke at a conference in Orlando less than a month after the senseless shootings there. I wasn't ready to let another terrible act of violence keep me from doing what I love most (I even wrote a passionate blog about the topic). 

But when a couple more weeks passed and the attempted military coup in Istanbul hit the news, we began to reconsider. During the coup, over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 were injured. We saw video footage of Turkish soldiers opening fire at unarmed civilians on the Bosporous Bridge- which was directly across from the hotel where we were supposed to stay: Four Seasons Bosphorus

And while I still stand firmly by the statements I made in my blog about why now, more than ever is the time to travel, I also believe in using discernment to make wise decisions about where we do so. At the end of the day, traveling somewhere that's in the midst of such civil unrest as 2 single females no longer seemed like a wise thing to do (however, I fully intend on taking that trip to Istanbul in the future and am already looking forward to it).  

So once we made that decision, we were at a bit of a loss as to where to go instead. Again, Brenna was coming from Africa and I was coming from Milan. We already had plans to go to Dubrovnik as our second stop, so it didn't make sense to go anywhere too far west in Europe (not to mention, Expedia + Turkish Airlines refused to refund our flights to or from Turkey so we were trying not to lose any more money than we already had). 

After hours of research on the internet, we came across Hvar: a glamorous island in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Split. This 13th century town claims to be the sunniest spot in all of Europe and is the perfect destination for those seeking beautiful beaches without the overwhelming crowds in more popular or well known destinations. We were sold. 

But before I dive right into Hvar, let me back up. If you haven't looked into visiting Croatia, you need to do so immediately- it's easily one of my favorite places I've ever been. Both places we visited were incredibly clean, had some of the friendliest people I've ever interacted with, and the water is clearer than anywhere else you've ever seen in your life. I loved our time there and could have easily stayed for weeks without getting sick of it. 

Hvar clearly has something for everyone, because we saw it all: ostentatious yachts in the harbor, families enjoying their holiday by the sea, 20 somethings who were ready to party... you name it. And honestly, it makes sense- because when you find someplace as beautiful as Hvar you want to go- no matter who you are. 

So if you're someone who enjoys the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, nice people, great food, or places that are brimming with history- there's not a doubt in my mind that you'll fall head over heels in love with Hvar like I did. Should you find yourself planning a trip (which you definitely should), here's where you need to go: 




pharos hvar bay hill hotel
pharos hvar bayhill hotel croatia

Wondering where to stay in Hvar?We couldn't have been luckier that on such short notice and during peak season, we managed to get a room at a hotel as great as Pharos Hvar Bay Hill. There was so much about this property that I loved (friendly staff, great pool, modern + clean rooms, etc.) but a few things really stood out compared to other places I've stayed. For starters, can we talk about this room view!? I love that we were elevated enough to get a great view of the water, but sill such a close walk to the port and center of the action (barely 5 minutes). Another thing that impressed me was the breakfast. I've stayed in plenty of hotels in Europe that include a continental breakfast, but that term is a bit different than what we use in the states. It's not unusual for Europeans to grab a croissant or something super light for breakfast, so the American in me is often hangry come lunch. Luckily, that was never the case in Hvar, thanks to the bomb breakfast at Pharos: made to order omelets, delicious fresh fruit like watermelon and kiwi, a yogurt/cereal/granola bar, sausage, bacon... the list goes on. 

pharos suncani hvar hotel

It was also so easy to arrange transportation to and from the hotel. Pharos offers great prices for airport transfers when you arrive in Split (handling the driver to pick you up and take you to the ferry, the ticket already handled, someone to help you with your luggage on the ferry, someone to greet you at the port in Hvar and take you directly to Pharos. While it could have easily been a pain point, they had everything completely handled and it was only the equivalent of about 60 US dollars. The same was true when we left to go to Dubrovnik- they had an even cheaper transfer that took us from the hotel to the ferry, which took us directly to Dubrovnik. It was so great to have such a friendly staff who helped us arrange so many details in the easiest fashion. 

In a nutshell, if you're wanting to stay somewhere that offers all the amenities and perks of a luxury resort but still offers a relaxed atmosphere (Bonus perk: I've never seen so many attractive 20 and 30 somethings in my entire life all in one place - and that's not an exaggeration) then Pharos Hvar Bay Hill Hotel is the place for you. 




Want to know the best restaurants in Hvar, Croatia? Let me tell you about two of my favorite:


divino restaurant hvar croatia
divino hvar croatia restaurant
divino restaurant hvar

I have been making a list of superlatives for everything that I do on this trip, and so far Divino is tied for first place of "Best Restaurant View". No picture will do it justice, but this restaurant offers a breathtaking view of the Hvar archipelago Pakleni Islands (along with unique gastronomy and superb wines). Brenna and I couldn't stop saying "WOW" to each other (so much that it became a joke for the rest of the trip) because everything was just that good. 

We chose the chef's tasting menu, which is always my favorite to try (it really let's the chef flex and prepare his best dishes based on the seasonal ingredients). No matter what you order, you won't be disappointed because all the food is delicious and the view is unlike anything else you've ever seen (I'd recommend timing your reservation around the sunset so you can make the most of it!)

Our meal at Divino was a truly unforgettable experience and I will definitely go back next time I find myself in Hvar!




suncan hvar san marco restaurant croatia

We loved eating on the terrace of San Marco Restaurant at The Palace Hvar so much, we actually ate there twice. (Bonus: if you stay at Pharos you can bill it to your room because the hotels are owned by the same property). They offer Italian fare (which I surprisingly still thoroughly enjoyed even after 2 weeks in Italy- that means it was really, really good). Aside from delicious views, we loved the view from the rooftop terrace, overlooking the center of town as well as the water (if you haven't connected the dots already- I'm all about finding restaurants that have both great views and great food). 



There are so many things to do in Hvar! Even if you only have a short amount of time, I would suggest:


hvar wine tour tasting croatia

For our first full day, we did a half day wine tasting with Hvar Wine Tours. I was a bit apprehensive of Croatian wine. I thought I'd probably like it fine, but we tend to hear so much buzz about more renown wines like ones from Napa or Bordeaux or other regions. So I kind of assumed Croatian wine wouldn't hold a candle to those. However, they went out of their way to help us understand the history and traditions of Hvar wine so we could fall in love with the island and its wines- and fall in love I did. 

We learned that Plavac Mali is one of Croatia's best known grapes they use to produce their wine. The grape is native to Croatia, and gives the wine a unique and recognizable taste. I've never tried wine like it before, but loved how dry and full-bodied the red wines were. 

The tour takes in two of the most charisamtic and respected winemakers in Croatia, both based in the picturesque wine town of Jelsa.  I loved our Ivo Dubokovic candlelit tasting experience (which takes place in his family konoba could not be more intimate). Along with tasting the delicious wine, we also got to try a variety of olive oils and cheese (all were delicious). 

If you love wine, I highly recommend booking this excursion with Hvar tours for a truly unique experience unlike any other wine tasting you've done. Although be warned- these wines are usually around a 15% alcohol level so don't go on an empty stomach!




hvar boat tour day trip to vis croatia

Our day trip to Vis was easily one of my favorite things I've done so far in Europe. Also through Hvar Tours, this excursion lasts a full day and you will love every second. Hop on a speedboat (a nice one too) with just a few other people (not some giant boat where they cram 50 other people next to you) and pretty soon you'll find yourself exploring the barrier islands in the Adriatic neighboring Hvar. No pictures that I include will do it justice though- the sun was dancing on the water and it literally looked like glitter sparkling. The water was so clear that you could see to the bottom whenever we would dock. We got to swim in the green cave which was incredible.  Our skipper was also so nice and showed us lots of unique parts of the islands throughout the day (he also had a bomb playlist that we listened to on the boat all day). We made some new friends from Lisbon that we loved talking to throughout the day. Overall, it was one of my very favorite days and I can't recommend it enough. You have to see Croatia by boat, and this excursion that Hvar Tours offers is a one stop shop that allows you to cover tons of territory in just one day. 

hvar boat tour croatia

Overall, Hvar is an incredible place and I'm so thankful I got to experience it. I was honestly pretty pissed off that I wasn't going to Istanbul, but I probably would have never found this hidden gem otherwise. Brenna and I have already sworn to each other that we'll go back together someday because we loved it so much. I'll be eagerly anticipating it until then. 

If you have any questions about Hvar or Croatia in general that I didn't address, you can send me an email at theblondeatlas@gmail.com. 


Now I'm off to have lunch with a new friend, Caroline from The Belle Abroad who lives here in London. I can't wait to talk travel + see more of this city that I seem to be falling more in love with everyday!


Wishing you a very happy Tuesday, and as always- thanks for stopping by!



HVAR travel guide