06 March 2011

The Best - Jeffrey's top listings

For those of you unsure where to start, this selection of prime suggestions could help pinpoint what places you'd find more interesting - or if you've already picked the destination, make sure you don't miss anything nearby.

On the road to Romance
Rovinj takes the number one spot on the list of romantic destinations on the Adriatic. Take one Venetian old town, set it on a tiny peninsula jutting majestically out over the Adriatic, add charming stone streets (leave the Manolos at home), place one simple piazza in front of a church with a gorgeous campanile, throw in drinks at a café where you couldn’t be any closer to the water without actually swimming, toss with a good dose of restaurants, and sprinkle with young(ish) Italian, French, Austrian, Slovenian, and Croatian couples on similar wavelength – i.e. entirely enveloped in their own romantic escape.
Dubrovnik is an obvious contender - it is Dubrovnik after all. Not everyone here is in a romantic mood, but with this backdrop, if your proposal of marriage goes awry, it is your fault entirely. We are dead serious.
If the two of you are looking for some turn of the century charm (and NOT a la Prince 1999) then head to Opatija. Long walks along the lungomare, dinner at Le Mandrać, drinks in a secessionist style villa-turned-cafe, manicured Austrian gardens – relive the days of the happy-go-lucky Archduke Maximilian and wife Carlota before their fateful decision to take on the title of Emperor and Empress of Mexico. If only they had been as smart as you.
Ljubljana must be Europe’s smallest, cutest capital. Crowned by a castle on a hill overlooking a small river bridge (guarded by dragons no less) that links two of the quaintest squares – one with city hall and a fountain by the guy who did the Trevi in Rome, the other with an almost too-cute-to-be-real pink baroque cathedral surrounded by secessionist buildings, an old town that meanders up to the castle, cafes galore, good restaurants… I mean really, this is what you wanted Europe to be like when you dreamed of your honeymoon. But without the Parisians. Hvar is not what we would call typically romantic, but there are a number of people who think the perfect date involves one hot sexy young thing (them, obviously) accompanied by another equally head-turning and well-heeled thing to the primo spot, where they have the ideal table in the center of attention so everyone can be jealous of their perfect couple-ness. If that is you, take your significant other and head to Hvar. The rest of us will be partying around you, and heading elsewhere for our private moments.

For the active traveller

Bol, Brač, Croatia - windsurfing, parasailing, scuba, snorkeling, biking, you name it.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia - skiing, hiking, swimming, and still 30 minutes from the casinos at Bled
Kotor, Montenegro - get exercise the Venetian soldier's way - hike those walls that go seemingly straight uphill.
Peleješac, Croatia - wander the walls of Ston, bike along the beaches, and take in windsurfing or parasailing at Viganj.
Istria - a favorite of those looking to burn off truffles by biking everywhere.

Šunja Beach, Lopud. Beautiful sand beach (rare on the Adriatic) on this car-free island near Dubrovnik.
Sveti Jerolim, Pakleni Otoci, Hvar. This tiny island just across from Hvar town is the spot for sunning before heading out at night in town. Hop a water taxi in town. Oh, and yes, there is a boys' section - how could the trendiest spot in Dalmatia NOT have one?
Zlatni Rat, Bol, Brač. Possibly Croatia's most photographed beach, this finger-like projection of a pebble beach is made all the more chic by the marble sidewalk that connects it to the town. Why marble? Remember, the White House is build out of Brač stone. A mecca for scuba, windsurfing, and biking.
Lokrum Island, Dubrovnik. No sand here, but stunningly transparent blue water and views of Stari Grad - the old walled city - from the Napoleonic fort at the top of the island.
Punta Križa, Rovinj. The most popular gay beach in Croatia.
Plaza Jaz, Budva. If you are staying in Budva or even Kotor this sand beach about 4 km north of Budva is your best bet.
Kornati National Park. Anywhere in this park consisting solely of islands.
Viganj, Pelješac - Top windsurfing spot overlooking Korčula’s old town.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro. The iconic island village turned luxury hotel soft opened in 2010.
Mako, Gallipoli, Salento - Makes Rovinj's boys' beach look staid.

Top Party spots

Hvar - consensus says this is still one of the world's best spots for summer beach partying
Sarajevo - during the film festival this place is one huge party
Novi Sad, Serbia - the summer EXIT festival is one of Europe's biggest and best musical events
Belgrade, Serbia - they know how to party like the world is crumbling around you
Budva, Montenegro - trashy fun with the nouveau riche de la Russie
Novalja, Pag, Croatia - the Croatian 24/7 imitation of Ibiza
Gallipoli, Salento - during August this place is over the top with boys

Gil's, Dubrovnik
Marcellino, Zagreb
Spajza, Ljubljana
Le Mandrać, Volosko/Opatija
Taverna Toscana, Skopje
Obala, Lopud
Gverović Orsan, Zaton Mali
Stari Mlini, Kotor
Kapetanova Kuća, Mali Ston
La Puntulina, Rovinj

Hotel Angelo d'Oro, Rovinj
The Pučić Palace, Dubrovnik
Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik
Riva, Hvar
Hyatt Regency Belgrade
The Regent Esplanade, Zagreb
Antiq Hotel, Ljubljana
Urban Hotel, Trieste
Palmižana, Hvar
Hotel in Pietra, Matera, Basilicata

Some of the more unique hotels in the region include the island village hotel Sveti Stefan, near Budva in Montenegro, which has at least partially reopened under the management of Aman Resorts, and the Hotel Cittar in Novigrad/Cittanova, Croatia, a small family hotel built into the old Venetian city walls. Heading just outside the target region, the Hotel in Pietra in the stunning town of Matera is a great boutique hotel built into the ancient sassi.

Bars & Cafes
Carpe Diem
, Hvar
The Garden, Zadar
Hemingway, Dubrovnik
Vitriol, Novigrad/Citta Nova
Valentino, Rovinj
Kamene Priče, Bale/Valle
Anywhere involved in hosting any aspect of the Sarajevo Film Festival in August
Škola, Zagreb
The best ice cream on the Adriatic is, by our count, that found at Natale Gelateria Pasticceria e Cioccolateria just off Piazza Sant'Oronzo in Lecce, Puglia.  The mandorlo is divine.   Second may be the cimet (cinnamon) at the ice cream shop on Stradun in Dubrovnik. In Zagreb, Vincek wins hands down.

Gyms, pools, and spas
Aqua Club-Spa at Hotel Nikopolis, Thessaloniki - largest outdoor pool in southeastern Europe, and a beautiful spa to go with it
[comfort zone] space at Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, Dubrovnik – gym and indoor pool overlooking the Adriatic with accompanying wellness center
Hotel Central - Westwood Spa, Sarajevo - pool, sauna, steam room, and 2 floor gym
Club Olympus, Hyatt Regency Belgrade
Westin, Zagreb - for the pool - the gym isn't so great
Terme Čatež, Slovenia - de-tox heaven


Palata Federacije, Belgrade
Makedonium, Kruševo
Pošta 2, Skopje
Hotel Zlatorog, Bohinj-where 1973 lives on

Zigante Tartufi, various locations in Istria
Dubrovačka Kuća, Dubrovnik
Piranske Soline, Tartinev Trg, Piran and Mestni Trg, Ljubljana
Liberima, Corte dei Cicala, Centro Storico, Lecce - bookshop and wine store.
Who wants books and coffee when you can have books and local wine?

Bizarrely wonderful public art
Greeting to the Sun, Zadar
Sea Organ, Zadar
Glagolithic Alley, Hum


  1. Thx for the Le Mandrać link! I'll never forget that place! :)

  2. These are all top of the tops places... great recommendations pls upload more pics!!!