Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik : Farewell to King’s Landing Combat Arena

Circular staircase with a debris in the abandoned Belvedere Hotel Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Benjamin Martin

Every year, hordes of tourists are invading Dubrovnik, once unconquerable Croatian town! The walled city is the home for 42.000 citizens, yet in 2017 it received 1.1 million visitors! Tourist overcrowding threatens even Dubrovnik’s UNESCO World Heritage Site label. In this context, it is very unusual that one hotel in King’s Landing (Dubrovnik is known as the filming location for “Game of Thrones” series) has been abandoned for a quarter of the century! As odd as it may sound, Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik has not been receiving visitors since 1991! The legendary combat between Oberyn and The Mountain was staged here, but in real-life history, many games of thrones have been fought at this site. Pipeaway brings you one of the last urban explorations of the abandoned hotel, set for major face-lifting in the following years!

Screenshot from the battle of Prince Oberyn and The Mountain in HBO series "Game of Thrones"
Oberyn finishing off The Mountain. Or so he thought
Oberyn vs. Mountain

Dubrovnik has always been the touristic pearl of the Adriatic. The medieval town gained even more substantial marketing momentum after HBO chose it as one of the primary filming locations for Game of Thrones” series. Dubrovnik Walls constitute a significant tourist attraction, its fortresses lead numerous cruise ships into the harbor, but King’s Landing label was a cherry on top of the decades of touristic success.

In the fourth season of “Game of Thrones” (the eighth episode, “The Mountain and the Viper”), Tyrion’s fate was decided. In the arena at King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, a large crowd has assembled to witness the battle between Prince Oberyn and Ser Gregor Clegane, also known as The Mountain. Just when it seemed that the winner was clear, the overturn shuffled the new cards for Oberyn.

The amphitheater in the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, that was used as a filming location for the battle of Oberyn and Mountain in "Game of Thrones" series - crest of House of Baratheon was repainted with the crest of Hajduk football club, photo by Ivan Kralj
Croats might love “Game of Thrones”, but they love their football even more – the crest of the House of Baratheon was repainted with Hajduk one
Repainting the history

There are not many reminders that this is the place where prince lost his eyes in one of the most hair-raising battles of the “Game of Thrones” series. The circular arena still exists, but the crest of House of Baratheon that was marking the floor of the battle scene, is now covered with the crest of Hajduk, the football club from the town of Split.

The hotel’s amphitheater is covered in graffiti, which usually happens with abandoned places left to decay. One of the more memorable ones in the Croatian language says “Bolje da su ođe nego da se neđe drogiraju” (“It is better that they are spending time here, instead of taking drugs somewhere else”). The English favorite presents a dilemma: “What would you choose: a) four more years of Donald Trump as president, b) season four of Rick and Morty four years early”.

External glass elevator that was bringing guests directly to the beach of the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Kralj
This glass elevator had only one purpose – bringing the hotel guests directly to the beach. What a luxury it had to be in 1985!
Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik history

Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik opened in 1985 as one of the most luxurious hotels on the Adriatic coastline. With panoramic views of Dubrovnik Old Town, and 5-star service to its customers, Belvedere’s future seemed promising.

The hotel had its own helidrome. A unique external elevator was bringing guests directly to the beach. They could enjoy in several restaurants, taverns, and bars. “Mozart” cake shop was preparing sweet bites for the guests, boutiques were selling trendy clothes, the swimming pools were entertaining the entire families.

In 1991, the war in Croatia terminated the touristic potential of the property. Serbian forces attacked Dubrovnik, and the hotel was demolished. Some refugees used it as a shelter during the siege of the town, but after the bombs of Yugoslav People’s Army, the hotel’s days were over.

Belvedere is not a nice site anymore. Nomina sunt odiosa

Documents of the past times

Passing by the sea, on the cliff, I find the almost perfectly preserved notebook from 1987! Written by hand, it is a register of receipts declaring room numbers and prices paid. Only one room does not have a number, yet it costs the most – 97.650 dinars! Depending on the number of days and type of the room, the other guests were paying anything between 450 and several thousand dinars. The name written next to the most expensive room was the one of Ivica Valjalo, the former head of Dubrovnik municipality.

Two chairs on a terrace in the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, Croatia, with a view of the seaside and the Old Town, photo by Ivan Kralj
Did you ask for a room with a sea view?

I am not sure how did this notebook survive three decades of wind, rain and sea. Many solid objects turned into debris. One can only imagine that the guests were enjoying their drinks with cocktail umbrellas at nowadays rusty bar skeleton. The forgotten stairs leading into the sea are now a hazardous mixture of concrete and holes. Some chairs are still set on the terrace with magnificent views of Dubrovnik Old Town and Lokrum Island, but that is where beautiful views end. Belvedere is not a nice site anymore, nomina sunt odiosa.

My photograph of Dubrovnik sunset was the second most liked image on the official Instagram account of Croatian National Tourist Board in 2017 – it got more than 20.000 likes! Find it in my flashback article 2017 Year in Review: 3 Continents, 14 Countries and One Big Adventure.
The bathtubs in the hallway of the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, photo by Benjamin Martin
Bathtubs lined up in the abandoned Hotel Belvedere
Only the ghosts are booking rooms here

The main building of Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik is a massive complex! Eighteen floors and more than 200 accommodation units could host many guests in their better times.

The signs “Private property – no trespassing”, exclaiming that there is a danger of building collapsing, alert when you enter the hotel grounds. Entering can be “dangerous for life and health”, they say. While you should definitely avoid visiting any building in its final phase of crumble, I couldn’t resist.

After squeezing through the hole in the wall, I started walking carefully. Hallways were cluttered with building material, rods were sticking out of the walls, the floor was getting weaker and seemed unstable. Smashed bathrooms, uprooted tubs, shattered mirrors. The history was silent.

Urbex goosebumps in a labyrinth

This did not look like one of the must-see places in Dubrovnik. On the other hand, if you are into urbex type of expeditions, it might climb to the top of your “top things to do in Dubrovnik” list. Well, not for long. Nature and time are biting on the old building remains.

An atrium in the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, Croatia, with a growing tree and large street art mural on the wall, photo by Ivan Kralj
The abandoned Belvedere hotel building is being taken over by nature and street artists

In one of the hotel atriums, I found the tree growing. I was not sure if it has been here from the start, as a part of the interior design, or maybe it was just an aftermath of the building being taken over by nature.

Belvedere was the labyrinth of hallways. All levels looked alike. Elevator shafts were open, and their voids in the dark produced goosebumps. Which floor, Madam? Echo.

With the sun setting down, I started to fear if I will find the exit again.

If you like urban exploration adventures, check out the one I had in the abandoned “Disneyland of Japan” – Sayonara, Nara Dreamland: Ghostly Amusement Park Exists No More.
The hallway falling apart in the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Dark hallways stripped down to their bones
Where is the exit?

In 2014, Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg bought Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik at a public auction. One of the wealthiest people in the world, also famous as a collector of Fabergé eggs, cashed out 12.2 million Euros, two times less than the asking price. Not many people wanted the expensive ruin.

Thirty architects from the whole world applied to the contest of designing the new Hotel Belvedere. Dubrovnik architect Marko Dabrović, the owner of the renowned studio 3LHD, got the job.

The new hotel will have only 50 rooms, four times less than its forerunner. With the planned investment of 150 million Euros, it will become one of the most luxurious hotels in the world! The guests of this seven-stars hotel will be arriving to their rooms by cable car, while the boat service will connect them with the Old Town.

The graffiti and garbage covered swimming pool at the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Kralj
The villas at the new Belvedere will also have swimming pools
Controversial game of thrones

Dubrovnik architects want to reopen the public discussion about the project. They claim that the abundant greenery has been used in the presentation in order to conceal the fact that the new Belvedere will cover two times larger surface than the old mastodon. Mayor is defending the project, but the game of thrones apparently did not stop with the Mountain’s victory. Development in the areas of natural and historical heritage is always a delicate issue.

However, the expectation is that the new Hotel Belvedere should open its doors to the public by 2021. In the meantime, the HBO producers have confirmed to return to Croatia in 2018, for the filming of the final episodes of “Game of Thrones”. If you are a fan of the series, it is your last chance to join the tourist hordes, maybe even get some small role in the series! Wandering around Dubrovnik is an excellent opportunity to witness some real and some imagined history. The future should look like this:

Stairs leading into the sea in front of the abandoned Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Hotel Belvedere had the direct entrance into the Adriatic sea
How to get to Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik
  • Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik is situated on the cliff, outside of the Old Town, in the area called Ploče – Iza Grada (Ploče Outside of the Town).
  • To get to Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik, one needs to walk southeast from the Old Town. Just follow the coastline for about two kilometers, and you will find the hotel behind Sveti Jakov Beach.
  • The walk from the Old Town to Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik takes about 30 minutes.
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Hotel Belvedere in Dubrovnik, Croatia, was abandoned for 25 years! Recently, HBO filmed a major battle scene in the hotel's amphitheater, but the whole property will go through the complete renovation. King's Landing will soon get one of the most luxurious world hotels, equaling 7 stars!

 

Special thank you: Benjamin Martin, for joining this urbex expedition, and letting me use some of his images.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, Pipeaway may make a small commission, with no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting our work!

 

Ivan Kralj

Editor

Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

36 Comments
  1. Wow this was absolutely fascinating!! I had absolutely no idea about this place. So much different from the normal super touristy views of Dubrovnik! Would love love love to visit here before it’s renovated. Thanks so much for sharing this place. Great photos too.

    1. Thanks, Sam, for your supportive compliments!
      You should indeed hurry if you want to get there before the renovation. Local architect groups are doing their best to delay the execution of the investment before the final amen of the project, but it does seem that the demolition would start this year. So no time to waste! Now that CNN advised tourists NOT to travel to Dubrovnik in 2018 due to overcrowding, the effect might actually be that you could book a room more easily and find a better deal! Good luck! And get back with the feedback here if you succeed in seeing the old Belvedere 😉

    1. I’m sure they will find a room for you, whenever you decide to arrive 🙂
      What’s in the agenda until 2021, if I may ask? Busy travel schedule or just many stay-at-home obligations?

  2. It’s such a shame that a beautiful hotel like the Belvedere has been left to decay. It’s good to know though that they will rebuild it by 2021. I have been to Dubrovnik but way before Game of Thrones was filmed there.

    1. Thanks! Sadly, the site is not on the usual tourist maps, so many people have difficulties finding it. But, of course, the visit could be dangerous (plus, it’s kind of a trespassing :)), so hopefully, new life will be given soon to the area. It is a nice part of the coastline, and I want to believe that the general public will not be excluded from enjoying it after the new hotel gets built.

  3. This hotel sounds like it was wonderful. The views look beautiful and I would love an elevator that took me directly to the beach! Such a shame that it was (mostly destroyed). Hopefully there will be a decision made that benefits everyone.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Samantha! Croatian coast is indeed a nice corner of the world. Some parts underdeveloped, some parts overdeveloped. I guess, countries in transition struggle a lot with how to deal with the issue of private and public space, but I hope this story will provide benefits for everyone involved indeed.

  4. It’s really heart breaking to see such magnificent historical building treated like that. If the government would have taken care of this hotel I bet it would draw a lot of tourist in the area. You took up a lot of courage to go inside and look around, I would be so scared.

    1. Croatian government is not always the best manager 🙂 Governments rarely are. But I hope that the private owner will respect the public needs of the neighborhood, and construct the value that everyone will support.

      Yes, entering abandoned buildings can be frightening, it certainly gives you an adrenaline rush, especially if it is considered to be trespassing AND being dangerous at the same time. However, here I thought that the public interest was above these limitations, so I did it. I do not support or advise anyone to break into anyone’s property.

    1. I get what you mean! What scares me a bit about visiting places with so many corridors is that I will lose the sense of orientation. Which floor am I on? Did I go right here or left? It is dark, you are not sure, and GPS will not help you much 🙂 It gives you that nightmarish feeling of not being able to find the exit and not being able to wake up. But then you conquer it, and become happy to see the daylight again!

      I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, but it seems as quite bloody TV series. I find it funny you find this place scary, but GoT loveable 🙂 I guess the TV screen is a protective shield hehe

  5. Wow. I had no idea that parts of my favorite TV show was filmed in an abandoned hotel. The views looked stupendous! It’s a shame it fell into disrepair.

    1. Well, only the battle between Oberyn and Mountain was filmed in the outdoor amphitheater of this abandoned hotel. Majority of other King’s Landing scenes have been filmed on the locations in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. For sure, many sites to find and explore!

  6. This hotel sounds absolutely intriguing and I’d love to visit it someday. Your photographs are absolutely beautiful and make me curious to gave this place a visit.

  7. Spending a vacation at a hotel on a cliff with a breathtaking view sounds amazing, I’m just not sure I have to guts for it. These are stunning images and the history is so rich.

  8. This place is stunning. Even though it has been made so popular by the show, it really shows the history and I think that is so much more valuable. I just wish other people felt the same.

    1. Well, to be frank, Dubrovnik has always been a popular destination for tourists, even before TV cameras were invented.
      The town’s main “enemy” today are actually floating towns – fast-food cruise ship tourism that only brings large quantities of visitors who rarely get engaged more than taking a selfie on the Dubrovnik walls. Yet, it is true, Dubrovnik is a historical treasure, and hopefully, they will find the way to regulate their tourism in a way that will not jeopardize the very same history.

    1. You mean the visualization from the new project? It is appealing, yes. But it is also important to take into account the environment and public space, as history thought us that large private projects can indeed reshape the life much further than their own borders. That impact should always be a positive one.

  9. I checked out the abandoned hotel today, very creepy. I was alone and had a feeling I was being watched most of the time. I need to make a friend and drag them with me next time.

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