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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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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!