,In this review, we will stay at Apartments Festa in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Getting into town
After a pleasant Olympic Air flight from Athens to Dubrovnik I found myself in the arrivals hall of Dubrovnik Airport. The immigration officer had asked a single question whether or not I might have visited Italy in the past weeks (this trip being in the beginning of the corona virus outbreak) but after a simple ‘no’ answer I was let into Croatia.
Dubrovnik’s airport is located in the village of Čilipi, still a good 13 miles (21 kilometres) away from the old town gates. There is a shuttle bus service linking the airport to Pile Gate, the main entrance to the old town, from where the bus continues to the modern-day town centre and the bus station. A ticket costs 55 kuna (7.30 EUR) and can be bought from a small kiosk in the terminal.
Fortunately, my arrival coincided perfectly with the bus – and after a 20 minute or so wait we were off to Dubrovnik.
It being early March, there weren’t many other passengers in the bus. Apart from six or so other passengers, I was seemingly one of the only tourists to arrive on his own this afternoon.
There was another plane arriving at the same time from Germany, but almost all the elderly passengers disembarking from that flight seemed to head straight into buses to take them to their cruise ship from what I could gather from the signs some people were carrying.
The ride to Dubrovnik takes 30 to 40 minutes and is quite pleasant. There are great views of the coastline from the left hand side of the bus (when heading north from the airport to the city) so make sure you take a spot on that side!
Being a relatively small city which is overwhelmed by mass tourism, it is no surprise that the accommodation market of Dubrovnik deserves a special note.
There are lots of different accommodation options, ranging from hostels to the ubiquitous chain hotels and from simple apartments to luxurious boutique hotels. If you however want to stay in the old town of Dubrovnik, chances are big that you will end up staying in an apartment as most of the larger hotels are located outside of the city walls.
Many years ago, the old city used to be a thriving hotspot full of local life and flavour. Unfortunately, those years have pretty much gone by as most locals all but deserted the old town and moved to the modern-day city a few miles up or to surrounding towns and villages.
This they did for a very simple reason: you could make a lot of money by either selling your old town apartment to investors, or by renting it out.
Needless to say, this has its positive and negative effects. Although many locals – and certainly some anonymous investment companies – make quite some money this way, it also destroyed the very fabric of the old town in a way similar as to other touristy cities such as Venice further north on the Adriatic Sea.
Although for this very reason I never use Airbnb and try to avoid apartments in cities plagued by overtourism, there is sometimes not much of an alternative. Especially when visiting in winter like I did, you will find many seasonal hotels still being closed.
Besides, if you want to stay in the old town itself – which was an absolute must to me – you often don’t have any other choice than an apartment. When checking for accommodation on some websites, the few old town hotels which I saw were quite a bit above my budget for this trip.
In the end I settled for Festa apartments, which I booked through booking.com. For a one-night stay, I paid a decent rate of 42 euro. Although there were quite a few other apartments like Festa which looked equally good and had comparable ratings, I made my final choice based on some reviews I read.
Many apartments for rent in cities like Barcelona, Venice or Dubrovnik are nowadays not even the business of locals anymore, but are owned by large companies who try to make the process as efficient as possible. It is not uncommon that you just pick up keys from an automated keybox or receive the entrance code by email or text message with zero human interaction.
Especially this sort of accommodation is the scourge of many European cities as it not only kills of all local charm and cultural exchange, but also results in the tourist dollars falling directly into the lap of a handful of mega-investors or foreign real estate companies instead of the actual local people.
I was happy to read that at least with Festa apartments, this was not the case and there would be a warm welcome by a human host.
The building in which the apartments are located is just a short 10 minute walk away from the main Pile gate. The instructions I received were very clear – and in case I would get lost I always had the number of host Milica.
As advertisement on the building exteriors is banned and all of the stone buildings and alleys in the city pretty much look alike, I highly suggest those who do not have a great sense of direction to be prepared irrespective of the apartment you have booked.
Although I would say that I have a great sense of direction, when I arrived in the alley I still had to look a wee bit around to see in which house the apartments were located.
Fortunately, Milica was expecting my arrival and came out of the door to welcome me in, giving a quick tour of the apartment and explaining some details of the heating and bathroom.
She also gave a map on which she marked some notable points, saying that whenever I had a question I could always ask or give a call or text message.
Milica indeed delivered on that, as she made some good restaurant recommendations and even called the bus station to inquire about the bus schedule to Montenegro for the next day. It’s small things like this which I always appreciate when booking accommodation.
My apartment was located on the ground floor and basically the first one on the left in the main corridor. I had booked something described as a ‘deluxe single room’ – which basically is the smallest apartment in the building. The apartment was indeed small but made maximum use of the ground space available.
On the ground floor there was a small kitchen and equally small dining table with some chairs, as well as the door leading to the bathroom. The actual bedroom was located on the mezzanine level up some stairs.
Little red hearts were dotted throughout the apartment on walls, chairs and tables. Add in a couple of paintings on the walls and some other design elements such as the special lamps, and I thought it made for a cosy and homely base from where to discover the sights and sounds of Dubrovnik.
The apartment itself was well-equipped and had everything you might need. If you want to cook, there are two small pits which you can use, with plenty of pans and plates being found in the cupboard. There is a fridge, as well as a filter coffee machine and water boiler. I appreciated the fact that there were coffee filters and actual coffee powder available for free use.
There was an ironing board and iron as well to be found in the apartment.
Kindly enough, a complimentary bottle of white wine was left on the table. Although it was of course a cheap supermarket wine, it was certainly drinkable and greatly appreciated.
The apartment has air-conditioning, although it being March I did not need it. On the contrary, the temperature in the apartment was pleasantly warm as Milica had put the heating fully on before I arrived, something which is oh so common for southern Europeans to do in winter even though temperatures outside were still a perfectly acceptable 15 degrees Celsius.
WiFi internet was fast and reliable and there were plenty of electricity sockets on both levels of the apartment.
The same counted for the bathroom as well, which was also equipped with all the essentials such as a hairdryer and soap. Just like the rest of the apartment, the bathroom was in a perfectly clean state.
Festa Apartments delivered on all aspects. Even though I booked the smallest of all available apartments and it was indeed a bit compact, I would rather describe it as cosy instead of small. With a bed placed on the mezzanine level, it makes perfect use of the high walls and limited floor space.
Thanks to the old stone building walls and decorations, it does have quite some charm and makes a homely place to stay. With its location smack bang in the middle of the old town (but on a more quiet side street) it also makes for a great location from where to explore Dubrovnik.
Both the kitchen and bathroom are well-equipped, and I appreciated both the complimentary bottle of wine and the fact that the kitchen had coffee, tea and other basics readily available which is great for those who only stay for a shorter period.
Best of all was perhaps the personal touch. With so many Dubrovnik apartment rentals being an impersonal experience, I appreciated the local welcome by the host Milica and the advice and help she gave.
If you are looking for a Dubrovnik apartment, Festa Apartments will certainly not disappoint.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘An Adriatic Adventure: Off-Season Travel to Dubrovnik, Montenegro and a Bit of Bavaria‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: MasterCard Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
2. Review: Aegean Airlines Economy Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
3. Review: Aegean Business Lounge Athens Airport Hall A (Non-Schengen)
4. Review: Olympic Air Economy Class Athens to Dubrovnik (Bombardier Dash 8-400)
5. Review: Apartments Festa, Old Town of Dubrovnik (current chapter)
6. A Dubrovnik Winter Trip: Off-Season Travel Away from the Tourist Crowds
7. Review: Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Kotor (Montenegro) by Bus
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **