With the sophisticated exterior and rich interior, this 95-year-old architectural beauty in the centre of Zagreb is a perfect place to go if you want to feel like a star. The Esplanade Zagreb Hotel offers the best experience of luxury accommodation and fine dining in Croatia with a highly personalised and impeccable approach to every guest.
The Esplanade Hotel was opened in 1925 near the main train station, to meet the needs of wealthy travellers on the Paris-Venice-Istanbul route (and vice versa) of the famous Orient Express train. Since the Orient Express was a luxurious travelling option, the hotel needed to follow that standard. In 2020, it is still the most luxurious hotel in the region, so we can honestly say it exceeded expectations.
From the beginning, it was obvious something exceptional is going to happen in Zagreb. The international architectural tender attracted the eminent architect Adolf Loos, yet he didn’t get the job. German architect Otto Rehnig won the contest, but it was Croat Dionis Sunko who reworked his drawings and is now known as the main architect. The hotel was built in just 26 months and had a grand opening for 200 selected guests, including Vjekoslav Heinzel, the mayor of Zagreb. Since the first day, the hotel has been the centre of social life in the city. One of the first guests was mister Glück, which was a great omen since his surname is a German word for luck. The architecture followed the then-popular “Belle Epoque” defined by optimism, prosperity and innovations. The hotel is built in an art-deco style which combines fine craftsmanship and luxurious materials with modern, geometric style. Every detail was carefully made, from marble wall coverings to brass doorknobs and rich chandeliers.
From the beginning, Hotel Esplanade was a place for the most demanding guests, not only for its upscale amenities but also a highly professional and approachable staff. It was a place to be if you wanted to see the world-known stars like Asta Nielsen, Josephine Baker, Charles Lindberg and royal guests.
Sadly, with the beginning of WW2 and the occupation, the hotel was closed and Gestapo and Wehrmacht used it as a headquarters. After they fled, the building was made into a public kitchen. Luckily, after a few lost years, a new chapter began and the hotel underwent its first reconstruction.
In the 50s, the building went through a major renovation and the new era of the Esplanade started, with an array of impressive guests such as Orson Welles, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Louis Armstrong, Woody Allen and many, many more. Also, statesmen and diplomats like queen Elizabeth II, Richard Nixon and Aldo Moro stayed there.
The second big renovation and modernization was made at the beginning of the 2000s, following the stay of some very prominent bands like Depeche Mode, Franz Ferdinand and R.E.M.; singers like Joe Cocker, Morrisey and Jose Carreras; actors Hugh Laurie and Orlando Bloom; and soccer players David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo, to name a few.
The hotel was also a place to stay for the highest statesmen and royalty like Hilary Clinton, princess Anne, prince Albert of Monaco, Qatar emir and Swedish King Carl Gustaf XVI, among others.
Of course, there were many other famous guests who wanted privacy and enjoyed their stay incognito.
The Esplanade Zagreb Hotel today
Since reopening in 2004, the hotel offers “a 21st-century experience” in the neoclassicistic and art-deco design and feel. Rooms and amenities are modernised to provide maximum comfort, but the walls, furniture and interior details are as rich and impressive as they were almost 100 years ago. The hotel has 12 different halls for meetings and events, with the impressive Emerald Hall (Croatian: Smaragdna dvorana) which can accommodate almost 400 people under the impressive architectural dome.
The value of the hotel is not just in a building, but in exceptional service, food and chefs. The Esplanade is also known for its award-winning restaurants, with the Zinfandel’s as one of the top Croatian restaurants.
Under the chef Ana Grgić, the restaurant offers the experience of fine dining based on the Croatian traditional gastronomy. The Zinfandel’s is not the only restaurant at the hotel. Le Bistro is a bit cozier, and defines itself as “a Croatian cuisine with a French charm”. Here you can taste famous štrukli, as well as dishes with asparagus and tartuffes.
The Esplanade building is a protected cultural property and an impressive work of architecture in the centre of Zagreb. The Esplanade Zagreb Hotel is a luxurious experience and an excellent place to stay if you want to enjoy the best Zagreb has to offer, regardless if you are staying for work or for pleasure.