In the 1920s, when the Orient Express stopped in Zagreb en route from Istanbul to Paris, its guests disembarked to spend the night in the splendid Art Deco Esplanade Zagreb Hotel.
Built to accommodate members of high society, it quickly became the heart of Zagreb’s social scene. In the century since it first opened its doors, this luxurious hotel has hosted everyone from Lawrence Olivier to Queen Elizabeth II. This Croatian icon occupies a superb location in the city centre and is still one of the grandest places to stay in Europe.
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel is for guests who want to stay in the city’s heart in one of Zagreb’s most iconic buildings. If you love glamorous surroundings and want to dress up, schmooze with celebrities, and generally live the high life, it’s the hotel for you. However, what is unusual here is that a stay won’t break the bank: even if you are travelling on a modest budget, you can still check in and indulge yourself with an experience that would be unaffordable elsewhere.
When Esplanade Zagreb Hotel was refurbished, the designers kept the property’s great history and a large dash of Hollywood glamour in mind. The 208 guest rooms fall into three categories, Superior, Deluxe, and Suites, all of which are spacious, imaginatively decorated, and finished with life’s little luxuries. The beds’ pillows and duvets are filled with goose down. Hypoallergenic alternatives are available.
Splash out on a Deluxe Room, and you’ll get separate living and sleeping areas, plus a huge marble bathroom with a bathtub and a walk-in shower. The toiletries are by L’Occitane, and the bathrobes and towels are so fluffy you will feel as if you have wrapped yourself up in a cloud. If you want to treat yourself or a loved one, browse the bath brochure and ask guest services to arrange an unforgettable L’Occitane bath ritual.
Food and drink
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel’s signature restaurant is Zinfandel’s, widely regarded as the best restaurant in the city. Executive Chef Ana Grgic honed her skills in Michelin-starred kitchens in Brussels and Berlin before joining the Esplanade in 2012.
Croatian TV fans know her as a judge on Celebrity MasterChef. The menu at Zinfandel’s showcases the finest Croatian ingredients, including fresh seafood from the Adriatic, truffles dug from the forests, and butter and cheeses made on local farms. For the full impact, dishes should be accompanied by Croatian wines, and you can choose from an extensive wine menu.
If you fancy combining Croatian and French cuisine, try the Esplanade’s second restaurant, Le Bistro. The Art Deco surroundings are lovely, though in summer, diners often prefer to spill out onto the outdoor terrace and enjoy something from the grill. This is also where most of the hotel’s guests choose to take their breakfast, washed down with the best coffee in town.
For pre-dinner drinks or a nightcap, what you really want is a stool at the bar in Esplanade 1925, the hotel’s lounge and a cocktail bar. Run by Croatia’s top mixologists, the cocktail menu mixes old favourites with imaginative new concoctions inspired by the cities visited by the Orient Express. Our tip is to start with the Zagreb, a delicious cocktail made with brandy, honey liqueur, and orange.
Since it was built, Esplanade Zagreb Hotel has been the central location for public events, from costumed balls to exclusive drinks receptions and banquets.
The Emerald Ballroom is dazzling and will accommodate 365 people for a party beneath its domed roof. You can host smaller events on the Oleander Terrace overlooking the city, and there are plenty of conference and meeting rooms.
If you are here simply to relax, however, you will be more interested in the health and relaxation facilities. There’s a health club, spa, and gym, and Zagreb’s first fitness park is across the street.
Superior King Rooms at Esplanade Zagreb Hotel start from €112 per night when purchased in advance online.
Staying at Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, you are right in the centre of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and a city with 900 years of history. Zagreb was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which strongly influenced the local architecture and culture. Allow yourself plenty of time to walk around the picturesque Old Town, looking out for monuments such as the distinctive St. Mark’s Church, Croatia’s Parliament, and the Old City Hall.
Zagreb has a fantastic line-up of museums, whatever interests you. Top picks include the National Museum of Modern Art, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, Zagreb Chocolate Museum, and the quirky Museum of Broken Relationships. Pre-purchase a Zagreb Card, and you’ll get free or discounted entry to many sites, as well as free use of public transport.
As lunchtime approaches, be sure to pick up a picnic from Zagreb’s Dolac Market, the largest and oldest farmers market in the city. You can then head to the Maksimir Park, laid out in the 18th century, to sit in the sun and enjoy it, or, if you prefer to do something a little more energetic, go hiking in the Medvenica Nature Park or swim in Lake Jarun.
Also Read: Top Ten things to do and see in Zagreb
There are few places in the world where you can stay in a world-class hotel for under £100 a night, so seize the opportunity to check in at Esplanade Zagreb Hotel whilst you can. The hotel is the jewel of a beautiful yet surprisingly little-visited city, and the staff will make you feel like a queen or a film star.