Untold Stories

Where to Stay in Zagreb...100 Years Ago

These days, it’s hard to choose where to stay when you’re coming to Zagreb. There are so many apartments for short-term rent with rave reviews. There are around 70 hotels, most of them conveniently located in the city center. Hostels are still new and well maintained as they started appearing with the recent growth of Zagreb as a city break destination.

It was so much easier to choose in the past times. There simply wasn’t much choice. I was having fun reading an old tour guide book from 1892 the other day. It was the first guidebook ever published in Zagreb. The city back then had only eight hotels and inns. Namely: K caru austrijanskom (At the Austrian King’s), Veliko svratište (Grand Hotel), Hotel Prukner, Jaegerhorn (Hunters’ Horn), K zlatnom janjetu (At the Golden Lamb’s), Hotel Garni, K trim gavranom (At the Three Ravens’), and Hotel Zagreb

Only one of them still exists. It’s Jaegerhorn in Ilica street. It used to be just an inn, far from something spectacular. It is now a very charming small hotel in the narrow city center. Charming and proud of the fact it has been welcoming guests since 1827. 

NAMA department store took up the place of two historical hotels. Photo by M. Vrdoljak/TZGZ

The first two mentioned in the list above eventually got turned into a well-known department store NAMA, at the beginning of Ilica street, just next to the main city square. At least the facade of the Grand Hotel was kept. The luxurious At the Austrian King’s was turned into an impressive art-deco building. If you ever wish to walk the same ground as Nikola Tesla, simply visit the department store - he stayed there when he visited Zagreb in 1892. 

Who could even imagine that the famous ZKM (Zagreb Youth Theater) found its home in what used to be an inn - At the Golden Lamb’s? There is a hint of the historical name of the building. It's hidden in the name of one of the halls within the theater: Janje - Lamb

Things have changed over the years. These days, new exclusive hotels are opening up in historical buildings. But very few historical hotels are still there.

Hotel Palace opened in 1907. Photo by S. Uštulica/TZGZ

Hotel Palace is currently under renovation due to the earthquakes last year. Its beautiful building had already existed at the time when my tour guide book was published. However, it became a hotel in 1907. Just a few years ago, construction works discovered a time capsule buried in the hotel foundations! It contained some memorabilia and documents from the time the building was constructed. So intriguing!

Another historical hotel that will turn 100 within this decade is Hotel Dubrovnik at the main city square. It has an older part and a bold new part with a glass facade. If you plan to stay there, try to get room 424. It's called the Mercury Room. Its window is decorated by the Roman god Mercury, and it’s considered good luck to stay there!

 Hotel Dubrovnik is one of the most unique buildings at the main city square. Photo by S. Uštulica/TZGZ

Hotel Esplanade is known as a symbol of hospitality in Croatia. It opened in 1925 as a byproduct of the golden age of train travel. Most of the early hotels in Zagreb appeared around the same time as the railway. Esplanade would probably not exist if it wasn’t for - a single train. It got built next to the central railway station to welcome the passengers of the iconic Orient Express.

Diplomats, royal families’ members, world-known filmmakers, sportswomen and sportsmen, artists... many chose Esplanade for their perfect stay in Zagreb. If you join an event in its famous Esmerald ballroom, you can bet that you will be sitting in the same spot as some of the glamorous personalities who once visited Zagreb and this hotel. 

Interior of Hotel Esplanade. Photo by S. Carek/TZGZ

There is something romantic in reimagining the travel from 100 years ago. It's sad to think about all the changes and places that have disappeared over time. It's also comforting to have at least some spots in our city that connect the modern traveler, and the one from a century ago, under the same roof.

Train station in Zagreb. Trains brought visitors and hotels. Photo by M. Vrdoljak/TZGZ

Author: Iva Silla