Once geared to a summer-only trade, Croatia is now open for business year-round. Many resort hotels on the coast still close for part of the winter, but others provide a quality spa getaway right on the seafront. Those looking for a city break in the major hubs of Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik are spoiled for choice.
The empress of Croatia’s hotels, the Esplanade Zagreb, has been serving railway passengers traipsing across from the nearby train station since the days of the Orient Express. These days, of course, there’s no Orient Express – at least not to Zagreb – but this historic landmark can offer a lavish health club and contemporary gym, even a VIP dog service, to accommodate guests year-round. Note also the upscale Zinfandel’s restaurant and the high-class cocktail bar, named after the hotel’s foundation year of 1925.
Riva Hvar Yacht Harbour Hotel
A spiffy makeover transformed this old-school waterside lodging of Grand Tour vintage into a contemporary boutique hotel with a vague celebrity theme. Orson Welles and Sean Connery were among the guests back in the day – now it’s Tom Cruise and Kevin Spacey. Without the space to offer a pool or gym, the hotel goes big on its harbour-front location and glam décor. Images of Anita Ekberg or Brigitte Bardot gaze from guest room walls, while the terrace bar is called the BB Club.
Ideally located between busy Britanski trg alongside Zagreb’s main street of Ilica and the leafy, hilly stretches of Zelengaj, the four-star Pantovčak is a stylish, verdant retreat close to the city centre. Muted colours and teak surfaces characterise the tasteful guest rooms, offset by sliding glass walls, light effects in the bathrooms, and original pieces of art. The bar and restaurant offer panoramic views of the surrounding woodlands with the dining area doubling up as a winter garden. The floor-to-ceiling windows are removed in the warmer months.
Falkensteiner Spa & Hotel Iadera
The Wellness area at the Falkensteiner Spa & Hotel Iadera fills a vast area just over 6,000 square metres (65,000 square feet) in space, partly outdoor and partly panoramic. The Acquapura Spa features a Thalasso pool, a Turkish hammam, a private suite for two, and a pool of desalinated seawater. To wind down between sessions in the brine steam bath or infinity pool, a series of relaxation rooms is equipped with waterbeds, swings, and floor-to-ceiling windows giving out onto the wide blue of the Adriatic.
Though only a three-star, the Amfiteatar impresses with its designer touches, spacious rooms, and quality restaurant. Its location, of course, means that this could be a dreary hostel and still clean-up. It is set alongside the Roman Amphitheatre it’s named after, close to the marina and the city centre. The little touches make the difference with heated towel racks in the bathrooms, the sun terrace, and dry-cleaning and ironing services if required.
Only granted a three-star status but lovely all the same, the Peristil comprises nine double rooms and three singles, right by the historic main courtyard it is named after. The sacrifice for this prime location is that guest rooms aren’t exactly expansive, although some do have views of Split Cathedral. The tasteful interior design of creams and light wood is continued in the Tifani restaurant, where classic Dalmatian cuisine is served. There’s obviously plenty of other dining options on your doorstep.
With its 14th-floor spa centre overlooking the river Drava and Croatia’s fourth-largest city spread out below, the Hotel Osijek is perfectly suited to a winter weekend break. Close to the main local attractions of the Gallery of Fine Arts and Tvrđa fortress complex, this contemporary four-star is unfussy and affordable. Local specialities and Slavonian wines are served at the Zimska luka restaurant, named after the harbour that runs alongside.
Swanky Mint is a hostel sat on Zagreb’s most revered thoroughfare of Ilica. It features a popular garden bar downstairs with airport transfers among the services offered. A pool also opens for five months of the year. Dorms are either mixed or female-only, with the option of a three-person bedroom.
More than a century old but every bit contemporary, the seafront Hotel Adriatic comprises 18 rooms and suites, with views of Sveta Katarina island on one side and Rovinj’s Old Town on the other. Original artwork forms part of its modern makeover while the Brasserie Adriatic takes its inspiration from the French Riviera of 1913, when this hotel opened. Guests are offered free taxi boats to Sveta Katarina, as well as use of the pool and spa centre at the nearby Hotel Lone.
Hotel Villa Nora Hvar
Converting a 14th-century palace, former home of the aristocratic Gazzari family, a couple of years ago, the Villa Nora is the latest style-forward lodging to open on Hvar. Close to the main hub of restaurants in Hvar town, the hotel couldn’t be better located. But many opt for this accommodation over the many others for its historic atmosphere, offset by contemporary furnishings. Here you have breakfast where 16th-century poet Marin Gazarović composed his lyrics, but later relax in modern-day comfort after a long day at the beach.
Hotel Vestibul Palace
The Vestibul Palace is a feat of architectural engineering with the design team factoring in original walls from Diocletian’s time, such as elements of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance from other palatial buildings that also stood here. The very fact that you’re sleeping close to where a Roman emperor once did is thrilling enough. Shades of brown are the dominant but not the domineering hue. There’s a restaurant, the Magnus, but little room for anything else in terms of communal facilities. There’s room service until 10 pm. The Vestibul team also runs the two-room, two-suite Villa Dobrić alongside, of similar historic ilk.
Remisens Premium Hotel Ambasador
Harking back to the time of luxurious opulence along the Opatija sea front, the Remisens Premium Hotel Ambasador has been overhauled in recent years to provide state-of-the-art spa facilities across two floors. Ideally suited for a winter break, with two-night packages and advance offers, the Ambasador allows you to relax in its saunas, heated seawater pool and whirlpool, order any number of treatments and massages, and enjoy continental cuisine at its in-house Fourchette d’Or restaurant. In the warmer months, it also features an outdoor pool and private beach.
Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik
Combining storied elegance with 21st-century amenities, Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik offers treatment packages such as After Plane Spa Comfort and the 100-minute Aroma Cocoon. Fitting for a revered establishment that once accommodated Elizabeth Taylor, there’s a Roman bath to accompany the Finnish sauna, freshwater pool and two jacuzzis. Heated deckchairs add that special touch in the relaxation zone.