Historical figures in Opatija

Hotel Kvarner

Surrounded by crystal-clear sea on one side and lush greenery of Mount Učka on the other, Opatija was recognised very early as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Europe. Numerous guests and prominent historical figures have witnessed and contributed to the beauty of this town in different historical periods.

The beginnings of tourism in Opatija

The year 1844 saw the construction of the Villa Angiolina, which marked the beginning of tourism in both Opatija and Croatia. The Villa Angiolina soon became the centre of social life and accommodated many notable guests such as the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, ban Josip Jelačić and the Empress Maria-Ana who spent almost three months in the villa. Her stay turned the attention of Vienna noblemen to Opatija.

The Memorial book (Gedenkbuch) held at the Opatija Tourist Board and the Guestbook of the elite Adria Club contain signatures of many famous people who visited Opatija. The first signature was left by Stéphanie (1864-1945), daughter of the Belgian King Leopold II and daughter-in-law of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. Stephanie was more than just a guest in Opatija, as she also took part in the town’s social life by attending all the important events of that time. Today’s Hotel Imperial, the second hotel built in Opatija, was originally named after her (Kronprinzessin Stephanie). Its architect, Franz Wilhelm, equipped the hotel with all the luxury amenities available at that time, from central heating to a pool and later even a cinematograph. These amenities in combination with the hotel’s outstanding form and location were the reason why many notable personalities such as the Emperor Franz Joseph I, James Joyce and Josip Broz Tito chose this hotel for their stay. The interesting thing is that the changes in its name also reflect the political changes in Opatija throughout the history. During the Italian rule it was called Regina Elena after the wife of Victor Emmanuel III; in the period from 1945 to 1948 it was renamed Moscow, and then, after the Yugoslav-Soviet split, Central. The hotel got its present name Imperial after the fall of Ranković in 1966.

In the course of years, Opatija was also visited by Emperor Wilhelm II Hohenzollern, Oscar II of Sweden, Emperor Alexander I of Servia, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria and other princes, counts, dukes and archdukes. King Carol I of Romania first came to Opatija in 1890 and got lost during one of his tours on the slopes of Mount Učka. After this incident, he made a great contribution to Opatija by financing the construction of a forest path, which was later named after him (König-Carol-Waldweg and König-Carol-Promenade). After World War Two, the forest path was renamed to Zora. It got its present name at the end of the 20th century when it was renamed Carmen Sylva after the Romanian queen and wife of the main sponsor of the forest path.

A town that attracts artists

In addition to kings and emperors, Opatija also attracted numerous artists and scientists. At least six Nobel prize winners visited Opatija: Emil von Behring (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901), Baroness Bertha von Suttner (Nobel Peace Prize in 1905); Henryk Sienkiewicz (Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905); Otto Loewi (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1936); Salvatore Quasimodo (Nobel Prize in Literature in 1959); and Ivo Andrić (Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961).The renowned composer Gustav Mahler, who stayed in the Villa Jeannette in Opatija for recovery after a surgery in 1901, used this period to work on his Fourth Symphony.

Opatija also hosted the famous dancer Isadora Duncan, who later wrote in her memoirs that she got the inspiration for her famous dance moves from the movement of palm tree leaves in Opatija.

Celebrities in Opatija

Other famous visitors to Opatija include Miroslav Krleža, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Ivan Cankar, Ferenc Molnár, Franz Lehár, father and son Kubelik, Kálmán Szegő, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Józef Piłsudski, Pietro Mascagni, Giacomo Puccini, Antun Gustav Matoš, Giorgio De Chirico, Stjepan Radić, Frano Supilo, Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Regardless of whether you are famous or not, Opatija cherishes every guest and regards every visit as the biggest compliment.