A short history of Opatija

In our introduction to Opatija, a romantic shelter for all those who enjoy beauty, nature, and peace, we gave you a glimpse of what this little coastal town is mainly about.
But how did the historical path of Opatija go and what determined the identity of Opatija as it is today? Here is a sweet and short historical insight which we believe you’ll find very interesting!

Opatija often called the pearl of the Adriatic, is one of the most famous destinations in Croatia with a tourist tradition for over 160 years. Located on the edge of the Mediterranean, on the shores of the Kvarner Bay and on the slopes of the Učka Mountains, which are treasured down to the sea, Opatija offers its climatic characteristics, beautiful architecture, quality hotels, beautifully landscaped parks, and promenades a pleasant stay throughout the year.

The town of Opatija developed around the Benedictine Abbey of Sv. James first mentioned in 1453. At that time, Opatija was a village of only 35 houses located near the church complex. It counted only 250 inhabitants, oriented to maritime affairs, agriculture, and fisheries.

The first charisma of Opatija was discovered by the Rijeka patrician Iginio Scarpa, building his mansion named Villa Angiolina for his deceased wife in 1844, which is an open path to the development of tourism. That was just the beginning!

Under the patronage of Austro-Hungary begins the growth and development of Opatija.


Director Friedrich Schüler and South Railways shareholders wanted to increase passenger traffic to the south. By choosing Opatija as the most promising destination, they decided to build a hotel.
In parallel with the construction works at the hotel, there was also the propagation of a new bathing and climatic spa, which is written as “the Austrian Nica.” Beside the hotel was also a pavilion with an indoor swimming pool for baths in heated seawater, a bathing area with separate cabins for men and women, and a coastal road from Volosko via Opatija to Lovran in the length of 12 km.


The hotel opened in 1884, and it was named „Hotel Quarnero.“ After the construction of Quarnero, the hotel „Kronprinzessin Stephanie“  was built nearby afterward. At that time numerous luxurious villas, summer houses, hotels, boarding houses, sanatoriums, pavilions, baths, promenades, and parks were created.

The first congress of balneologists was held in Opatija in 1885 under the organization of Southern Railways. On that occasion, it was decided that Opatija would be declared a climate-health resort, which it officially became in 1889. The most famous doctors of the Monarchy came to Opatija, and open sanatoriums, walkways, and baths were built. Opatija, along with Nica, Karl Vare, Cannes, Biarritz, became one of the most important European nursing spas in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Kings, emperors, writers, philosophers, poets, and musicians- they all have vacationed in Opatija multiple times!
Let us mention the emperor Franz Joseph, Emperor Vilim II, Queen Elizabeth of Romania, known as a poet who published her poetry under the pseudonym Carmen Sylva, then Sissi, writers of A. P. Chekhov and James Joyce, dancer Isadora Duncan, composers of Gustav Mahler, and Giacomo Puccini. It was all about being (and being seen) in Opatija in these days.

After II. World War II, tourism in Opatija was oriented to the summer season and the development of the congressional offer. Throughout that time, Opatija has become a destination of importance either for just vacationing business trips, and congresses or for health issues.


Many people chose Opatija as their new home once they got retired, and believe us; we can understand that. Who wouldn’t like to live in a peaceful yet beautiful town that has a spirit of the true, old-money jet-set on one side and amazing nature on the other?

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