Dubrovnik is a status symbol. It’s one of Croatia’s trademarks. Even Croats, but also all neighbors from the region do not forget to ‘mention’ that they were in Dubrovnik, passed through it, saw someone or something similar. Dubrovnik is ‘to see and to be seen’. Dubrovnik is an IT place. This must be shared on social networks (why do I never do that !?) The word ‘Dubrovnik’ is the most sought after when it comes to Croatian tourism, but also about Croatia in general.
But that was not always like that.
The beginning of Dubrovnik’s elite tourism
Dubrovnik’s elite tourism begins with its first luxury hotel – Imperial Dubrovnik, a hotel that still reflects the history surrounding it.
Originally built in 1897, this hotel represents the first modern hotel in Dubrovnik and its building signaled a historic transformation of Dubrovnik’s tourism.
Baron Viktor Kalchberg, president of “Austrian Lloyds”, which operated steamships to larger coastal cities of the Adriatic coastline, noticed that very few of his passengers decided to travel to distant Dubrovnik and that those who did go, only stayed for a short time due to the lack of quality hotel accommodation. At that time, only 4 Dubrovnik hotels offered rather modest accommodation.
The first Dubrovnik luxury hotel
In November 1893 Kalchberg sent a letter to the then-mayor of the Community of Dubrovnik, Baron Frano Gondoli-Ghetaldi, expressing his company’s interest in “erecting in Dubrovnik a very nice hotel so that foreign visitors might visit Dubrovnik more often and stay in this gentleman ambiance in order to improve their health ”. The local authorities and the public supported the idea. The renowned Venetian architect Ludwig Tischler was assigned with designing the Grand Imperial and the construction started in 1895.
Two years later, on May 29th, 1897 a spectacular firework display lit the Dubrovnik night sky as the Imperial hotel was formally opened.
Newspapers wrote that “a taste of the food and drink” was organized for the ordinary Dubrovnik citizens who were able to try the finest offer in the hotel restaurant.
The hotel with prestigious tourist services
The Imperial was the first hotel to have electric lighting, central heating, an electric lift, and hot and cold running water. Inside the grandiose building, there were reading salons and card rooms, a special hall for ladies, a spacious restaurant, a belvedere on the main roof, an attractive garden, and guests were served for the first time by professionally qualified staff. At that time “Grand Hotel Imperial” only had two floors with 70 rooms equipped with stylish furniture.
What is still not the standard for premium hotels today, the Grand Hotel Imperial in Dubrovnik then offered to its guests. Can you imagine, that the hotel had its own small steamship named “Ida” to took hotel guests on excursions to the Dubrovnik Riviera. But, it’s interesting that if there were any free places on the Ida, Dubrovnik citizens were able to join too. The hotel service was enhanced in 1908 with its own carriages to transfer guests to any destination in Dubrovnik, and in 1923, by purchasing four Mercedes cars, with liveried uniformed drivers also drove guests on longer routes.
Dubrovnik became the IT place
Then begins the phase we call ‘it place’ today. The rich and the famous line up to stay in Dubrovnik’s new hotel. The local citizens of Dubrovnik called the century-old Imperial, “a hotel which remembers much”, because it was a witness to, and a direct participant of, many interesting events in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik – a favorite winter tourism destination
At that time, winter tourism was far more developed than summer tourism, which is the opposite of today. British King Edward VIII and the American Wallis Simpson danced in the hotel garden in August 1936. The famous couple drank English tea in the gardens of the hotel in the midday sun. Famous people from all over the world visited Dubrovnik and stayed in Imperial. The hotel becomes the soul of the city where all the social events took place.
The hotel added a third floor in 1905. And in 1913. an additional building was erected, so the number of rooms went from the original 70 to 120. Unfortunately, during attacks in the Homeland War in 1991 and 1992, the hotel often found itself as a target even though several hundred refugees were sheltered there. Because of direct hits and mortar explosions on November 11 and 12, 1991, large fires burning on all three floors, even taking casualties.
Reflagged as Hilton in 2005, the “Imperial” has become a modern business hotel “Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik”, following the roots and tradition of Dubrovnik hospitality. Although completely renovated, Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik has preserved original 19th-century architectural features and all the best from its glamorous past, while at the same time offering contemporary comfort and technology. And most importantly the heart and soul of the hotel, a heart that has been beating along with Dubrovnik for centuries, is alive and well.
A hotel with a story and a history!
Choose Grand Imperial Hotel for your stay in Dubrovnik.
Suppose you are not ‘hit’ by this fantastic hotel’s historical lines and ‘testimonies’; the view from the terrace of the city that proudly sighs in front of you will certainly not leave you indifferent.