AN ENCHANTING PLACE WHERE MEETINGS MEET HISTORY, ELEGANCE AND REFINEMENT OF LIVING
Opatija is without a doubt the ultimate meetings destination. Why? Because few destinations provide such a rich assortment of luxury accommodation in such a small area, whilst Opatija provides 33 hotels offering over 2700 rooms and more than 50 meeting and conference halls along the 3 km of the coastline. At the beginning and the end of the Opatija Riviera, there are two boutique hotels which contribute to the exclusivity of Opatija.
This little Adriatic town is also known as the “Old Dame”, the “Nice of the Adriatic” or the “Queen of Croatian Tourism” certainly deserves all the flattering titles since the tradition of business and leisure tourism dates back to the late 19th century, when in 1885 the first congress, the Congress of Balneologists, was organised by the Austrian Southern Railway Company. Back then, Opatija was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which played a crucial role in placing this Northern Adriatic gem on the map of the most sophisticated tourist destinations in the Balkan region and the world.
Since 2017, when we prepared the last meetologue, Opatija has profoundly changed. Hotels are constantly being renovated and opened, and there are some changes in ownership. During our visit, the news of the new ownership of the Liburnia Riviera Hotels came to our attention. If we compared Opatija to a sleeping beauty a decade ago, we can now say it is awake and alive. But most importantly, it is bustling with life in the summer, with several festivals taking place. Next year, when the neighbouring city of Rijeka is the European Capital of Culture 2020, the cultural offer will even be richer.
Opatija can not only take pride in its unique Belle Époque architectural style and landscape charms but also in the warm and welcoming approach of the locals who in many ways seem to have inherited the noble spirit of the former monarchy, treating each guest with respect, complaisance and catching cordiality. In the words of Goran Pavlović, the head of the Convention and Incentive Bureau at the Opatija Tourist Board, “Opatija is a rare mixture of history, tradition, enchanting cultural and natural diversity, supplemented with proximity and closeness to all major Central European cities”.
When it all began – following the empire’s footsteps
Opatija was formed in the 12th century when St. James’s church was built with a corresponding monastery—a Benedictine abbey for its ministers, which gave Opatija its name. Namely, Opatija in Croatian means abbey, the abbey of St. James, who is also the guardian of the city. Later on, in the 19th century, Opatija became a part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and soon became a fashionable resort of the Austro-Hungarian nobility. As mentioned above the Congress of Balneologists, where Opatija was officially declared as the first bathing and climatic health resort on the Adriatic Sea, represented the springboard for the future development of the city which today reigns as the unbeatable queen in the field of leisure and business tourism in Croatia and beyond. By 1913, Opatija had turned into an elite resort, boasting dozens of hotels, 44 bed and breakfasts, 83 villas and even 5 bathing complexes surrounded by beautiful botanical gardens and didn’t cease to flourish during all these years, positioning itself as a world-renowned, distinguished tourism destination. Opatija was one of Europe’s most important health resorts of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, alongside Nice, Karlovy Vary, Cannes and Biarritz. Even the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud advised his patients: “Go take your cure in the waters of Opatija!”. Considered one of the most beautiful Croatian cities, Opatija today represents a social and cultural intersection of the region combining Italian, Austrian and Croatian cultural heritage.
At the crossroads of central and southern Europe
Opatija’s favourable central position in the Alpe-Adria region, which includes the countries of Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria and Hungary certainly adds to its everlasting popularity. Opatija is situated in the Kvarner Gulf, the northern part of the Croatian Adriatic Sea, and is, therefore, the closest sea resort to all Central and Western Europe countries, which is why Kvarner Bay was and still is a very popular tourist destination. It is also located at the geographical crossroads of western Croatia, southern Slovenia and eastern Italy, lying at the foot of the Učka mountain, a natural reserve, and covering an area of 54 square kilometres. The best thing about this noble seaside resort is precisely its location. Opatija is within the radius of a 5-hour-drive from some of the most important cities in Southern and Central Europe like Zagreb, Ljubljana, Venice, Milan, Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, Munich, etc. Nearby, there are five international airports—Rijeka Airport on the island of Krk, Pula, Zagreb, Ljubljana-Brnik and Trieste, not to mention Venice airport which is the best choice for transcontinental flights. During summer 2019, Rijeka Airport was connected with 17 European cities, while during the winter season it is connected with Munich and Dusseldorf twice a week.
Opatija in between green and blue horizons
As a seaside resort, Opatija’s great advantage is the sea with the nearby islands Krk, Cres and Lošinj, the mild climate and the Učka massif which protects Opatija from the cold northern winds. The vegetation in this part of Croatia is stunning. Opatija enjoys the microclimate of the Kvarner region, characterised by mild temperatures throughout the whole year and light rain that supports the growth of lush subtropical vegetation surrounded by laurel woods, pine and palm trees, not to mention the majestic oak forests/trees covering the slopes of the mountain Učka. The forest is interlaced with many stone-paved paths that speak of the glorious Austro-Hungarian period when the emperor Franz Joseph, in order to maintain the image of an exquisite tourist resort, arranged many walking paths in the hills of the Učka massif and built the famous coastal promenade—the Lungomare, a more than 100-year-old and 10 km long coastal walking path connecting Opatija and Lovran. All this abundant vegetation gives Opatija a fresh and vital look, especially in combination with the town’s parks like Park Angiolina and Park of St. James which represent the monumental park architecture of Opatija. The Park of St. James was recently also awarded the prize for the most beautiful Croatian park. There you can find more than 150 plant species, among the most prominent are laurel, the leafless magnolia, cedar trees, pines, cherry-laurel, wood date-palms and camellias that have become symbols of Opatija.
The “Old Dame” with rich experience, exquisite looks and a vision
It seems that the geographical position, the rich historical background and mostly the beautiful natural scenery have enabled Opatija to keep reinventing itself and maintain its leading position as a unique tourist destination. It continues to deliver and create new attractive stories in all cultural, touristic, urban and business areas. Opatija may appear like an “Old Lady”, but this olds lady has rich experience in the leisure and business tourism sector, incomparable charm accompanied by strong architectural, natural and cultural features that have been inviting, inspiring and fascinating visitors for more than 170 years. A rich architectural heritage of well-preserved and magnificent villas—the prime examples of Belle Époque architecture that dominate the coastline, nicely decorated gardens which give the city an aristocratic feel, luxury restaurants, spa facilities, etc., all give the city its vital dynamics and a youthful spirit. The most intriguing thing about Opatija is that its core is more vivid than most of the top touristic destinations on the Adriatic. Namely, Opatija is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Croatia, since it offers an all year round tourist buzz.
Congress is king
Opatija is a synonym for meetings tourism and has been considered a major convention destination for several decades now. Namely, Opatija hosts more than 500 congresses, seminars, various meetings and events each year and more than 50% of them are organised by Opatija’s regular customers and partners. Some of them have been coming to Opatija for the past 40 years. Opatija’s main focus is to provide an all-year-round tourism offer and has succeeded in doing exactly that to this day. For instance, in January Opatija covers 10% of the entire Croatian tourism income, which can be a surprising fact if we compare it to other mega tourism hubs like Dubrovnik or Rovinj which have over 30,000 beds (Opatija has 9,000 beds in total) but are only full during the high season period.
Today Opatija boasts 5 major congress hotels and 3 special venues
The Amadria Park Grand Hotel 4 Opatijska Cvijeta can host up to 1,000 participants in Conference Park 25/7, which offers 9 meeting rooms on 3 floors. Next door is the Amadria Park Hotel Royal, that prides itself on the large Royal Hall, a banquet hall, covering an area of 950m2. It is the largest meeting hall in Opatija by area, offering capacities for up to 800 people. The Remisens Premium Hotel Ambasador has been completely renovated in 2019 and offers a meeting hall welcoming 515 delegates. Grand Hotel Adriatic is the hotel with the longest meetings tradition in modern times. The hotel includes two different complexes and an amphitheatrical meeting hall with 550 seats. The fifth is the Remisens Premium Hotel Kvarner, the hotel with the longest history on the Adriatic coast, as it was built in 1884 and has retained the charm of those days. Its historical Crystal Ballroom can accommodate up to 900 participants in a theatre set-up.
Conference organisers that are looking for capacities for up to 200 participants have even more choice, as there are another 6 hotels of matching size (Remisens Premium Grand Hotel Palace, Remisens Premium Hotel Imperial, Amadria Park Hotel Milenij, Remisens Hotel Admiral, Hotel Villa Kapatanović, Hotel Bristol by OHM Group and Hotel Mozart). Boutique Hotel Navis with a meeting room for 40 guests and the newly opened Ikador Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa with a capacity for 16 guests are perfect venues for board meetings or other smaller groups.
The capacities of special venues range from 500 participants in the Gervais Centre to 2500 participants in the Open Air Theatre. The multifunctional Marino Cvetković Sports Hall is a great place for fairs or exhibitions and can accommodate up to 2700 participants.
New hotels and renovations
From 2017, when the last Opatija meetologue was prepared, Opatija has had many renovations and even openings of the new hotels and special venues. The first to mention is the Gervais Centre, which is a multifunctional venue, with the main auditorium hall for 500 guests. Besides the small hall, which can be divided into three additional meeting rooms, there is a spacious lobby on two levels, excellent for conference exhibitions. In addition, in the basement, there is a large club space, with a separate entrance, which can accommodate up to 1000 participants. The recent opening happened in spring of 2019, just a few kilometres out of the city centre. The Ikador Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa was inspired by music and offers only one, but exclusive meeting room for 16 people. Some of the advantages are the fine dining restaurant Nobilion, the Ikalia Spa Center and the private Riva lounge beach bar. In 2019, the Remisens Premium Hotel Ambasador, which is one of the biggest conference hotels in Opatija, was completely renovated, from the spacious lobby to the rooms and meeting halls, which are now shining in trendy materials and colours. In 2016, the Milenij Hotels Group, which rebranded into Amadria Park started investment cycles in their hotels and conference facilities. The conference space called Conference Park 25/7 spreads over three levels with nine meeting halls and is equipped with all the modern technical equipment and some extra furniture that can be used for more creative types of events.
This year the Bevanda and Navis boutique hotels have been joined by Hotel Ikador, which is located away from the city hustle on the edge of the Opatija Riviera. All 14 luxury rooms offer a beautiful view of the sea and the marina, where guests can also rent the hotel’s Acquariva speedboat and enjoy the beauty of the Opatija Riviera.
Top Event Venues
The Villa Ariston has a magnificent garden and represents the perfect venue place to host events like receptions, presentations and evening ceremonies for about 200–300 people. Here you can open a fashion show or have an intimate corporate party, with local food tastings, exclusive presentation of a new product, a business partners party, etc. Then there is the Lido Bevanda Beach resort, a special open-air venue with removable sliding glass doors so events can also be organised in the winter. The place is remarkable, located directly by the sea, offering unique views of the city of Opatija and its exclusive architectural masterpieces. It is best for hosting evening events, cocktails, receptions, etc. for up to 300 participants or more. In the proximity of Park Angiolina, there is the Juraj Šporer Art Pavilion, ideal for receptions, and Opatija’s Open Air Theatre—a large amphitheatre-shaped auditorium with a capacity of 2500. It is a perfect venue for concerts and open-air events. In addition to the large central stage, there is another, smaller stage, suitable for more intimate performances, cocktail parties and similar events.
Gastronomy is still one of the pillars of Opatija’s offer. The Mediterranean cuisine based on fresh local ingredients can be enjoyed in many excellent and awarded restaurants. Some of them are part of the boutique hotels such as Bevanda, Ikador, Navis and Laurus. Among others, we have to mention Villa Ariston, Plavi Podrum and Kukuriku. Not far away along the riviera, there are more of them like Draga di Lovrana (Michelin star), Johnsson and others. The great news is that the bigger hotels are also changing their routine following the latest trends to include as many local and fresh ingredients as possible.
OPATIJA INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2019
MTLG INDEX / 2019 EDITION
M – MEETING DESTINATION
Destinations that can host up to 1,200 congress attendees.
- The number of 4* and 5* category hotel rooms: 2,106
- The number of 4* and 5* category hotels: 25
- Banquet hall maximum capacity: 600
- The largest hall in the city (in m2): 1,650 m2
- Destination population: 11,659
- Maximum hall capacity in theatre style: 900
OPATIJA OVERALL PERFORMANCE
COMPARISON WITH THE REGION
The more than 170 years of tourism tradition is based on the positive energy of the riviera and the exceptional natural conditions. The revival of the Opatija meetings industry is seen through the constant renovation of hotels in the last few years and the opening of new boutique hotels, which are raising the level of the offer for the most demanding incentive groups. Through continuous promotion, the Convention and Incentive Bureau at the Opatija Tourist Board is changing the perception of Opatija. Compared to Dubrovnik, it shall be recognised as more sustainable, less crowded and a value-for-money incentive and meetings destination.
Kvarner scampi – They are considered to be the best in the world. Identified by the pale red colour and thinner armour, their speciality is—experts say—in that they live here in a very shallow sea with a lot of drinkable water springs and are therefore very soft and sweet.
3 BEST INCENTIVE IDEAS
Retro Boat Party
The RetrOpatija festival was first organised in 2014 along with the 170th anniversary of tourism in the town. The festival is a great inspiration for incentives, full of pleasant memories of youth. Boats, ranging in size and shape, sailing under the flag of the Katarina Line Agency, are the perfect choice for a one- or several-day party. With the help of the DJ, fashionable accessories and decorations, you will bring back the ambience of the 50s, 70s or the 80. For the icing on the cake, you can impress guests with exceptional gastronomy of that time. How about a “peach juice with cream”?
Take a ride with Liburnia Classic Club
The Opatija automotive club has been connecting over 60 lovers of classic cars from Opatija since 2009. In June, you can meet them at the famous rally and even more impressive for event organisers is the fact, that you can rent all the oldtimers along with their drivers and take your guests on an unforgettable ride through the Opatija Riviera. The oldest vehicle from the impressive collection is the Ford T Coupe from 1927 and you can also find convertibles such as the 1950 Buick or the 1960 Fiat Spider.
Bike tour in Učka Nature Park
For more active participants, the locals recommend the Bike Tour to Učka Nature Park, which offers 8 well-tended, marked mountain bike trails of varying difficulty to a total length of 180 km. You will be rewarded by magnificent views of Kvarner Bay, the islands, and the towns along the coast. If you want to spend the whole day in nature, a picnic lunch can be a part of your team experience. The local agency will prepare all the necessary ingredients, all you will have to do is light the fire and start preparing your Mediterranean meal.