Since 1966, Opatija’s veduta would not be complete without Hotel Ambasador Liburnia. The modernist building that stirred opinions among the traditionalist public has become the flagship of tourism in Opatija. Among more than thirty hotels at the destination, its location at the city entrance is excellent partly due to the scenic views of the Kvarner Gulf. More importantly, the hotel sits just a stone’s throw away from the central tourist attractions, Voloski and Lovrana, linked by the picturesque 12-kilometre long promenade Lungo Mare. Villa Ambasador, originating from the 19th century, is an integral part of the hotel that has retained the spirit of imperial, Austro-Hungarian times. The hotel’s location is ideal for both tourists and event organisers.
Opatija has established itself as a destination predominantly accessible by car. Guests arriving at the hotel by car can expect flawlessly functioning valet parking. More demanding guests can park in a smaller parking garage. Additionally, the hotel offers electric charging stations for guests with electric cars. Rijeka’s highway is nearby, connecting the city with Istria, Slovenia and continental Croatia. Rijeka Aiport is, likewise, only 35 kilometres away, whereas the airport in Pula is situated 100 kilometres from Opatija. Both airports offer good connections in the summer, even though guests will have to opt for airports in Ljubljana, Trieste or Zagreb in winter. If you revel in seaside strolls, we recommend taking a zen walk on the sea-facing promenade leading to the centre of Opatija or Voloski.
COLD STARTER - Architecture and aesthetics
The modernistic building is the work of renowned architect Zdravko Bregovac, who built the hotel on the grounds of the former Villa Biedermann. Zdravko Bregovac was considered one of the most prolific creators of tourist architecture in former Yugoslavia. His most acclaimed work is undoubtedly Hotel Ambasador. It was envisaged as a holistic architectural entity encompassing everything from sophisticated details to world-class culinary equipment. The hotel quickly became a hotel icon in Yugoslavia. In 2019, the extensive hotel renovation included refurbished rooms and an updated meetings offer. The most recent renovation completely revamped the lobby, which now features intriguing pop-up stores. The hotel’s stand-out features are its reception and hotel bar, representing the heart of the hotel. Serving as a type of lounge, they continue the tradition of one of the first design hotels in the region. Zdravko Bregovac’s beguiling architecture has outlasted its creator and his time.
WARM ENTRÉE - The staff and the culinary experience
During our stay, we experienced both kind personnel that were highly professional and cold borderline unfriendly communication. There is no room for arguments and debates among staff in a hotel of this rank. Guests do not expect quarrels to occur among staff. The pinnacle of the unacceptable experience was the hotel breakfast that turned into a canteen due to overcrowdedness. A part of the conference centre turned into a breakfast buffet, and the mass of people helping themselves with dishes was indescribable. Glasses gleamed in lipstick traces, several dishes were running out, and the coffee machine could not handle such a flocking horde. Picking up the plates was below average and slow, and we could discuss the inadequate selection of dishes. Perhaps it had been a bad day, but such experiences mustn’t occur in a five-star hotel.
MAIN COURSE – The meetings offering at the hotel
We opted for the superior hotel room complemented by a spacious balcony, offering a superb view of the Kvarner Gulf. The remarkable first impression is the result of select materials, namely the wallpaper in grey shades combined with copper lights. Darker tones dominate the furniture in contrast to the pastel flooring and bed lining. The room appears compact, with a bed that is particularly praiseworthy. The otherwise appealing interior does, however, have certain flaws such as cracks, scratches and worn-out material. The average bathroom cannot be criticised, albeit the cosmetics and equipment would need a touch of luxury to live up to the five-star experience.
The meeting halls can be found on the ground floor and mezzanine and stand out due to their daylight and marvellous views. The largest multifunctional hall can welcome up to 515 attendees in a theatre setting and 600 participants in a cocktail setting. It can be divided into three smaller segments. The mezzanine features five smaller meeting halls suitable for smaller meetings. All halls were renovated recently and now feature up-to-date technical equipment. Hotel Ambassador Liburnia offers several eye-catching locations for standing receptions and offers the possibility of catering service.
DESSERT – The extras
We full-heartedly recommend visiting the beautifully-designed spa. Nonetheless, guests should note that it is relatively small, and due to epidemiological restrictions, the number of guests in saunas is limited.
FLOP – NEGATIVE SURPRISES
Clamorous staff can be heard discussing their work obligations and topical issues in front of your room door in the early morning hours. A tad more discreteness in such a hotel is mandatory. Another drawback of the hotel is the inability of lifts to capacitate all guests when the hotel is fully booked.
TOP – POSITIVE SURPRISES
Following the latest renovation, the hotel lobby and its pop-up stores shone in a new light. The highly-impressive Instagrammable space seems to have been made for enjoying a tasty coffee.
FINAL IMPRESSION AND CREDIBILITY
The quality of staying at Hotel Ambassador Liburnia is high; however, the service quality is unsatisfactory. Following its recent renovation, the hotel’s well-rounded interior stands out. The breakfast experience and mixed feelings about the staff led us to believe that the service is not on the level of a five-star hotel. Albeit lowering prices ahead of the main tourist season is common hotel practice, that should not affect the service quality. We were disappointed by the service, even though we do not doubt it was only a bad day, considering the hotel has all the prerequisites for a much higher final mark. To achieve that, the hotel will have to improve the quality of personnel and ensure a proper five-star experience. If that is undoable, it would be best to lower expectations to four stars. We do not doubt that the new management coming from the yachting world will be able to do so.
The hotel has characteristics that place it among the leading hotels in the Adriatic. Nevertheless, the absence of numerous details curbs its way to becoming the premier regional hotel – as it had been, flocked by European influencers of a past age.
FINAL GRADE: 4.65 SILVER Resort Meeting Hotel
GOLD final score from 4.81 to 5.00
SILVER final score from 4.61 to 4.80
BRONZE final score from 4.41 to 4.60