The House of Sports (Dom Sportova) is a legendary sports and events hall in Trešnjevka in Zagreb. We would need a few pages to mention all the unforgettable events this quartier of Zagreb has hosted in the past. For instance, in 1976, the hall hosted the Rolling Stones, who concluded their Starfucker world tour in Zagreb. Once the pride of Trešnjevka, the sports hall now awaits a thorough revamp. Across the road, Hotel Panorama was given a new lease on life. Built concurrently with the House of Sports Zagreb, Hotel Panorama was among the tallest buildings in the city. First named Hotel Sport, the landmark establishment enriched the architecture and formed the new heart of the Trešnjevka district. In its lifetime, the hotel changed names several times: from Hotel Panorama to Four Points by Sheraton Panorama before acquiring its latest name – Zonar Zagreb. For the past half a century, the iconic twenty-floor high skyscraper has been co-creating the panoramic image of Zagreb. It is apt that a new design has reinvigorated the hotel. Guests can already see that the hotel has brought a breath of fresh air into the famed quartier. One of the hotel’s advantages is the vicinity to the city centre. Just by crossing the street, guests will find themselves in Ilica in the centre of Zagreb in no time.
Among airports in Former Yugoslavia, Zagreb Airport only trails behind Belgrade according to air traffic. In 2022, the airport handled nearly three million passengers. You can fly to Zagreb effortlessly thanks to the country’s Croatia Airlines or by opting for low-budget airlines such as Ryanair. To reach the hotel from the airport, guests have plenty of options. Even Uber is an option in Zagreb. The public transport in Zagreb is average but is perpetually improving. Guests arriving by car can park in the outdoor parking lot. Still, we were shocked to learn that the outdoor parking costs 16 EUR per night. We could have effectively left our vehicle at the nearby House of Sports for no parking fee. In any case, such a hotel could also offer bike or scooter rental or perhaps a fancy map to explore the city sustainably. Considering the city centre is close, guests would undoubtedly appreciate the gesture. Still, we must praise the cardio tower, where you can walk and follow the number of used calories on the way. Health-conscious.
COLD STARTER - Architecture and aesthetics
Wow, what a metamorphosis. What the architects succeeded in making from a dull socialist skyscraper has exceeded everyone’s expectations. The hotel design has perhaps surpassed the source of its inspiration – hotels from the Maistra Hospitality Group, including distinguished architectural gems such as Daniel, Ace, Hoxton and other trendy establishments. Architects from the Zagreb-based UP Studio joined forces with the artist and designer Silvio Vujičić to create the hotel’s instantly recognisable architecture. It seems the team followed the slogan Once you go black, you never go back. Black in all shades is the common denominator in the lobby and the rest of the hotel. The hotel exudes the feeling of a theatrical black box with countless visual installations. And not just any. The Moon Conference Room next to the entrance is unbelievably Instagrammable, while the enormous bar takes guests on memorable journeys.
The hotel also features spacious work desks, intimate spots for digital detox and an urban imitation of a signature Balkan cafe, where guests can network and relax. On the outside, a panoramic lift endows the monolithic facade. The ceiling in the lobby is made of unusual aluminium-like material. A surprisingly large LED screen greeting guests at the entrance seems ideal for advertising an event here. Even the staff uniforms are extravagant, as are the menus, labelling system and the quasi-living room just off the entrance. Visiting Zonar Zagreb is an extraordinary experience for all lovers of original architecture and unique design. Once inside, we could not get enough of the ingenious, one-off architectural solutions.
WARM ENTRÉE - The staff and the culinary experience
The fabulous staff uniforms should be worn confidently. That takes some time and training. The youthful personnel seems proud and excited to have the opportunity to work in the funkiest hotel in Zagreb. Nonetheless, they will need some time before working like a well-oiled machine. As in politics, hotels need 100 days to get into the right rhythm. Hence, neither the staff nor the service can be criticised yet (the hotel opened its doors at the end of April). The culinary concept of the hotel is so fresh and innovative that we have no doubts it will attract locals too. Several were already eyeing the hotel as we stayed there. The gastronomical offer is suitable for elite athletes, too, as it includes fresh and healthy dishes. You will find numerous innovative green meals under the Grains and Plants segment of the menu. We are sure other hotels and restaurants will take inspiration from the original culinary menu. Both cold and warm appetisers deserve a five-star review. All dishes are, moreover, served with an eye for detail. The kulen sausage outshined the selection of excellent meat specialities, while the eggs on toast were superb. We have a tiny remark about the juice department, as they seemed to have run out of freshly-squizzed juice too quickly. The staff is, despite their slight confusion, kind and charming.
MAIN COURSE – The meetings offering at the hotel
We must admit that the size of the hotel rooms is tiny (23 m2). Still, what the architects pulled off is nothing short of a miracle. The hotel bed is nestled in a capsule on a minimalist pedestal, overlooking the cityscape. If possible, book a room on the top floor. The views are priceless. The walls in the room are trendy, and designed to look like concrete. The flooring boasts anthracite colours, while the furniture gleams in black. Our room took us on a journey of exploration across the universe of elegant grey and black colours. The room is a camera obscura, which the guest is invited to fill with their character and habits. That is why the rooms in this hotel stand out from the competition. Guests can easily opt for Zonar Zagreb for prolonged stays. Considering the hotel offers several room types, we recommend selecting one compatible with your character. Not to forget: every room features a piece of fitness equipment (ours had weights), top-tier cosmetics by Culti and the possibility of personalising the minibar.
The hotel’s conference centre is located on the mezzanine floor and follows the hotel concept. The central space is a chic design lounge for working and networking. What adds value to the conference centre is the terrace interconnecting all halls. Drinking coffee and getting fresh air on the terrace is irresistible. The furniture, particularly the intriguing chairs, is very comfortable. The hotel also offers high-quality projectors and LED screens. Evolution Hall, the largest among them, can capacitate up to 300 attendees. The smaller halls come in different configurations, sometimes obstructed by pillars. In any case, there are several opportunities to organise various events at Zonar Zagreb.
DESSERT – The extras
The in-house conference centre offers nine halls. Zagreb was missing a similar meeting hotel, which has advanced the city’s capacities. It is true, however, that Zonar Zagreb will not be the preferred choice for, say, lovers of Hilton or Sheraton’s classic design.
FLOP – NEGATIVE SURPRISES
The staff was a bit confused at the reception. Even though we completed the fast check-in process (another lauded service of the Maistra Hospitality Group), we had to wait over ten minutes during check-in. The hotel is striving for personalisation but will have to go the extra mile in the future.
TOP – POSITIVE SURPRISES
The main bar is among the largest in Zagreb. We could imagine countless events happening here. The bar can easily host informal events too.
The hotel does not place sustainable activities in the limelight, but the Maistra Hospitality Group is a vociferous advocate of sustainability in the hotel business. In 2008, they acquired the ISO 14000 certificate and later earned other certifications that show the hotel chain’s green aspirations. We do not doubt the new hotel will soon adopt the policy of the Maistra Hospitality Group.
FINAL IMPRESSION AND CREDIBILITY
The hotel is worth admiration for multiple reasons. Most notably, we were astonished by the urban cosmopolitan concept that is no copycat but the result of Croatian know-how. As such, the hotel has set the bar for Maistra’s selection of City Vibes hotels. Secondly, the size of the hotel enables larger conference groups to stay in one hotel. Up to now, that has been Zagreb’s Achilles heel. Thirdly, the hotel sells experiences and not just hotel rooms. The lobby is the heart of Zonar Zagreb, functioning as an experiential living room. Fourthly, the hotel was renovated with the needs of the event organisers in mind. Lastly, the designers had the courage to address the trends and changes in the market. Generation Z will be grateful for the youth-in-mind approach they adopted. Even older generations may find the hotel dear to their heart. As we wrote, not everything is yet functioning at the moment. The hotel thus has work ahead in terms of improving staff. Luckily, the personnel has a positive attitude and unwithering enthusiasm, visible during breakfast. To summarise, the region has gained a lifestyle meeting hotel with a bright future. We do not doubt it will acquire a faithful pack of followers.
FINAL GRADE: 4.90 GOLD City 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