Built in 1925 as a suitably glamorous stopover for passengers on the Orient Express, the five-star Esplanade is unquestionably Zagreb’s most upmarket hotel. Restored to its fabulous former glory in 2004, it offers a level of opulence you’ll find nowhere else in Croatia.
- Rudolf Abraham, Travel writer
Close to Zagreb's main railway station, and just a 10-minute walk from the main square. The Esplanade lies on the Croatian capital’s so-called Green Horseshoe – an interconnected series of manicured parks and gardens running through the city centre, laid out when the city was largely rebuilt in the late 1880s following a massive earthquake.
Style & character
An Art Deco building which aims to dazzle from the moment you enter the foyer, the Esplanade simply oozes luxury, with magnificent decoration including an extensive use of different kinds of marble, stained glass windows and wrought iron railings on the grand staircase, glittering chandeliers and a vast ballroom. Its list of visitors over the years reads like a celebrity who's who, including the likes of Orson Welles, Anita Ekberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock and the Prince of Monaco.
Service & facilities
The Esplanade prides itself on its high standards of service, which was impeccable on my visit, the staff consistently friendly, helpful and attentive. The Health Club offers a large fitness area and sauna, massage and beauty treatments. Other touches include the Press Reader Zone – which offers some 3,000 newspapers and magazines available free to read online – plus Segway city tours, and a VIP dog service for pets.
- Fitness centre
- Room service
The Esplanade's 208 spacious rooms and suites are tastefully decorated in rich, warm tones and opulent golds, with heavy dark wood furniture and luxuriant textiles. The huge, very comfortable beds have fluffy goose down pillows and duvets (anti-allergic pillows are available on request). The opulent marble bathrooms come with separate bathtubs and walk-in showers with rain head, under-floor heating and L’Occitane cosmetics.
Food & drink
The Esplanade's flagship restaurant, Zinfandel's, is outstanding, with an emphasis on sourcing the best Croatian produce available. Enjoy the four-, five- and six-course tasting menus (from HRK 570/£69 to HRK 980/£119), or order à la carte as we did. After kicking off with some very moreish polenta crisps, we enjoyed a delicious mise en bouche of anchovies and trout caviar with fennel foam, garnished with micro herbs and delicate flowers. The show-stealer for me was the entrée – strips of cuttlefish with razor-thin slices of Jerusalem artichoke, powdered cuttlefish ink and caper leaves – and for a main I ordered fuži with black truffles. For dessert I had a half portion of the hotel’s legendary štrukle (traditional baked cream cheese pastry), and dinner was rounded off with handmade chocolates. Dishes were paired with excellent Croatian wines, thoughtfully suggested by the very approachable sommelier.
The buffet breakfast is excellent, with a wide selection of fresh fruit, cold cuts, cheeses, smoked trout with herbs, and eggs cooked to order – the omelette with cheese from the island of Pag was particularly good. Le Bistro, the hotel’s other restaurant, is also excellent, while the chic Esplanade 1925 bar offers a whole raft of imaginative cocktails.
Value for money
Double rooms from €112 (£101) in low season; and from €127 (£114) in high. Breakfast is excluded and costs HRK 175 (£21). Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
There are lifts and walk-in showers.
There's a children's menu at Zinfandel’s with dishes like spaghetti with deep-fried mozzarella balls.