February 27, 2019 – The first 5-star hotel on the island of Hvar is set to open its doors this summer. Hotel Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel has had quite a history so far.
Walking onto the main square in Hvar Town is always a magical experience. At 4,500m2, it is the largest square in all Dalmatia, and it is also certainly one of the best spots for people watching over a relaxing sun over a leisurely coffee in all Dalmatia. The rich and famous mix with backpackers, as children chase pigeons in this very safe environment.
There is also a sense of history and heritage, of stories hidden in the walls of the majestic buildings which adorn the square. Few first-time visitors realise just how much history and heritage is contained in and around those 4,500m2, for there are some rather signficant things to discover and explore.
Guarding the entrance to the square on the right from the sea is the historic 13th-century Arsenal. Set to reopen this year after renovation and the discovery of Roman civilisation in its foundations, the Arsenal is also home to a very important building on the first floor – the oldest public theatre in all Europe, which opened in 1612, and which is set to reopen this year.
Around the corner is the birthplace of one Ivan Vucetic, the father of dactyloscopy (that is fingerprinting to me and you), a man whose forensic work made the world a safer place.
And right across the square and opposite the theatre – the birthplace of organised tourism in all Europe, following the founding of the Hvar Health Society to cater for the convalescing aristocracy from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1868. This was an anniversary which was celebrated 150 years later in 2018. Construction of the first hotel to cater to Croatia’s first health tourism began in 1881, just one chapter in a building whose history has been as fascinating as the story of Hvar itself, and one which is set to reopen in its latest format, the luxury Hotel Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel – the first 5-star hotel on the island.
The origins of the hotel date back 800 years to the 13th century and Venetian rule on Hvar, when the Duke’s palace was built on top of what is today’s City Loggia. There were four towers bordering the palace, with the eastern one converted into a clock tower. The palace was rebuilt in the 16th century after it had burned down.
Following the founding of the Hvar Health Society in 1868, the emerging winter health tourism necessitated construction of a modern health hotel, a significant investment. The palace had fallen into disrepair, and it was demolished in 1881, to be replaced by a hotel designed by famous Viennese architect Bernard Schwarz. It took 17 years to complete, and the Spa Hotel Empress Elisabeth finally opened in 1899. The hotel took its name, as it does once more in 2019, from the Austrian Empress Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ who generously financed the hotel’s construction.
The hotel initially had 26 rooms (35 beds), a dining room, cafe and reading room. The house rules of the hotel, printed in 1905 in Croatian, Italian and German, warned guests of general hotel cleanliness, prohibited smoking in the dining room during lunch, gambling at the hotel, forbid the entry of dogs and other animals, prohibited drying and hanging clothes through windows. The hotel was initially a great success, with the majority of guests coming from Austria, Germany, Czechia and Hungary, and Hvar became known as the ‘Austrian Madeira.’
The 20th century was to bring change, however, as well as changes of ownership.
In 1918, Milan Canak bought the hotel of Empress Elisabeth, renaming it the Grand Hotel Palace. Ten years later it changed hands again, when Roko Bradanovic from Vis bought the hotel, and the name changed once again from Grand Hotel Palace to Hotel Palace.
There was further investment and expansion in 1935 due to the efforts of the mayor and manager of Palace Hotel, but just 8 years later, the hotel’s use changed completely, as the Partisans turned it into a partisan hospital in 1943 during the war.
The Palace soon returned to its hotel status, and the next significant date was 1971, when owner Suncani Hvar Hotels renovated the hotel’s 73 rooms, as well as adding the pool. And so life continued until the ORCO investment in Suncani Hvar Hotels back in 2006.
Flagship hotels Adriana, Amfora and Riva received the first overhaul, transforming Hvar’s hotel offer with a significantly enhanced product to match the quality of the destination. And now in 2019, it is the turn of Hotel Palace to undergo significant investment, with an upgrade and image change from 2-star Hotel Palace to 5-star Hotel Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel.
The latest – and most luxurious – chapter in the building’s 800-year history will open its doors this summer, as will the Arsenal and the oldest public theatre – a wonderful heritage trio for 2019.
You can learn more about the new Hotel Palace Elisabeth on the official hotel website.