Continuing our look at private buisness and initiatives in Croatia on June 9, 2016, who are really making a difference in transforming tourisms. Business like the fabulous Hotel Park Boutique Hotel in a natural paradise in the centre of Varazdin.
Where is the most beautiful city in Croatia?
First thoughts turn to those magnficent coastal cities that are the poster children of Croatian tourism. Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Sibenik and several others which dot Croatia’s spectactular coast.
Travel away from the coast, however, and the beauty is just as spectacular, if not more so, with cities such as Varazdin displaying a wealth of old world charm, tradition and heritage, with a supremely preserved old town which blends perfectly with the abundant nature all around.
For a Dalmatian boy, I must admit that my first trip to Varazdin a couple of years ago totally blew me away, from the charm of the town, to the hospitality and hard-working mentality of its people, with a hidden delight around every corner and in every courtyard. It was for me the perfect weekend destination to enjoy culture, fine dining, nature and heritage. With its pedestrianised historic centre and park leading to its castle, I could not imagine anywhere more charming for a relaxing weekend.
Located just an hour away from the capital Zagreb, and in close proximity to tourism markets in Slovenia, Hungary and Austria, Varazdin has a large catchment area of tourists who arrive by car, not plane as many do to my adopted home of Dalmatia. And while my accommodation was more than adequate two years ago for my needs, there was nothing in the city that really screamed quality and luxury. And tourist destinations without quality accommodation are always the first to suffer.
That all changed last year with the opening of the four-star Hotel Park Boutique Hotel in the centre of Varazdin, a quality addition to the Varazdin tourism scene, which has changed the city for both the business and tourist visitor.
I am staying in lots of hotels at the moment as The Total Project expands, and I always like to point out the things which make certain hotels stand out from others. The hotel staff were outstanding from the start, extremely friendly, but that is also the case in other hotels I have stayed in recently. No, the two things that stayed with me were the youthful energy of a very local company which is focused on the needs of its community, expanding responsibly, as well as something I am coming to appreciate a lot more these days with my hectic schedule – nature.
For the hotel is located in a park in the centre of town, and once you park your car on arrival, you will not require a car for the rest of your stay. Varazdin is like that, a compact little old town with plenty going on, all within walking distance. The first step to relaxation.
But it was the terrace which enchanted me the most. The ideal way to start the day on the terrace with the excellent breakfast on offer – looking directly out onto the park, the most prevalent noise being that of birdsong.
For those with children, it is ideal. Apart from the expansive open space provided by the park, there is a small playground next to the hotel which can be monitored from the hotel terrace. A win win for children seeking to play and parents looking to relax. A truly tranquil spot.
The hotel was so important and ground-breaking for Croatian tourism that then Minister of Tourism Darko Lorencin came personally to open the hotel in late 2015. Ground-breaking because it was among the first of nine tourist projects to receive grant assistance from EU funds in Croatia. The 30 million kuna project included just under 12 million kuna in funds from the European Regional Development Fund, with 99% of the grant used up.
As a Dalmatian boy used to planning permission delays of years, I listened in wonder at the speed with which this project had come to fruition. It was a theme I encountered a lot in my visit to Varazdin County. People here have a work ethic that simple is hard to find in Dalmatia. Perhaps it is due to less sun, the ease of tourism income on the coast, or a different mentality altogether, but things were getting done in a timely manner in a way I was not used to back home.
So too with the hotel. Construction began in November 2014, and the opening of the hotel by Minister Lorencin was on December 4 the following year.
The make-up of the visitor changes through the week. Monday to Friday, the hotel is full of businessmen. Now finally there is a quality accommodation option in the city, and some businessmen who would previously drive the hour back to Zagreb to sleep, are now choosing to stay in the city, leading to a better business environment for those doing business, and a little more revenue coming into the city. All change at the weekend, and Varazdin’s considerable weekend tourism getaway potential is being increasingly explored. With all there is to see and do in walking distance, and with such comfortable accommodation and a relaxing natural setting, I can genuinely say you would be hard pressed to find a more relaxing weekend experience in continental Croatia.
About the hotel – there are 19 rooms in all, including several family rooms, which are located on two floors, so the kids can have the excitment of sleeping upstairs, and the parents a little privacy. Each room has its own name and personality, and the style is modern and chic. Apart from the restaurant and bar (did I mention that amazing terrace?), there are also wellness and conference facilities.
And little messages of happiness and positivity to help you enjoy your stay just a little more. This message in the lift made me smile, for example.
And after a very intense, but rather fun few days touring Varazdin County, it was hard to say goodbye to such exceptional hospitality, both at the front desk of Hotel Park Boutique, as well as the whole of Varazdin County in general. It really is a region off the main tourism routes, with a wealth of treasures to discover.
And did I mention the relaxing nature?
I was delighted to learn that the hotel is locally owned, and not only that, but it is part of a rather impressive collection of Varazdin businesses owned by company Gastrocom. Gastrocom Technical Director Zlatko Vidacek told me a little about the company portfolio, built up over 22 years, with a key focus on quality and diligence. The rest of the portfolio includes some of Varazdin’s more important gourmet businesses: Restaurants Verglec, Garestin, Aquacity and Kula, as well as Caffe bar Ritz and Caffeteria Galerija.
And they have plans for further expansion, and if the quality and vision continues as it has been for the last 22 years, this can only be a great thing for this charming little city which I really do encourage you to visit.
A really excellent hotel and place to visit – this month’s heroes of Croatia 365. Learn more about the hotel on the official website.