Portoroz Palace (Kempinski)

The Palace Hotel was built during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a tourist facility of the highest category. Along with Grado, Venetian Lido and Opatija, Portorož was a very fashionable seaside resort and health spa at the Adriatic Sea. At its opening in 1910, the Palace Hotel, after the Excelsior Hotel in Venice, was the  the largest hotel on the Adriatic Sea.
In 1983, the hotel was declared a cultural monument (the ground floor, the stairway, the terrace in the central part of the hotel, and the southern, eastern and western façades) by a municipal decree.  In 2005, the Restoration Centre of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia launched a conservation & restoration project according to which specific parts of the hotel (stained glass windows, chandeliers, wainscots and metal balusters) were renovated.
After the municipal decree declared the hotel a cultural monument in 1983, the surrounding park was declared a man-made landscape monument and its layout has been preserved as an element of the spatial concept and a particular facet of the architecture.
The historic part of the park was renovated in such a way as to preserve as much as possible of its original appearance while still taking into account the needs of the contemporary lifestyle. The restoration work was supervised by the Restoration Centre of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Ljubljana. During the renovation of the hotel, a total of 200 people participated in various stages of the restoration & conservation work.

The development of tourism in Portorož stems from the discovery of the healing power of the Piran Saltpans mud and brine, the clean sea, the sheltered position of the town, and its close proximity to Trieste. In 1879, the Piranian doctor Giovanni Lugnano started with trial therapies for rheumatic diseases using the mud and brine from the Se?ovlje and Lucija saltpans. In the second half of the 19th century, Austro-Hungarian military officers used to spend their convalesce in Portorož. Owing to its natural characteristics and the spa activities, the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of the Interior passed a law on 25 June 1897 proclaiming Portorož a health resort. In the same year, a building named ‘White Cross’ was erected on the location of today’s Palace Hotel and served as a health spa for military officers.

This seaside resort in the close vicinity of the medieval town of Piran blossomed in 1905 under the name ‘Portorose’.  Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it developed into one of the most important resorts of the monarchy, where the crème de la crème from all over the world spent their holidays. This rapid development of tourism is witnessed by the following figures: in 1909 Portorož recorded 3,100 visitors and in 1913 already 7,250. The town had excellent traffic connections.

In 1909, the Portorose public limited company started constructing the Palace Hotel, which soon became the most prestigious hotel on the entire eastern Adriatic Sea.
According to the available data, the Palace Hotel opened its doors on 20 August 1910 and the building was expanded in the periods to follow. The hotel’s design was conceived by the Austrian architect of Italian origin Johannes (Giovanni) Eustacchio, whose idea was to create a colossal building blending various architectural styles with the elements of the Vienna Secession.
In 1913, a casino was built in the Villa San Lorenzo, on the location of today’s Grand Hotel Metropol.

Portorož tourism stagnated between the two world wars. The Palace Hotel was pillaged and was used by German and Yugoslav soldiers. In 1949, its renovation began.

Following a two-year renovation period, the Palace Hotel reopened its doors in 1951 and flourished again in its prestige. In the 1960s, it hosted many statesmen and film celebrities. In 1964, the Municipal Council of Piran adopted a memorandum of association of the first Slovenian casino, with its corporate seat in Portorož, which operated in the Palace Hotel from 1964 to 1972.

In the 1970s, new buildings were erected around the Palace Hotel, under the conceptual leadership of the architect Edo Mihevc. The novelties were incompatible with the hotel’s original spatial design and its free access to the sea. The number of guests and quality of services declined.

The Palace Hotel was closed for the first time in 1980. Three years later some parts of the hotel were proclaimed cultural monuments (the architecture) and man-made landscape monuments (the park) by the Municipal Decree on the Proclamation of Cultural and Historical Monuments in the Municipality of Piran. In 1987, the Palace Hotel was closed for the second time; after reopening for a short time, it closed for good in 1990. In 1994, the Palace Hotel – as a building with monument status – was transferred to the ownership of the municipality. This was due to the fact that the Hoteli Palace company realised that it was unable to finance the expensive renovation, even though the controversial decree prohibiting companies to disclose cultural monuments in their opening balance sheets had been abolished.

The Australian businessman Jozef Zrim, as the manager of the Toncity Pacific Investicije company, entered into an agreement with the Municipality of Piran at the end of 1994 under which he leased the Palace Hotel for a period of 99 years. The company Imperial Palace was founded and was majority-owned by Toncity Pacific and minority-owned by Hoteli Palace. The Administrative Unit of the Municipality of Piran issued a valid spatial planning permit in 1999.

In 2000, the Hoteli Palace company and the Municipality of Piran, both as partners in the Imperial Palace company, filed a bankruptcy petition with the court against Imperial Palace due to its failure to meet its obligations and settle outstanding debts. In February 2001, the court ordered the bankruptcy and liquidation of Imperial Palace. The Municipality of Piran unilaterally cancelled the agreement on the long-term lease in April 2002 and in October 2002 put out an international tender for finding a new strategic partner who would renovate and market the old hotel. Two bids were entered, but only the one by the Istrabenz Holding Company was complete and eligible. In May 2003, the Municipal Council unanimously awarded the tender to Istrabenz and one month later the company and the Municipality of Piran concluded an agreement on the takeover and renovation of the old Palace Hotel.

In 2004, the local community rejected the pilot spatial planning project for the renovation of the old Palace Hotel, whereas in the first half of 2005 the corrected version received massive support. Following strong support from the Municipal Councillors of Piran, the investor’s renovation project was launched on 27 October 2005. In 2006, the Api and Qualite architectural bureaus completed the renovation project documentation. The investor publicly displayed the new architectural solutions in November 2006, when the foundation stone was laid. The changes mainly concerned the annex, the connecting paths, the lighting and the joining of the old and the newly constructed buildings.

In June 2008, the companies Kempinski and Istrabenz Hoteli Portorož signed an agreement on the 20-year management of the hotel. The Municipality of Piran sold its 32.35 percent equity stake in Istrabenz hoteli Portorož and, in August, Thies C. Bruhn was appointed the General Manager of the Kempinski Palace Portorož. In September, trial operation was launched and continued until the official opening. The official opening ceremony of the Kempinski Palace Portorož was held on 18 October 2008, whereas the first official overnight stays took place on 23 October.

Guests at the old Palace Hotel included, among others: Josip Broz-Tito, the film actors Marcello Mastroianni, Yul Brynner, Pierre Brice, and Lex Barker, the American actor and film director Orson Welles, the Croatian pianist Ivo Pogoreli?, the Greek composer Mikis Teodorakis, and the popular Italian singers Rita Pavone, Patty Pravo, Mina, Adriano Celentano and Bobby Solo.

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Portoroz Palace (Kempinski)
Country: Slovenia
City: Portoroz
Opening date: 1910

Note from the Host

General Manager

Thies G. Bruhn


Slovenia, Portoroz
Tel: +386 5692 7000
Fax: +386 5692 7950

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