In the late 19th century, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Austrian Southern Railways Company, a fashionable tourist resort was created to meet the needs of the Austro-Hungarian elite, where sophistication and elegance are today still felt at every turn.
The origins of Opatija as we know it today are usually associated with the construction of the Villa Angiolina, which soon became a meeting point for the distinguished figures of the time. The villa remained the centre of tourism in the town and one of its most recognisable landmarks, alongside the Lungomare seafront promenade, beautiful well-tended parks and the wonderful camellia – a flower brought from the Far East and today one of the symbols of Opatija and the inspiration behind the latest, award-winning distinctive culinary souvenir: the Opatija Camellia cake.
Opatija's historic hotels, such as the Kvarner, the first hotel in this part of the Adriatic, which was built as early as 1884, were later joined by others from the period together with more recent ones. If we add the wide range of private accommodation in family houses and holiday villas, we get a complete picture of the accommodation on offer on the Opatija Riviera. However, we should not forget the numerous events, especially festivals, for which Opatija is so well known, or its two most famous venues: the wonderful Open Air Theatre and the Crystal Hall of the Hotel Kvarner. Of the many events that take place here every year, we should mention the Mandrać international painting competition in the charming atmosphere of the small fishing harbour of Volosko.
At the time when Opatija was emerging as a tourist resort, it was primarily a winter spa for the elite. Today, this tradition is continued with a wide range of health and wellness services offered by high-class wellness centres in many of Opatija's hotels, and also in the Thalassotherapia, a specialised clinic for treating, recovering from and preventing heart and circulatory diseases (including the modern Thalasso Wellness Centre), as well as in a series of specialised dental, aesthetic surgery and orthopaedic clinics.
Opatija is also renowned as a congress destination: most of its hotels offer modern convention facilities, including large congress halls and smaller meeting venues, top-quality technical equipment and professional staff that are happy to provide support to congress organisers and participants.
The Opatija Riviera boasts some of the best Croatian restaurants, offering superb seafood specialities. For less informal occasions, there are numerous bistros and taverns offering traditional dishes from the region.
Opatija's hinterland is the perfect place for nature lovers and fans of outdoor activities, but also those interested in learning more about the local history and cultural heritage. The villages in the surrounding area have fascinating stories from the past, and the magnificent Mount Učka, protected as a nature park, ascends directly from the coast to a height of 1,401 metres above sea level and is a great challenge for hikers and mountain bikers alike.
Opatija is considered to be the cradle of Croatian tourism, and with good reason: the town is continuously improving its tourist services and facilities. It is no wonder that Opatija's Villa Angiolina was chosen to host the Croatian Museum of Tourism, and that visitors return to this town over and over again, for here one can feel the hospitability of the hosts at every turn, which has been the case now for almost 170 years.