Zagreb can often get short-shrift when up against its southerly sisters Split and Dubrovnik, but Croatia’s dynamic capital is worth a visit for its history, architecture, refined museums, vibrant street art, and genteel café culture. The hotels here tend towards the cosmopolitan and elegant, with a bit of Austro-Hungarian flare and plenty of amenities.

Palace Hotel

An art nouveau exterior (photo courtesy of the Palace Hotel)

True to its name, the historic Palace Hotel is situated in a palace dating back to 1891. With its name spelled out in stylized lettering on the side of the building, the swoops and swirls characteristic of art nouveau facades, and plenty of gilding and inlaid wood, it’s just elegant enough to evoke pre-War Europe, and just whimsical enough to feel like something out of Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Its luxurious rooms each center on a single color, be it sage green, nautical blue or light salmon, while apartment suites offer plenty of living space, and in the case of the Suite Diplomatique, even a grand piano. The old-world restaurant offer a sumptuous breakfast as well as a host of northern Croatian specialties like the beloved Štrukli pastry, and there's a whole menu of treatments at the hotel's own MEI wellness center.

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President Pantovcak

Sun loungers in the hotel gardens (photo courtesy of President Pantovcak)

A boutique hotel with an artsy sensibility, the contemporary, Nordic-style President Pantovcak is full of antique furniture, sumptuous rugs, and works of art, the old punctuating the new to create an eclectic vibe that beats with the rhythm of the city. Sleek, refined interiors are made of teak wood, glass, steel, and muted textiles, creating a subdued but pleasing contrast with the gardens outside, visible through floor-to-ceiling windows or in the case of some rooms, even private terraces. The Royal Suite includes a fireplace and the chance to have dinner cooked for you in-room by a private chef.

A major draw here (aside from everything else) is the daily champagne breakfast, at which guests can indulge in bottomless bubbly along with an outstanding buffet and à la carte selections, including omelets made to order. What’s more, staying here can take all the guesswork out of your trip, as the hotel offers day tours to enticing nearby destinations like the Plitvice Lakes National Park and the seaside city of Opatija.

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Hotel Esplanade Zagreb

Hotel Esplanade is situated within the city's parks (photo courtesy of Hotel Esplanade Zagreb)

An old-world property with serious historic bonafides, the palatial, restored 1920s Hotel Esplanade Zagreb sits just across from the city’s main train station; a fitting location for what used to be a major stop for luxury travelers along the Orient Express. That means it’s also close to all of the city’s major sights, including museums, concert houses, and the string of connected parks that include the nearby Botanical Gardens.

Its opulent interior makes good use of white marble, dark wood paneling, crystalline chandeliers, and art deco details, while rooms and suites include marble bathrooms with heated floors. A stay at the Esplanade might include Segway tours, limousine service, or even a special canine pampering for your four-legged family member, and it should definitely include a stop at the hotel’s own Zinfandel, one of Croatia’s finest restaurants.

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Hotel 9

Hotel 9's whimsical and welcoming interior (photo courtesy of Hotel 9)

The luxury, boutique Hotel 9, designed by Croatian architect Ante Vrban, has just enough quirk to keep it interesting: think striped mirrored walls, ostentatious chandeliers, swirly designs on walls and ceilings, and rooms categorized by colors, grouped on a white floor, a silver floor, and a gold floor. Everything feels oversized, but in a particularly playful way, as if you’ve fallen down the rrabbit holeand booked a room in Wonderland.

Most rooms even have private balconies, and breakfast is served from a rooftop terrace. But this hotel doesn’t just have a disco sensibility and a great sense of fun, it’s also located in a quiet residential neighborhood just a short walk from the city’s major cultural touchstones, so you can make like a local while staying close to museums, theaters, and restaurants.

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Hotel Jägerhorn

The bright, floral Hotel Jägerhorn courtyard (photo courtesy of Hotel Jägerhorn)

A boutique hotel in a recently refurbished building dating back to 1827, the Hotel Jägerhorn has history and charm in spades. Its hosted many prestigious Croatians over the years, and been featured in both theater productions and films. But its most winning aspect may be its location: it’s tucked into a passageway between the upper and lower town, making you feel as though you’ve encountered a waystation between past and present and are lucky enough to spend the night there.

A mere 18 rooms give the hotel a cozy and exclusive feel, and both rooms and suites are fitted out with rich textiles, with sumptuous blues and golds at the center of their design. A bright breakfast room has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on a flower-strewn inner courtyard, and the all-day café serves coffees from local specialty roaster Cogito, as well as an array of craft beers.

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Le Premier

Le Premier's sleek, upscale lobby (photo courtesy of Le Premier)

True to its name, Le Premier is fast becoming the premier destination for luxury travelers looking for the best of what Zagreb’s art scene has to offer. Located in an Italianate former bank dating back to 1923, Le Premier is just steps from major city museums and galleries, including the Gallery of Modern Art and the HDLU Museum.

In keeping with the Italian palazzo vibe, the hotel has a grand main staircase and palatial rooms with high ceilings and large windows. The restaurant serves fine Italian-inspired cuisine cooked by a Michelin-starred chef under an expansive skylight, and the upscale bar includes a cigar lounge, as if to hint at the light-night deal-making that went on years ago within the walls of this storied property. Make sure to stop in at the spa, which offers Parisian THÉMAÉ products and Finnish and Turkish saunas.

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