More than a century ago, in January 29, 1897 the “Grand Hotel Imperial” was opened. This was the first modern hotel in Dubrovnik and its building signalled a historic transformation of Dubrovnik’s tourism. Today marks the hotel’s 117th birthday.
The formal opening of the “Imperial” on May 29th 1897 was spectacular. It was the first hotel in Dubrovnik that had modern equipment: its own electric lightning, steam central heating throughout, hot and cold running water, bathrooms, an electric lift, room bells, reading salons and card rooms, a special hall for ladies, a spacious restaurant, a belvedere terrace on the main roof, an attractive garden; guests were served for the first time by professionally qualified staff. The “Imperial” then had only two floors, and 70 rooms equipped with stylish furniture.
Among the first guests of the “Imperial ” were: John von Rainger – the count counsellor from Vienna, Count Waldstein – the chamberlain from Trebitsch, Count Carl Tes – the state secretary from Vienna, Count Louis Kulmer – a landowner from Zagreb, Count Emil Kulmer- a landowner from Brčko, Heinrich pl. Kolonghy – the grand landowner from Torok Kaniz. Generals, lawyers, merchants and manufacturers from London, Prague, Graz, Trieste, Venice and other cities were also visitors to the hotel. A formal banquet was laid on as part of the opening ceremony. Local dignitaries were also invited. Newspapers wrote that ordinary Dubrovnik citizens were offered “a taste of the food and drink” in the lower restaurant.
The annals of the “Imperial” note that the British King Edward VIII and the American Wallis Simpson danced in the hotel garden in August 1936. Throughout the years, famous people would visit from all over the world. In time, the Imperial became a city hotel where all the more important social events took place. Generations of Dubrovnik citizens recall the hotel as the setting for many unforgettable memories.
The accommodation of the Imperial was increased in 1905 by adding a third floor, then an additional building was erected in 1913, and in 1987 its capacity was increased so that the number of rooms went from 70 to 120.
Unfortunately, during the Serbo – Montenegrin attacks on Dubrovnik in 1991 and 1992, the target was very often the Imperial, even though several hundred refugees were sheltered there. Because of direct hits and mortar explosions on November 11th and 12th 1991, large fires burned on all three floors. The heaviest attack on the Imperial happened on June 29th 1992 when three refugees were killed and 13 injured from shell-fire.
Happier times lay ahead for the hotel when during the process of the privatisation of state property, the Dubrovnik shipping company Atlanska Plovidba became the majority owner of the hotel company “Grand Hotel Imperial”. In preparation for complete reconstruction and additional building to the Imperial, Atlanska Plovidba decided to entrust Hilton with the running of its hotel business. With these changes, the Imperial has become a modern business hotel. Although it has a new official name, Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, the old name Grand Hotel Imperial is still on its façade.
Today Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, although completely renovated, has preserved original 19th century architectural features and all the best from its glamorous past, while at the same time offering contemporary comfort and technology.
Happy birthday Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, may you celebrate many more yet!