Grand Hotel Union

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Luggage on September 26, 2000

It isn't for the backpack-and-hostel crowd, but if you can afford to stay at the Grand Hotel Union and don't, you haven't made the most out of a trip to Ljubljana. The standard rooms are nice enough -- modern and comfortable, and reasonably spacious (the Union claims the largest hotel rooms in town). But it's what's outside the rooms that counts. Built in 1905 and completely renovated a few years ago, the four-star Union (pronounced 'oon-y'n') seamlessly blends the elegance of a vanished era with modern amenities business travelers expect, 'even' (ahem) in Slovenia.

Unlike many luxury hotels in city centers, the Union doesn't seem disconnected from the everyday life of the city; in fact, it's intimately intertwined with the fabric of Ljubljana. Slovene movers and shakers find the Union a natural habitat, and among foreigners, everyone who's anyone who's been to Ljubljana, from Bill Clinton on down (or sideways), has spent a night or two here; upon entering the lobby one June night in 1999, the prez reportedly exclaimed, 'What a great place!' So what's so great about this place? Basically, it's got style down to its foundations. Start with the exterior, a creamy white luxury liner festooned with Secession-era wreaths and sundry other geometric embellishments, crowned with three spiked copper domes. The prow juts out proudly in the direction of Preseren Square, forever ready to hoist anchor. Step through the big revolving door into the lobby, and all is polished brass, Art Nouveau swirls and, best of all, exquisite reproductions of the original Czech green and purple etched glass window panes. Grand hotel indeed.

Whenever I feel inspiration strike and I'm in town with a free hour, I head for a corner table in the Café Teater, adjacent to the hotel proper, and happily scribble down my thoughts over a real Turkish coffee in the large, comfortably dowdy, and mostly empty rectangular room. Facing me at the room's other end is the stage, hung with a red velvet curtain. (Per its name, the café is a cabaret room by night.) Artistic types tend to gravitate here; ladies of a certain age, students and tourists flock to the café's front room, where one can admire the contents of pastry cases and, on the walls, framed menus from the 1920s.

What else does the Union offer the curious guest? The best hotel breakfast room in Ljubljana, an actually cheerful place with decent coffee; in this part of the world, those two qualities make it a rarity of rarities among hotel breakfast rooms. There's even an indoor swimming pool -- another hen's tooth. And if you're a classical music fan and are really lucky, you'll be in town in time to catch a recital in the Blue Salon by internationally known pianist Dubravka Tomsic on her home turf. Entrance free.

Starting to get the idea, now?

E-mail: Internet:
Grand Hotel Union
Miklosiceva 1
Ljubljana, Slovenia
(386) 1308-1270

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