The Slovenia Times

Kempinski Palace Portorož - The All Stars



"With white hats and kisses on their faces, they come out of gardens like eternal ghosts - on the pictures with greetings: Portorož 1905...". So goes the chorus of a Slovene pop song, which unwillingly played in my mind upon arrival in the coastal town of Portorož.
The song is trying to capture the sprit of a time when the town's beach was one of only a handful of famous European seaside resorts. It was at exactly this time that the Port of Roses got its prestigious Grand Hotel Palace. Its glory however didn't last long as the first world war left it abandoned. It was an abandonment that lasted up until the nineteen-fifties, when the facility was put back into business as a place for eminent guests of the then Yugoslavia. Needless to say, there were more than a few: from the omnipresent Marshall Tito to film stars and singers such as Yul Bryner, Orson Welles, Rita Pavone and Adriano Celentano. Years went by and a thorough reconstruction became unavoidable, but the trouble was that such work had to meet the requirements both of a new spatial plan and of strict heritage protection. It was a challenge which saw the property gradually decline until it ultimately closed, in 1990. Then it took 18 long years to put it back in business. The hotel, which served two different kingdoms and two republics was finally reopened, shining its five stars as the only "superior" facility in the country.

Autumn in the palace

My visit proved that it was worth the wait. My short stay fell in Autumn, a time at which the Grand Palace finally shifts into a lower gear. During the hot summer period the thrill is out there on the beach and the promenade; now the hotel itself needs to cover more of your leisure time.
It does just that. Needless to say, but anyway: the concierge was nice and quick. So was the receptionist. The rooms spacious, well arranged, nicely decorated, mindfully lighted, Wi-fi everywhere... Minibar keeps all the essentials. Even if you are not ready to spend 1400 EUR on a bottle of 1995 Cristal Brut Rosé Roederer champagne, it feels good to have it available, along with other delicacies in the extensive room service menu. The view of the sunset over the Piran Bay is charming, but of course, not every room has it.
Then there is the hotel itself. It was a special challenge for the architect to combine the old structure with the ultra-modern glass extension and hi-tech infrastructure. The old part was largely rebuilt, but has retained its classical look and partly the configuration with the fabulous Crystal hall. Other places too retain the spirit of early times: the piano hall, the bar, Sophia restaurant... The gentlemen's club and the ladies' one at the other end of a hotel is a reminder of the age of sexual segregation. Imagine lads smoking cigars and discussing politics while the dames playing bridge. Nowadays the rooms serve as slightly isolated party spaces for anyone.
Bon appetit! The hotel boasts two restaurants: Fleur de Sel is a modern, trendy, fusion food place, while Sophia impresses with a traditional atmosphere, where both the ambience and personnel bring that discrete charm of the golden ages. The restaurant is actually a temple for goddess Sofia Loren, who was a guest at the hotel too. The food here is simply divine. German chef Curt and French pastry chef David put both creativity and a sense of prestige on the plate. The meal began with a special Seawater jelly, the product of the chef's limitless creativity, and was followed by New Zealand Wagyu beef with foie gras. The memory of that meal will linger a long time and I would highly recommend Sofia restaurant to non-guests as well.
Breakfast is delightful too, both delicious and healthy. Brunch in the Crystal Hall lasts until noon, so if the night was short there is no need to have only a few hours' sleep in order to catch the first meal of the day.

Pampering on hand

And if you need a little more to help you start the day, the on-site Rose spa is ready to pamper. Its indoor swimming pool with jaccuzzi might not be the biggest, but it is perfect in the cold months when bathing in sea water becomes a luxury. Then there is a series of feel-good services available at not exaggerated prices. With a congress hall and meeting rooms also found within the hotel, the place is ideal for both private and corporate events.
After all, my travelling career started as an adventurist backpacker when the worse the hole meant the more excitement. Then, over the years, comfort gained in importance. Privately, I still don't find enough reason to seek out high-end attributes. And I believe that star ratings can be misguiding, so I rely on Tripadvisor and the agencies who solve the equation and define the hotel's real feel simply by the price they set.
On the other hand, as a journalist I sometimes get lucky enough to spend time in the best places there are. Early this year I visited an Asian country, where the host put me into an elite hotel with a hot reference: a few months earlier, US president Obama had been there too. So make no mistake - I know what excellence means... And when it comes to Kempinski Palace in Portorož, it is definitely one place I would recommend to my hotel buddy Barack.
Quite simply, this luxurious hotel fulfills the expectations of its reputation: five star, superior, plus an extra that comes with the Kempinski franchise standards. With lounges, restaurants, bars ("from black bikini to black tie") and terraces, the hotel appears very social. It's a perfect companion to Portorož itself, a town of many exciting recreation and leisure options.

Kempinski Palace Portorož
Obala 45, 6320 Portorož, Slovenia
T +386 (0)5 692 70 70


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