Slovenia’s Bastion by the Sea: The Kempinski Palace Portorož Istria

All Images Credit Kempinski Hotels and Resorts

Slovenia’s most popular coastal city is Portoroz. The namesake of this seaside haven along the Adriatic coast is the rose which you’ll find everywhere, along with manicured gardens with brilliant bougainvillea bushes and trickling water fountains. This sun-drenched town on the Mediterranean coast is where Europeans have flocked for centuries for some vitamin D therapy, lazing on the well-groomed beaches, and time and in and on the water. This is the Istria region and where you’ll find the country’s most iconic grand dame hotel, the Kempinski Palace Portorož Istria.  

Portoroz is certainly a history rich in history. Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was then, as it is today, the place for wealthy Europeans to vacation for summers and more moderate winters.  It is first and foremost a seaside retreat along Slovenia's sublime stretch of coastline on the Adriatic Sea. It lies a short distance and within view of both Italy and Croatia. 

The Mediterranean climate and flawless beaches have made it the country’s most popular coastal haunt where you’ll see countless hotels, casinos, waterfront cafes, and upscale shops.  But the beach is why they come and the swaths of golden sand lead into the sea.  In the summer months, the curved coastline is filled with chaise lounges and umbrellas. You’ll also see the boats and yachts dashing back and forth as well as several marinas in the area including Lacija with its popular waterfront eateries and bars.

Beyond the beaches, the most popular experience in Portoroz is actually out of town. A 30-minute stroll along the coastal boardwalk leads to the neighboring town of Piran. The divine Venetian-era village has cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and narrow streets, making it a must-visit destination while in Portoroz. The sunsets over the Adriatic Sea are beyond divine as well.   

The Kempinski Palace has welcomed guests for over a century. It is, as its name states, a palatial hotel with grand ballrooms adorned with hand-painted frescos, high ceilings, marble floors, and contemporary artworks and furnishings. Guests meander along the hotel’s wide veranda that overlooks the waterfront, and indulge in its many outlets to wine and dine. The palace respects the past while looking toward the future with a recently built ultra-modern wing with a swanky pool and spa area.   Around the hotel, there are 100-year-old forested parks, water fountains, and glorious gardens. The hotel is centrally located along the seafront promenade of boutiques, cafes’, and restaurants.  The hotel has their own private beach yet the most impressive feature remains the views over the Slovenian coast, especially its mesmerizing sunsets.

This is one of Slovenia’s most iconic hotels and oozes grandeur and sophistication from its baroque façade to its marble-floored hallways, grand ballrooms, and elegant bars and common areas. The Palace was built in 1908 and retains its gravitas from when it was an elite retreat for the Venetian Republic and the Viennese Hapsburgs. Europe’s upper crust came seeking a seaside resort as well as therapeutic sea salts, mud baths, and mineral-rich thermal springs fed SPAs. The hotel’s most famous guest was Sophia Lauren who now has their fine dining restaurant named in honor of her visit.

Over the years, due to political and other factors, the hotel lost its popularity and luster and finally closed in the early 80s. It was reopened after extensive renovations and a new ultra-modern wing, with spa, and uber-chic pool scene was added. With its rebirth, the Kempinski Palace Portorož Istria again took its rightful position as the finest hotel in Slovenia and amongst the best luxury hotels in Europe.

The hotel offers 181 spacious and well-appointed accommodations. The rooms and suites are exceptionally large with high ceilings, well-crafted interiors, marble bathrooms with rain showers and tubs,  and high-tech electronics. Accommodations in the heritage palace offer classic décor and exquisite views of the sea from juliete balconies. Beyond that, guests have the rare opportunity to stay in a palace that is such an important part of Slovenian history.

Accommodations in the new wing are sleek and modern with floor-to-ceiling windows. Again, the standout feature is the views over the sea as well as the sultry pool scene below. Rooms are made complete with expansive outdoor terraces with a sitting area and chaise lounge chair. Paying honor to the city’s icon, each room has a large rose integrated into its décor.  

There are several dining options at the hotel including their stylish and trendy Fleur de Sel focusing on seafood and Slovenia dishes where guests dine by candlelit, al fresco,  on the terrace. For breakfast, one truly feels like royalty dining on an extravagant breakfast buffet with live cooking stations, champagne, smoothies and juice maker, and more. Guests then take their breakfast on the terrace overlooking the gardens and promenade or indoors in the lavish grand ballroom.  

The hotel's most notable culinary experience takes place in Sophia. The restaurant offers a truly exceptional dining experience in a dining area with a grand décor of ornate ceilings, rich wood pillars, and a fireplace. The beauty of the restaurant was inspired by the hotel's most famous guest, Sophia Lauren, whose cinematic photos and paintings of her add to the décor. The design is not the only appetizing feature by far. The haute cuisine is among the finest in the city. Dining is a special occasion with a degustation menu of Mediterranean-Italian gourmet cuisine perfectly paired with Slovenian and international wines.   

Beyond relaxing on the hotel’s private beach area, the temptation to enjoy the water at the hotel is hard to resist. Indoors there’s a sleek saltwater pool along with a hot tub as well as Finnish, Turkish, or Infrared saunas. The hotel's most posh area is the pool scene with Balinese daybeds, chaise lounges, and an expansive pool with hotel guests being waited on by their attentive staff.   Beyond the pool, the Rose Spa is in the hotel's modern wing and offers a range of treatments such as their Himalayan salt massage or the Secret of the Rose Ritual.

The Kempinski Palace Portorož Istria is a playground for the beau monde in search of a sophisticated seaside holiday. This iconic hotel offers a regal set of pampering services and lavish amenities. The ideal location, sun sea, sand, and a royal palace are as fitting for today’s elite travelers as they were for the beau monde that the hotel catered to over 100 years ago.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 105 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)

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