Opatija is a town in western Croatia, just southwest of Rijeka on the Adriatic coast. As of 2011, the town had 11,659 inhabitants in total, of which 6,657 lived in the urban settlement.
Opatija is situated in the Gulf of Kvarner in a sheltered position at the foot of Učka mountain, with Vojak peak at 1401 m. Opatija is located 90 km from Trieste by rail and 82 km from Pula by road. The city is geographically on the Istrian peninsula, though it is not in Istria county, but Primorje-Gorski Kotar county.
It is a popular summer and winter resort, with average temperatures of 10 °C in winter, and 25 °C in summer. Opatija is surrounded by beautiful woods of bay laurel. The whole sea-coast to the north and south of Opatija is rocky and picturesque, and contains several smaller winter resorts.
Opatija was included in the territory of the Liburni, a pre-Roman Illyrian people. In Roman times, the area was home to several patrician villas connected to the nearby town of Castrum Laureana, the modern Lovran.
In the Middle Ages the current town’s territory was divided between Veprinac (now a locality of Opatija, perhaps home to a small fishing port) and Kastav, where the fisherman village of Veprinac. The Benedictine Abbey of St. James was mentioned for the first time in 1453, and around it a small hamlet developed during the centuries.
The town’s modern history began in 1844, when Iginio Scarpa, a rich merchant from Rijeka, founded Villa Angiolina. In 1872 Railways came to Matulji and thus opened the path for the development of tourism in Opatija and Lovran.
In 1882 Friedrich Julius Schüler, the Managing Director of Southern Railways started the construction of villas and hotels in Opatija and Lovran, and was responsible for the unique lungomare and parks (the Company engaged Carl Schubert, director of the Viennese Emperial-Royal Society for the construction of parks). In 1882, Cesar-royal Society of the Southern railway from Vienna, led by Julius Schuler, purchased the first land with Villa Angiolina in Opatija. There, in the park Angiolina today stands FJ Schüler’s bust, the work of the sculptor Hans Rathausky.
It became a fashionable destination for the Austrian imperial family and Austrian nobility and soon more luxury hotels and villas were built. The first luxury hotel – Hotel “Quarnero” (1884) (today “Grand Hotel Kvarner”) was built to the plans by the Viennese architect Franz Wilhelm. The hotel Kronprinzessin Stephanie was opened in 1885, named after crown princess Stephanie, wife of Rudolf of Habsburg, and they both appeared at the opening. Architect Franz Wilhelm offered all luxury to the guests of the hotel, from the central heating to the pool, and, later, the cinema hall, which was connected to the central part of the hotel.
In 1887 – Heinrich von Littrow established the “Union Yacht Club Quarnero” in Opatija (founded in June / July 1886) – the first sailing club on the Adriatic. In 1889 The Austrian government officially declared Abbazia ( Opatija) as the first climatic seaside resort on the Adriatic. After the hotels, the building of villas started, for the needs of more demanding guests. The first villa was the “Amalia”, in the immediate vicinity of the hotel “Quarnero” in 1890 as hotel’s annex.
Opatija’s first guide was published in 1883 in Vienna with the title Abbazia, Idylle von der Adria. The same year saw the publication of Abbazia und seine Umgebung by Noe Heinrich, who in 1884 published Tagebuch aus Abbazia (Diary from Opatija). Joseph Rable printed Curort und Seebad Abbazia (Spa and the bathing beach in Opatija), and Peter von Radics wrote a guidebook simply titled Abbazia.
The Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I used to spend several months here during the winter. Many of these late 19th-century luxury hotels and villas have survived to present times.
In 1920 Opatija was assigned to Italy. Two years later, with the advent of Fascism, the Italian government started a program of forced italianization of the population, and most of the public positions were assigned to Italian-speaking citizens. The upper floor of Villa Amalia was built in 1930, and the building was renovated to become the summer residence of the House of Savoy.
In 1947 Opatija was given to Yugoslavia; most of the Italian-speaking population, whose percentage had substantially increased in the past years, emigrated to Italy. In 1963 the Hotel Adriatic, by the architect Andrija Cicin-Sain and his team was completed. Hotel “Adriatic” was the first hotel built in Opatija after the Austro-Hungarian era. The rooms of hotel “Adriatic” have been described as novelties in the hospitality industry. The “Casino Rosalia” was opened in Opatija – the first casino in Eastern Europe. In 1981 the Hotel “Admiral” and marina (200 berths and 40 dry berths) were completed.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the town became part of Croatia.
In 2004, 160th anniversary of tourism in Opatija, the Exclusive hotels “Wisteria” (ex “Continental”), “Melia” (ex “Soča”), “Camelia” (ex “Brijuni”) and “Magnolia” (ex “Miran”) were open under the name of the Grand Hotel 4 Opatijan flowers as well as Hotels “Miramar” and “Savoy” (ex “Dubrovnik”). In 2010 The town of Bad Ischl, near Salzburg, became the first Austrian partner city of Opatija. The charter was signed on 30 October by mayors Hannes Heide and Ivo Dujmić.
The old 14th-century Benedictine abbey, Opatija Sv. Jakova (“Abbey of Saint James”), from which the town derives its name (opatija means “abbey” in Croatian) is located in Park Svetog Jakova or Saint James’s Park. Saint James’s church, built in 1506 and enlarged in 1937, now stands on the same spot. The neo-Romanesque Church of the Annunciation with its pronounced green cupola, was designed in 1906 by architect Karl Seidl.
Another sight is the Villa Angiolina, built in 1844 by Iginio Scarpa. This villa, transformed into a museum. Since 1844. Villa Angiolina had many prominent guests
Opatija is known for the Maiden with the seagull, a statue by Zvonko Car (1956), which is positioned on a promontory by the Juraj Šporer art pavilion. It has turned into one of symbols of Opatija. A gilded variant of the statue Madonna, that once stood here but was demolished by communists after the end of World War II, now stands in front of Saint James’s Church.
The town park Angiolina contains many species of plants from all over the world. It has been protected since 1968. Close-by, vis-a-vis Hotel Imperial, stands the statue The Fountain – Helios and Selena, a work of the Austrian sculptor Hans Rathautsky from 1889. There is a 12 km-long promenade along the entire riviera, the Lungomare from Volosko, via Opatija, to Lovran.