Hotel Of The Week: Grand Hotel Union Executive, Slovenia
Don't be fooled by the boring name. The Grand Hotel Union Executive is a romantic Art Nouveau concoction. In fact, there's no better place to rest your head in Slovenia's capital
Sunday 01 October 2006
Often billed as the "new Prague", Slovenia's capital is a wonderful city in which to kick back and relax for a weekend. Devoid of Prague's chav- tastic stag and hen parties, Ljubljana is one of the prettiest capital's in Europe, with a historic centre, a towering castle and a vast array of bars and restaurants in which to just hang out. And once you've settled on a weekend here, there's only one hotel to book into. The Grand Hotel Union Executive may possess a somewhat boring, functional name but don't be fooled. It's a romantic luxury hotel, head and shoulders above the rest of the city's offerings.
Right in the the city centre, the Grand Hotel is just a few yards from Presernov Trg, the central square that's the starting point for exploration of the old town. The hotel, built in 1905, is a startlingly attractive Art Nouveau concoction - from the outside at least. Be wary of booking into its sister hotel - the even more snappily titled - Grand Hotel Union Business next door. It's a modern annexe definitely not for romantics.
The comfort factor
The bedrooms are huge with enormous beds to match. A television sits at the end of the bed, beaming in cable channels from around Europe. Rooms are quiet and well insulated, having undergone a recent modernisation. Some of the character has sadly been lost in the refurbishment. A swimming pool and sauna on the eighth floor of the adjoining business hotel offers spectacular views over the city.
Again on the large side, there's a proper bath - which are not always available in Slovenia - and big fluffy towels, bathrobes and an array of soaps, shampoos and body washes.
The food and drink
The hotel has two restaurants. For a really posh night out go for the Smrekarjev Hram, one of the best restaurants in the city. Even then it won't cost the earth. Slovenia remains ridiculously cheap and the food - a mix of Italian, Austrian and Hungarian influences - is superb. For a less flashy night out, head for the Unionska Klet, a pure Slovenian eating experience - that is, lots of meat - in the hotel's cellar. In summer the Klet moves to the Unionski Vrt (or Union Garden). Breakfast is a vast hot and cold buffet. Fruit may be preferred after all the meat of the night before.
A mix of romantic couples, stern businessmen and (inevitably) lots of Germans. The world's leaders, from Bill Clinton to the Dalai Lama, have all passed through the hotel's doors. Where else are they going to stay in Ljubljana?
The heart of the old town is about a hundred yards away. Everywhere of interest can be reached on foot and takes no more than a day to see - longer if you stop at the numerous bars and cafes along the way. The castle, perched on a hill above the city, is a strenuous but relatively short 15-minute hike. The river meanders through the city with a series of bridges linking the two halves of the city.
Lifts service every floor - the hotel says that it's one of the first in Ljubljana to have such an innovation. Slovenia is extremely child-friendly. The hotel also has apartments with kitchens - good for famlies.
One night in a double costs from €148 (£99), room only.
Grand Hotel Union, d.d. Miklosiceva 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia (00 386 1 308 12 70; gh-union.si).
For more information about Slovenia contact the UK Slovenia Tourist Office (0870 2255 305; firstname.lastname@example.org)
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* Built in 1899, Warsaw's Le Royal Meridien Bristol (00 48 225 511 000; starwoodhotels.com) is one the city's finest examples of Art Nouveau.
* Estonia's coastal resort of Parnu is home to the impressive Ammende Villa (00 372 447 3888; ammende.ee), an Art Nouveau house set in rolling parkland.
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