A design tour of InterContinental Ljubljana
Design's new European destination
If your only reference to Slovenia is Melania Trump, then the country's tourism board probably hasn't made its promo tours to your doorstep yet. A country that borders its more fabulous, touristy neighbours Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, it's humble in size but packs a punch — one that hasn't quite bruised travel addicts from our side of the globe. That is, till late last year, when its capital, Ljubljana, welcomed its first luxury international hotel chain in the form of InterContinental Ljubljana. Oh, it helps that the city won the National Geographic's 2017 World Legacy Award for cleanliness.
Before we convince you to book a room in a massive hotel chain instead of, say, a cute little AirBnb or boutique hotel, here's a crash course on Slovenia and its capital. Yes, the First Lady is a Slovenian native (she grew up in Sevnica), but the fairer Trump's far from a national treasure. Slovenia's claims to fame — and there are generous with these — lie in its salt, pumpkin seed oil, truffle and of course, its gorgeous lake and mountain regions such as Bled, Bohinj and the Julian Alps. A tiny country nestled between the Alps and the Adriatic, it's said that everything in Slovenia can be reached within a matter of hours. Your home base? InterContinental Ljubljana, which merges the city's cool, 'new Berlin' edge and its storied past.
Situated on the edge of the old town in Ljubljana in what used to be a construction pit left behind by an unfinished project, the site began its work in December 2015, before introducing Ljubljana's tallest hotel in August 2017. Housing 165 rooms over 20 floors in a steel and glass tower, it's the second highest building in Slovenia, after the Crystal Palace at the BTC City Shopping Centre. The presence of such luxury trappings is a massive vote of confidence in a city that's beginning to find its legs in the international travel sector, inviting guests across the large IHG Rewards network.
At such a height, you'll get sweeping views across Ljubljana's city centre, Prešern Square, Tivoli Park as well as the castle. With a population of a little more than 270,000, Ljubljana's heart flows through the Ljubljanica River, where charming bridges unite the medieval-esque streets. Like what Gaudi did to Barcelona, architect Joze Plecnik did to Ljubljana, where its 20th century modern architecture style borrowed heavily from the Italian Renaissance aesthetic — something you'll see in the Triple Bridge and the covered market buildings in the old town.
Munich-based interior designers Kevin and Sonja Wright of Wright Associates brought Ljubljana's architectural pride into the rooms of the city's InterContinental home. As soon as you enter the lobby, leather, gold and marble finishings set the tone, encasing you in an air of undeniable sophistication away from the hurried activity outside.
Ljubljana's city outline is etched by the reception, while the design decal on the windows is based on local Slovenian handicrafts of cross stitch and embroidery — a detail that was then enlarged by Wright Associates to create a modern pattern on the bed cushions. In the rooms, photographs of Ljubljana's architectural details remind you once again of Plecnik's gifts, amid a palette of dusty pinks, soft greys and rich teals.
In a love letter to the city's architectural identity, subtle nods to its aesthetic are further seen in the mirrors, carpets and rugs. Sculptural light bulbs by the bed and a modern, light-filled bathroom give the rooms a modern edge, despite the luxury hotel brand's age-old reputation. Meanwhile, floor-to-ceiling windows give you a glimpse of what the capital has to offer — a trek up to a fairytale-like castle, perhaps? There's no better welcome to Slovenia than this.