“ Address: Silvija Strahimira Kranjčevića 29 10000 / Zagreb / Croatia „
Zagreb's Hotel Laguna is one of those wonderful relics from the 'socialist' era that is now increasing rare. Perhaps because of the hotel's not inconsiderable size and its location a ten minute tram ride from the city centre, the hotel has remained largely un-renovated although I would be quick to point out that this only means that the public areas are dated (in the most fabulous way) and even the un-renovated bedrooms are of a good standard for the price you can get by shopping round.
We booked through Expedia about a week before our stay; we'd been let down by the accommodation we'd already booked and needed to organise an alternative in a hurry. When booking it was made clear that we were paying for an un-renovated room, but we did have the choice of a renovated room if we wished. As we expected only to sleep in the room we were happy enough to have an un-renovated room and, besides, the alternatives closer to the city centre were very expensive.
Hotel Laguna is situated to the south west of the city centre a brisk ten minute walk from Glavni Kolodvor, the main train station. There are a number of popular tourist attractions between the station and the hotel, such as the botanic gardens and the technical museum, and there are several sports stadiums nearby so the hotel is quite popular with visiting teams. The hotel has secure car-parking but trams to the city centre stop about one hundred metres away. In spite of the proximity of a busy road and a train-line, the hotel enjoys a surprisingly quiet location, sandwiched into an area of residential accommodation and small local bars and shops.
It is difficult to talk about this hotel without sounding over the top with enthusiasm for the main foyer; it really is something very special and a trip to the days before the fall of the 'Iron Curtain' but I recognise that most visitors will be more interested in the standard of the rooms and the service than the decor of an area of the hotel they can expect to spend only a little time in. All the usual features of a Communist era hotel are present - an impossibly long reception desk, huge tinted windows, a travel agency, a hair-dressing salon, a small souvenir shop, original lighting and a wonderful 1970s ceiling. There is one concession to the twenty-first century in the shape of a computer with internet access. The reception staff speak English and we found all the staff we dealt with during our stay to be very helpful and friendly, able to direct us to public transport without any fuss.
Our room was on the second floor and as we made our way to it we noted that the public areas were well maintained and very clean. There were none of the scuff marks you often get on the walls of hotel corridors caused by careless chambermaids pushing trolleys or guests dragging heavy luggage.
On entering our room the bathroom was immediately to one side of the door and then a second door to the sleeping area blocked any possible noise from people passing along the corridor. We had a simple twin room and, except for the museum piece (but only museum exhibiting relatively recent design classics) telephone and the industrial-look bedside lights, you might never have guessed that this was an un-renovated room. The rather nice aubergine coloured carpet looked pretty new and the furniture, though very basic, was in good repair. There was a television with plenty of international channels including BBC news, and a mini bar that we used for keeping our water cool rather than for buying from. All rooms have free wi-fi access and the easy to follow instructions were provided on a printed sheet; the signal was good and we had no problem in getting and maintaining the connection.
The bathroom was not as good as the sleeping area though it was spotlessly clean and looked fine on first view. It was by no means a luxury bathroom but it was free of any bathroom horrors like mildew or cracked tiles. Although there is a shower over the bath, the tub is one of those short ones so common in this part of the world (I am not very tall and can't stretch out in the bathtub in our Slovenian apartment) and not ideal for a relaxing soak. The side of the bathroom is quite high and I struggled to climb in because of the height and concerns over slipping; this was compounded by the fact that this end of the bath was sloped making it doubly difficult to climb in. Getting in at the other end of the bathtub was not an option because the washbasin, which was unnecessarily large for the room, impeded access.
The height at which the hairdryer had been wall-mounted was also an issue for me and with an aching arm I gave us and left my hair to dry in what was developing into a lovely Zagreb spring day. We were leaving Zagreb early and wanted to get a good start so we were showering by 6.30 am and found the water to be only just warm; when we returned to our room after breakfast, we found the water to be much hotter so obviously this hotel has a problem with supplying hot water throughout the hotel at times of peak demand, hardly ideal for a hotel that seems to take a lot of coach parties and group bookings.
Breakfast was served - or rather 'self-served' in the massive restaurant. Nobody asked to see our room number or enquired about it, however staff were on hand and kept tables clear and food replenished. The spread was pretty good and included those eastern bloc curiosities such as tuna and vegetable pasta salad and over-boiled broccoli that make breakfast times in this part of the world so exciting. Fortunately there was also a more conventional choice of cereals (though all were poured into large bowls and therefore no good for the nut allergy in our party - me), cold meats and cheeses, scrambled eggs and hot sausages, fruit, yoghurts and pastries.
The coffee was pretty bad but there was a decent choice of fruit and herbal teas though anyone hoping for a cup of PG-like tea will be disappointed (my tip is to bring your own teabags if you are a fan of an English style cuppa as they are like hens' teeth in this part of the world).
We didn't have a drink in the hotel bar during our stay but we did have to pass through on route to the restaurant and I almost had to don my shades against the gaudy colours of the chairs and sofas which look very out of place in what is really an icon of seventies interior design. One of the great things about this hotel is that (whether you choose an unrenovated, or a modernised room) you can have a comfortable stay and still enjoy the old style public areas, whereas I've stayed in some hotels of this kind that looked great but weren't that comfortable in practice. Sooner or later some chain will buy up this hotel and renovate it and these treasures will be lost and this will be a terrible shame.
Neither did we use the gym or sauna, or the first floor hair dressers, though it is comforting to know that had either of us wished to be transported to 1970s hairstyle-land, the means were close to hand. I do wonder who uses the hair salon in a hotel, but, then again, I rarely spend more than one or two nights in the same hotel and prefer sightseeing to a shampoo and set.
We paid Euro58 for our (unrenovated) twin room which was a fairly good price for Zagreb. However, you are a little way out of the centre and although the walk is manageable, you probably wouldn't to do it several times a day, making this the sort of hotel you'd leave in the morning and return to after dinner.
The weather was unseasonably good when we visited in mid April. I would recommend taking a more expensive room with air-conditioning in the summer months as Zagreb does get very hot.
(Contrary to any suggestion thrown up by the hotel's name, I couldn't find a lake anywhere close by )