Chris Horton gets the VIP treatment during a stay in the Croatian capital
The hotel & spa
In a city where an elegantly distressed version of Vienna’s chocolate-box architecture prevails, this gleaming, mirrored-glass monolith — occupying half a block — certainly stands out. Every time I passed beneath its flagpole-fronted entrance portico and through the revolving doors, I felt like I was arriving for a UN summit meeting. This enjoyable fantasy continued in the cavernous lobby — where helpful staff appeared, genie-like, whenever needed — and in my top-floor executive suite, which had a similarly super-sized living room.
Somewhat lost on the first floor amid a jumble of rooms reserved for business events, the Murad Wellness & Fitness is less a Zen haven and more a no-nonsense, health-and-fitness zone, which was just what I was hoping for. No waterfalls, Tibetan meditation bells and bamboo, then; instead a good-sized pool, efficient staff and a sporty, white-walled, white-uniformed vibe.
Having earlier pedalled my way up the nearby ‘Bear Mountain’, the 55-minute sports massage seemed the perfect antidote to my various aches and pains — although, being a deep-tissue treatment, I suspected that meant there’d be more pain to come. Sure enough, my masseur had a sadist’s instincts, digging her fingers, elbows and — I’m pretty certain — knees into all the areas that hurt most — working out the worst of the knots. Despite the language barrier, ‘arghh’ and ‘sorry’ were the only two words we needed — ensuring the torture never strayed beyond barely bearable. I can’t say I enjoyed a second of it, but as I suspected, this is a no-pain, no-gain treatment. The next morning, I woke up feeling like a freshly ironed shirt, ready once more to get back in the saddle.
Childish, I know, but taking the lift was a highlight of my stay. Sliding the keycard into the slot, my fellow guests would know I was bound for a top-floor executive suite. No hoi polloi up here, thank you. The tray of drinks waiting as I stepped out into the corridor was a nice touch too, as was the huge bowl of fruit that greeted me on arrival in my room. The huge suite was impressive; two TVs, an ultra-comfy bed, bath and shower, and a view of the mountain that had ruined my legs visible on the horizon.
Eat & drink
At the apex of the Sheraton’s food chain, King Tomislav Restaurant exudes an elegant yet relaxed country club vibe — lots of wood panels, tall candles and comfy upholstered chairs — plus a very reasonably priced fine dining menu. My waiter was well versed in the story behind each of the local and regional dishes. But being ravenous after my cycling exploits, I can’t say I was very receptive to my crab risotto’s biography. All I remember is that it tasted lovely, as did the perfectly cooked monkfish that followed, each paired with delicious wines whose top notes — were I less oenophilically challenged — I’d now be floridly recalling.
A fantastic city centre location, close to all of Zagreb’s main landmarks, as well as the train and bus station. Great spa, excellent dining options, huge rooms, attentive staff and an uncanny ability to make this guest feel like a visiting dignitary.
Double rooms from £152 a night; suites from £197). The 55-minute sports massage costs £36.