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19th century

Louisenbad (Louise' spa)

In 1818, two thermal springs with healing properties were discovered in the spot where the Grand Hotel Toplice stands today. Four years later, they were covered by a wooden shed and the first swimming complex in Bled was built. In 1850, the post superintendent Hoffmann of Ljubljana began building a small hotel next to the swimming complex located on the lakeshore, which he opened in 1854. He named Louisenbad after his wife Louise. The building was the predecessor of today's Grand Hotel Toplice. The owner also built spas next to the hotel which were previously poorly maintained. In 1870, the hotel was purchased by Jožef Luckmann, a businessman and director of the Kranj Savings Bank in Ljubljana who sold it just a few years later to Count Camillo Aichelberg who had great admiration for Bled. In 1875, he enlarged the hotel building significantly and renovated it in its entirety. From the very beginning, the hotel was a favourite destination for high society which remains the same to this very day. In 1889, Hotel Louisenbad with all of the associated buildings was bought by Gustav Valtrini who was previously a chef at the hotel. Valtrini managed the hotel with his wife Fanny. They devoted a lot of attention to the hotel's furnishings and guest comfort. Hotel was opulently furnished with valuable items from around the world. It was famed for excellent cuisine. They offered their guests thermal baths and healing treatments that involved drinking the water from the thermal spring. The water from the thermal springs was recommended for the treatment of anaemia, infections, neurodegenerative diseases, rheumatism and gout.

Lithograph of the image of Bled from the 19th century. Photo of the lithograph: Jožef Wagner; Bled (1842)
Photo archives: National Museum; book: Fuhrer durch Krain 1885: Louisenbad.
Postcard of the divine image of Lake Bled. Photo: Benedikt Lergetporer, Museum of Gorenjska
Magnificent view from the Hotel Louisenbad terrace. Photo: Museum of Gorenjska

20th century

The hotel is taken over by the local Jula Molnar

In 1919, the hotel was acquired by Jula Molnar who built additional edifices with the help of architect Franz Baumgartner in 1925. She named it Toplice. In 1932, a Roman spa-type swimming pool was built at Toplice featuring 30 cabins for 90 swimmers. Thermal water from the spring located under the hotel was channelled to the pool. King Aleksander proclaimed the Suvobor mansion his royal summer residence and the nearby Hotel Toplice became the meeting place for the highest echelons, politicians, noblemen and other important people. Jula, who only finished a civic school (Bürgerschule), was nevertheless a very capable director of a premium hotel thanks to her natural intelligence and practical experience. She was able to converse with both the simple people and her renowned guests. Employees adored her. She was good and fair to everyone which is why they respected her and remained loyal to her. As a farmer's daughter, she had never heard of golf, but men came from England and Australia who knew a lot about the game and so the first golf course was developed at Bled. The kitchen was famous for excellence and the nearby wooden cafe was famed for desserts, good coffee and ice cream.

Hotel Toplice, the first hotel with its own indoor swimming pool, is still the best-known hotel in Bled that keeps the memory of the numerous famous people and many important events. 

The old Grand Hotel Toplice during the time of Jula Molnar in Bled. Photo archives: Melita Vovk
Construction of the Roman spa-type swimming pool with 30 cabins for 90 swimmers. Photo archives: Melita Vovk
The hotel quickly became a retreat for politicians, noblemen and other important people. Photo archives: Leopold Kolman, postcards
Jula, a farmer's daughter, was nevertheless a very capable director of a premium hotel thanks to her natural intelligence and practical experience. Photo archives: Melita Vovk
Jula Molnar in the traditional costume of Gorenjska. Photo archives: Melita Vovk
Kavarna Toplice in the 1930s. Photo archives: Museum of Gorenjska

WWII and the post-war period

During WWII, Bled became the provincial centre and the German administration was headquartered there. After the war, the hotel became the property of the state and turned into a Partisan military hospital. The hotel was re-opened for tourists in the beginning of May 1946. At first, these were mostly local guests with a few tourists here and there. In the fifties, foreign tourists began flocking to Bled again during the summer months. After WWII, President Tito chose Villa Bled as his residence in Slovenia where he also held formal receptions. He brought many of his guests for friendly gatherings at the nearby Grand Hotel Toplice. Foreign statesmen, diplomats and delegation members on official visits frequently stayed at the hotel. 
In 1967/69, Grand Hotel Toplice saw extensive renovation led by architect Zdravko Bregovac of Opatija. The building retained its original external appearance as it was mainly its interior that was renovated. The renovated hotel featured 120 rooms, each with an en suite bathroom. They were furnished with new period furniture, while the lobby and the salons kept a part of the original furnishings. After WWII and up until 1969, Grand Hotel Toplice operated as an independent company. The hotel's management and the employees devoted great attention to regular guests. Many of the hotel's guests were specifically so enchanted by the beauty of Bled and satisfied with the accommodation at Toplice that they returned to the hotel each year and for many decades. Regular guests usually all came in the same time slot and enjoyed special attention at the hotel – the hotel prepared grand dinners, dances and various social events.
Since 2011, the Grand Hotel Toplice has been part of the largest hotel company in Slovenia, Sava Turizem, d. d.. In order to continue to offer the highest level of hotel services, i.e. five-star services, extensive hotel renovations were undertaken in 2001. To further improve guest comfort, the number of rooms decreased, and the rooms were furnished with period furniture. A large portion of the interior furnishings was kept which gives the hotel that old timey touch with a hint of the modern. The hotel thermal baths with their classical design is complemented by the new offer of the Spa Luisa wellness centre. The renovated hotel was opened on 9 May 2002, and the ribbon was cut by the hotel's most loyal guest, Fritz Ruesch from Switzerland, who became a patron at the hotel for the first time in the summer of 1946 and then vacationed here with his wife Roesly for more than fifty years.
After WWII, the hotel became the property of the state and turned into a Partisan military hospital. Photo archives: Leopold Kolman, Bled postcards
Josip Broz Tito with statesmen (1946) Photo archives: Leopold Kolman, Bled postcards
Josip Broz Tito greeting the masses from the balcony Photo archives: Leopold Kolman, Bled postcards
Tito, Jovanka and Gierek at a reception in 1973. Photo archives of the Grand Hotel Toplice
Tito and Jovanka during the meeting with Ivan Vidic in 1973. Photo archives of the Grand Hotel Toplice
The main hall of the Grand Hotel Toplice in the 1960s. Photo archives of the Grand Hotel Toplice
The hotel thermal baths were complemented by the new offer of the Studio Luisa wellness centre.

Visitor book that reads like an exciting history novel

Some say that the heart of the Grand Hotel Toplice is the hotel salon that opens up to the magnificent view of the lake and the Bled Castle, but we would argue that it is the guests that are the heart of our hotel. Without them, it would simply not be what it is. We wanted to honour their exceptionality with a special visitor book where many an influential and important guest have signed their name. Perusing the book will take you into far-away lands across the Big Pond, kingdoms and important global political institutions as well as through the worlds of film, sports and arts. The Grand Hotel Toplice has hosted kings, more than 20 presidents, more than 20 government representatives, and tens of ministers, Nobel Prize winners, intellectuals, creatives, scientists, athletes, artists and movie stars. Each visit is a special story in and of itself.

Some of the famous people who stayed at the hotel include: Bobby Fischer (chess master and world champion, 1959), Arthur Miller (US playwright, 1965), Pablo Neruda (poet and Nobel Prize winner, 1965), Agatha Christie (writer, 1967), Franz Josef Strauss (Minister-President of Bavaria, 1969), Hussein (Jordanian King, 1978), Simon Wiesenthal (Nazi hunter), Heinrich Harrer (Austrian Alpine climber and writer), Carlo Ponti (film producer), Vivien Leigh (actress), Cliff Richards (musician, 1989), Ronald Sega (astronaut, 1994), President Süleyman Demirel (Turkish President, 1997), Garry Kasparov (chess master and world champion, 2002),  Donald Trump (current US President), Paul McCartney (musician, 2005), Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary-General, 2008), Anže Kopitar (Stanley Cup winner, 2012).

Bobby Fischer vs Paul Keres in 1959 at the Grand Hotel Toplice. Source: ChessReview.co.uk
Agatha Christie with husband Max Mallowan in August 1967. Photo: Edi Selhaus
Jordanian King Hussein during an official visit at Bled in 1978. Photo published by: A.T. Linhart Radovljica library
The hotel hosted Madeline Albright during a short stay in 1994; she was already a guest of the hotel after WWII when she vacationed at Bled with her parents. Photo: Zvone Špec
In 2001, they hosted a lunch for the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush. Photo: Zvone Špec

Small Luxury Hotels

The character of the Grand Hotel Toplice is reflected through the small treasures and grand stories that became part of the hotel itself over the centuries. Throughout its history, the hotel remained synonymous with rich tradition and premium hotel selection for the most discerning guests in a unique environment. This is why it was the first hotel in Slovenia that became member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Prestigious Hotel Association in 2009 and, thus, gained even more recognition among the most demanding foreign guests. 

Sources: Grand Hotel Toplice in njegova zgodovina (Grand Hotel Toplice and Its History), e-razgledi 2012, Muzejsko društvo Bled, Monika Rogelj, MA. 
Pozabljena polovica: portreti žensk 19. in 20. stoletja na Slovenskem (Forgotten Half: Portairts of Ladies from the 19th and 20th Century in Slovenia), Alenka Šelih, Milica Antić Gaber, Alenka Puhar, Tanja Rener, Rapa Šuklje and Marta Verginella. 

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