top of page

The Fabulous Interior Design of Yugoslav-era Hotels & Motels

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

In the years of research I have done examining the history, art, architecture and culture in order to work towards an understanding the monuments of the former Yugoslavia, I have come across thousands of bright and vibrant vintage images from that region. While the majority of these images are outside of my primary field of study, many are simply so vivid, engaging and awe-inspiring in their design and aesthetics that I save them and put them aside as curios for later study. Among these that I consistently find most moving and mind-blowing are the vintage images which depict the bold and ambitious interior design of the hotels and motels across Yugoslavia. As the idea of Yugoslavia's unique approach to interior design in their touristic accommodations intrigued me more and more, I began to look into the topic myself and found there was very little writing on the topic and even FEWER places online where one could view a wide selection of dynamic examples of interior design during the country's "Golden Era". Yugoslavia's distinct expression of interior design and decor without a doubt elevated the endeavor to an energetic art form that sadly does not receive the attention it should, which is especially unfortunate as the few remaining examples within the region are quickly disappearing as the result of renovations, rebuilds and demolitions. As such, I felt it might then be a fun and constructive exercise to catalog here a small gallery (with descriptions) of some of the most intriguing examples I have found of interior decoration, architecture and design within the hotels and motels built during the Yugoslav era.


Motel Vratnik, Vratnik, Croatia

A view of the exterior of the Motel Vratnik. Credit: Morton1905@flickr

Name: Motel Vratnik

Location: Vratnik, Croatia

Present-Day Condition: Destroyed and abandoned

Coordinates: 44°58'40.3"N, 14°59'08.7"E

Description: Situated above Senj on a mountain pass of the Adriatic coastal range along the route between Zagreb and Split was Motel Vratnik. As Yugoslavia developed the Adriatic coast as its premiere holiday zone during the 1950s and 60s, this motel was one of the many 'motor lodges' to service this burgeoning new industry auto-tourists. Motel Vratnik was positioned along the mountain pass perfectly as to take in the stunning views of Kvarner Bay, with some saying this spot possessed some of the most amazing vistas in Yugoslavia. In the above vintage photos of the motel in its prime, we see its wonderfully bright design, its walls hung with abstract art of rustic modern-folk fusion, and, most distinctively, its earthy palette of golds, dark reds and oranges. In the post-Yugoslav era, the motel became privatized, as most such state-owned properties did. Its new owner made several attempts to sell the motel, but all were unsuccessful. It recent years, it has fallen into a state of total decay and dereliction. Photos of its present state can be seen in THIS Flickr gallery.


Hotel Maestoso, Lipica, Slovenia

A postcard showing some horses in front of Hotel Maestoso

Name: Hotel Maestoso

Location: Lipica, Slovenia

Present-Day Condition: Still in operation (renovated)

Coordinates: 45°40'05.5"N, 13°52'57.0"E

Description: Just east across the Italian border from Trieste into Slovenia can be found the small village of Lipica where you can find Hotel Maestoso. Lipica itself is a world-renowned location which hosts the worlds oldest continually operating stud-farm, which was founded in the 1500s. The farm specializes in the unique Slovene Lipizzan horse. In the 1960s the farm opened up to tourists and was developed into a sort of luxury hotel complex, mostly catering to an decidedly upper class clientele, as seen in its posh decor in the above vintage images. The hotel contained not only facilities for horses, but also a nightclub, a bowling alley, fine-dining establishments and much more. As the above vintage images illustrate, the interior design of the complex was attempting to create a middle-ground between classical and modern, where we can see flourishes of traditional craftsmanship peppered with bright colors and patterns characteristic of the 60s and 70s. Hotel Maestoso continues to operate until present-day, but was completely renovated in recent decades, with the majority of the design elements seen in these vintage images now gone.


Hotel Mojkovac, Mojkovac, Montenegro

A vintage promotional postcard showing Hotel Mojkovac

Name: Originally named Hotel "Mojkovac" (currently 'Hotel Palas')

Location: Mojkovac, Montenegro

Present-Day Condition: Currently closed (condition unknown)

Coordinates: 42°57'27.5"N, 19°34'42.8"E

Description: Nestled high in the Montenegrin mountain town of Mojkovac is a hotel complex that was originally named in honor of the town it resided within, Hotel "Mojkovac". Unveiled in 1974 and created by famous Montenegrin female architect Svetlana Kana Radević, this huge hotel was a showcase of Yugoslav modernist architecture. The hotel was designed as a playful take on the traditional mountain A-frame lodge, with a downward succession of smaller triangles cascading to either side of the central middle triangle. The interior design of the Hotel Mojkovac was just as much a product of its era as its architecture was, characterized most predominately with its bold use of earth-tone colors, particularly in the lobby and reception area where a imposing dark-red shade was heavily employed. The complex was privatized in the post Yugoslav era and sold to developers, at which point its name was changed to "Hotel Palas". The establishment continued to operate into the 2010s (for which very poor reviews were left on Trip Advisor), however, it was closed down around 2015 after attempts to sell the property were unsuccessful. Yet, news reports indicate that it was eventually sold in 2018 to a Belgrade developer and was to be renovated and re-opened soon. But as of 2020, the hotel still appears to be closed. It is not clear to what degree the hotel's original interior is still intact.