In 1844 Opatija began its life as a resort; with stunning coastal views and a mild climate it quickly drew an aristocratic clientele. The Grand Hotel Kvarner opened its doors, noblemen began to build spacious villas, and Opatija became the fashionable seaside resort of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. Here elegant ladies strolled the lush gardens and parks in the shade of parasols, and dancers swayed to the tempo of the waltz. On a terrace overlooking the blue bay, kings and emperors negotiated alliances and hatched plots. The grand residences of the wealthy are now hotels that still exude the air of elegance of a bygone age.