At the time when Opatija was emerging as a tourist resort, it was primarily a winter spa for the elite. Today, this tradition is continued with a wide range of health and wellness services offered by high-class wellness centres in many of Opatija's hotels, and also in the Thalassotherapia, a specialised clinic for treating, recovering from and preventing heart and circulatory diseases (including the modern Thalasso Wellness Centre), as well as in a series of specialised dental, aesthetic surgery and orthopaedic clinics.
It is precisely the uniqueness of nature – and here we mean a combination of mils climate, sea, luxuriant vegetation and mountainous hinterland – that in the first place drew the attention of the first promoters of what we today call „helath tourism“.
Just village of fisherman, seamen and weavers until the middle of the 19th century, Opatija started to develop more quickly after it was linked to Rijeka, by coastal road, back in 1838. Increasingly, famous guests frequented the town, so that the news on the curative effects of the „laurel grove“ on the Adriatic coast reached the salons of Vienna. Finally, the helm of Opatija''s development in the mid 1880''s was taken over by Julius Glax, a balneologist – recognized at European level. In 1889, by the Emperor''decree, Opatija officialy became a health resort, and Glax was appointed its director. The transition from 19th to the 20th century was marked by modern solutions of issues concerning water supply, the sewage system, traffic with a simultaneous establishment of doctor''s offices, sanatoriums and bathing places. Dozens of physician travelled to Opatija from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Rumania, Galicica, Italy, generally practicing during the most interesting season that, according to the views of that time, lasted from early autumn to late spring, while summer itself was incomparably less attractive for the holidays. The coastal promenade was developed gradually, in the length of 12 kilometres, and the Romanian royal couple financed the tracing of the wood promenade with belvederes and memorials. Some of the best remembered in history were emperors from germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Mexico and Ethiopia; kings and princes from Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway and many other countries; writers; dancers and dozens of other prominent people searching for relaxation, cures, inspiration, adventure, all all these things together in Opatija.
The development of Opatija as a health resort was interrupted by the world wars but it was resumed thereafter and is still going on. Today, in line with tourism trends, Opatija shows promise not only in the promotion of rehabilitation services but also in disease-prevention programmes. It has remained a reputable seat of health tourism.