First Images: The Legendary Hôtel du Palais Biarritz Reopens After Swish Makeover

In 2017, the New York Times declared that “Biarritz is back in style.” The comely French seaside town, just 35 km from the Spanish border, had emerged as the height of Belle Époque fashion when the Biarritz Bonheur department store opened in 1894. Eventually, during the 1960s, it became Europe’s first genuine surfing destination…and still draws the surf set to this day.

It also boasts one of Europe’s most exalted 5-star hotels. Indeed, the Hotel du Palais opened all the way back in 1855, having been specifically built for Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III – so, yes, it was absolutely meant to be showy. It would go on to play host to the likes of Chaplin, Hemingway and Jean Cocteau, and to royalty the likes of Queen Victoria and Edward VII. It remains a regular stop on the European jetsetting tour.

Now part of Hyatt’s upscale Unbound Collection, it was closed in autumn of 2018 to commence a complete and thorough modernization. And under the direction of Parisian interior design firm Atelier COS, together with heritage architect Isabelle Joly, it has been brought gloriously into the 21st Century. But rather than upset its essential character, instead the hotel’s sumptuous period furniture, tapestries, furniture fabrics and trompe l’œil artworks were restored by a team of expert craftspeople – woodworkers, designers, painters, seamstresses, tailors with a sensitivity to its history.

The 142 new rooms and suites, with their neoclassical paneling and now scrubbed pristine, feature elegantly understated blue and white color schemes, while those on the top floor are done up in refined hues of marine, and fitted with rounded windows and portholes, to to mimic a luxurious cruise ship. There’s also 100 square meter Royale Suite, for those in need of a serious post-pandemic splurge.

Considering the hotel’s geography, young chef Aurélien Largeau (he’s just 28, and rising fast) will oversee the culinary program at La Rotonde restaurant and Bar Napoléon III by drawing influence from, yet updating Basque Country traditions. Still, whatever one happens to be indulging in, it is strongly recommended to spend as much epicurean chill time as possible on the glorious sea-facing terrace – as everything tastes better with such captivating views of the Atlantic.

The new Hotel du Palais and the House of Guerlain have also collaborated on a spectacular, 3000 square meter Imperial Spa (yes, even the wellness center sounds aristocratic) – with a jacuzzi, Turkish bath, sauna and an Institut du Cheveu Leonor Greyl salon.

Obviously, we’re still waiting on definitive word on the lifting of the travel bans. But if summer does not take us back to Europa, the surf is still good in autumn, while a culinary whirl through Biarritz, and nearby Bayonne and San Sebastian is pretty much an epicure’s dream. And, well, you can sleep where Napoleon III’s Empress once did – which is kind of awesome.

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