Hotel of the month: Hôtel du Palais

In Biarritz, this once imperial residence is now a high-end hotel with arguably the best views along the French Atlantic Coast

Sat at my desk, scrolling through never-ending email chains and stubborn to-do lists, I close my eyes and breathe. The first thing that appears in my mind is the salty breeze of a distant sea, toes curling in the sand. Suddenly I’m transported, living in a dreamscape where old-world elegance found in the books of Fitzgerald and James collides with coastal bliss. Hôtel du Palais is one such destination. Pinch me. 

The only hotel on the French Atlantic Coast to be recognised with “Palace” status, Hôtel du Palais is the jewel of Biarritz. Originally built in 1854 by Napoleon III as a summer retreat for his bride, Empress Eugenie, the former imperial residence is a symbol of love, romantically styled in Belle Epoque decor.

Guests are immediately met with ornate cornicing, grand chandeliers and high ceilings in the lobby, a mere taste of the grandeur yet to be experienced. After four years of renovation, the hotel reopened its doors in June last year to reveal a rich Imperial style, restored to its original regal glory – resplendent with rare paintings, refined tapestries and marble flooring.

Consisting of 142 rooms, including 56 suites, each is uniquely decorated with charmingly historic flair and boasts panoramic views of either the Atlantic Ocean or the city of Biarritz. Perhaps the crowning jewel is the Royal Suite. Spread across 1,075sqft of sumptuous luxury, the suite opens up to a spectacular terrace with unparalleled seascapes (that’s if you can drag yourself away from the king-size bed and rain shower).

With six different dining locations – seven if you count chef Aurélien Largeau’s specially curated room service – there is an abundance of flavour waiting to be discovered. The Michelin-starred restaurant La Table d’Aurélien Largeau serves a creative vision of the Basque Country using traditional techniques of contemporary French cuisine. An ode to authentic tastes, expect fresh seafood, honest cuisine and gourmet pastries.

As the sun sets along the Basque Coast, guests are welcomed to Hôtel du Palais’ newest concept: Le Sunset. With seasonal offerings from the sea and land, this laid-back poolside space nestles alongside the hotel’s lush gardens. Almost extending out into the ocean itself, the pool beside Le Sunset is heated seawater, inviting you in with a sense of out-to-sea freedom. 

In the impossible possibility that you’re just not relaxed enough, the 26,900sqft Imperial Spa features face and skincare treatments in partnership with Guerlain, inspired by the fresh fragrances of orange blossom, bergamot, lemon, lavender and rosemary created for Empress Eugenie in 1853. Together with the whirlpool, sauna, solarium and hammam, a day of pure relaxation is, let’s face it, inevitable. 

It is just as inevitable that you will fall in love with this architecturally grand, palatial wedding present (take note, grooms to be). World-class food, high-end Empire-style suites and unforgettable views; I dare you not to get a little bit of a crush.

Bryony Smith is a London-based writer

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