Around the World in 80 Hotels/2
In 40 years, the author of these lines has researched the history of about 500 of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, and has written over 50 history books about them. A journey around the world can take – as we have all learnt – 79+1 days, but it can also take you to 80 different hotels. My journey follows the list of The Most Famous Hotels in the World.
PART 2: FRANCE — GERMANY — SWITZERLAND — AUSTRIA
On our tour around the globe, which will take you, dear reader, only a few minutes and which has taken me so far 40 years of my writer’s life, we have reached the continent. In Paris, we currently feature 16 hotels, among them of course, Monsieur Meurice’s establishment. His story is reminiscent of so many entrepreneurial tales of the early days of hospitality. The year was 1771: In those days many of the British upper class would travel to Paris (and now we all know why!). In Calais, the town where the British arrived after crossing the Straits of Dover, an enterprising postmaster by the name of Charles-Augustin Meurice (1739-1820) decided he could make some money out of them. He started putting them up in his local coaching inn and escorting them to Paris with his coach service. In those days it was a 36-hour trip. Some four decades later, in 1817, Meurice built a second coaching inn in Paris. Well, the rest is history.
Of course we also feature The Crillon, The George V., The Ritz, The Plaza Athenee, ... France, all together, has over 25 famous hotels, from the palaces at the Cote d’Azur to the fabled Du Palais in Biarritz. In Monte Carlo we always visit the Hotels de Paris, Hermitage and Metropole.
In Germany, we find over 20 historical hotels like The Elephant in Weimar (1696), The Bayerischer Hof Munich, The Atlantic and Vier Jahreszeiten, both in Hamburg. We have spent a wonderful time at the Vier Jahreszeiten, then under general manager Gert Prantner, who told us so much about its history. The rest – for our book Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg, we found out via our author Kurt Grobecker, a local historian.
The Nassauer Hof in Wiesbaden is another of our haunts. Only a few miles away, in Frankfurt, I spend inspiring weeks at the Frankfurter Hof. There, in the metropolis at the Rhine, we produced the history of this splendid hotel. Travellers, please take note: in October, during the Book Fair, the hotel goes through its busiest but also best of times. Therefore, reservation is key, otherwise you could find yourself sleeping on one of the cosy armchairs of the Author’s Bar!
In the book the hotel is described: Since 1876 the Frankfurter Hof is among the most famous hotels in
the world. Its façade is a reminiscence of glorious days, of splendid
festivities and heydays of an empire. But it is also a symbol of
downfall and resurrection – the economic miracle of the post war years –
an allegory of modern Germany.
Since the days of César Ritz the most experienced hoteliers managed this hotel. This book offers an intimate view into the life of the past and present days of the Frankfurter Hof, presenting images and sources never published before.
The guests of the Frankfurter Hof come from all over the world and from all different backgrounds. This book introduces over 800 names from the hotel’s guest book, a fine selection of illustrious personalities.
While researching the history of the hotel I, once again, came across the traces of César Ritz, by now a familiar face. He was the general manager of this establishment around 1900, after he had left London. My book Frankfurter Hof is one of my personal favourites.
A series of castles and villas are successfully operated as hotels – For example, Villa Königstein near Frankfurt, opened in 1956 and is among the top rated hotels. I have written a small paperback about it. It is, however, too small to be an Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World (minimum of 50 rooms).
Switzerland (22 Select Member Hotels) is the home of great hotels and hoteliers. The Palaces in Gstaad and St Moritz as well as all the great resort hotels in the mountains and at the lakes are Select Members of our organisation.
In Davos stands The Grand Hotel Belvédère, , where – since 1876 – guests have been entertained by a meticulous timetable of diversion. I’d like to point out that the famoushotels team has spent a most productive time researching there. I have written a book about the history of Davos and this legendary and largest palatial hotel construction in the Alps. Here we have met the fabulous archivist Timothy Nelson, who also became the recipient of the first ‘Keeper of the Archives’ award in 2015.
In Davos I discovered that within one decade grand authors like John A. Symonds, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.E. Preston Muddock and Sherlock Holmes inventor Arthur Conan Doyle had spent many months there during the 1880s-1890s.
Empress Elisabeth was a great traveller. The Austrian Empress was one of the first guests at Reid’s Hotel on Madeira. She was stabbed to death in front of Geneva’s Beau Rivage (Switzerland).
Zurich is the only city where money is lavishly used to display understatement.
The hotels along Lake Geneva are the legendary Montreux Palace, Beau Rivage, Lausanne, and many more. In front of Geneva’s Beau Rivage, where she stayed, Austria’s Empress Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ was stabbed to death.
The Hotel des Bergues was among the first in Europe (1835), its Golden Book goes back only to 1861, with Ludwig, King of Bavaria, Frederick Wilhelm, afterwards the German Emperor, and his consort, Victoria, Crown Princess and Princess Royal of Great Britain and in the 20th century the Prince of Wales, briefly King Edward VIII.
Zurich is famous for the hotel that was opened by a certain Mr Baur at the lake, the Baur au Lac. It is our hub in the only city in the world where money is lavishly used to emphasise understatement.
Since its opening on 13. April 1865, the Beau Rivage is one of the most important meeting places in a city that stands as a synonym for international relations: Geneva.
Why not hop on a train and travel to Lucerne? The grand hotels there were once homes to the wealthy aristocrats and famous artists of Europe. Today they are occupied by wealthy Arabs and their entourages. The Schweizer Hof is privately operated by its owning family, a concept that proves to be still one of the working formulas of this trade.
From Lucerne I took the historic steamboat and travelled to Vitznau, at the northern shore of this huge lake. I checked into the historic Park Hotel, renovated by Austrian millionaire Peter Pühringer and produced our first large coffee table book about the history of tourism of the entire region and that fairy-tale-dream castle called Park Hotel Vitznau. English photographer Michelle Chaplow took the stunning photographs.
< This is the first book in the Palace Edition of famoushotels. Over 100 years of tradition and yet brand new: it reopend after three years of a complete renovation (basically its entire inner life was rebuilt from scratch), featuring most modern technique and state-of-the-art design and interior. 2-star Michelin chef and a spa to die for. This luxurious coffee table book tells you the story of a legendary Swiss resort, of Lake Lucerne (and Lucerne’s most famous Grand Hotels), of the Queen of all mountains ‘Rigi’ and the race to its summit.
Crossing the border into Austria (where we list seven hotels), and where I have written books on six, I have tried to approach each of the hotels in an individual manner, in an attempt to interpret this country steeped in history.
The book about The Imperial Hotel in Vienna is described: Its central location, magnificent furnishings and first class management
immediately make it Vienna’s leading hotel, the establishment
frequented by officials of state, great artists and international
travellers. The Imperial’s outstanding cuisine puts it in a league with
the finest restaurants on the continent.
Richard Wagner lived here for weeks. It was Bismarck’s Viennese residence.
Viennese Eduard Sacher, a Ritz contemporary, has his name today, not only on two Austrian hotels, but on almost every chocolate cake around the world.”
Vienna’s Imperial was built as a palace for the Prince of Wuerttemberg and in 1873 it was converted into a hotel; immediately becoming the official residence of all state visits. Within half a mile stands The Grand Hotel from 1870, the first of the continent, as well as the rather ‘modern’ Bristol of American standards (in 1892!), and the legendary Hotel Sacher of chocolate-cake fame (where Graham Greene wrote the legendary book ‘The Third Man’).
The Bristil is described: Opened in 1892, the Viennese Hotel Bristol’s story is full of exciting
events, famous guests and lovely anecdotes. This book puts an end to all speculation around the name Bristol and a certain Earl of Bristol.
Since its opening the hotel has been a home away from home for celebrities including all famous singers who made their appearance at the opera house vis-à-vis, from Australian singer Dame Nelly Melba and Enrico Caruso to Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna.
The Viennese gastronomers dynasty Sacher has its name today, not only on two Austrian hotels, but on almost every chocolate cake around the world. The cake was invented in the 1830s. Today the hotel has been saved and is operated by the Gürtlers, who are exercising family business at the highest level of service. My books Sacher and The Sacher Treasury are on sale there.
The name ‘Sacher’ comes with many more names: Meet the legendary Anna Sacher and her 100 pet dogs, discover an old
invoice proving that Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Elisabeth, had her
private deliveries of Sacher-Torte to the palace, read about the various
Crown princes, their dinners and their scandals at the Sacher.
We take you through almost 200 years of Viennese history, including the doomed last days of the second world war, when almost every building around the Sacher was shattered by bombs with one exception: the Hotel Sacher.
In Salzburg we find one of the oldest inns of the western world, today a luxurious hotel: the Goldener Hirsch(Golden Stag), dating back to 1407. It’s touching to imagine that Mozart might have walked through its doors. I have written the book Goldener Hirsch, and fondly recall the cooperation with Count Johannes Walderdorff.
The book on the hotel Goldener Hirsch opens its secret archives. On 160 pages with over 250 historic pictures, illustrations and contemporary photographs, we meet the makers and shakers of this unique success story and the famous clientele of the house, from Mozart’s son Franz Xaver to the Prince of Wales.
In the south of the country, we list The Schlosshotel Velden, with a confirmed history as a castle dating back to 1600, while the hotel started operating in 1892. After a year of visits to this lovely spot at Lake Wörth, following the invitation of Willi Kollmann and Henning Reichel, I have written about its history, too.
Read more in Around the world in 80 hotels —
PART 3: ITALY — SPAIN — PORTUGAL — DENMARK — FINLAND — SWEDEN — HUNGARY — UKRAINE
* Andreas Augustin is a writer and traveler. With The Most Famous Hotels in the World he has founded an organisation to safeguard the history and cultural heritage of all legendary hotels around the world.
Hotels are listed independently, following the strict regulations of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. They were chosen by the honorable jury, regardless of their geographical location, their political environment and their commercial success.