Du Palais

Welcome to the 'Queen of Beaches and Beach of Kings'. Today Biarritz is the European capital of surf but back in the twilight of the 19th century this Atlantic resort was a magnet for the movers and shakers of the day. Their hotel of choice was The Palais, housed in a sumptuous seaside villa built by Napoleon III for his wife Eugenie. Today, it remains a hallmark of class and style and provides the discerning traveller with the perfect base from which to explore the Basque coast.
How the Stage was Set HISTORY IN BRIEF 1855: Napoleon III built a palace on the seashore at Biarritz for his wife Eugenie. 1893: Housed in Eugenie’s villa, the Hotel du Palais opened its doors. It quickly became one of the go-to addresses in Europe. HISTORY IN DETAIL 1800s: With some 3,000 inhabitants, Biarritz was no more than a little fishing port on the shores of the Atlantic. Nearby, the waters of the ocean were divided between French and Spanish, at the foot of the Pyrénées mountains which Louis XIV chose to ignore some two centuries earlier. Then, in 1835, a nine-year-old girl, accompanied by her mother, La Comtesse de Montijo, a great Spanish lady, spent her vacation on the Basque coast. One day, she nearly drowned before being saved by two young swimmers. She would never forget her vacations here and her love for the surrounding landscape. With her porcelain complexion, light eyes, and her hair of golden highlights inherited from Scottish ancestors, she became the darling of the local population. Her name was Eugénie de Montijo and she would make the glory of Biarritz. 1852: Eugenie met the Prince-President, who became Napoleon III a year later. The couple fell in love and married. 1854: Eugenie and Napoleon took up summer residence in the Château de Grammont, in Biarritz’s Saint-Martin neighborhood. Napoleon was quickly won over by the coastline and promptly acquired a plot of land overlooking the sea to build a palace on. 1855: The palace was built in next to no time (10 months) in classic Second Empire style. It was christened ‘Villa Eugenie’. 1860s: By then Biarritz had become known as the ‘Queen of Beaches and the Beach of Kings.’ Napoleon and Eugenie spent every summer in the resort (with the exception of 1861 and 1869). The Biarritz locals witnessed the arrival of a host of royals, writers, nobles and other dazzling celebrities (see Famous Guests). Festivities were a common affair: balls, picnics, sparkling receptions, fireworks, and boat excursions - all punctuated by diplomatic meetings. 1870: The fun was disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War. The party would resume though. 1880: The villa was bought by La Banque Parisienne and transformed into a casino. 1893: The Hôtel du Palais was opened on the site. The Belle Epoque had dawned and a new succession of illustrious guests arrived, including Queen Victoria and ‘Sissi’, Empress Elizabeth of Austria (see Famous Guests). Russian Season During this period, the ‘Saison Russe’ (the Russian Season) began in October and none of the Russian Grand Dukes liked to miss the party. Mirroring their modern-day descendants, these rich, fast-living Russians had a taste for diamonds and champagne. 1903, February 1: The Hôtel du Palais went up in flames. It was reconstructed though and a new wing was added. 1906: King Alfonso XIII of Spain met his future wife, Princess Ena Battenberg, in the new wing of the hotel. 1914-18: During World War I The Palace was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers. 1920s: The twenties roared into life – the French like to call them ‘le temps des années folles’ (‘crazy years’). A newfound joie de vivre consumed The Palais. 1922: The Marquis of Arcangues organized a well-remembered ‘Second Empire Ball’ in the hotel’s sumptuous Rotonde. It was presided over by King Alfonso XIII and the Shah of Persia. Many other memorable nights followed that decade, including ‘Le Bal Petrouchka’, which honoured Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet. The crème of Europe gathered at the hotel once again, but by then the parade of crowned heads was giving way, little by little, to a new and more varied set, that of the arts, literature, fashion and finance. 1929: Wall Street crashed. 1936: The Spanish Civil War broke out. 1940: Nazi Germany occupied France. In July General Von Kluge’s forces stormed the Basque coast. His officers were put up at The Palais, with the aim of crossing over into nearby Spain and take Gibraltar. In October Hitler met Franco at Hendaye and the project was abandoned. Meanwhile, on the beaches surrounding the Hotel du Palais, now devoid of beach umbrellas and lifeguards, soldiers’ boots were lined up along the rocks next to green uniforms folded in neat piles. Men in black bathing suits dove into the waves, unaware of the strong currents. From time to time, a pair of boots would go unclaimed by its owner. 1950s: The good times rolled once more at The Palais. The hotel’s apartments and rooms were entirely renovated, under the careful supervision of a master decorator. A superb swimming pool was built and inaugurated by the stars of the day, including Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. 1991-92: Important renovation programme - 50% of the rooms were equipped with air conditioning.
Biarritz was a playground for royals and aristocrats in the 19th century. Famous guests have arrived in more modern times as well. From the World of Politics Queen Isabelle of Spain King of Wurtenberg Leopold II of Belgium Prince Jerome Bonaparte Prince Albrecht of Bavaria Prince Walewski Princes of Metternich Bismarck Queen Victoria Edward VII King of Hannover Archduke Victor of Habsburg Empress Elizabeth of Austria (better known as ‘Sissi’) President Carnot (France) Alfonso XIII of Spain Duke and Duchess of Windsor From the World of Art and Literature Prosper Mériméé Octave Feuillet From the World of Entertainment Porfirio Rubirosa Gary Cooper Frank Sinatra Bing Crosby Jayne Mansfield
154 Rooms
Air conditioning Direct dial telephone Color TV with 34 channels Radio Minibar Laundry and dry cleaning in 24 hours
Suite Edward VII ------ Suite Alfonso XIII
La Rotonde ------ L'Hippocampe ------ Le Bar Imperial ------ Villa Eugenie (gourmet restaurant) ------ The Swimming Pool Bar
The wild Atlantic coastline of the Basque region makes a refreshing change from the tamer waters of the Mediterranean and will provide the more adventurous traveller with plenty to do. Biarritz of course is to surfing what St Tropez is to glitz, so grab a board and dive into the waves. At night, take a stroll through the Port de Pecheurs for a spot of people-watching, before trying your luck in the Casino Municipal. Further afield, hop across the border into Spain - taste tapas in San Sebastian or visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The history buffs, meanwhile, will be more than happy staying behind at the hotel to find out more about the days of Napoleon III and Eugenie.
Heated sea-water swimming pool ------ Solarium ------ Fitness club ------ Sauna ------ Golf pitching green ------ Beach with diving, surfing and windsurfing ------ Nearby 10 Golf-courses (18 holes),
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Our Select Member Hotel

Du Palais
Country: France
City: Biarritz
Opening date: 1893

Note from the Host

General Manager M. Jean-Louis Leimbacher
Concierge: M. Christian LAPEBIE


1, Avenue de l´Impératrice BP 157
64204 France, Biarritz

Tel: +33-559 41 64 00
Fax: +33-5 59 41 67 99

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