The Art Of Staying In Luxury Hotels
In choosing the six hotels for this article, Olivier Creed first asked himself where in the world he actually liked to be. A sumptuous hotel in a bad location could never make the list: rule one of a truly wonderful hotel is that it has to be somewhere special. Next, he spent some time contemplating the aesthetics of the property. How well-appointed were the rooms? Had it been redecorated/upgraded recently to provide an alluring ambiance? Did it feel like you were truly arriving somewhere when you first entered the lobby? Facilities are also a consideration. A first-rate hotel is more than a home from home – it’s an experience. It’s not every day that you can walk from your room to a five-star spa or to take a private trip on a stylish Aquariva Super motorboat. Many a beautiful hotel has been let down by the nothing-to-do factor.
Finally, being both a Frenchman and a perfumier, Olivier’s choices were guided by his senses – those little touches of je ne sais quoi that make one hotel more memorable and welcoming than the next. Perhaps it was fresh flowers in the room, the scent and sounds of the sea, or the tempting aromas wafting from the hotel’s Michelin-starred kitchen. Et voilà, a lovingly curated list of six elegant establishments – two in France, the others in Italy, London, Switzerland and New York – offering the very best of everything and the seal of approval from a man who most definitely knows about the finer things in life. Bonne visite!
1. Hôtel Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne, Switzerland
After opening its doors in 1861 with the express intention of making Ouchy (a small fishing port just south of Lausanne) a tourist destination for Europe’s aristocrats and bourgeois elites, the Beau-Rivage would later prove to be a huge hit with globe-trotting American tourists after the Second World War. Today, this alluring Belle-Époque gem attracts a more cosmopolitan set of guests, who come for the stunning views, the mountain air and a slice of continental Europe at its most genteel.
Not unlike the grand Hôtel Royal Evian Resort on the French side of the lake, the Beau-Rivage stands in beautiful gardens, which offer a peaceful setting for a stroll. It’s all a pleasant contrast to Lausanne’s bustling (if hardly overcrowded) town centre, a 20-minute walk away. Next on the must-visit list is the hotel’s Sandoz ballroom (above), a shimmering domed space that has hosted banquets, social events and historic conferences for more than 100 years. Also unmissable is the 1,500 sq m Cinq Mondes spa, which was renovated in 2020 and includes eight treatment rooms. Or simply unwind in your room and ponder who might have stayed there before you – Gianni Versace, Churchill and Nelson Mandela to name just a few.
"Today, this alluring Belle-Époque gem attracts a more cosmopolitan set of guests, who come for the stunning views, the mountain air and a slice of continental Europe at its most genteel."Olivier Creed
2. Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Antibes, France
Unsurprisingly, the guest list at the Cap-Eden-Roc evokes glamour spanning many generations. The hotel started out as a writers’ retreat back in 1870, but was quickly re-imagined as a hotel and went on to welcome everyone from F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to Pablo Picasso. Marc Chagall once sketched by the water’s edge, while Spartacus star Kirk Douglas liked to water-ski when staying at this luxury Oetker Collection hotel in the late 1960s. A striking photo of the chiselled Spartacus star exists, showing him cutting through the waves near the Cap-Eden-Roc with his hands behind his back. More recently, actors Dustin Hoffman and Sean Penn have been seen there; among other things, the Cap-Eden-Roc is a welcome distraction from the hustle-and-bustle of Cannes whenever movie stars are in the neighbourhood.
In terms of accommodation, the visitor is spoiled for choice. As well as elegant bedrooms and five-star suites, there are a number of private villas available – the most recent addition being Villa Sainte-Anne, which stands opposite the Cap-Eden-Roc’s grand gates. Built as a private home in the early 1900s in the Italian renaissance style, it became part of the Oetker portfolio in 2019 and, following a two-year refurbishment, now offers five bedrooms, a chauffeur service, extensive gardens and a private pool.
"As well as views of incredible sunsets, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc’s striking Riviera setting guarantees a seaside experience that is as invigorating or as relaxing as you want it to be."Olivier Creed
3. Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Italy
Some luxury hotels shut themselves off from their surroundings, creating a kind of artificial – if still rather appealing – microcosm where pampered guests feel like they are removed from the real world. The historic Hotel Splendido takes a slightly different approach: it positively embraces its surroundings and even has a sister hotel (the Splendido Mare) in the tiny harbour it overlooks, where owners Belmond also have a gelateria and restaurant. There’s a shuttle bus that takes guests in either direction – though the rambling 25-minute walk (The Walk of Kisses) down from the hilltop Splendido is delightful.
Perhaps Hotel Splendido’s affinity with its environs has something to do with the building’s heritage and its place in the local community. It started life as a monastery in the 16th century, and the Benedictine monks who built it certainly knew how to appreciate life, locating their new abode so they could take advantage of the most magnificent sea views and catch the sun all-day long. Its life as a world-famous hotel began at the turn of the 20th century when a local tourism pioneer snapped it up, inspired by the construction of a new road linking it to the next major town. By the 1950s, Hollywood royalty were in on the secret, lured by this slice of authentic Italy far removed from the overcrowded streets of Rome and Venice.
Belmond (or Orient-Express Hotels as they were at the time) acquired the property in 1985 and spent the next few decades thoroughly, and tastefully, updating it. Some of the latest additions include the totally private Dolce Vita Suite – housed in its own hillside near the hotel – and five deluxe new suites. If you’re in town but don’t have time to linger, stay at least for dinner at the Splendido’s La Terrazza restaurant, overlooking the bay. We can even speed up the ordering process for you: choose Spaghetti alla Elizabeth Taylor, a tomato-rich dish the screen icon is said to have chosen whenever she visited.
4. The Pierre, New York City, USA
5. The Ritz, Paris, France
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of spectacular vistas within the palatial Ritz Hotel – the Suite Impériale, an official French historic monument, for starters. Yet one of the most striking is one of the newest: the Ritz Bar, which opened last year and reinterprets the Belle Époque spirit on which The Ritz was built, with a riot of columns, curtains, brass and velvet, and a playful Zodiac theme.
For all the hotel’s commitment to tradition and the quintessential ‘Ritz way’ of doing things, it is more than comfortable testing new waters. In 2012, The Ritz closed its doors for four years for a top-to-bottom renovation that involved a thousand workers and artisans. ‘If Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel or Maria Callas were to arrive today, they would no doubt be intrigued by the subtly concealed TV screens, controlled lighting and fine- tuned air conditioning,’ they noted at the time). More recently, in 2020, a six-part Netflix series charted the exploits of The Ritz’s head pastry chef François Perret as he toured California in his food truck.
There’s no getting away from the history, though – and who would want to? F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Noël Coward and Ian Fleming all featured The Ritz in their novels and plays. In fact, no mention of The Ritz would be complete without bringing up Bar Hemingway, where guests can settle into a leather armchair and raise a glass to the gutsy American writer who once decided that he should be the one to liberate the bar from the Nazis as the Allies swept towards Paris in 1944.