A spa/beach resort that lured the jet-set onto an island of volcanic hot springs

A close look at…
Lacco Ameno (Ischia) | Albergo della Regina Isabella

Even though the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples had been famous for its thermal waters since the 18th century when the towns along its Northern coastline became fashionable spa resorts, it was a Milanese gentleman named Angelo Rizzoli who relaunched one of them: Lacco Ameno, largely fallen into disrepair after a devastating earthquake in 1883. Having become one of the most influential publishers and film producers of the young Italian Republic in the wake of WWII, it was Rizzoli who put Ischia on the map of the international jet-set circuit during the 1950s and 1960s.
In order to rightfully accommodate his illustrious entourage – Taylor, Burton & Co. to name a few – he revived the town’s renowned spa named after Queen Isabella of Naples who, long ago, sought relief in its healing radioactive waters. Adding on to the historical structure, he imagined a resort for ‘friends and family’ that was to become one of the most exclusive, small hotel complexes in the Mediterranean.
Soon after its opening in 1956, the hotel became a sensational novelty: a spa and beach resort in one of Italy’s most emblematic regions – La Dolce Vita* at its finest!

Continue reading


Anglo-Norman Manor or Palace Hotel on Normandy’s Côte Fleurie

Two on the Go…
Deauville | Hotel Normandy & Hotel Royal

Of France’s historic seaside resorts on the English Channel, Deauville has certainly
the blandest setting. But the lacking picturesque of its site is compensated by the uninterrupted glamour and prestige that the resort enjoys since it was first launched
by the Duke of Morny in the mid-19th century.

The ‘Queen of Norman beaches’ is famous its two world-renowned hippodromes, casino, ‘Les Planches’ boardwalk and annual American Film Festival, all of which continue to cast a continuous spell on socialites, wealthy families and day trippers alike.
Even though parallels are hard to draw, the manicured appeal of Deauville is in many ways similar to East Hampton, New York: a visually pleasing and secure haven with all the right ingredients for high-living and the added convenience of an easy two-hour train ride from Paris.

The layout of Deauville was inspired by Haussmann’s principles that still characterize Paris today (albeit on a much larger scale). Just like the gleaming Casino, two grand hotels are an essential part of Deauville’s social circuit and stand out as landmarks in the network of generous avenues that compose the resort.

Inaugurated in 1912, the Hotel Normandy is a very interesting building type and essentially a ‘grand hotel in disguise’. Though it occupies a large rectangular lot on the waterfront, its appearance rather recalls a Norman manor house than a luxury hotel – a characteristic that does not interfere with the preeminence of the neoclassical ‘Casino de Deauville’ next door. The traditional Norman vernacular trimmings of its exterior and the relatively low building height of only three stories create an architectural intimacy that is further enhanced by several courtyards of various sizes which break up the scale of its comparatively large footprint.

Opened only one year later in 1913, the Hotel Royal takes a decidedly different architectural approach. Loyal to the name that it bears, its appearance is a towering
u-shaped building of seven stories. Even today, it is a distinguishable silhouette from afar. The favorite haunt of visiting Hollywood movie stars during the film festival, the Royal is the typical French seaside palace hôtel with generous double height public rooms on the ground floor and the ubiquitous ‘rear’ door which opens onto a generous terrace facing the waterfront. Although the faux-timber ornamentation in the upper parts of its facade pays tribute to its Norman backdrop, the Royal displays many attributes which became the standard building type for luxury hotels in French resorts like La Baule, Biarritz and Cannes in the first half of the 20th century.

Hotel Normandy Barrière
38, Rue Jean-Mermoz
14804 Deauville

Hotel Royal Barrière
Boulevard Eugène-Cornuché
14804 Deauville

Similar, but quite different – two historic properties in one of the World’s most livable cities

Two on the Go…
Dusseldorf | Hotel Breidenbacher Hof & Steigenberger Park-Hotel


In the 2012 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, rank #6 of the World’s most livable cities is occupied by the German city of Dusseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. Rather confidential, the city on the Rhine plays nevertheless an internationally significant role as a center for business, finance, fashion and the arts. Its attractiveness is largely shaped by a striking pedestrianized riverfront, a thriving art scene, the elegant Königsallee (one of the most exclusive shopping avenues in Europe) and by a boisterous Karneval.

Historically, two hotels compete for the city’s most prestigious lodgings. Separated by only a few hundred yards, both are local institutions which could not be more different: while the Park-Hotel could be the epitome of the ‘Grand Hotel on the Park’, the Breidenbacher Hof appears as a luxurious city hotel that reinvented itself multiple times since its opening in 1808.

The Breidenbacher Hof has perhaps a more interesting architectural history to reveal, stretching from multiple transformations in the 19th century to an avant-garde redesign in 1928 and its reconstruction in 1950, both of which were carried out by Emil Fahrenkamp, an emblematic architect of the ‘New Objectivity’ movement. Subsequently closed in the late 1990s and then demolished, today’s hotel is a new construction from scratch, actually the fourth on the same site. Offering the most updated ultra-deluxe amenities of any hotel in Dusseldorf since its 2008 opening, the hotel’s style is rather ostentatious and in that sense, the enormous awning of its porte cochère is certainly one of the most impressive in Europe.

Even though its roof and the last floor were reconstructed in the nondescript style after the war, the Steigenberger Park-Hotel nevertheless maintains an ornate exterior that is reminiscent of the representative architecture in Germany at the turn of the century. Inaugurated in 1902, it is a part of Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts today, a group which largely contributed to reestablish the presence of 5-star luxury hotels in postwar Germany.
Having become a little too substantial in comparison to other comparable competitors in recent years, the traditional style for which many of its properties are known for, has been toned down in the attempt to incorporate more contemporary accents.

Hotel Breidenbacher Hof
Königsallee 11
40212 Düsseldorf

Steigenberger Park-Hotel
Königsallee 1a
40212 Düsseldorf

A new category


Today’s post will introduce a new category: Two on the Go

Paris, Madrid, Hamburg, Cologne, Deauville, Monte-Carlo, San Francisco…
What is the common denominator of these locations?

A pair of historic hotels, often in close vicinity, that are the obvious contenders in the category of premier hotels. While I take a look at a first pair today in Dusseldorf, Germany, stay tuned for more pairings to come, all of which will precede my subsequent brief or close look (and post).

On the river, the imposing fragment of a monumental project

In and Out…
Amsterdam | Amstel Hotel

Of Amsterdam’s historic hotels, several are of inherent interest to the Hotel Investigator:
the ‘De l’Europe’ for its intimate elegance, the ‘Doelen’ for its history, the ‘Krasnapolsky’ for its size, the ‘American’ and the ‘Schiller’ for their Art Nouveau heritage… But as a rightful representative of the category ‘grand hôtel’, nothing in the intricate cityscape of the Dutch capital compares to the ‘Amstel’.

Continue reading

On the Grand Boulevard, the three lives of a grande dame

A brief look at…
Budapest | Grand Hotel Royal (now Corinthia Hotel Budapest)

In contrast to Prague – the near picture-perfect ‘other’ capital city to which it is often compared – the upheavals in the second half of the 20th century have not been kind to Budapest’s cityscape: several Allied bomb raids, the 1956 revolution and the subsequent carelessness for its prewar architecture have taken a hefty toll on the city’s buildings. Especially vulnerable because of their exposed location on the Dunakorzó promenade in Pest, the traditional cluster of grand hotels on the river (Hungaria, Bristol, Carlton and Ritz) vanished after their destruction during the war. On the Buda side, the situation was only slightly better: severely damaged, the spa hotel Gellért – a fashionable destination during the 1920s and 1930s – could be saved but remained closed for necessary repairs that stretched over nearly three decades…

For the Grand Hotel Royal, the inner city location on the ‘Grand Boulevard’ was perhaps a saving grace. When it opened in 1896 to mark the Millenium Celebrations of Hungary, the 350 room hotel was considered the largest, most modern and most luxurious hotel in Central Europe. Suffering only minor damage, it almost naturally resumed its position as Budapest’s premier hotel in 1961 after an extensive remodeling which broke with its Austro-Hungarian architectural heritage, adopting a decidedly contemporary décor. By 1991, however, its charms had worn off completely, the hotel was closed, its landmark facade on Elizabeth Boulevard preserved and the building subsequently gutted.

Similar in many ways to the challenges that the reconstruction project of the new Hotel Adlon in Berlin was confronted with, an entirely rebuilt hotel opened in 2003, embracing a mixture of reinterpreted classical and inventive contemporary styles. Today, having begun its third life cycle as a hotel, the unique E-shape footprint of the building, its exteriors, the original ballroom and the incorporated ‘Royal Spa’ (originally a neighborhood public bath) are the sole remnants of the hotel’s earlier existence – a fact likely to be ignored by many satisfied guests who favor all the commodities of a contemporary five-star luxury hotel that lay underneath the apparent historical appeal of its shell.

Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Erzsébet körút 43-49
1073 Budapest

From George Sand to James Bond

In and Out…
Venice | Hotel Danieli

At the end of an afternoon in late March, as the ambient dampness of the lagoon was getting more and more palpable, the sight of Hotel Danieli’s landmark facade on Riva degli Schiavoni offered an inviting opportunity to transfer the unique visual experience that is Venice into a warmer, cozier environment over coffee or tea…
The Danieli is without any doubt the most famous and iconic hotel in an equally famous and iconic city: its location mere steps from one of the world’s most fascinating urban ensembles, the main building itself (the historic Palazzo Dandolo dating back to the 15th century) and finally the profusion of illustrious visitors who have stayed here since 1840, has made the hotel the address of choice for the Who’s Who in real life and in fiction.

Continue reading

On the Swiss Riviera, a historic property attempts to balance past and present

A close look at..
Montreux | Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic

When a Grand Hotel in Switzerland is brought to mind, the almost immediate association is a gracious historic building from the Belle Époque, a multitude of balconies with intricate iron railings, a view that embraces the natural spectacle of the Alps…
The Suisse Majestic is exactly that. Opened in 1870, it bears testimony to a time when wealthy English ‘tourists’ launched a fashion that would later be called ‘tourism’ and that helped to put Switzerland and its reputation in hospitality excellence on the map.
Even today, the area of Montreux advertises itself as the ‘Swiss Riviera’ and obvious indeed are the parallels to its famous French-Italian namesake: a rail line hugging the landscape and providing access that is a performance in itself, the high-rising peaks that protect south-facing locales, a particularly mild micro-climate, the views that open onto a deep blue expanse of water. But unlike the seemingly boundless Mediterranean, it is the mountainous French shore opposite Montreux that provides the ingredients which create a truly breathtaking alpine vista from almost every angle.

Continue reading