puttin’ on biarritz


allo toute le monde! it’s travel day and we’re leaving paris in just a few minutes. it was supposed to be a surprise for my 50th birthday but i couldn’t help asking my dear old friend where we were heading next. when she told me the name of the hotel of course i had to google it and she’s about to kill me for falling down the rabbit hole digging into the history of our incredible next destination.



i’m rushing through this post to quickly publish before a). she throws me off the balcony and b). i see the hotel for myself. as a lover of history i can’t help but imagine what we’re about to see when it was just a concept, to think of the men and women who conceived of it and created it out of thin air. the place we’re heading is now a palace, has been called a villa, a hotel, a casino and home. so much fascinating history! i’m having to skim it and apologize for probably not documenting it properly but please enjoy a little history on the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz.


The former imperial villa became an example of neo-Louis XIII-style palace. Towards 1854, the imperial couple bought acres of dunes he did develop the Dagueret engineer to create a domain with park, woods, meadows, vegetable garden, pond, outbuildings and summer residence. The work of the villa began in 1854, led by the architect Louis-Auguste and Bertrand Couvrechef inspector. On the death of Couvrechef in 1857, they continued under the direction of architect Ancelet and Inspector Oscar Tisnès. The villa had a long main building with three perpendicular wings, the last shorter than the others who formed a court of honor. In 1867, the villa was haussée one floor and transformed. On the death of the Emperor, the Empress Eugenie sold the estate in 1880 to the Bank of the Parisian Union. The villa was turned into a casino hotel. In 1903 a fire destroyed the building. The architect Edouard Niermans raised the hotel from its ruins. The program included the preservation of the exterior walls, creating three hundred rooms, apartments, lounges and a dining room. The ground floor has a large hall, a party room and a winter garden rotunda. Construction introduced the use of reinforced concrete and chaining between the preserved parts and the news.



Hotel du Palais has a spectacular location right above the beach of Biarritz (Grande Plage) with a view on the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and Spain.



1854: Construction of Villa Eugenie, summer home for the French Emperor Napoleon III and Emperess Eugenie. The architect is Hippolyte Durand, followed by Louis-Auguste Couvrechef.


The last French Empress, Eugenie, loved Biarritz vacationing as a child. After her marriage to Napoleon III in 1853, the couple spent the summer in Biarritz and in 1854 built a palace to house their court: The Villa Eugenie.



1855: Grand opening of the Villa – Napoleon III gives many hi profile receptions.

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1858: Portrait of the Emperess with view on the grande plage de Biarritz.


1873: Empress Eugenie inherits the Villa on the death of Napoleon III.

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1880: The Empress sells the Hotel to the Banque de l’Union Parisienne.

Villa Eugenie becomes the Palais Biarritz, a Casino Hotel.

1893: The Palace is renamed Hôtel du Palais and opens as a Palace Hotel.
Queen Victoria and Empress Siss of Austria are among the guests.


1903: February 1, A fire destroys the Hotel.



1903-1905: Reconstruction of the Hotel. The architect is Édouard-Jean Niermans.
The former walls of the Villa Eugenie are repaced by a Louis XIII style.



The salon imperial and the Retonde are added.

1915: Coco Chanel opens a Couture Salon on 2 avenue Edouard VII not far from the Hotel du Palais.

1920s: Biarritz is very fashionable and known as « queen of resorts and resort of Kings »

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1922: Bal du Second Empire given by King Alphonse III of Spain.

1950: Closing of the Hotel.
1954: To save the Hotel the city of Biarritz buys it.

1962: January 1, Foundation of Socomix, a company in charge of the Management of the Hotel,
partly owned by the city of Biarritz.

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1963: Jean Louis Lembacher arrives at the Hotel as receptionist.

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1991: Hotel du Palais decides to open all year.
Jean Louis Leimbacher becomes the director of the Hotel.
Didier Borota from the city of Biarritz pushes investments
to attract clients to come all year round.


1993: August 21, Ira von Fuerstenberg organizes the Windsor Ball.
The are more photographers than guests.

1993: December 24, Hotel du Palais gets listed as a Historic Monument.
1999: Duchess Rixa von Oldenburg organizes the very spectecular Bal de l’été.

2006: Opening of a 3000m2 Spa (the largest Spa in France)

2011: Mai 5, Hotel du Palais receives the new official Label « Palace ***** »
given by the French Ministy of Tourism to describe a new elite categorie of 5 Star Hotels in France.
Unlike Hotel du Palais not every French « Palace » is part of « Palace Hotels of the World.com« ,

2013: January, Hotel du Palais becomes part of Orient Express with a special status of beeing the very first Orient-Express Associate Hotels (a Hotel which is not owned by Orient Express).
2014: March 10, The « Orient Express » Hotels brand is rebaptised « Belmond ».



ok gotta go, it’s become an obsession and i’m about to miss our train…here are a couple more links if you’re interested!




June 24, 2015. Biarritz, France, Hotel du Palais Biarritz.


  1. resurgee replied:

    Sucre bleu! You are good! You did all this from a balcony. Enjoyed! Merci!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Paris Apartment replied:

      it was nothing complared to the blood sweat and tears that have gone into every inch of this place…i mean palace!


  2. Karena Albert replied:

    Claudia so phenomenal to stay at this fabulous historical palace. I cannot wait to hear more about your stay!!

    The Arts by Karena

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Paris Apartment replied:

      Hi Karena, it’s even more spectacular now that we’re all set up here…so much to see and do…unfortunately i left my camera outside this morning and someone swiped it! waiting to see if they return it or there may be no photos to share!


  3. Nikon replied:

    I love vintage photos, so this post is a real treat! Nice research, & fabulous photos,postcards and posters; lovely, Claudia!


  4. Merillion replied:

    Wow what a wonderful post! I have feasted my eyes but still have more to look at. So beautiful. One thing: it seems to me that the clothing from the 20’s that you show here could easily be worn today. I’d wear it (maybe not the striped bathing suits), but those gorgeous pants – love them.
    Thank you, Claudia, & hope you are fine.


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