#Interview : Alessandro Cresta, Hôtel du Palais Managing Director

09 February 2021

Hôtel du Palais, with its breathtaking ocean view, is the only palace on the Atlantic Coast and a symbol of Biarritz as well as a living testimony of the city’s history.  A few weeks before its long-awaited reopening scheduled for March 26, 2021, and after several months of work, Alessandro Cresta, Managing Director of Hôtel du Palais since 2019, tells us about this mythical place and the new features to come.

Could you tell us about the history of Hôtel du Palais and why it is considered a mythical establishment?

Hôtel du Palais, “the jewel of the city of Biarritz”, overlooking Grande Plage beach and the ocean, has been considered a mythical establishment with its famous history, since 1892. An imperial history that began during the Great History of France at the end of the 19th century, under Napoleon III.

Did you know that from 1838 onwards, the Countess of Montijo and her daughter Eugenie holidayed in Biarritz every year, to enjoy the temperate climate of the Basque coast ? After becoming Empress of France, Eugenie convinced her husband, Napoleon III to accompany her to Biarritz. He too had been to the region several years in a row. Both had fallen in love with the area and between 1854 and 1855, as a token of love for his wife, he had a summer residence built: Villa Eugénie, on 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) of sandy marsh land.

The presence of the imperial couple in Biarritz was about to change the entire history of Biarritz and the Basque coast!

In 1882, the residence was transformed into a luxury "Hotel-casino", "le Palais Biarritz", then in 1892 became Hôtel du Palais. By stroke of fate, in 1903 a terrible fire destroyed the hotel in just three hours. As the emblem of Biarritz, «Hôtel du Palais» was immediately rebuilt on its foundations, enlarged and enhanced under the direction of architects who preserved the style of its brick facade, slate roof and the original E-shaped architectural plan (Eugenie).

Biarritz and Hôtel du Palais have always been closely linked. Sea bathing, the mild climate of the famous Atlantic coast, the many shows and glamourous balls that took place here… crowned heads and all the international elite flocked to join the imperial couple. Biarritz is even renowned as "the poshest city of the second half of the 19th century"! Hôtel du Palais and Biarritz became world-famous and recognized as the place to be!

Since 2011, Biarritz’s emblematic flagship Palace hotel boasts a “Palace de France” label and is the only Palace on the Atlantic coast. It is ranked among the most beautiful hotels in the world. Since 1905, Hôtel du Palais has continuously welcomed a high-end clientele both French and international, local and regional, political, economic and artistic celebrities who love to stay here and experience outstanding moments.

The renovations are respectful of the hotel’s history and legend, while bringing it the modernity that it lacked, inscribing it in a new era.

Its rich and complex history is no stranger to the charm and elegance of this 5-star Palace hotel.

The reopening of Hôtel du Palais will take place in a particular context. What is the impact of the health crisis and what are your expectations for this reopening?

Just like the rest of the world, the Covid-19 health crisis has impacted us, as we were due to reopen last year in July. Nevertheless, we took advantage of the situation to continue the renovations, to be ready to reopen on March 26, 2021.

Not only is Hôtel du Palais dear to the people of Biarritz and to the residents of the surrounding area, but it is also their hotel. I would like them to feel at home here. Whether they feel like walking through the majestic gate to enjoy a drink at the "Bar Napoleon III", to have a family lunch at La Rotonde gourmet restaurant, to enjoy the terrace overlooking the ocean on sunny days or the "Sunset" table around the swimming pool, or even just to stay and relax at the Spa and Imperial Club.

Hôtel du Palais has been a festive venue for decades. We aim to offer our local, regional and international guests the dream, the magic and the enchantment that have made its history.

What are Hôtel du Palais’s major news and upcoming renovations?

Since autumn of 2018, Hôtel du Palais has undergone several reconstruction and renovation phases under the aegis of the Parisian interior design firm, Atelier COS and heritage architect Isabelle Joly.



First, its exterior and roof, from its room windows (thermal and phonic improvements) to La Rotonde restaurant and lobby, its technical areas with the upgrading its pipes, electrical standards, the implementation of new technologies with high-speed Wi-Fi, connected doors with electronic opening and/or via an application on android phones. Almost all of its suites and rooms, restaurants, bar and reception were refurbished.

As for CSR, we have reconsidered our overall heat management. For several years now, Hôtel du Palais has been concerned about its impact on the environment, by adopting as many green solutions as possible. Hôtel du Palais proudly uses green energy to fill both the outdoor and indoor swimming pools: autonomously, thanks to an ingenious system that pumps the necessary sea water from the ocean through underground pumps. Furthermore, cold water from the bottom of the ocean pumped between 500 and 1000m from the shore is also used to operate the hotel's air conditioning system.

A new, 28-year-old Chef de cuisine , Aurélien Largeau, will be taking over the iconic and gastronomic La Rotonde restaurant with its exceptional panoramic view of the ocean, the new Bar Napoleon III, the terraces, the Lounge for light snacks and delicious pastries for afternoon tea, as well as Le Sunset on sunny days by the swimming pool.

The Chef and his staff will offer visitors a variety of refined culinary experiences inspired by local and seasonal Pays Basque produce.  

Your establishment joined the Hyatt group at the end of 2018. What are the implications for Hôtel du Palais ?

Hôtel du Palais is owned by the city of Biarritz and is indeed managed by the Hyatt group. As an exceptional establishment with a strong identity of its own, Hôtel du Palais has joined 2 other French "The Unbound Collection by Hyatt" category hotels: the group's confidential brand of the most beautiful hotels in the world.

Le Groupe Hyatt apporte à l’hôtel du Palais toute son expertise d’excellence hôtelière sur les marchés du tourisme mondial, et un soutien immense en termes de logistique avec des outils hôteliers performants pour les formations, les réservations l’hébergement, etc... Mais aussi un soutien en termes de marketing, réseaux de ventes de groupes, réseaux sociaux, site web, et une visibilité mondiale impactante de par leur site Hyatt monde.

The Hyatt Group brings Hôtel du Palais its complete expertise in hotel excellence in the global tourism markets, and immense support in terms of logistics with high-performance hotel tools for training, reservations, accommodation, etc... As well as support in terms of marketing, group sales networks, social networks, our website, and major global visibility via the Hyatt world website.

Furthermore, we are proud to share the human values of care and empathy of the Hyatt Group, very attentive to the well-being of its employees, extremely sensitive to inclusion and non-discrimination, be it racial, religious, or other. Humans are at the heart of Hôtel du Palais's concerns, whether it is our employees or our guests.

The attention we pay to the women and men who strive each day to provide a unique personalized experience for our clients is now more than ever at the heart of Hôtel du Palais’s concerns.

Our new message "Cultivate the link with the extraordinary." reflects this.

As a high society hotspot, Hôtel du Palais is known to have greeted many celebrities, most recently the G7 in August 2019. Could you tell us about some of the celebrities you have welcomed ?

For 16 years, the imperial couple did not miss a single rendez-vous with Biarritz. Crowned heads and all the international elite flocked to join them… queens and kings, duchesses and dukes, princesses and princes ...

Queen Isabella of Spain, Leopold II, the Duchess and Duke of Windsor, Queen Victoria, the sovereigns of Portugal, and during the Belle Epoque era, Edward VII... writers such as Victor Hugo, Hemingway and Prosper Mérimée

The hotel’s guest book also includes many artists’ names including Romy Schneider, Barbara Hendricks, Claude Berry, Jean Paul Belmondo, Barbara Streisand, Karl Lagerfeld, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Aznavour and Coco Chanel.

We were fortunate to greet Franck Sinatra as a special guest to inaugurate our "Californian" 28°C (82.4°F) heated seawater swimming pool in 1960, with the Marquis d'Arcangues.

Some suites with ocean views are named after celebrities who stayed here. Charlie Chaplin, Sarah Bernhardt, Coco Chanel, Sacha Guitry, King Farouk of Egypt are some of the prestigious names on the doors of our 45 suites, renovated to preserve the special atmosphere that reigns here. However, the imposing historical features of the hotel must not make us forget its family aspect, even if that may seem surprising for a palace.

Hôtel du Palais also greeted the seven heads of state for the G7 in Biarritz from 24 to 26 August 2019.

Is there anything else you would like to mention to our readers, tourism professionals?

I am very honoured to reopen this Palace after 18 months of renovations, which have preserved its soul and its historic architecture, while anchoring it in the 21st century. I am a bit of a "guardian" to this establishment, classified as a French heritage site, with its Live Heritage label (“Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant”). Hôtel du Palais will be opening its doors to a diverse clientele of all ages… rejuvenated, embellished and energized. It is remarkable to see that we sometimes welcome up to 4 generations! Our younger guests will discover a hotel steeped in history yet totally anchored in the present and turned towards the future.

We sincerely hope that many Biarritz locals, people from the French Basque Country but also from Spain, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and from all over France will come to discover or rediscover the hotel, its new services, and places to eat.

And of course, as soon as the Covid-19 epidemic is under control, we hope to see our foreign customers again very soon!

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Contact information

Sophie Bergart – Communication
+33 (0)6 15 55 56 01

Candice Barwell –Sales/Marketing
+ 33 (0)6 42 27 88 00