As a keen writer and even keener reader, I see stories everywhere I go, from a short plane ride to a simple lunchtime stroll, they’re always present on some level waiting to be tuned into and run away with. Last week I stayed at The Negresco Hotel in Nice, for someone like me, who can take inspiration from a change in weather, an accent or a quote, a hotel with such eclecticism was like an orchard for my imagination.
The travel writer in me was also spoiled by The Negresco’s offerings which include an enormous chandelier of over 16,000 crystals commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Having worked in the travel industry for four and a half years I’ve had my share of wonderful experiences in exchange for articles or representing the company I work for, although that is something I am grateful to have access to, it means the contrast of the trips I book entirely independently are often more immersive. On these, I am not considered to be somewhat of an ‘employee’ and I am not representing anyone, therefore I can indulge more deeply in the service and experiences on offer.
The self-proclaimed ‘unexpected palace’ is packed full of over 6,000 pieces of art privately acquired by the hotel’s eccentric owner – Madame Jeanne Augier – who lives in a suite on the inaccessible sixth floor located in the large dome overlooking the promenade. Her collection includes paintings and sculptures from the likes of Moretti, Dali and Niki de Saint-Phalle and you’ll find extravagant historical portraits of royals next to pieces of modern art creating a unique, kitsch display.
Although a luxury hotel, it is almost incomparable to any other due to its quirkiness, it somehow blends the character of a family-run bed and breakfast with the service of an exclusive retreat. The doormen wear 18th-century bourgeois fashion and the maids dress in traditional black and white French maid outfits – no not the short, sexy ones! On arrival you are given a short tour by a proud employee covering the Versailles Room featuring a huge portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (the other two sit in the Louvre and Palace of Versailles), the Royal Salon with the enormous chandelier (alongside countless smaller ones), before you enter the red velvet lift which has been in the hotel since it opened in 1913 and shown to your room. We were on the fifth floor which is apparently reserved for ‘VVIP guests’ – I have no idea why we were put there but our room was gorgeous!
The décor of all the corridors and rooms reflects a different time in French history, I requested a classic room because I am not a fan of modern art. Our room was decorated with blue silk wallpaper which surprisingly works at The Negresco. TripAdvisor provides a host of people who clearly didn’t quite grasp the singularity of the hotel before booking and were not happy with the old-fashioned room styling. Some of the modern rooms do seem to feature questionable things such as sparkly gold bathtubs and Jacuzzi’s so I would definitely request a classic room, and ideally one with a sea view. On arrival, we were greeted with a birthday card for my partner, macaroons, chocolates and miniature gold Easter eggs in our room alongside a welcome letter from the staff.
Walking around the hotel is reserved for guests only so it feels quite exclusive to have access to such an enormous collection of art, the entire hotel is furnished with authentic antiques too down to minute details which often clash but add to the flavour of the hotel.
Breakfast is served in La Rotunde which is decorated like an 18th-century fairground carousel complete with pink velvet seats and porcelain horses with colourful feathers. All of the walls are brightly painted with seaside scenes and the ceiling, of course, features another impressive light feature. The staff again are extremely attentive as you enjoy a buffet breakfast with a view of the Promenade de Anglais.
The hotel runs a turndown service each evening which is complete with a small pink Negresco box with chocolates and sweets inside, we stayed for four nights and began to look forward to our nightly treat on the bed waiting for us after a day of sightseeing.
The hotel also has a bar which is open to the public and a somewhat more affordable way to experience The Negresco, drinks here are extremely overpriced with a glass of house wine costing 15 euros. I imagine this is to keep people who just want to see the interior away, but it is a nice bar with a pianist and singers. We visited the bar three times during our stay and I would only recommend doing so at the weekends, during the week it was very empty which isn’t much of an atmosphere – although you do get better service. As a guest of the bar, you won’t get access to any of the corridors but you could visit the Royal Salon, Versailles Room and the guest bathrooms in the lobby which are decorated like old-fashioned circus tents.
The hotel also has a Michelin-starred restaurant which sits next to La Rotunde called Le Chantecler. I almost stopped there for dinner before seeing it costs around 250 euros per person plus an additional 130 euros for wine – perhaps not the most cost-effective way to experience the hotel.
We stayed at the hotel for five days in total which is a great amount of time to really enjoy it and visit the surrounding areas such as Canne, Eze and Monaco, for lovers of art and history it is well worth a visit and anyone who wants a truly unique hotel experience. The Negresco is not a place to be treated solely as a base while visiting Nice, to receive the full potential of the property it is worth researching its heritage, significance and some of the art that lives there.
In addition to dominating the promenade, all of the local artists take inspiration from The Negresco and depict it in their work, it is clearly much-loved by the local people of Nice as well as international guests who stay there, as the lovable taxi driver gushed as she drove us to the airport ‘I think nowhere else in the world is there another like Le Negresco’, and I have to say, I agree.
I booked our stay back in November and therefore got fairly good rates online for a four-night stay including breakfast. The hotel is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and therefore wouldn’t be classified as cheap, however, compared to what you would get for the same price in London I would say it offers good value for money.