So, you've made up your mind to visit the beautiful city of Nice on the awe-inspiring Mediterranean coast of the French Riviera. Now all you need is a great 5-star hotel to ensure a wonderful stay. What if I told you your likely best bet is a hotel that first opened its doors in 1913?
Allow me to introduce you to Le Negresco Hotel (also known as Hotel Le Negresco). Here, you have an elegant hotel and art museum in one. That designation has very little to do with the hotel's age. It's more about the emphasis on art that is evident in the hallways, dining areas, and rooms. Speaking of age, the hotel has a rich history. Designed by Henri Alexandre Negresco (Alexandru Negrescu), it didn't take long to attract celebrities, politicians, and royalty.
It maintained its prestige after Jeane Augier's family acquired it in 1957. Madame Augier elevated the hotel's status by procuring a significant percentage of the art on display today. During her lifetime, the hotel welcomed guests such as Princess Grace of Monaco, Louis Armstrong, and the Beetles. Le Negresco continues to be an A-list choice today. Madame Augier, was so proud of the hotel that she scoffed at acquisition attempts, famously telling Bill Gates that he didn't have enough money to purchase the hotel.
Located right on Promenade des Anglais, you can't get any closer to the Mediterranean Sea from a hotel in Nice, and the view alone is enough to impress you. Le Negresco is also right next door to Villa Massena, a Belle Époque building housing a museum that highlights the history of the French Riviera. With these two key attractions at the doorstep, you don't need to go far to start your sightseeing tour. In addition, Le Negresco is about a ten-minute walk from Vieille Ville (Nice Old Town), and that's certainly a place you don't want to miss while you're in Nice.
The ride from the airport was about 15 minutes long. That was really appreciated, given the tedious airport formalities in Paris before the connecting flight to Nice. Right from the moment I stepped out of the car, it was clear this was going to be a great experience. The Belle Époque façade was inviting, and the hospitality was very heartwarming.
We were in Nice to film our tour of the city, and the plan was to drive along the coast to other parts of Côte d'Azur including Cannes, Antibes, and Théoule-sur-Mer. Our final destination was the pebble beach at Pointe de l'Aiguille. It was going to be a busy set of three days, and I needed the hotel service to be the least of my worries.
As the doorman ushered me through the front door, the signature hallway and reception area brought a smile to my face. Photographs of this part of the building had attracted me to the hotel while shopping for a place to stay. It's easy to see why the people in charge chose this section of the building for highlight photographs.
It was significantly more impressive live than in photographs. From the flooring and the carefully chosen artwork all the way up to the ceiling, everything was so well put together that it's easy to conclude that a very skilled interior decorator was involved in the process.
Le Negresco shows off its classical style with plenty of art, and each floor has a different theme. I stayed on the fourth floor, which had a Napoleon theme. I was also encouraged to explore other floors to see the different art themes, and I wasn't about to pass on that opportunity.
Being in Nice alone is a treat in itself. Walking down Promenade des Anglais with the soothing Mediterranean breeze blowing past will make you wonder if there's any reason to return home. Staying in a hotel on the waterfront ensures you'll maximize the time you spend enjoying the serene view.
I've stayed in 5-star hotels in different countries on multiple continents, but this was the first time I was given a mini tour of the hotel right after check-in. The host ushered me by a couple of the four available bars and restaurants. These include Le Chantecler, the in-house Michelin-starred restaurant. I would have loved to tell you how good the food is, but sadly, with a busy schedule and a reservation-only requirement for dining, I didn't get an opportunity to experience the cuisine.
Next, the host introduced me to the Royal Reception Room, the event room which seats over 430 guests. It was hosting an event at the time of my arrival, so I could appreciate how grand it can be. Even though it still looked quite exquisite the following day when it was empty, the amazing décor during the event made it very appealing. It is certainly, a great place to consider hosting an event.
Le Negresco has five categories of rooms with varying sizes and comfort levels and multiple exquisite suites if you want to indulge (and why wouldn't you?). For the best the hotel has to offer, consider one of a collection of suites listed under "The Exceptional" tagline. Each suite has a theme and story behind it to match the name. The names include Pompadour and Napoleon with as much as 603 sq feet of space. What they do have in common is the classical look that's in line with everything else about Le Negresco.
The Napoleon Junior Suite for instance, comes with golden yellow décor (no prizes for guessing that it pays tribute to Emperor Napoleon) and furniture in mahogany, bronze, and red velvet. You also get a great view of Jardins du Musée Masséna, the beautiful tropical garden on the grounds of Villa Massena.
As the host escorted me to my room, the first thing that struck me was the vintage look of the elevator. The host informed me that the visible parts were in their original condition when the founder opened the doors but with upgraded controls and mechanics. It felt like taking a step into the past in a time machine.
When I'm staying in a hotel, I usually try to take advantage of the stairs for some exercise, but with such an intriguing "time machine," I have to admit that I took more rides in the elevator than I needed.
The host then led me to my room, a "Deluxe Familiale," and gave me some information about the amenities. The room had a classical look to match the hotel's theme, with a spacious living area large enough to host a couple of friends. The bathroom with a free-standing bathtub looked like it was fit for royalty. The walk-in closet was also a nice touch.
Being someone who struggles with insomnia and is also fussy about the bed I sleep in, I've found that I'm unable to sleep in most hotel beds (I find that they're too high off the ground, but I have no idea why that's a problem for me). I usually opt for a suite or a room with a large couch so I can at least get some sleep if the bed doesn't work. Again, it's a little baffling that I'll find a couch more comfortable, but enough about my idiosyncrasies.
I'm happy to say I slept like a baby on the bed on the first day when I only intended to see if the bed would be comfortable. What's more, I overslept on day two of filming and missed the transportation to the harbor in Cannes. That's something I don't remember happening to me in years. With that, there's nothing left to say about the comfort of the room.
I'm not going to claim that I'm an art expert. On the contrary, while I appreciate good art, my knowledge of the subject is very limited. Regardless of your level of interest in art, you can't fail to notice the amazing collection of paintings and sculptures at the Negresco. You'll find artwork from multiple eras and in various styles.
Right from the time you step into the hotel, you're greeted with tastefully placed art that's hard to ignore. From the beautifully crafted sculptures almost everywhere you turn to an original portrait of Louis XIV and suites with art to match their curated themes, this hotel will likely delight art connoisseurs and all guests who appreciate exquisite interior decoration.
A lot is often said about a holiday on the French Riviera. Most of what you've heard is probably true. What I do know for sure is the view of the Mediterranean is something everyone needs to experience, and what better place to enjoy it than at the Negresco? Even for someone like me who prefers contemporary hotels, the charm of this property is simply too heartwarming to look away from. It's hard to believe you'll have it better anywhere else in the city of Nice.