We check in to one of Geneva's most historic hotels, which has just undergone a multimillion-dollar revamp
Hotel Insider: Beau-Rivage Geneva, Switzerland
The grand entrance to Beau-Rivage Geneva would pass as little more than a side door at some of the swishest hotels in Switzerland, but its unassuming entrance belies the grandeur awaiting us inside. A babbling fountain greets guests just inside the doorway, as do towering Roman pillars and leafy greens – all before a jolly concierge greets you. Said concierge warmly welcomes us inside like an old friend as a porter takes care of our luggage – transporting it through a secret door in our room.
Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva – alongside the likes of the Hotel President Wilson (once home to the world’s most expensive suite), Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons properties – the Beau-Rivage has some formidable neighbours. However, with its 150-year history, comes some of the town’s most prime real estate; front-row views to the Jet d’Eau (the lake’s famed water fountain) and over the Old Town.
Since its opening in 1865, the Beau-Rivage has been in the hands of the Mayer family. It has welcomed many a celebrity in its 150 years, but perhaps it is most notable for being where Austria’s beloved Empress Sisi died following a stabbing incident. Interestingly enough, the great-grandmother of the current owner was present when Sisi took her last breath.
More recently, the hotel has undergone a grand transformation – with its 23 units, restaurant, kitchens, terrace and roof being completely renovated in a multimillion-dollar project that took four years to complete. It is still frequented by the aristocratic elite, which these days is mostly well-heeled tourists from the United States.
Among its 95 personalised rooms are a selection of magnificent duplex apartments – part of the recent refurbishment – and we’re in Elizabeth Taylor’s namesake. The entire sixth floor of the hotel was knocked out to make way for the grand, split-level suites, and the end product is the sort of room even Liz herself might have been in awe of.
The sprawling 120-square-metre room is full of gorgeous gold-gilded antique furniture, a giant glinting chandelier and is dressed in regal blues, reds and thick drapery. Upstairs, above the living area and first bathroom, there’s the mezzanine, complete with king-size bed, walk-in wardrobe, and marble bathroom that is home to a private hammam and spa bath. The room looks out over the Jet d’Eau, and there’s a skylight over the bed for stargazing before its time to sleep.
Seamless and efficient – all staff are friendly and personable, but never prying.
The hotel is home to three restaurants; Thai eatery Patara, Le Bar the all-day dining option that joins La Terrasse, and Le Chat-Botte, which has a Michelin star. After being assured our food was coming from the same kitchen serving Le Chat-Botte, we settle on a table overlooking the lake at La Terrasse.
The burrata di bufala (32 Swiss francs; Dh118) and tuna tataki with coloured sesame (32 francs; Dh118) are elevated takes on popular dishes, and the Swiss beef fillet with morels (85 francs; Dh314) is so perfectly cooked, it’s akin to slicing through butter.
For dessert, fulfil all your childhood dreams by tucking in to basically a hot skillet of cookie dough – the warm chocolate and vanilla cookie, (14 francs; Dh51) – and the Swiss stalwart of meringue, served with raspberries and Gruyere double cream (16 francs; Dh59) is superb. The wait staff are kind and attentive – and there’s even a halal menu, which shows just how important the Muslim market is to them.
The breakfast buffet, included in your stay, is small but cultivated, and includes (as expected) a good range of French pastries and spreads – as well as eggs on request from the kitchen.
The individuality of each room – right down to the individual artworks, intricate chandeliers and ornaments.
That our apartment doesn’t have a balcony, which means that the only place to take in the magnificent view is from the window.
There may be plenty of flashy newcomers to Geneva, but the Beau-Rivage holds steady as the city’s most historic, and one of its most beautiful, properties.
The bottom line
A duplex apartment at Beau-Rivage Geneva (www.beau-rivage.ch) starts from 3,350 francs (Dh12,370) per night, including taxes.