With its vastness, high ceiling and dramatic splashes of color, walking into the lobby of Le Regina Hotel & Spa on the Biarritz seafront is like being at the Venice Carnival or stepping on to an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ movie set.
A sparkling ensemble of black, rose and gold greets the eye in the form of assorted furnishings including standing and table lamps, soft-backed armchairs, coffee-tables, potted plants and flowers, as well an intriguing display of upper-torso mannequins raised on poles bordering the room.
Rising upwards perpendicularly from the open lobby are three floors of rooms, their corridors bordered by white walls and ornate iron-grill surrounds, with the top floor housing private apartments. A glass ceiling over the central patio adds to the property’s overall Second Empire architectural drama.
An impressive Wendl & Lung grand piano stands proudly in the center of the lobby facing a well-lit bar, above which is a cozy, first-floor open lounge area where we watched corporate team-building exercises take place.
Completed in 1907 under the guidance of architect Henry Martinet and known affectionately as ‘the Petit Palace,’ this iconic Belle Époque property, operated by MGallery, the Accor group collection, has been home to European aristocracy, influential business and political leaders, golfers, artists and celebrities down through the decades. Le Regina first gained worldwide attention when famous fashion houses opened in Biarritz in the 1920s, even more so when designers, artists and socialites arrived in the 1950s. In recent years, the Naos Group under CEO Pascal Lemarchand took over the property, renovated it and re-opened it two years ago.
The influence of fashion is reflected throughout the hotel, in the boudoir of Paul Poiret to the birds created by Armand-Albert Rateau for the townhouse of designer Jeanne Lanvin’s home. Even the famous camellias by Coco Chanel are given due recognition as decorative motifs. Adding to the overriding sense of luxury is the combination of rare, high-quality materials such as macassar, ebony, palisander rosewood, amaranth wood, kingwood and sycamore with unexpected materials such as lacquer, leather, shagreen and wrought iron.
The door of our room, 122, a spacious junior suite, one of 65 rooms and suites in the hotel, opened onto the plush lobby interior while our floor-to-ceiling window overlooked the seashore, to dramatic outcrops of rocks, the Bay of Biscay and iconic Biarritz lighthouse.
Leisure facilities for guests are ample, both indoor and outdoor. Weather permitting, there is a heated outdoor swimming pool and terrace, while inside is a fitness room, a three-treatment room spa (two of which are duo) and a hammam. For golf aficionados, there is the sprawling Le Phare Golf Course which adjoins the hotel. It was first opened in 1888 and a century later the Ilbarritz Training Centre was created. A private shuttle brings guests between the Hotel and the course.
Two dining options are possible. Mediterranean cuisine is offered at the N°1 by Georges Restaurant under the supervision of three-timed Michelin starred chef from Vonas, Georges Blanc, where also every weekend a fresh seafood platter is a special menu item.
More informal fare is presented at Café N including a daily afternoon tea, with pastries and sweets from Maison Mandion.
Aside from leisure guests, Le Regina also caters for smaller business meetings, having two rooms – the Aquitaine and Adour – each seating 30 people in a theatre-style layout, fully equipped with the latest technology.
Outside the comforts of the hotel, Biarritz entices with its lively, compact downtown, replete with cafes, restaurants and brand-name retail stores. It has also diversified its tourism attractions with a History Museum housed in an old Anglican Church, an Oriental Art Museum and even a Chocolate Factory, where one can explore the world of chocolate, from its earliest beginnings to the mass production of today.
In addition, five years ago, Biarritz launched an entirely new concept: Biarritz Océan, which includes the extension of the Musée de la Mer (Sea Museum) and the opening of the Cité de l’Océan (Ocean World), devoted to the discovery and protection of the world’s seas.
For a luxury, seafront hotel steeped in Belle Époque tradition and a short walk from a pretty downtown district, Le Regina Hotel & Spa is an excellent base from which to indulge in the glamor of Biarritz.