Hotel Le Negresco Nice Near+Far rating: 8/10
Why book Hotel Le Negresco
Most guests will know what they’re in for when booking a hotel. For the most part, you’ll know what your hotel will look like and what will greet you when you pass from the lobby into the main. This assumption gets turned on its head at Hotel Le Negresco, the original Nice grande dame and undisputed best five-star hotel in the Cote d’Azur capital. Each of its 128 rooms and suites is unique – designed by the on-site Atelier Le Negresco -, and each floor commands a similarly unique theme with period furniture and artwork to match. This could be the original art hotel, with more than 6,000 pieces across the hotel, from contemporary art and masterpieces to abstract sculptures – the lifelong project of an eccentric owner who counted Salvador Dali as a friend. Staying at Le Negresco is like spending a night at a museum or breaking into a grand aristocratic residence, and as a result, there’s a constant air of mystery and playfulness. Add this fabulous frivolity into a mix with a shiny new beach club, seafront location and royal service, and you’ve got a world-leading hotel.
Hotel Le Negresco is visible from all on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, thanks to its raspberry-pink dome, and come nighttime, a dazzling display of illuminations. The hotel is a 10-second walk to the beachfront and sites near the landscaped gardens of the grand Musee Massena; plus, it is a short walk to Nice’s old town and a 15-minute drive to Nice Cote d’Azur airport. It’s easy to hop on Nice’s network of buses and trains, and Nice-Ville station is also nearby, where trains will whisk you away to other French Riviera hotspots like Monaco, Cannes, Menton, Antibes, and St Tropez for glamorous day trips.
Rooms and suites: 9/10
Guests often hold their breath and let out a little gasp when entering their room at Hotel Le Negresco. You’re not sure what awaits you, and it’s a delightfully fun surprise or (shock). Some are eccentric and colourful – bright green, pink, mustard yellow and filled with antique furniture – but some are modern and subdued, with white walls, marble bathrooms and seafront views. Like the hotel and artwork, rooms follow a theme from Louis XIII to the present day. Entry-level superior rooms look onto the hotel’s interior courtyard. In contrast, the seven Rivoli Rooms – the newest in the hotel – are housed in a renovated wing and look out onto the green garden of the Masséna Palace.
Suites are the pinnacle of Le Negresco luxury and are akin to state apartments in a French chateau. Try the Pompadour or Marie Antoinette Suites to experience the decadent, almost seductive, French experience. In-suite Marie Antoinette, blue and yellow wall coverings are manufactured by Tassinari & Chatel – the same as those in Louis XVI’s library at Versaille -and the headboard is inspired by the one found at the ill-fated Queen’s room at Petit Trianon. While filled with antiques, rooms and suites have all the mod-cons, and top suites even have Dyson hairdryers. Grab a sneak peek of the offering down the corridors when housekeepers are at work.
Food and drink: 8/10
As for its rooms and decor, Le Negresco’s restaurants and bars are just as weird and wonderful. There’s La Rotonde, a circular dining room themed on a whimsical merry-go-round with horses, French lunchtime classics, and outdoor seating (complete with a pianist in the evenings). There’s a pleasant continental breakfast of pastries and eggs – though in a somewhat surprising move, charging already high-paying guests for a la carte dishes.
The most considerable reflection of the hotel’s grandeur is Michelin-starred Le Chantecler, one of Nice’s top occasion spots comprising an 18th-century wood-panelled dining room with woodwork dating back to 1751. The historic decor is an excellent juxtaposition to chef Virginie Basselot’s refreshing and contemporary French cuisine. That, and the sultry, musty Le Negresco Bar, the backdrop for plenty of French films with original walnut woodwork, tapestry dating back to 1683 and live music evenings. In 2022, the hotel has also offered a much-needed beach club and restaurant named La Plage, capitalising on the hotel’s seafront experience and plugging the former gap it had for a glitzy, Riviera-style experience. Hotel guests can book a sunbed on a private stretch of pebble beach (for a discounted fee) and enjoy summery spritzes and lunches of lobster rolls.
Spa and facilities: 7/10
Hotel Le Negresco currently has no spa, though a fully-equipped, ultra-modern gym is discreetly placed behind a panelled door. Plans are underway for an entire conversion of the former quarters of owner Jeanne Augier to create an impressive indoor spa and wellness area. Set across 700 square metres, the project will include a swimming pool bathed in natural light and seven exclusive relaxation cabins, as well as treatment rooms and other spa facilities. The new, long-awaited facilities are set to open in autumn 2023.
If guests don’t already feel like aristocrats, they will upon meeting Hotel Le Negresco’s doormen clad in fanciful, if not delightfully absurd, livery (navy coat, red breeches and a feather-topped cap). The small army of well-dressed gentlemen is always on hand to help with bags, and everyone seems to bear an infectious smile – from concierge to housekeepers.
Grandiose, old-world, steeped in history and like stepping into an alternative world. Be it the enfilade of grand rooms themed on the period of French history, the marble staircase, or the illustrious roll call of past celebrity guests (The Beatles, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, to name a few), you find yourself playing a role when staying at this iconic Nicoise establishment. Some details may be tired and fading, but that’s part of the charm, and the stylish new beach club and wellness area will surely elevate the hotel into the 2020s.
Low-season doubles from about AED1,360, high-season from about AED2,680; hotel-negresco-nice.com