Hôtel Beau Rivage Palace: Grande Dame of the Swiss Riviera

Hôtel Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne lays claim to one of the most gorgeous positions in Switzerland, a little nation that can boast more breathtaking locations per square mile than many countries 10 times its size. On the shores of Lake Geneva (which locals call Lac Léman) in 10 acres of gardens, this property is the gracious and glorious grande dame of the palm-studded Swiss Riviera that stretches from Lausanne to Montreux. Just 40 minutes by car or train from Geneva and its international airport, Lausanne has its own small airport that takes private jets. 

With 168 rooms and suites (all GDS bookable), four restaurants, two bars, a lakeside pool and an exclusive spa, for 160 years the hotel has welcomed royalty, VIPs and celebs—too many to list but you can check them out on the ground-floor Wall of Fame. Having honed to perfection the art of sophisticated hospitality and impeccable service, although the architecture and interiors overwhelm with magnificence and history (in the early 20th century two peace-treaties were signed in the Belle Époque wing), everything comes together without ostentation to make you feel totally at home. The name Palace was added when the second connecting building opened in 1908.

Our very large Junior Suite here overlooked the lake, as do many of the rooms, while others have views over the garden or the town. It had a small balcony, a very comfortable couch in the day area with a desk in the bright window niche. The muted pastel fabrics and colorings were elegant and very calming and the bed had lots of pillows and was wonderfully comfy. There were dimmers for the lights, handy USB outlets, a TV in the bathroom mirror and a bathtub, as there are in all rooms.

The original Beau Rivage building is undergoing a major refurbishment and is due to open early 2022. When it does, we learned from General Manager Nathalie Seiler Hayaz ([email protected]), that we can expect the décor in the 68 rooms to still be “very classic, like the original style. But with more colors inspired by nature.” Hayaz also said the months of pandemic closure, which started on March 16, 2020 and ended on April 5 this year, were “very hard. We had never closed in 160 years, not even through two world wars.” 

For those who want only the best of old-world elegance ask for one of the suites in the Beau Rivage wing. These six suites and the Junior Suites in the Palace wing are all different. The Imperial Suite has a large salon, one bedroom and a Jacuzzi in the bathroom. The fifth-floor Riviera Suite is on the corner of one of the old staff floors (when the hotel opened there was no running water, heating or lifts so guests were accommodated on the lower floors) and has two bedrooms with bathrooms and a terrace. The Spa Suite, No. 660, with a living room and a bedroom, has a marble bathroom, spacious enough to take two massage beds, and the Duplex Suite, No. 550, is great for families as it has two bedrooms, a large living room and a terrace.

Junior suite

Children are kept happy with activities like pastry making, flower arranging and treasure hunts, and we liked the kids’ breakfast corner in Le Terrasse with its footstools for tiny tots. The frescoed Sandoz Ballroom, which has glittering chandeliers and a glass cupola, is a fairy-tale setting for weddings and receptions, there are two outdoor tennis courts, and electric bicycles are a great way to get around largely car-free Lausanne and the nearby terraced Lavaux UNESCO heritage vineyards. 

Reach out to General Manager Nathalie or to Director of Sales Thierry Dal Magro ([email protected]; 011-412-1613-3404) if you have special queries. Bookings for Michelin-star Anne-Sophie Pic’s signature restaurant (011-41-216-133-339) cannot be made too early. This is one of Switzerland’s most hallowed dining rooms and the Chef’s special menus are paired with fine wines from the 75,000 bottles in the cellar, one of the largest in Europe. 

The self-service buffet and à la carte breakfasts in La Terrasse can also be enjoyed outside on the deck. We dined in the elegant Café Beau Rivage brasserie (011-41-216-133-330), starting with a King Prawn and Coconut Curry Soup followed by Meunière Perch Fillets from the lake and a selection of luscious desserts from the trolley. The menu in the sushi Miyako Japanese restaurant (011-41-216-133-391) looked great, but it was full on the Saturday night and we were told bookings should be made well ahead as it is also very popular with locals.   

The Lobby Lounge, with its outdoor terrace, has a light snack menu and is a popular haunt from early morning with live music in the evening. The L’Accademia in the adjoining L’Angleterre & Residence Hotel has fine Italian dining and the 57° Grill in the Au Chateau d’Ouchy (another sister hotel) specializes in rôtisserie meats and fish.

In the newly renovated Cinque Mondes Spa, there are nine treatment rooms including one suite, a hammam, sauna, ice cellar and ice fountain, and they use their own range of wellness and beauty products. Spa Director Stephane Reumont ([email protected]; 011-41-216-133-367) says the 90-minute Interactive Massage is a unique experience, explaining that the therapist’s hands conduct a personalized musical score that is exclusive for each guest. So as you relax you are listening to self-generated spa music and, just in case you forget the melody, when you get home you will find the recording on your mobile phone. 

Clefs d’Or Chief Concierge Sylvie Gonin ([email protected]; 011-41-216-133-337) has been with the Beau Rivage for 30-odd years and is Switzerland’s only lady chief concierge. She is a mine of information on everything Swiss, and your go-to for any logistical matters like securing the hotel’s vintage London taxi for airport transfers. She told us many guests are repeaters who come back year after year to soak up the sun at the lakeside pool in the warm months (be sure to book at least one month ahead for summer) and enjoy the heated indoor-outdoor spa pool in the cooler months. Don’t forget that Swiss winters are wonderfully bright and sunny, and not just for skiing. And for those who do want to ski, the Villars complex is just 40 minutes away, and has 82 miles of ski runs suitable for all levels.

Gonin pointed out that anyone interested in exploring the environs will find that Lausanne has classy shopping in exclusive stores such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Bally, the renowned luxury-brand Swiss store Bongénie and stylish boutiques. It also has major museums including the MCBA Fine Arts Museum, the Musée de l’Elysée devoted to photography and the Olympic Museum (Lausanne is home to the International Olympic Committee). For out-of-house dining, she says to book the Swiss fondue in the nearby Vielle Ouchy restaurant (www.veilleouchy.ch; 011-41-216-162-194), and that Le Chalet Suisse (www.chaletsuisse.ch; 011-41-213-122-312) has an old farmhouse atmosphere and is famous for its Emincé di Veau veal in a creamy mushroom sauce. 

For those who don’t have much time but want to experience the best of the country, Gonin suggests the Swiss Experience. This is a one-day tour of discovery of what Switzerland means for many people—mountains, chocolate, wine and cheese. It starts along the lake and through UNESCO vineyards to a cheese-making village, then on to a chocolate factory and to the upscale ski resort of Gstaad, before taking the Pillon Pass cable car for show-stopping views of the Les Diableretes glacier and the Mont Blanc and Matterhorn peaks.

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