On-line Guide: Hotel Negresco - history and €25 cocktails
Welcome to the Negresco, Nice’s must-visit historic hotel. It’s rococo wedding cake that dominates the Promenade des Anglais. A seafront castle where a rogue’s gallery of world leaders – Nikita Khrushchev, the Shah of Iran – have bedded down under mink throws.
This palace-hotel has a back story more convoluted than passport control at London Gatwick.
The legend began in 1900. Romanian migrant Henri Negresco was a waiter-to-the-stars in Monaco. Serving the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts in Casino Square gave young Negresco a novel idea: the uber-rich will pay for uber-luxury accommodation – all you have to do is build it.
Henri Negresco hired architect Édouard-Jean Niermans, the brains behind Paris’s Moulin Rouge, to design his dream. The resulting hotel looks one half Moorish palace, one half Russian Cathedral, with a pink’n’cream colour scheme seemingly selected by Lady Gaga. It was built in just 18 months. Who said French builders are slow?
The launch in 1913 was an atypical riches to rags story. World War One intervened the following year. The Negresco was turned into a field hospital, albeit one with a pneumatic tube delivery system so notes could be express posted to each room. By 1918 much of the hotel’s clientele were either bankrupt or dead. This included Russian Tsar Nicholas II, who was shot by firing squad before he could take delivery of the 16,309-crystal Baccarat chandelier that now hangs in the Negresco’s Royal Lounge.
In 1957 Madame Jeanne Augier purchased the structure for a song and created the hotel we know today. Contemporary art graced the walls. The Beatles sang from the seafront suite. Augier’s pals Cocteau, Picasso and Dali called in for tea. Standard double rooms now fetch over €500 a night in summer. Breakfast is another €30. For each guest. But there is another way to buy class.
Pebbles manage ten rental properties nearby from just €70 (£60) per night.
With the money you’ve saved you can afford to sip a cocktail in the Negresco’s wood-panelled bar. Just try not to choke on the price – they are €25 a pop.