Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Live like Coco Chanel at this Swiss escape

The 150-year-old Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel may have been recently renovated, but the idiosyncratic 19th-century architecture – as well as a 75,000-bottle wine cellar – still remain.

Fabrice Rambert

Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel

Place du Port 17, Lausanne; 41-21-613-33-33;; 168 rooms starting at $600 (540 Swiss francs).

It was at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel, on the shores of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland, that Coco Chanel used to settle in for months at a time, so smitten was she with the view of Évian-les-Bains, France, across the water. So it's perhaps no surprise that another icon of design is now rethinking vast swaths of this Swiss national historic landmark. Following a years-long renovation of its public spaces, the 152-year-old hotel recently unveiled two floors of rooms and suites – another two follow next spring – reimagined by Pierre Yves Rochon, whose earlier remakes include London's Savoy, Paris's George V and the 16th-century palazzo that's now the Four Seasons Florence.

Story continues below advertisement


A half-hour from Geneva airport, the Beau-Rivage's four hectare park adjoins the grounds of the popular Olympic Museum. Planted with flower gardens and home to two tennis courts, it meets Lake Geneva at a meandering promenade that functions as the city's premiere spot for seeing and being seen. Nearby is the UNESCO World Heritage Lavaux vineyard, many of whose vintages are in the hotel's 75,000-bottle wine cellar.


The hotel's two wings are united by an ornate rotunda in which resides a ballroom restored under the auspices of the National Service of Historical Monuments. Semi-florid rooms have been remade from scratch by Rochon, with little surviving but the idiosyncratic 19th-century architecture (an oval window here; a recessed alcove there). Walls are wrapped in toile; broadloom has made way for wide-plank oak floors. Furniture is frippery-free, and covered in brushed linen, cotton or leather. Softened greens, blues and browns have replaced the heavier maroons and golds of the non-Rochoned rooms. Mirrored pocket doors slide open to let sunlight directly into your bathroom. On balconies, wrought-iron furniture has made way for roomy rattan.


You'll find the best amenity in the starkly named but softly glowing Bar. The homemade vermouth, made with Swiss chardonnay, bitters, lemongrass, verbena and cognac, and aged in mini-barrels of northern Swiss oak, is crisp to the tongue, superbly aromatic and radiates a soft glow all its own.


Story continues below advertisement

With the International Olympic Committee headquartered in Lausanne, and nearby Geneva a financial hub, the hotel is popular with business guests. But leisure visitors book, too, for those lake strolls and the mountain views. A great family draw is a fanciful sunroom, flanking the front lawn, that becomes a nanny-supervised children's play area in summer.


A tough call. The hotel has several restaurants, though the main attraction is the two-Michelin-star Anne-Sophie Pic, named for its chef. Its hedge-framed balcony levitates over the hotel lawn, and the food is so luscious you don't know whether to eat it or flirt with it. But for breakfast, at least in the lakeview lodgings, go with room service, which includes a good old-fashioned newspaper, and birds alighting on your balcony.


Skip the rooms labelled "garden view" and go straight for that Lake Geneva high. Should you want to channel Chanel, she camped out in 460 (a junior suite), which also had a starring role in the 2009 Mads Mikkelsen film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky.


Story continues below advertisement

The enormous room-service breakfast menu is confounding, and should also ask guests to specify the preferred language of their morning paper. An in-room coffee-maker would be nice.

The writer was a guest of the hotel.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to