Some guests arrive by car along the southern shores of Lac Léman. Others arrive by water on Evian One, a futuristic speedboat that makes the journey from Geneva Airport in under 45 minutes. However you approach it, the Hôtel Royal in Evian-les-Bains is an otherworldly experience. Opened in 1909 as a spa retreat for European royalty and now designated by the French government as a “Palace,” the Hôtel Royal’s Belle Epoque main building rises over 47 acres of private lakeside grounds. Its mountain views seem familiar because they are: The snow-capped peaks of the Chablais feature on every bottle of Evian mineral water, which runs directly under the hotel on its 15-year journey from Alpine thaw to the springs.
“Taking the waters” at the hotel’s Source Evian spa is still the highlight of any visit, but the concept of restful rejuvenation has been updated and extended, following a renovation completed in 2015. Guest rooms have had a gentle refreshing while preserving period touches, and seven sumptuous new suites were created. But the Hôtel Royal’s sun-filled public areas, blue-and-white mosaic floors, and impeccable service have remained unchanged. Most importantly, a certain style of hospitality has been preserved: simple, understated, and regal. “The goal is to help our guests achieve perfect peace, whether they want to do everything or nothing at all,” says Laurent Roussin, the Hôtel Royal’s general manager.
The goal is to help our guests achieve perfect peace, whether they want to do everything or nothing at all.
Hôtel Royal guests have access to the full recreational facilities of the Evian Resort complex, including golf, hiking, music festivals, spa treatments, thermal baths, a casino-theater, and a Kids’ Resort, as well as a variety of bespoke experiences: crossing Lake Geneva on the hotel's very own Evian One speedboat, yoga, and “sylvanotherapy” wellness walks in the woods. The hotel’s majestic location makes it a natural host for world-class events—the G8 summit in 2003 was held there. Hôtel Royal also has a historic affinity for music and musicians. The hotel’s Esa-Pekka Salonen Suite, outfitted for the Finnish composer and conductor who was its inaugural occupant, is a feast for the ears as well as the eyes, with a “listening room” for guests whose idea of bliss is a crystal-clear recording on a state-of-the-art sound system. The same goes for golf and golfers. The David Leadbetter Suite, dedicated to one of the world's leading golf coaches, provides a range of exceptional services including exclusive iPad training videos, and a lesson with the resort's golf pro.
But the soul of Hôtel Royal is as much in the little touches as in the grand gestures. The hotel is one of the few in France that still employs a full-time, in-house floral staff. “Are flowers a necessity in life?” says Jean-Marie Pahon, the head florist. “Well, maybe not. But they bring such joy, and so they are important here.” At Les Fresques, Hôtel Royal’s Michelin-starred restaurant, sommeliers work with local vintners to create unique wines for pairing with chef Patrice Vander’s creative cuisine inspired by fresh local produce, and served in one of the hotel's elegant dining room. And whenever they find themselves thirsty, guests can simply ask for a bottle of Evian water, judged the purest and cleanest in the world and always offered compliments of the house.