Basel, the city on the Rhine river, where the countries Switzerland, France and Germany meet, is not only home to many pharmaceutical headquarters, but has also become known for its many cultural and architectural highlights. During «Baselworld» and «Art Basel» the city turns into an international mecca of watches and jewellery and art respectively. Basel has a long standing history as a trading city, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is reason for the many historic guild houses. The Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, referred to as «s’Dreikönig» by the locals, enjoys a prominent location right on the edge of the Rhine river and is deeply rooted in the history of Basel.
Upon my arrival I was received by a friendly porter and taken to the reception of the LES TROIS ROIS, where I was welcomed with a red rose from the hotel’s own flower shop «Fleurs des Rois» (you should check it out!). Heading up to my room, I was impressed by the wonderful antiques dotted throughout the hotel and slightly amused by the nostalgic elevator featuring a padded bench. Walking into my room with splendid views across the Rhine river, gave me a completely new perspective of my beautiful home town Basel. The interiors are decorated with blue and gold wallpaper, drapes made from exquisite fabrics and beautiful antiques.
The history, stories and legends about this Grand Hotel are (literally!) enough to fill an entire coffee table book. One of these legends claimed that the name of the hotel derives from a royal meeting in 1026. However, this legend was later said to be false, because the true history of the LES TROIS ROIS begins in 1681. In that year, the building, which thus far had been the home of aristocratic families, was opened as a guesthouse «The three Kings» for the first time. During those times, the category «guesthouse» entitled the host to accommodate guests, serve them meals and store as well as serve three types of wines.
During the following years, the guesthouse changed ownership several times. The 18th century wrote many a strange and gruesome tale about an unhappy prince in exile, an escaped rhino from the zoo of Strasbourg and even a fatal duel to name a few. The hotel was host to Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth II and Pablo Picasso and many other celebrities. When Napoleon came to visit, the aristocrats of Basel were so keen to see him, that they agreed to dress up as service staff. Apparently Napoleon felt overwhelmed by all the attention he was getting and quickly continued on with his journey. Even in recent years the hotel hosted many famous politicians and celebrities, which are not to be named for discretionary reasons. Nowadays, one can usually tell by the type of crowd that gathers in front of the hotel… ranging from fanatic football fans to ecstatic teenage girls (rumour has it that the teenage star Justin Bieber recently paid the hotel a visit….)
In 1842 the old guesthouse was demolished and Basel architect Amadeus Merian was commissioned to design and build a new hotel in the then popular style of classicism. In 1844 the new LES TROIS ROIS opened its doors and its facade has been an integral part of Basel’s skyline ever since.
In 2004 the Grand Hotel, which is a listed building and an adjacent building were purchased by the successful entrepreneur Dr. Thomas Straumann. Architect Christian Lang was hired to carefully restore and partially reconstruct the building according to the original plans. The extensive renovation took 20 months. The adjacent building, which is of later date than the main building, was refurbished according to its origins in the Art Deco style and houses additional rooms and suites, an impressive «Belle Epoque» ballroom and modern meeting facilities. In March 2006 the Grand Hotel reopened in all its glory.
Entering the LES TROIS ROIS feels a bit like stepping back in time, back into an era long gone. The imposing atrium with its enormous chandeliers, the opulent fabrics and the striking antiques from the Empire and Romantic periods exude elegance and luxury. The walls are covered in real silk, exclusive wallpaper or have been painted after the imagery of the famous «Rixheim wallpaper». The wooden columns and the wood panelling were marmorated using an ancient technique only few highly skilled specialists know how to do. Marmorating is a very labour intensive process that takes approximately 12 hours per square meter. Another peculiarity of the hotel is that the building has sunk 18cm towards the Rhine, which is particularly visible when walking up the grand staircase. It was left this way to tell yet another great story, but the building was stabilised according to current safety regulations during the renovation.
Each of the 101 rooms and suites either enjoys views across the river or across the old town of Basel. The rooms are decorated in Classicist or Art Deco style depending on the building featuring authentic antiques from the respective eras. The colour concept in the main building is red or blue, combined with gold. The rooms are spacious, feature all the necessary mod-cons and some of them even have a balcony. If you’d like to feel like a princess (or a prince) for a night, I highly recommend the «Napoleon» Suite. For the Art Deco fans amongst you, you will surely enjoy the «Art Deco Suite» with its very own roof top jacuzzi.
The main restaurant «La Brasserie» has been awarded 14 GaultMillau points and offers an elaborate champagne breakfast as well as lunch and dinner in a relaxed ambiance overlooking the Rhine. The cuisine is a mix of Swiss and French specialties. The CHEVAL BLANC by Peter Knogl, which holds no less than 3 Michelin stars and 19 GaultMillau points to its name, is an extraordinary experience. Chef Peter Knogl and his team will take you on a culinary journey and delight you with true «haute cuisine», beautifully presented and served with love. It’s obviously a labour of love and passion. The staff is very professional, friendly, but also always up for a joke, which creates a wonderful atmosphere. A world-class dining experience without the stuffiness!
In fact I experienced this pleasant and relaxed atmosphere throughout my entire stay. It appears that the LES TROIS ROIS’ slogan «Rich in history, young at heart» is far more than just a slogan.
Even though I didn’t get quite as much attention as Napoleon did back then, I truly enjoyed the hospitality of the LES TROIS ROIS and unlike the famous Frenchman, I could have easily stayed a little longer…
Deutsche Version: Les Trois Rois Basel: eine Reise durch die Epochen
More information: www.lestroisrois.com
Photo credits: courtesy of Les Trois Rois
Note: This blog post was created in collaboration with the hotel (press trip)
Posted by Simone Aïda Baur: I’m a multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-passionate award winning international interior designer, award winning blogger and ex-hotelier. I have turned my life upside down more than once. Feel free to learn more about my story and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.
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