First opened in 1908, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat is a Belle Epoque legend amid stiff competition on the high glam Cote d’Azur, but this grande dame of hospitality remains relevant now too.
Emily in Paris stayed with her gal pals in an episode that may have stretched credulity (on a marketing assistant’s salary? Really?) but in which the hotel provided the perfect backdrop for the Netflix hit’s high-octane escapism.
In ‘real’ life, Dolce and Gabbana returned for a beach pop up this summer while the fashionable likes of Net a Porter have hosted events at the hotel, proving, in the words of former guest Coco Chanel, that “fashion changes but style endures”.
Year-round seaside grandeur. The hotel’s exterior is a glorious white so fresh and unblemished it suggests a Forth Bridge-style schedule of paintworks (obviously undertaken at the dead of night to shield fragile guests from the sight of manual labour).
The winged building sits atop glorious gardens that meander down towards the sea, via the Club Dauphin with its saltwater infinity pool where everyone from Picasso and Brigitte Bardot to Bono, Aristotle Onassis and, well, me, has perfected their front crawl under the beady eye and salad bowl of the legendary Pierre Gruneberg.
Classic, grand and supremely luxurious it may be but, despite over a century welcoming Riviera icons through its doors, the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat is friendly not fusty.
It’s the sort of place where you feel equally at home clipping across the well-polished marble lobby in stilettoes as padding through in your hotel slippers and plush robe en route to the pool.
It got an interior refresh by Pierre-Yves Rochon in 2009 with the addition of La Residence, a new contemporary wing with the new spa and suites with private pools and terraces.
Good to know
In summer you won’t want to stray from one of the al fresco dining options, be it La Veranda for Mediterranean classics or Club Dauphin for poolside snacking.
If the sun is not pounding, The Library is the cosiest evening spot, a stylish pannelled nook tucked away off the main restaurant and less formal in feel. Cocktails are exemplary and the bar snack menu offers a refreshing selection of Izakaia-style, Japanese-ish dishes. Gorgeous umami-rich bites include chicken yakitori, seabass sashimi and tempura beef fillet.
Breakfast is a tour de force — a groaning buffet is crammed with all the expected viennoiseries, fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereals, as well as sandwiches, crepes, cheeses and chia. Cooked items are also available to order in a feast Augustus Gloop would enjoy.
Local design gem
The pool, spa and sun loungers could easily keep you occupied for days on end but Cap Ferrat’s status as a design destination should not be overlooked.
Thanks to a century housing the rich and famous, this stretch of coast has a wealth of design homes to visit.
Fondant pink Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, an extravagant palace built by the eccentric heiress Beatrice de Rothschild (who will become your new problematic fave), is walkable along the coastal path from the hotel and is a great place to while away an off-season afternoon.
You’ll be hard-pressed to choose just one but arguably the campest feature is the series of waterfalls programmed to ‘dance’ balletically to piped music in one of nine themed gardens, all of which are worth a stroll.
Also walkable from the hotel is Villa Kerylos, a Greek-themed mansion with unique interiors. Meanwhile the Cap Moderne takes in several sites associated with noted modernists Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier.
For all the sleek modern luxe of La Residence, for Riviera-philes it’s got to be one of the beautiful doubles directly above the front entrance, with a balcony overlooking the sea to LARP Belle Epoque style.