Le Regina Biarritz Hotel & Spa - MGallery by Sofitel

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Discover Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa - MGallery by Sofitel, which has been a premier holiday destination since 1906.

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Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa - MGallery by Sofitel, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2018, dates back to 1906.


A member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2018, Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa - MGallery by Sofitel has been one of France’s most renowned holiday destinations for more than a century. In the early 1900s, Fernand Journeau emerged as one of France’s preeminent hoteliers. His Parisian hotel, the Hôtel Regina, had won him great praise. To capitalize upon his acclaim, he decided to develop another hotel in the rustic, seaside municipality of Biarritz. Renowned landscape architect Henri Martinet oversaw the project, choosing a pentagonal shape for his design. Martinet built two beautiful domes atop the structure, adding an inner courtyard with an enclosed glass roof inside. All the rooms gazed into this marvelous central patio, which housed the restaurant and its winter garden. When Martinet was finally finished, the hotel stood as a stunning example of Second-Empire architectural style. Christening it as “Le Régina Biarritz,” Journeau eagerly debuted his new establishment in the summer of 1907. Golf courses nearby attracted wealthy tourists, which enabled Journeau to cultivate a foundation for consistent business. As such, the popularity of Le Régina Biarritz soared, with the building forming a prestigious reputation for opulence and luxury. The New Year’s Day celebration of 1908 epitomized the hotel’s newfound majesty, as 125 distinguished guests from across Europe partook in the revelry. Among their number were many high-ranking European aristocrats and dignitaries. The allure of Le Régina Biarritz even attracted King Edward VII, who periodically stayed at the hotel toward the end of his life. By the 1920s, the building emerged as one of the foremost resorts on the entire continent, employing a permanent staff of 50 people.

Marcel Curveur eventually took over from Ferdinand Journeau at the height of Le Régina Biarritz’s early success. But the prosperity was not to last. Shortly after Curveur’s appointment, Le Régina Biarritz fell on hard times due to forces beyond his control. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 caused great financial hardship for the hotel, as many of its affluent benefactors lost their personal fortunes. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish Civil War erupted directly to the south. Visitation collapsed further, forcing Curveur to reduce Le Régina Biarritz’s staff to only nine people. The luck of the hotel grew worse. When Germany invaded France during World War II, the German Army requisitioned the building and transformed it into a barracks. Le Régina Biarritz suffered terribly. Once Allied troops liberated the hotel in 1944, it had endured an estimated three million francs in damages. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, good times would return to Le Régina Biarritz. After the war, Biarritz became a dynamic university town occupied once more by large numbers of foreign tourists. New ownership at the hotel seized upon the opportunity. They put the building through a significant period of renovation, which returned it to its former glory. By the end of the 1950s, Le Régina Biarritz was once again a popular vacation destination for prominent individuals traveling abroad. The Royal Monceau Company then purchased Le Régina Biarritz in the late 1980s. It operated the hotel for the next decade until AccorHotels acquired it in 1998. Since then, Le Régina Biarritz has maintained its legendary flair and unmatched hospitality. The hotel is now part of Accor’s luxurious MGallery family of boutique hotels, reimagined to appear as it did in the Roaring Twenties.

  • About the Location +

    For centuries, the town of Biarritz has existed Gascony, a historic region located in the southwestern corner of France along the Pyrenees. It once served as the homeland of the Aquitanians, a society of people more closely related to the Basques of Spain. The area remained fairly remote until the Roman Empire conquered it during the 1st century BC as part of Julius Caesar’s conquest of modern-day France. It quickly became the central territory in the Roman administrative state of “Gallia Aquitania,” which covered a landmass that stretched from the Garonne River all the way to the Loire Valley. Emperor Diocletian eventually divided the province into three different locales, with the southernmost portion redefined as “Novempopulania,” meaning “the land of nine tribes.” Over time, though, Novempopulania became occupied by large groups of Visigoths, especially after the collapse of western half of the Roman Empire during the 5th century. Emerging as the dominant political society, the Visigoths ruled over Novempopulania until they, too, were subjugated by conquest in 507. Now a part of the Kingdom of the Franks—France’s predecessor—Novempopulania gradually morphed into the Duchy of Vasconia. Over time, its title transformed into the more recognizable “Gasconia” and then just “Gascony.” The people who resided in the area also became known as the “Gascons,” who retained their cultural connections to the Basques further south.

    Nevertheless, the Dukes of Gascony held sway over the local population for generations, although they struggled to protect the coastline from Viking raiders. In some cases, the Gascon dukes accommodated the Vikings by granting them land in exchange for their service. Following this precedent, one group decided to create a small village just south of the Adour River near the town of Bayonne. Calling it “Bjarnihus,” the hamlet specialized in fishing. Soon enough, the mariners developed a reputation for the especially dangerous craft of whaling. Bjarnihus eventually became known as “Biarritz,” with its Scandinavian population integrating peacefully into local Gascon society. Meanwhile, the greater Duchy of Gascony continued to operate as a semi-autonomous subject of the Frankish—and then the French—kings, merging together with neighboring Duchy of Aquitaine by way of a personal union. In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine (the Duchess of Aquitaine) controversially wed Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy. Their marriage elevated Henry as the feudal lord over half of France, including Gascony. Going on to install himself as King of England just two years later, Henry and Eleanor’s massive landholdings made their family one of the most powerful in all of Europe. Soon enough, Gascony was at the center of what historians now call the Angevin Empire, which dominated western European politics for the better part of two centuries. Despite the subsequent downfall of the empire under Henry’s son, John, in 1208, both Aquitaine and Gascony remained under English control for some time.

    The two regions reverted back to the Kingdom of France following the conclusion of the harrowing Hundred Years’ War. In the aftermath of the conflict, the French monarchy dissolved the Duchy of Aquitaine and made Gascony its own separate province once again. Biarritz itself had endured the political tumult well, continuing to exist as a bucolic fishing village for generations. The whole region of Gascony was even among the calmest in France over the next several centuries. But in the 19th century, Biarritz underwent a rapid transformation into one of the most exclusive resort towns in all of Europe. With the advent of new forms of travel, increasing numbers of tourists began to visit the Gascon coast, including Biarritz. By the 1850s, hundreds of travelers arrived every year to experience its charming scenery and quiet atmosphere. In fact, the renowned French author Victor Hugo was among the first to refer to Biarritz as “charming.” The town’s status as a prestigious vacation retreat was solidified when Emperor Napoleon III’s wife, the Empress Eugénie, constructed a brilliant palace along the shoreline. It, thus, became incredibly fashionable for all kinds of European aristocrats and dignitaries to vacation in Biarritz. Many members of the Russian, Swedish, Austrian, and British royal families were frequent visitors to the town for decades. Despite a brief economic downturn during both the Great Depression and World War II, Biarritz has since remained a luxurious holiday destination (especially after the popularization of surfing in the 1950s). Today, Biarritz is a truly enchanting place filled with many gorgeous beaches and fascinating cultural landmarks.

  • About the Architecture +

    Renowned landscape architect Henri Martinet oversaw the project, choosing a pentagonal shape for his design. Martinet built two beautiful domes atop the structure, adding an inner courtyard with an enclosed glass roof inside. All the rooms gazed into this marvelous central patio, which housed the restaurant and its winter garden. When Martinet was finally finished, the hotel stood as a stunning example of Second-Empire architectural style. Also known simply as “mansard style,” Second Empire architecture first emerged in Paris at the height of the reign of Emperor Napoléon III. Born Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, he was the nephew of the legendary Napoléon Bonaparte of the French Revolution. He rose to power by serving as France’s president before making himself its monarch by the middle of the 1800s. Nevertheless, his reign saw a brief restoration in French national pride that was accompanied by a cultural renaissance that affected everything from the arts to the sciences. One the areas that saw this development was architecture. Napoléon III had taken a particular interest with architectural projects at the time, going as far as to commission the complete redesign of Paris’ central cityscape. He subsequently appointed engineer Georges-Eugène Haussmann for the project, instructing the latter to create a new generation of buildings that could accommodate the city’s swelling population. Largely borrowing design elements from the French Renaissance of the 16th century, Haussmann essentially created a brand-new architectural form that soon defined the appearance of Paris. While the project itself only lasted from 1853 to 1870, its impact was felt throughout the world for many years thereafter. Haussmann’s new form quickly appeared across France, as well as many other countries throughout Europe, including Belgium, Austria, and England. Furthermore, the architecture quickly emerged in North America, finding a popular audience in both the United States and Canada. Many hoteliers like Frank Jones saw the fabulous design aesthetics of Second Empire architecture and copied it for their own structures throughout the remainder of the 19th century.

    Second Empire architecture was specifically meant for larger structures that could easily showcase its ornate features and grandiose materials. Architects, business owners and other professionals who embraced the form believed that it represented the best of modernity and human progress. This idea especially found an audience in the America, where society was largely perceived to be on an upward path of collective mobility. (In fact, the architecture had become so enmeshed in American society that some took to calling it “General Grant” style.) The form looked similar to the equally popular Italianate-style, in which it embraced an asymmetrical floor plan that was rooted to either a “U” or “L” shaped foundation. The buildings usually stood two to three stories, although some commercial structures—like hotels—exceeded that threshold. Large ornate windows proliferated across the facade, while a brilliant warp-around porch occasionally functioned as the main entry point. The porches would also have several outstanding columns, designed to appear smooth in appearance. Every window and doorway featured decorative brackets that typically sat underneath lavish cornices and overhanging eaves. Gorgeous towers known and cupolas typically resided toward the top of the building, too. Yet, Second Empire architecture broke from Italianate in one major way—the appearance of the roof. Architects always incorporated a mansard-style roof onto the building, which consisted of a four-sided, gambrel-style structure that was divided among two different slopes. Set at a much longer, steeper angle than the first, the second slope often contained many beautiful dormer windows. The mansard roof became a central component to Second Empire architecture after Georges-Eugène Haussmann and his fellow French architects starting using it for their own designs. They had specifically sought to copy the mansard roof of The Louvre, which the renowned François Mansart had created back at the height of the French Renaissance.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (1901 – 1910)

    King Hassan II of Morocco (1961 – 1999)

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