Villa Eugénie (Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz)

Period : 2nd Republic / 2nd Empire
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Villa Eugénie (Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz)
Villa Eugénie in Biarritz, in 1870 c. Lux-in-Fine-Leemage

Villa Eugénie was commissioned by Napoleon III and built in 1854. Queen Hortense had been taken by the region as early as 1807, but it took Empress Eugenia’s persuasion before Napoleon III set up the imperial court’s summer residence there. Eugenia was but a child when she discovered the beauty of the Basque coast with her mother, the Countess of Montijo. Beginning in 1835, she spent several holidays there. Her deep attachment to Biarritz and its surroundings accounts for her wish, once she had become Empress of France, to turn the town into a privileged holiday resort.

Villa Eugénie and the lighthouse at Biarritz Fonds Ancely, Bibliothèque municipale de Toulouse

Up to 1870, the imperial court seldom failed to spend summer in Biarritz (except in 1860 and 1869) bringing the best society of Europe in its wake. Queen Isabel of Spain, the King of Wurtemberg, Leopold II of Belgium, the king and queen of Portugal, Prince Albrecht of Bavaria, Prince Walewski, the princes of Metternich, and Chancellor Bismarck, as well as the writers Prosper Mérimée and Octave Feuillet all met year after year in Biarritz. During these holidays, the “Imperial Feast” was at its height: balls, fireworks, recreations in the country and at sea. All kinds of entertainment punctuated the diplomatic meetings that took place there.


Fire at the Hôtel du Palais, 1 February 1903


The building which is E-shaped as a tribute to the Empress’s first name, was turned into a casino during the Third Republic and later into a hotel. After burning down in 1903, it was rebuilt and enlarged in order to accommodate the highest society. In 1922, an unforgettable “Second Empire ball” led by King Alphonse III and the Shah of Persia revived the splendor of its past.

Presentation of the Hotel du Palais on the website of the town of Biarritz (mulit-lingual).

Today the Hôtel du Palais is part of the chain Hyatt.


Page updated March 2021 (RY)

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