It’s the cool part of the Côte d’Azur. Surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean, its year-round sunny climate tempered by fresh breezes, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat beckons sophisticated travelers in search of understated luxury: the authentic French Riviera that has captured the imagination of famous names and fortunate families for more than a century. Secluded yet easily accessible, the Cap Ferrat peninsula juts out into the sea about halfway between Nice and Monaco, an ideal location for exploring the region or settling in to savor the views, which include glimpses of some of the most spectacular private villas in the world.
A stay at the Royal-Riviera is the next best thing to being a guest in a villa owned by friends–and that is exactly the feeling the hotel wants to convey. Built in 1904 as the Panorama Palace, the pale pink Belle Epoque building has led a colorful life–it was used as a school for orphans during World War I and a time-share for British aristocrats between the wars. Today, the Royal-Riviera remains the heart and soul of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, occupying a privileged position on the waterfront with its own sandy beach, a rarity along the coast. The hotel’s terrace overlooking the sea is a choice destination for Sunday brunch, a Cap Ferrat tradition. “The Royal-Riviera has always been somebody’s home,” says Bruno Mercadal, the hotel’s genial general manager. “We are fortunate that now, it is ours to share.”
The Royal-Riviera has always been somebody’s home. We are fortunate that, now, it is ours to share.
The vibe at the Royal-Riviera is relaxed and familial, with a quirky charm. Rooms and suites in the main building are done in a 1950s deco style with pops of resort color: lime green, tangerine, lilac. The hotel also welcomes guests in the Orangerie, a Provençal-style villa across the garden. Guests in fluffy bathrobes and gray flip-flops exchange greetings with the cheerful staff on their way to the pool, beach, and spa. The Royal-Riviera’s chief concierge, Nicolas Amelot, has inside tips on offsite activities, from scenic hikes (the hotel sits on a nine-mile panoramic coastal walkway) to small museums. Nicolas’ blog, on the Royal-Riviera website, is required reading for local history and color.
No visit to the Royal-Riviera, or to France, would be complete without memorable dining experiences. Breakfast is leisurely and generous, often taken on the terrace accompanied by the sound of waves lapping on the beach. The poolside Jasmin Grill and Lounge is casual and eclectic, with something for everyone: chicken with tandoori spices, burgers with all the trimmings, salted caramel millefeuilles. And at La Table du Royal, the Royal-Riviera’s gastronomic restaurant, a rising young chef, Anthony Cadei, who trained with Eric Frechon at Le Bristol in Paris, is working wonders with fresh fish, local vegetables, and aromatic herbs. Word to the wise: Book now while you still can.