In Lugano, there is a former palace that has seen the likes of royal families and celebrities from around the world: Hotel Splendide Royal.
Built in the 19th century, this Italian style palazzo was converted into a hotel in 1887 and has been in business ever since. The Splendide Royal is the definition of a historic hotel, yet it is hardly stuck in history. We are about to find out what it is like to lodge in a five-star hotel that has seen the rich and famous, from Italian actress Sophia Loren to composer Igor Stravinsky.
Hotel Splendide Royal at the shores of Lake Lugano
We are picked up at the train station by the hotel's driver. While we have explored Lugano's old town and the areas closer to Monte Brè before, the Splendide Royal is located on the other end of the bay.
Those who have been to Lugano have surely noticed the jet fountain near Monte San Salvatore. We pass it by car before the driver pulls into the driveway leading up to the hotel entrance. I could get used to this new vantage point on Lugano...
At check-in, a big surprise awaits: we have been upgraded to the hotel's only Presidential Suite where royals have once stayed! Such a thing has never happened in our humble lives as bloggers. Needless to say, our hearts skip a beat as we make our way to the room...
The Splendide Royal surely cannot hide its Belle Époque heritage. For instance, the winding staircase is a symbol of Art Nouveau, a form of architecture featuring natural forms in response to the predominant academic art at the time.
And the five-meter vaulted ceiling in the Presidential Suite is a fine example of neo-Byzantine architecture:
Did you catch that? We are graced with a five-meter tall vaulted ceiling in our sitting room! I am struck by the realization that this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. I would never stay in another suite with a magnificent vaulted ceiling such as this one.
So, I take my time to inspect it from all angles and I find my favorite perspective by laying on the floor.
Newly Swissed all the way!
As we explore our suite to inventory all the bathrooms and closets, we come across a sweet surprise from the kitchen. Another first for these Newly Swissed, the pastry chef has carefully baked a chocolate cake decorated with our very own logo. (I swore to keep this cake as a souvenir but it did not make it to the next morning...)
If you were to ask me, one of Lugano's strongest selling points is the lakeside location with views of the surrounding mountains. Our private terrace is the ideal space to enjoy what Lugano does best. The size of a city apartment, we could easily host a party for two dozen friends out here...
Overlooking the majestic Lake Lugano and the foothills of the Alps, I have a serious case of separation anxiety with this balcony. However, it is time to get ready for lunch!
A place for lovers of Italian cuisine
During this visit, we do not have enough time for a culinary excursion to Restaurant I Due Sud, the hotel's in-house gourmet restaurant. Nonetheless, the restaurant's name makes us curious to learn more about the "two souths".
Because, there will always be a next time, right? Restaurant I Due Sud is the origin story of its executive chef, Domenico Ruberto. His concept is to use his memories and inspiration to combining local Ticino products with the flavors from his birthplace of southern Italy.
Today, we have a reserved window table at the charming Belle Epoque Bar. While browsing the many options for a light meal, we enjoy the sounds coming from the piano across the lobby.
Here is Mamiko's seafood tagliolini pasta - a true work of art:
And this is my amazing order of homemade ravioli filled with aubergine and garnered with cherry tomato sauce:
Now, it's time for a leisurely stroll along Lake Lugano
They always say that "location, location, location" is important. And the Hotel Splendide Royal is in a prime location here in Lugano. Just across the street from the entrance is the sprawling lakeside promenade that stretches all the way to the foot of Monte Brè.
There is never a dull moment as we walk along the lake on this Saturday afternoon. Be it the people-watching or exploring of hidden spots and outdoor art: Lugano has more to offer than meets the eye. For instance, near the history museum, we discover a monument depicting George Washington. And further along inside the picturesque Parco Ciani, we come across the infamous "Instagram gate":
At the other end near the lido public bath, we hit a river entering the lake. It was a good decision to take off our shoes and wade across, because we discover a really cool hangout place. Mostly constructed from repurposed pallets, this hipster area is a stark contrast to the world of luxury hotels. But none of the locals care that we are overdressed and so we join a table with refreshing beverage in hand...
The LAC Lugano is located just footsteps from the hotel.
On our way back, we stop at the LAC Lugano, a particularly striking building overlooking the lake. This cultural center houses a stunning concert hall, a permanent art collection as well as changing exhibits.
We visited the large-scale exhibit dedicated to the Swiss artist, Franz Gertsch. Along with his woodcuts were works by Gauguin and the Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch.
A weekend in Lugano would not be complete without a concert at the LAC. Depending on when you go, you will find dance performances, operas or classical concerts.
We timed our stay at the Hotel Splendide Royal with the Ludwig van Beethoven Festival, a tribute to the great German composer. Along with other five-star hotels in Lugano, the hotel helped to bring the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana to the stage on three consecutive nights.
Our seats inside the LAC Lugano concert hall are center stage, giving us a perfect audio-visual experience. During the concert, I look around to inspect the much talked about pear wood paneling. Covering the walls and ceiling of this shoe box shaped concert hall, the panel provides a memorable acoustic experience for each of the 1000 seats.
Do we look like we are ready for a night of classical music?
The five-star Hotel Splendide Royal is a member of Leading Hotels of the World and Swiss Deluxe Hotels.
Hotel Splendide Royal
Riva Antonio Caccia 7
+41 91 985 77 11
(For the purpose of this review, the hotel has provided one night for 2pax, including dinner and breakfast, as well as concert tickets.)