The iconic Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois sits on the bank of the Rhine River in the heart of Basel, Switzerland’s old town. The luxury hotel is one of the world’s oldest continously operating hotels, having first opened as an inn in 1681. The name, which means “the three kings,” refers to the three wisemen from the Bible. Since they traveled with valuables, the name was a popular one for inns at the time. Basel, with its prime position on the Rhine, was a important trading center before the time of trains or trucks.
First opened in 1681 as an inn for the traders who dealt with Rhine river commerce, the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois was rebuilt as a grand hotel in 1844. The hotel is famous for the incredible list of guests who have visited throughout its history. Iconic people like Queen Elizabeth II, Voltaire, the Rolling Stones, Picasso and Charles Dickens. Even Napoleon Bonaparte visited the hotel in 1797, staying there and hosting a reception.
While the hotel embraces its long history, it has a cool, modern vibe. Their motto is “rich in history, young at heart.” The large lobby bar and terrace is a popular place for the city’s movers and shakers to meet and discuss business (as it has been for the past 338 years). Even the hotel car is cool, it’s a Bentley covered with graffiti. The graffiti was created by a famous Swiss artist named Thierry Furger, with the help of local schoolchildren.
That connection to Napoleon is showcased in the hotel’s amazing Suite Napoleon, which is now protected as a historic landmark. The spacious riverfront suite is highlighted by the unique collection of Empire-style anqtique furniture. Although not used by Napoleon, the suite features a rare, full matching set of original pieces. Everything matches, the sofa, chairs, end tables, desks, tables, chests, dressers, bed, it’s all part of a single full set of antique furniture. The museum-like furniture is matched by the beautiful wall decorations and wall paintings throughout the suite.
It’s a spacious suite, with high ceilings and ornate paneled walls and ceilings. The suite also boasts a large furnished balcony with postcard views of the river and Kleinbasel neighborhood.
The Hotel Les Trois Rois is a haven for foodies as it houses one of the world’s great restaurants. The three-Michelin-star Le Cheval Blanc (the white horse) offers a locally-sourced, seasonally changing menu. It’s consistently listed as one of the top 100 restaurants in the world. Aside from Le Cheval Blanc, there’s also the more casual eponymous Brasserie and Chez Donati, a separate italian restaurant.
I visited Basel as it was the embarkation point of my Rhine river cruise with Viking. Our 7-day Rhine Gateway cruise started in Basel and went through (or next to) Switzerland, France and Germany before ending in the Netherlands. You can see a look at the food onboard here.