Hotel Les Trois Rois

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Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois
Hotel drei Könige/Hotel of the Three Kings
Basel 2012-08 Mattes 1 (91).JPG
Hotel Les Trois Rois in 2012
General information
Location Basel, BS, Switzerland
Coordinates 47°33′37.6″N 7°35′15.6″E / 47.560444°N 7.587667°E / 47.560444; 7.587667
Opening 1681 (with present name)
Owner Thomas Straumann
Design and construction
Architect Amadeus Merian (1844 rebuild)
Christian Lang (2006 renovations)

Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (Hotel of the Three Kings) in Basel, until 1986 usually identified by its German-language name, Hotel drei Könige, is sometimes cited as one of Switzerland's oldest hotels.[1] It is located on the left bank of the Rhine, a few paces downstream of the city's first bridge across the river.[2]

Early history[edit]

Before the railways were built, the Rhine was the most important trade artery in western Europe, and Basel was the principal terminal point at its southern end. Beside the transshipment jetties where merchandise was off-loaded from the boats on the northeast bank of the river, there was already a guest house, identified in 1255 as "domus zem blumen in vico crucis" "(House of Flowers at the cross street)", which was probably a decade or so after the ferry crossings of the river were complemented at this point by a road bridge.[1] However, the guest house and adjacent buildings had to be demolished after the 1356 earthquake.[1]

The first surviving record of a hotel on this site with its modern name dates from 1681, where the "Drei Könige" Inn was identified as a place where itinerant merchants lodged.[3] The name "Drei Könige" means "Three kings" and is a popular name for city hotels in Switzerland and southern Germany. It is thought to be a reference to the Magi (popularly, "Three Kings") who visited Jesus shortly after His birth: the Magi, like the merchants who stayed overnight in medieval hotels, were notable for the precious merchandise they carried with them.[3]

In 1841–42 the entire site was acquired by Johann Jakob Senn, hitherto a successful master tailor who foresaw possibilities for a massive expansion in leisure travel that would follow from the revolutions in transportation brought about by the river steamer and the coming of the railways.[1] Senn demolished the hotel and had it rebuilt in a much more luxurious style, employing the fashionable Basel architect Amadeus Merian (de) to design what would later be seen as an early example of Belle Époque architecture.[1] The rebuilt hotel reopened on 16 February 1844. From then on it would present itself as a "Grand Hotel", with a guest list that included many leading figures from the worlds of politics and the arts.[3]

Later history[edit]

In 1915 the southern block of the hotel building was sold to the Basler Kantonalbank and renovated appropriately.[3] Twenty-three years later, in 1938, the bankers moved out and this building became the City Tourist Information Office.[3] In 2004 the hotel, together with the block that had been separated off and sold to the bank in 1915, was acquired by entrepreneur and dental implants magnate Thomas Straumann.[3] The hotel was closed down for two years while it was comprehensively rebuilt, incorporating the southern block and with a view to recapturing as much as possible the reality of the 1844 original, but only insofar as this was possible without abandoning the more modern luxury features considered appropriate for the 21st century.[4] The hotel reopened on 20 March 2006.[4] In 2012 Straumann announced that he was looking for a buyer for the hotel.[5] Disappointingly,[6] a suitable buyer had still not been found two years later, and in December 2014 it was announced that the hotel was no longer for sale.[7]

Celebrity clientele[edit]

Political leaders who have stayed at the hotel include Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, and the Dalai Lama.[3] Heads of state claimed as guests include King Farouk of Egypt and Queen Elizabeth II.[3] In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte had a business lunch here with Basel officials "to discuss French-Swiss relations".[8] A more recent guest was Britain's General Montgomery.[3] Guests from the worlds of the arts and literature have included Voltaire, Jean-Paul Sartre, Charles Dickens, Herbert von Karajan, Duke Ellington, and Marc Chagall.[3]Theodor Herzl stayed at the hotel in August 1897 while attending the First Zionist Congress.[9]

The composer and conductor Pierre Boulez was awakened by police at six in the morning in his room at the Hotel Les Trois Rois late in 2001; the officers confiscated his passport and disappeared.[10] In 1967, Boulez had given an interview to Der Spiegel in which he said that "the opera houses should be blown up".[10] The law enforcement officials picked up on it during a routine check of hotel guest registrations.[10] The passport was returned after a few days.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Vom Gasthof Drei Könige zum Hotel Les Trois Rois .... Tram- / Bushaltestelle Schifflände". Roger Jean Rebmann iA "". Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Grossbaustelle Hotel Drei Könige: Seit gut einem Jahr wird das Hotel Drei Könige in Basel, eines der berühmtesten Häuser der Schweiz, saniert und erweitert. Unter Wahrung der alten Bausubstanz soll direkt am Rheinufer ein Luxushotel mit modernstem Komfort entstehen". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 15 August 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Grosses Hotel – Grosse Geschichte .... Erste erwähnung" (PDF). Grand Hotel les trois rois. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  4. ^ a b ""Les Trois Rois" strahlen neu Klasse und Klassizismus – das Grand-Hotel in Basel bietet Luxus in seiner schönsten Form". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 19 March 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  5. ^ Dominik Bloedner; Thomas Stramann (interviewee) (8 December 2012). "BZ-INTERVIEW: Gesucht: Käufer mit Leidenschaft". Badische Zeitung. Freiburg. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Raphael Suter (19 October 2013). ""Das Trois Rois sollte in Basler Händen bleiben"....Der ehemalige Direktor Ruedi Schiesser begleitet das Grandhotel seit 20 – zum Teil bewegten – Jahren. Dass kein Basler Investor um das zum Verkauf stehende Haus buhlt, enttäuscht ihn". Basler Zeitung. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "Milliardär Straumann verkauft Luxushotel "Les Trois Rois" doch nicht". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  8. ^ "Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois". The Leading Hotels of the World. 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  9. ^ It is no dream, Jerusalem Post
  10. ^ a b c d "Pierre Boulez". Der Spiegel (online). 10 December 2001. Retrieved 4 November 2015.