Prague, Czech Republic
A hot-pink confection of Bohemian Neo-Renaissance style, the Hotel Opera stands in the less touristy Nové Město, or “New Town,” quarter of storied Prague.
The historic Grandhotel Giessbach, as it is known today, was constructed in 1873/74 by French architect Horace Edouard Davinet for the Hauser family in Zurich, one of the great dynasties of the hotel trade.
While the first simple shelter originally located here dates back to 1822, the Hauser family took over the existing estate in 1870 at a price of $900,000 Francs. After a massive construction undertaking, the five-story building opened its doors in 1875, and a funicular railway was even added just a few years later.
As World War I began, the hotel became a prominent meeting spot for visitors from high-society. Artists, poets, kings, and diplomats alike enjoyed the fine scenic views. However, WWII and a new approach to tourism strained the Swiss hotel trade moving into the mid-20th century.
After years of decline, the hotel closed its doors in 1979. There were plans for demolishing the entire original complex and building a modern concrete building in its place. Luckily, in 1983 renowned Swiss ecologist Franz Weber succeeded in buying the 22-hectare estate. He placed it under protection with help from his “Giessbach for the Swiss people Foundation” with the underlying idea that Giessbach should be given to the citizens of Switzerland as a “gift” and thus preserved from destruction.
Weber founded a shareholders company to finance the necessary renovations and reopened the site in May 1984. Renovations took place over seven stages, each winter, until the hotel’s structural level had been entirely renovated and the edifice once again took its place among the most beautiful and renowned buildings in Swiss hospitality.
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