Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort: Leisure and Glamour on the Ligurian Riviera

| Mon, 05/06/2024 - 08:30
grand hotel bristol external view
Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort external view

Ed.: The Inspired Stays series highlights hotels we love around Italy. Each property is independently reviewed by an Italy Magazine writer, who is generally hosted on a complimentary basis. Our contributors do not accept compensation or gifts in exchange for specific types of coverage. We only showcase properties we would genuinely recommend overall.

Why we love it 

Spread over six floors, all looking out on the Portofino promontory and the Gulf of Tigullio, the Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort is a sleek Rapallo playground where the panoramic views “are king,” as manager Ivan Parodi puts it.

What to expect

Concierge desk and lobby at Grand Hotel Bristol
Lobby and concierge desk at Grand Hotel Bristol

The dusty pink Art Nouveau façade should be your first clue: At the Grand Hotel Bristol, retro Italian razzle-dazzle is front and center. Turning 120 this year, the hotel still reels in jet-setters, honeymooners and riviera explorers combing the coastline to find their favorite towns. Wellness-focused travelers and day visitors are also drawn here for the award-winning Erre Spa, the largest in Liguria.


The Bristol opened in 1904 under the ownership of the Costa family, whose vision was to create the Gulf of Tigullio’s most modern hotel, introducing what were then out-of-the-ordinary features, like elevators. Today, it’s owned and managed by R Collection Hotels, who’ve added contemporary flourishes but maintained an overall feeling of Slim Aarons-style glamour. 

Location, location, location 

Rapallo offers all the beauty and glitz of the Portofino Coast, but with an atmosphere that’s much more “resort town” than “tourist trap.” The hotel is about a 10-minute drive or 25-minute uphill hike from the center of Rapallo, with lookout points and Liberty (Art Nouveau) buildings to be enjoyed along the route. Be aware that the hotel’s immediate surroundings are not so pedestrian-friendly.

Where you’ll sleep

Executive Suite at the Grand Hotel Bristol
Executive Suite at the Grand Hotel Bristol

The hotel has 80 rooms, 11 of which are suites and 40 of which have French balconies with at least a partial view of the sea. The Portofino Suite, with its wraparound views, is the cream of the crop, while the nine entry-level Park Prestige View rooms overlook the garden instead of the water. I stayed in a fifth floor junior suite with a spacious terrace and view of the gulf. All rooms have a free minibar and use of an espresso machine.

Dining & drinks

Le Cupole
Outdoor dining at Le Cupole

A good mix of heavy and healthy, hot and cold, the balance at breakfast was top tier. The help-yourself mimosas were tempting, but the fresh centrifughe made better wakeup medicine after my late night indulging at Le Cupole, the sixth-floor fine dining restaurant where Executive Chef Andrea Cannalire’s “liquid bruschetta” — made with calamari, artichokes, mussels and air — was a standout. Service at La Veranda, the more casual bistro-style dining option, felt slow and scattershot at lunchtime, but a large group on hand for a birthday party may have swayed that impression.

Service notes 

Each individual staff member I interacted with was cheerful, cordial and eager to please, but there were small communication gaps from shift to shift. With an early train out on my departure day, I’d arranged the night before to have breakfast brought to my room but instead found a box waiting for me at the front desk — a nicety, just not the one I’d requested.

Spa time

Erre Spa at Grand Hotel Bristol
Erre Spa at Grand Hotel Bristol

The 22,000-square-foot Erre Spa is worth a visit, even for those who usually skip out on hotels’ wellness centers. 2024 brought new additions like Aquasoma, a water massage treatment designed to relax the muscles. A calming refreshment room serves decadent hot chocolate in addition to teas and herb-infused water. One design decision that may rattle some guests is the door- and curtain-free shower setup; showers are gender-divided but the spacing felt a bit cramped for comfort, especially compared to the discreet and well-equipped changing rooms.

You should know...

The hotel’s private Marina di Bardi Portofino Beach Club, which wasn’t yet open during my stay but debuted for the season earlier this month, has a dedicated concierge and a host of amenities. Back inside, the contemporary Nuar Art Gallery hosts rotating exhibitions, and performances and portrait sessions offered by artists-in-residence enliven the hotel on select days in summer.


  • The hotel has an elevator.

Features & amenities

  • Seafront setting
  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Free WiFi
  • Free outdoor parking, paid covered parking
  • Pool
  • Spa 
  • Fitness room 
  • Pets allowed 


Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort
Via Aurelia Orientale, 369, Rapallo
Tel. +39 0185 273313