Belle Époque

Grand Hotel de l'Europe in Bad Gastein

The history of the Grand Hotel de l'Europe in Bad Gastein

The largest building in Gastein was completed in 1911. It was built by Kommerzialrat Victor Sedlacek from Linz. At that time, the hotel was the most modern building in the monarchy. The construction costs amounted to about 2.2 million crowns. The building has 10 floors and is 55 meters high. 858 railway wagons of 10 tons each were needed to transport the building material.

Viktor Sedlacek - the builder

After Viktor Sedlacek had obviously earned a lot of money as a station restorer, he decided to become self-employed and build a hotel. In February 1906 he succeeded in acquiring a 15,000 m² site in Bad Gastein. On the purchased property was already the Villa Solitude, built in 1838, which formed the social centre of Gastein during the time of the visits of the German Emperor Wilhelm I in the seventies and eighties of the 19th century. According to Sedlacek's ideas, his grand hotel was to be built on the remaining floor space.

Planning and construction management

Viktor Sedlacek commissioned the master builder of Linz Cathedral, Matthäus Schlager, to plan and supervise the construction of the large hotel. The local construction company Comini, which already had decades of experience with the construction of hotel complexes in the partly impassable rocky terrain of Bad Gastein, was called in to carry out the construction work.  In the same year, blasting work began and after two years of construction, the ten-storey neo-renaissance building was finally opened on 29 May 1909.

Most modern building of the monarchy

Without a doubt, the hotel was one of the most modern in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at that time. It had a large entrance hall, breakfast and restaurant rooms, a ladies' salon, a reading room, a men's and smoking salon and a 370 m² dining room annex. In addition, the hotel with its 148 guest rooms had room for 250 guests. There were 14 bathrooms on the floors and 14 thermal bath cabins. All rooms had electric light, room telephones and hot and cold water supply - sensational for the conditions at that time!

The early years

In order to be able to finance this enormous construction, Viktor Sedlacek had to take out a loan of 750,000 crowns from the "Allgemeine Verkehrsbank", which he was able to repay by 1918. Obviously Sedlacek had made extraordinarily good profits with his hotel during the first ten years of its existence. Among the first guests were several members of the imperial family. The two Archdukes Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este and Peter Ferdinand of Tuscany appointed him as their chamber supplier already in 1906 and 1907, which is why he was allowed to use the two archducal coats of arms on his menus for special occasions from then on. He made use of this right even after the end of the monarchy.

The guests of the Grand Hotel de l'Europe

In addition to the numerous members of the high nobility, Viktor Sedlacek also counted the highest civil servants of the entire imperial and royal family. Monarchy and industrialists as well as artists among his guests. In the summer of 1909, for example, the American "Railroad King" Edward Henry Harriman stayed with his wife and entourage for five weeks in a total of 22 rooms on the first floor of the hotel. As the spa lists show, the Hotel de l'Europe attracted a particularly international public.

Although the outbreak of war in 1914 put an abrupt end to the upswing, numerous personalities of the high nobility and industry still visited the hotel during this period.

End of the monarchy and post-war period

The end of the monarchy also meant an economic setback for Sedlacek. Despite difficult times, he invited about 120 destitute children of railway employees in need of recreation to stay at his hotel in Bad Gastein for several weeks each year from 1919 to 1921.

The first signs of a new upswing became apparent in 1924, when the International Hoteliers' Association chose his hotel as the seat of the 49th General Assembly Congress. A list of the 103 hoteliers from all over Europe who were accommodated in various hotels in Bad Gastein shows the importance of the congress for Bad Gastein.

Modernization in 1925

With great commitment, Viktor Sedlacek was able to bring his company out of the trough again and meet international quality requirements with appropriate modernizations. In 1925, for example, the water supply for the guest rooms was renewed at a cost of 455,000 shillings and 20 luxury marble bathrooms were built for the apartments. But he also had a sense for artistic innovation. Three years later he had the "Gösserstüberl" furnished with 12 large paintings from the Nibelungen Saga by the two Viennese artists Alexander and Leopold Rothaug for 8,000 Schillings. As can be seen from post-war Bad Gastein Kurlsiten, he also succeeded in accommodating royal guests again.