Ultimate Elizabeth Taylor Travel Guide - Europe
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
If you’re looking for romance in Europe with a hint of old Hollywood sex appeal, ask yourself ‘where would Liz Taylor go?’
A self-confessed romance addict, Taylor was the ultimate Hollywood movie star, her tumultuous life off screen was often more fascinating than the characters she played on screen. Her epic, diamond-filled romances with Richard Burton and Mike Todd dominated newspaper headlines around the world for 3 decades, and her sexy globe-trotting lifestyle has provided a tantalising blueprint for amorous couples in search of their own starry-eyed passion ever since.
From the sizzling filming locations of Cleopatra, to the Burton's beloved home in snowy Gstaad, discover Elizabeth Taylor's favourite hotels, restaurants, holiday destinations and things to do in Europe.
"I’ve always admitted that I’m ruled by my passions." - Elizabeth Taylor
The eternal city was the romantic setting for the beginning of Liz & Dick’s scandalous love affair. The year was 1961, Taylor and Burton were filming their historic epic Cleopatra at Cinecitta studios just outside Rome (tours are available). Burton emerged on set one day feeling the full effects of a hangover, Taylor noticed his hands shaking and his voice was unsteady; his vulnerability in those moments led her to fall for him hard, according to Taylor years later.
The pair were seen canoodling in some of the hippest places on the Via Veneto, while they were both still married to other people. The Via Veneto was the epitome of cool in the early 60’s, La Dolce Vita was fresh in people's minds, making Rome the 'it' city of the moment. The dazzling array of nightclubs, bars and restaurants along this exclusive boulevard were the places to be seen. The 5 star grand dame St Regis Hotel is one of the few venues that still survives where you can still get a taste of that 'la dolce vita' glamour.
Superior King rooms start at €589 per night.
During the height of 'Le Scandale', Taylor and Burton sought to escape the drama by running away to the pretty seaside town of Porto Santo Stefano to hide from the paparazzi. Only two hours from Rome by train or car, this enchanting gem sits on top of the Tyrrhenian sea, all gold and terracotta houses and a couple of church towers seemingly tumbling down into the azure waters.
Elizabeth Taylor's favourite restaurant in Rome belonged to the legendary fettucine maker Alfredo at ‘Alfredo Alla Scrofa.’ She was pictured eating here with Eddie Fisher in September 1961 and many times afterwards. Alfredo's is still going strong today; stop by for a classic fettucine surrounded by black & white photos of all the stars that have eaten here over the years.
Later in Elizabeth’s career she stayed at the Grand Hotel Palace, also located on the Via Veneto, in 1973 while filming the psychological drama The Driver’s Seat.
In 1967, Taylor and Burton stayed at the romantic Hotel Condulmer Golf Resort, a 15th century villa in Treviso, not far from Venice. Right in the middle of filming their new movie, The Taming of the Shrew, the unpredictable couple decided to take a one month break (as you do) and chose Hotel Condulmer as one of the places they wanted to relax and unwind. The majestic villa in which the hotel is set has a fascinating backstory (Giuseppe Verdi was a frequent visitor) and now offers a stunning restaurant and 9-hole golf course.
Stay in the Liz Taylor suite from €250 per night.
Like all the big movie stars of the time, Taylor always made a beeline for legendary Harry’s Bar for a classic cocktail whenever she was in Venice. It was also a favourite of drinking-connoisseur Ernest Hemingway.
The unspoilt island of Ischia, famous for its hot springs and volcanic landscapes, doubled for Tarsus in Cleopatra. During filming, some of the cast and crew stayed at the Regina Isabella Hotel, originally constructed in the mid-1950’s as an extension of the ancient Baths of Queen Isabella, in the charming village of Lacco Ameno d’Ischia. The owner of the hotel was Angelo Rizzoli, the legendary publisher and film producer.
A Double room with garden view starts at €550 per night.
Burton proposed to Taylor at the iconic Hotel Splendido (one of the world's most famous hotels) in picturesque Portofino. Order a ‘Spaghetti Elizabeth Taylor’ from the hotel’s restaurant and sip on a chocolate martini (Liz’s fave drink) as you gaze out over the harbour. Don't forget to add Dalida's 'I Found My Love in Portofino' to your romance playlist.
Double room with garden view starts at €680 per night.
Another intoxicating location in Italy where Taylor & Burton sought sanctuary during La Scandale was the Belle Époque Hotel Santa Caterina, a 19th century villa, surrounded by sweet bougainvillea, perched on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean. Travel + Leisure describes it as 'the king of the grand hotels of the Amalfi Coast.'
A double room with partial sea view starts at € 360.00.
Taylor & Burton’s love affair continued in Sicily, where they stayed at the grand San Domenico Palace Hotel, a former 15th century Dominican monastery that boasts spectacular views of Mount Etna and Taormina Bay. At the time of writing, the hotel was undergoing extensive restoration work.
Elizabeth Taylor was born in the UK (in Hampstead to be exact) to American parents, Francis and Sara. She lived in Surrey until the age of 5, when her parents returned to California.
You can visit Elizabeth Taylor’s Blue Plaque, which commemorates her birthplace, at Heathwood, 8 Wildwood Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London. U.K.
Ninety year old grand dame the Dorchester Hotel was without doubt Elizabeth’s favourite place to stay in London. Hotel staff went the extra mile to ensure her needs were always met. She usually booked the Harlequin Suite (£5k per night approx.). The pink bathroom in this suite was originally installed just for her, and it’s still there today for your bathing pleasure. According to legend, there’s even graffiti on the wall that reads “RB xxx ET.”
While filming the VIPs, the Burton's stayed in adjoining rooftop garden suites (they were not married yet). And it was in the penthouse suite after they were married that Taylor thought it would be funny to hammer a nail into the wall above the fireplace to hang a Van Gogh painting that she had bought for Richard from Sotheby’s earlier that day.
Taylor and Burton chose The Dorchester for a particularly memorable (and somewhat raucous) celebration here in 1967 for Richard’s Welsh friends and family, who were taxied in from Wales by green Rolls Royce and put up in 14 suites, to celebrate the UK release of the Taming of the Shrew. In her later years, Taylor attended a dinner in her honour at the Dorchester when she was made a Dame in 2002.
Double room starts at £697 per night.
Elizabeth’s Taylor’s favourite places to eat in London include the Café Royal, Langan’s Brasserie (formerly owned by Michael Caine) and the sausages from the Queen’s favourite food hall, Fortnum & Mason. The latter does an excellent afternoon tea, fit for a Hollywood goddess.
The Anchor Hotel in Shepperton, on the outskirts of London and home to Shepperton Movie studios, was a favourite drinking haunt of Taylor and Burton while he was filming Beckett with Peter O’Toole.
Double rooms start at £67.50 per night
Rest of the UK
As a young girl, Elizabeth attended parties at the estate of Lord Beaverbrook, the newspaper publisher who made a career out of befriending the rich and famous. Now the Beaverbrook Hotel, it once played host to wild parties for a Who’s Who of 20th-century icons, including Winston Churchill, Taylor, Ian Fleming and Charlie Chaplin.
Double rooms start at £400 per night, breakfast included.
The Cotswolds is one of England's most picturesque areas of natural beauty; all rolling meadows, church spires and quintessentially English villages with friendly pubs. One of the oldest and most well known pub in the region is the Lygon Arms, a historic Inn where King Charles I once stayed. Taylor & Burton enjoyed an amorous few days here in 1963.
Double rooms start at £165 per night.
The couple also spent time in university town, Oxford, while Richard performed at the Oxford Playhouse. Their accommodation of choice, which is still open today, was the Bath Arms, a cute little boutique hotel in the centre of the city.
Double rooms start at £145 per night.
While shooting Beckett at Bambugh Castle, Burton would often stop at the no frills Salmon Inn in Belford for a drink (or 10) with Elizabeth or his co-star Peter O’Toole, on their way back to the Tillmouth Park Hotel, where the cast and crew stayed for the duration of the shoot.
Double rooms start at £160 per night.
The Gresham, a landmark Dublin hotel on O’Connell Street, has a luxurious two-bedroom suite named after Elizabeth Taylor in honour of the time she spent there while Richard filmed thriller The Spy Who Came in From the Cold in 1965. They took over a whole floor with their entourage (which included a bush baby that Liz had picked up on a whim, that proceeded to wreck their suite). Staff members remember Miss Taylor’s generosity on St Patrick’s Day when she gave them a bottle of whisky each and a green carnation to celebrate.
Double room from £89 per night
Richard Burton described Gstaad as ‘the most beautiful place in the world.’ The chic resort town in the Swiss Alps has long been favoured by the rich and famous, from Julie Andrews and Roger Moore, to the Aga Khan and Brigitte Bardot.
Taylor purchased Chalet Ariel, her long time home in Gstaad, while she was still married to Eddie Fisher. It was her and Richard’s base while they were in Europe and it was where they were said to have spent every Christmas and New Year together, entertaining friends and family. Guest over spill was accommodated at the opulent Palace Hotel nearby (where Liz was a frequent visitor), at her expense. Taylor kept Chalet Ariel until her death in 2011.
Double rooms from €595 per night.
At the beginning of their courtship, Taylor & Burton enjoyed a date at romantic Chateau de Chillon, a bewitching 1,000 year old island castle on Lake Geneva (about an hour’s drive from Gstaad). It was a fine dining establishment at the time of Le Scandale but nowadays you can visit for a tour and a wine tasting, as well as spell binding views of the lake.
While in Gstaad, Elizabeth was known to eat regularly at Hotel Olden, where she enjoyed the clientele’s eclectic mix of glitzy Hollywood-types and local farmers.
Double rooms start at €230 per night.
Richard Burton’s grave can be found in the cemetery at Celigny, a sweet little Swiss village near Geneva where Burton bought a home with his third wife. Raise a glass in his honour at Buffet de le la Gare restaurant, one of his regular drinking haunts (he drank here a few hours before his death).
The Burton’s were known to have stayed at the Hotel Lancaster in the wake of Le Scandale, where they met with the original scandalous couple, the Duke & Duchess of Windsor. They also socialised often with the Rothschilds, who became close friends. Taylor also stayed at The Four Seasons George VI Hotel, a favourite of Orson Welles and the Beatles.
Hotel Lancaster double rooms start at €310 per night.
Four Seasons George VI double rooms start at €950 per night.
South of France
When they weren’t staying on their yacht, the Kalizma, the Burtons were known to lay their heads down at Jean Cocteau’s favourite hotel in the South of France, the charming 4 star Welcome Hotel in the historic old town of Villefranche, between Nice and Monaco. Of course they also stayed at the near mythical Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, another of the world's most famous hotels, where the crème de la crème from the worlds of politics, culture and royalty mingled, and still do to this day.
Welcome Hotel double rooms start at €125 per night.
Hotel du Cap Eden Roc double rooms start at €700 per night.
Taylor and Burton were known to be guests of Emperor Tito at his glorious Brijuni Islands retreat, off the Istrian coast. Other famous guests to enjoy his legendary hospitality include Sophia Loren, Fidel Castro and Queen Elizabeth II. Today the islands are a public park with tonnes of things to offer including water sports, peaceful nature walks, ancient archaeological treasures and even dinosaur footprints to explore.
The Burtons stayed in Dubrovnik a few times too, once at the jaw droppingly stunning Villa Sheherezade while Richard was making a movie. The villa overlooks the harbour and is arguably one of the most stunning properties in the area. It's available for private rental and is a popular wedding venue.
The Burton's also stayed at the Excelsior Hotel during another stay in Dubrovnik. A charming 5 star hotel, it’s worth noting that much of the original hotel’s stunning features were bombed to ruin in 1991, so little of the Burton’s experience here survives.
Excelsior Hotel double rooms start at €900 per night.
Taylor stayed at the Hotel Imperial in Vienna with Burton in 1972. They famously had sex in the Royal Suite, where Adolf Hitler was once a guest. Richard rather vividly recalled the encounter in his diary, saying that they ‘made lovely love’ that night.
Double rooms from €310 per night. The Royal Suite starts at €4,720 per night.
The Marriot Hotel (formerly the Intercontinental Hotel) in Budapest was the scene of Taylor’s lavish star-studded 40th birthday celebration in 1972 while the Burtons were in town for the filming of Bluebeard. The guest list included Princess Grace of Monaco, Ringo Starr and Michael Caine. Watch them arrive below...
Double rooms start at €133 per night.
Sources used for this post
How to be a Movie Star - William J Mann
Furious Love: The Marriage of the Century - Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger
And God Created Burton - Tom Rubython
Elizabeth - J Randy Taraborrelli