All The Light We Cannot See: Is Hotel of Bees a Real Place?

Image Credit: Katalin Vermes/Netflix

Hotel of Bees serves as the German radio surveillance headquarters in Netflix’s historical drama miniseries ‘All The Light We Cannot See.’ It’s the place where German soldier Werner Pfennig operates from but also secretly listens to a French broadcast channel where Marie-Laure reads her book. In the show, the place is mostly in ruins due to the strategic bombing by the American air force, which is targeting specific locations with German soldiers. Even with the roof collapsing, Werner finds himself coming back to the place, as he lives there and works closely with his radio. Since it feels like there’s more to the story of the hotel, it makes us wonder if it is a real place.

Hotel of Bees is Anthony Doerr’s Fictional Creation

Hotel of Bees is actually a fictional place created by Anthony Doerr in his historical fiction novel of the same name, on which the show is based. While not much about its origins has been mentioned in the series, in the book, it is supposed to be located on Rue de la Crosse in Saint-Malo. In reality, there is no Hotel of Bees in that place, but there are other hotels like Hotel Porte St Pierre in the location, which might not match the description but work as closely to a real-life counterpart for this hotel from a geographical point of view.

In the pages of the novel, the Hotel of Bees was once a cheerful place with bright blue shutters and a café that eventually lost its charm after the Germans arrived. It boasted of spectacular views and vast lobbies with plenty of guest rooms. The hotel was so named because a rich privateer once lived there, who went out of Saint-Malo to study bees and returned as something of an apologist, since the look of the hotel changed after that point, with everything reminding one of bees, including a fountain in the shape of a bee hive.

With the arrival of the Germans and, later, the American bombers, the fictional hotel in the book lost all its brightness and started resembling a fortress. This description seems more similar to what is depicted in the series, as Werner always seems to be working out of a place that might topple over any second. Replacing every naturally beautiful aspect of the way the hotel used to be, during the war, it becomes home to artillery shells and anti-air guns. Even if viewers and readers of the famed novel would want to connect this place with something real, Hotel of Bees is in every way a fictional place, even if it seems to have a deep history attached to it.

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