Atout France, the national French tourist office, has designated a small number of 5-star luxury hotels as “Palace Hotels” based on the property offering the highest level of service and accommodation. Although they account for only 2,033 out of the roughly 80,000 hotel rooms in Paris, the Palace Hotels occupy an outsized place in the city’s imagination by catering to celebrities, corporate titans, and billionaires. During the French Open every spring, it is not uncommon to see tennis fans crowded out front, eager to catch a glimpse of Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, and the hotels often have hidden back entrances so stars can escape unseen.
The Impact of COVID-19
The Palace Hotels, many of which remained open during the first and second world wars, could not withstand coronavirus. They all closed in March as France’s lockdown began, and nearly all of them chose to remain closed even as restrictions began to lift in mid-May. Due to the many travel bans, it did not make sense for them to reopen. Although their restaurants and bars are also frequented by Parisian power brokers, the economies of these hotels simply do not add up without international travelers. To maintain their levels of service, they rely on large numbers of staff who cannot easily be cut back when hotel occupancy is low.
However, the Palace Hotels, do have something unique to offer guests during the pandemic. At a time when going out to work or socialize can trigger anxiety about getting infected, they can offer the ultimate luxury experience of 2020 — splendid isolation. For example, Le Bristol’s large and fully stocked suites can keep guests comfortable and satisfied without leaving their rooms, even providing in-suite COVID-19 tests. The hotel has gone so far as to create private workout spaces by transforming a series of first floor bedrooms, each with a different cardio machine. If you are interested in venturing out into the city, the chief concierge can arrange for almost any activity, offering the exclusivity that today translates also to safety.
Located in the heart of Paris, the 160-room Le Meurice is the original Palace Hotel. Salvador Dali’s hotel of choice, the interior is a luxurious example of 18th century and surrealist design – a contemporary Versailles. The hotel’s rich history includes being the Wehrmacht headquarters during World War II and the site of Picasso’s wedding, as well as hosting notable guests such as the King of Spain, Tchaikovsky, Orson Welles, and Rudyard Kipling among many others. The Tuileries Garden, Louvre, and Place de la Concorde are all at Le Meurice’s doorstep. There are several restaurants, bars, and patisseries onsite. Other amenities include a fitness center and spa, the only Valmont spa in Paris.
Hôtel Plaza Athénée
You may have seen this hotel in both Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada. This hotel holds a strong connection to the world of fashion, Christian Dior has named collections after the hotel and launched his first fashion show here. The hotel is located near some of Paris’ famous fashion boutiques – just a short walk away! The hotel’s 154 rooms were designed by Marie-José Pommereau who combined contemporary décor with a luxurious traditional setting. Our personal favorite room is the Signature Eiffel Suite which has one of the best views over Paris through its framed floor-to-ceiling windows. While here, we recommend making reservations at the Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant. If you’re looking for some pampering the hotel’s Dior Institute Spa is the first of its kind. Also onsite is a bistro where you can enjoy jazz on Wednesday nights, a sidewalk café, an interior garden, and a fitness center.
Le Bristol Paris
We feel that the 190-room Le Bristol (yes, the one from Midnight in Paris!) is our favorite luxury, 5-star hotel in Paris. Opened in 1925, the hotel occupies an 18th-century building near the shops of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. We consider the airy, iconic Le Bristol to perfectly illustrate French culture and service. Though the Deluxe Suite here is our favorite, each room is individually decorated in a traditional style with Persian carpets and colorful toilets! In addition to two other notable restaurants, we especially like the hotel’s Café Antonia and Le Jardin Français restaurant. Amenities here include a high-quality, three-floor spa and fitness center, but we feel the property’s sixth floor, nautically themed pool opening onto a solarium to be the property’s most impressive feature!
Four Seasons George V Paris
Built in 1928, the 244-room Four Seasons George V Paris is an art-deco landmark located in the Golden Triangle. The interior evokes an old-world refinement and luxurious comfort. A notable feature of the hotel is the extravagant flower display – 15,000 Dutch blooms freshly arranged every month. You will find the rooms in a quintessentially French, classic Louis XV style. There are three restaurants onsite, sharing five Michelin stars among them. Here you can also enjoy the hotel’s wine cellar housing 50,000 bottles, lap pool, champagne bar, fitness center, or one of the many spa treatments available.
The Mandarin Oriental Paris
The Mandarin Oriental Paris is made up of 135 rooms and suites including seen duplex suites, many with private balconies and terraces. It situated on one of the most sumptuous streets in Paris, rue Saint-Honoré, home to high-end Parisian shopping. Constructed in the 1930s, the property exudes Art Deco style. Onsite there are also three restaurants (including Michelin starred Sur Mesure), a cocktail bar, fitness center, indoor pool, and spa.
The Peninsula Paris
The Peninsula houses 200 luxurious rooms, including 86 suites. Like many of the other Palace Hotels, the Peninsula has a rich history, once being the private home of Queen Isabella II of Spain, a one-time military hospital during World War I, UNESCO’s first headquarters, and the site of the Paris Peace Accords. During the Jazz Age, An American in Paris was written here by George Gershwin. The rooms here are a fusion of classic Paris and the hotel’s Hong Kong heritage. There is no lack of options when it comes to the six restaurants and bars onsite. The ultimate indulgence here is the Peninsula Spa which offers private treatment rooms, a heated indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center.
Hôtel de Crillon
Once the Count of Crillon’s family home, this 18th-century building has been transformed to come into the 21st century, blending old and new. After an almost four year and multi hundred-million-dollar renovation, the 124-room Hôtel de Crillon reopened in late 2017. Our favorite rooms here are the Karl Lagerfeld suites (designed by Lagerfeld himself) all of which are adorned with moldings, statues, chandeliers, and select fabrics found from Louis XVI’s time. Other unique touches to note are the original sinks from Versailles that are found in the powder rooms of the suites and Italian marble bathrooms. Each guest here has their own butler so there is never a wait for check-in, dinner reservations, or requests. Amenities here include several dining and bar options, an indoor pool, an intimate movie area outdoors, a hairdresser, shoe shiner, boutique shops, courtyard, and small gym.
The Palace Hotel Lutetia
Located in the vibrant St. Germain district, this 184-room hotel is the only Palace Hotel located on Paris’ Left Bank. Built by the Boucicaut family who opened the first modern department store, Hotel Lutetia was designed to keep visiting shoppers in Paris longer. The hotel’s name comes from Paris’ Roman name, Luetia. Its role changed during and after both World Wars, housing troops and later being a center for reuniting families. After an extensive renovation under architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the hotel re-opened in 2018. Here the rooms have the feel of being in a Parisian apartment with wood floors, marble bathrooms, and terraces with immaculate views. Amenities here include a full-service wellness center that houses the largest pool on the left bank, as well as upscale dining options and easy access to many landmarks.