Paris Reaches for the Stars

Paris Christmas
Paris Christmas // Photo by encrier/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Peninsula Paris will open after a six-year renovation project that conjures the glamour of the Belle Epoque and the Roaring Twenties.

In recent years, Paris’ luxe factor has skyrocketed. New arrivals such as Shangri-La and Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris have triggered a domino effect of closures as established veterans embark on expensive renovation projects to bring back their luster. Even while closed, these storied hotels sustain a healthy buzz about what’s to come with their rebirth. The Crillon—to be managed by Rosewood when it reopens in 2015—revealed that fashion king Karl Lagerfeld will design its suites, while Colin Field, the legendary mixologist at The Ritz’s ( Hemingway Bar, is wearing the hat of brand ambassador as he orchestrates pop-up events around the world (even in the sky—with a bar onboard Air France).

Hotel Plaza Athénée, the Dorchester Collection’s glam property on Avenue Montaigne, was the talk of the town in April as the host of “Krug en Capitale”— a series of champagne-infused soirées with menus by Alain Ducasse. The 100-year-old hotel shuttered in October 2013 for an expansion project that will integrate adjacent buildings and revamp the restaurants, lending an extra air of exclusivity to the 14-person dinners, which were held in the 8th floor Eiffel Tower Suite. The Plaza Athénée will reopen this summer with even more of a fashion focus.

Shangri-La Paris’ Chaillot Suite, named after the Chaillot Hill, has a large private corner terrace overlooking the Eiffel tower.
Shangri-La Paris’ Chaillot Suite, named after the Chaillot Hill, has a large private corner terrace overlooking the Eiffel tower.

The latest to commission a makeover is the Hotel Lutetia, the Left Bank landmark facing Le Bon Marché. The hotel just closed in April 2014 for a three-year restoration by star French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. An auction will take place in Paris on May 19-25 so collectors can have a chance to nab décor and objets d’art from the hotel that has hosted luminaries such as Josephine Baker and Charles de Gaulle.

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How can you improve on such a show-stopping scene? Take a mythical Parisian landmark—an Art Deco swimming pool called the Molitor—and transform it into a luxury hotel. May 19 marks the Molitor’s big debut. The metamorphosis was orchestrated by Jean-Philippe Nuel, the sought-after interior designer behind such projects as the InterContinental Marseille and the Radisson Blu Nantes. First opened in 1929, the popular Art Deco piscine was later converted into an urban art space, before it closed permanently in 1989. Now the Molitor is back as the urban destination du jour. What’s in store? There’s a swimming complex (rebuilt on the original site), a gym, a spa by Clarins, and restaurant concepts by Michelin-starred Chef Yannick Alléno in partnership with Les Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. The roof terrace will no doubt lure the in-crowd for cocktails with stellar views over the French capital.


Shangri-La’s Eiffel Tower Suite offers one of the most panoramic views of Paris.

Shangri-La’s Eiffel Tower Suite offers one of the most panoramic views of Paris.

The project’s crown jewel is the luxury hotel for Accor’s MGallery brand. Managed by Vincent Mezard (Tel: 011-33-01-5607-0850), the Molitor will have 124 guest rooms laid out around the summer pool. Of the 19 suites, two will have terraces, and insiders tell us that the six pool suites will be the most coveted digs.

The Molitor has recruited top staff to cater to guests’ whims. Concierge Gerard Barriaux (Tel: 011-33-01-5607-0850) is an industry veteran from the Ritz Paris, and can organize insider experiences for guests to tread in the shoes (or stilettos) of a Parisian for the day. For VIP reservations, advisors should reach out to Camille Devaux (Tel: 011-33-01-5607-0850.)

Bien sûr, the City of Light is also rolling out the red carpet for the arrival of The Peninsula. From the fleet of Rolls-Royce limos to the signature Afternoon Tea, the Peninsula name is synonymous with prestige and an unrivaled class of service. Needless to say, the countdown is on to the August 1 opening date. For the Hong Kong-based brand’s debut in Europe, Peninsula has pulled out all the stops, grooming a heritage building where George Gershwin composed An American in Paris (1928) and Henry Kissinger signed the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam War in 1973. General Manager Nicolas Béliard is overseeing this highly anticipated debut.

Near the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées in the 16th arrondissement, 19 avenue Kléber was once the address for the Hotel Majestic, and later, UNESCO headquarters. The Peninsula Hotels Group embarked on a six-year restoration project, and no expense was spared in creating a hotel that conjures the glamour of the Belle Époque and the Roaring Twenties. For the Herculean task, the design team recruited France’s top artisans: 20 stone masons obsessed over the façade’s details, a family-owned company of wood restoration experts lovingly worked on the bar, and the specialist gilders behind elite projects like the Statue of Liberty’s flame restored the gold leaf and mosaics. In modernizing the building, three additional levels were added underground for the parking area and spa. Sprawling across almost 20,000 square feet, the spa by Espa will be a star attraction, equipped with a gym and a pool with underwater mood lighting.

The Orsay Museum (below) houses the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art.
The Orsay Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art.

The 200 guest rooms have been wired with all the latest technology to provide a wholly personalized guest experience—down to the preset language preference on the digital bedside and desk tablets. Starting at 430 square feet, the rooms are designed to be both elegant and fully functional. The dressing rooms and walk-in closets have a Peninsula valet box for the delivery of dry-cleaning and polished shoes. Bath products are by Oscar de la Renta, and there’s even a nail dryer in the marble bathrooms. A word about the suites: As the design team puts the finishing touches on the hotel, the number of suites is apt to change; we’ve heard between 45 and 53 as the final count. Five of these suites will have their own private rooftop gardens overlooking the city. The crème de la crème will be the Katara Suite and The Peninsula Suite.

The F&B experience is guaranteed to be stellar. There will be six restaurants and bars including LiLi, the signature Chinese restaurant; The Lobby for sumptuous Afternoon Tea; the Kléber Terrace, the only outdoor hotel café of its kind in Paris; L’Oiseau Blanc, the rooftop terrace with 360-degree views from its perch on the seventh floor; and the wood-paneled Kléber Bar and cigar lounge.

Even the most seasoned of travelers never tire of the City of Light. Trendy restaurants thrill food-lovers—David Toutain’s eponymous restaurant is now the talk of the town—and new Michelin stars have been awarded to the likes of Goust, Septime, La Scène at the Hotel Prince des Galles, Saint James, and Akrame (two stars). For the culturati, the Fondation Louis Vuitton (—designed by architect Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne—will be unveiled this fall. Last but not least: the Paris Philharmonic will open in a grand building by Jean Nouvel in early 2015. 


Colombe McCarthy, director of the European Division at Destinations & Adventures International in Beverly Hills, is often asked why she prefers Le Meurice for her clients in Paris. “Firstly, Le Meurice overlooks the lovely Tuileries Gardens, and there are some wonderful junior suites [and suites, of course] with an open view of the gardens, with the Orsay Museum and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. [Note that lower categories of rooms do not have this view.] 

“Secondly, the location is within walking distance of the Louvre; the Seine; the Madeleine, with its gourmet shops; the Place Vendôme, with all the fabulous jewelry stores; and rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, for amazing shopping [or window shopping!].

There isn’t a palace hotel on the Left Bank—which clients often ask for—so Le Meurice is what is closest geographically.

“For parents with kids in tow, it is wonderful to be able to walk across the street into the Tuileries Gardens for city relief [and partake in Parisian kids’ entertainment]. It’s also a no-brainer for joggers in need of a daily run. Unlike London, Paris has few parks and this is one of the top ones.” 

Le Meurice’s (here) Presidential Suite has been built in the Versailles style, with Louis XVI style furniture.
Le Meurice’s Presidential Suite has been built in the Versailles style, with Louis XVI style furniture.

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