Top Travel News from Paris in 2012

Hotel Plaza Athenee, Royal Suite

There’s always something new and exciting in Paris, the world’s most popular city. As the City of Light gets ready to ring in 2013, we take a look back at the biggest travel news of the year.

Sleeping. As new hotels arrive on the scene-- The Peninsula is up next in 2014-- the luxury barometer continues to skyrocket. W opened its first French hotel on Valentine’s Day, (www.wparisopera.com) and Luxury Travel Advisor loves the happening lounge and restaurant by Spanish chef Sergi Arola. Existing palace hotels have launched renovations—the Ritz is closed for a two-year overhaul and the Crillon will shutter in early spring 2013. Le Bristol finished up an 100 million renovation (www.lebristolparis.com); the hotel redid its spa, Michelin three-star restaurant (a not-to-be-missed gastronomic indulgence) and has a gorgeous new bar. The Hospes Lancaster also got a makeover.

Dining. In restaurant news, the arrival of Anne-Sophie Pic in the French capital has tongues wagging (ladamedepic.fr). Yannick Alléno (www.yannick-alleno.com), the three-starred chef at Le Meurice (www.lemeurice.com), made waves when he opened his casual bistro called Terroir Parisien in the 5th arrondissement- showcasing all local products from the Ile de France region. Shangri-La (www.shangri-la.com/paris) became the first luxury hotel in France to have two Michelin-starred restaurants; the French gastronomic restaurant L’Abeille, under the direction of Executive Chef Philippe Labbé, was awarded two stars and the Chinese gastronomic restaurant Shang Palace, headed by Chef Frank Xu, received one star. Designer Philippe Starck recently opened a restaurant at the Puces de Saint Ouen, the largest flea market in the world, and it’s packed every day for lunch.

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Le Royal Monceau, terracePop-up restaurants continue to be incredibly popular. Krug Champagne set up shop on the roof of La Samaritaine department store (currently closed as it’s transformed into a luxury hotel). And Nobu took up residence at La Cuisine at Le Royal Monceau-Raffles, while the award-winning chef from Le Sirenuse in Positano cooked in the hotel’s Italian restaurant.

Sweet Suites. Le Royal Monceau (www.leroyalmonceau.com) unveiled Privé- a new collection of luxury suites that resemble private apartments, while the Four Seasons George V (www.fourseasons.com/paris) has a new penthouse. Hôtel Plaza Athénée retouched its opulent Royal Suite (www.plaza-athenee-paris.com). Film-maker David Lynch designed a suite at Hotel Lutetia, as did the fabulous designer duo, the Campana Brothers. Saint James Paris (www.saint-james-paris.com)- the chateau-hotel newly refreshed by designer Bambi Sloan- unveiled private bungalows.

So Spaaah. The city’s luxury hotels have marvelous spas; we are smitten with the spas at Park Hyatt and the Mandarin Oriental, among others. Le Meurice expanded its Spa Valmont, a gorgeous hideaway, and the Shangri-La is about to open the doors to its Carita spa. We are in love with the mosaic-tiled pool, filled with natural light.

Galeries Lafayette, ParisMuseums. As a global cultural capital, Paris has no shortage of fabulous exhibits; blockbusters this year have included shows dedicated to Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and Edward Hopper. In art news: The Louvre (www.louvre.fr)- the world’s most popular museum- inaugurated a new Islamic Arts wing that’s an architectural masterpiece. The Orsay (www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html) unveiled a fresh look to its Impressionist Wing at the end of 2011, and the Institut du Monde Arabe (www.imarabe.org) got a makeover with a lovely rooftop terrace overlooking the Seine. After a four-month renovation, the Palais de Tokyo (www.palaisdetokyo.com) became the largest contemporary arts center in Europe.

Shop Til You Drop. In shopping news, BMW opened its first concept store, as did designer Karl Lagerfeld, with a boutique in Saint Germain. Chanel launched a beautiful store on the Avenue Montaigne. World-famous department store Galeries Lafayette is currently celebrating 100 years with special exhibits and events.

Getting around town. What could be more fun than biking through the Paris streets? The Velib’ bike-sharing program has proved so successful- leading to copycat models in cities around the world- that the mayor decided to roll out a similar car-sharing program a year ago. Employing small electric cars, Autolib’ is a genius way to avoid parking trouble and gas fuel-ups.

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