From Catherine de Médicis’s secretive Renaissance cosmetics to Marie Antoinette’s infamous elixirs, France has a long history of beauty and wellness rituals. Luckily for visitors to Paris in need of a little pampering, many top spas can be found in the city’s luxury hotels. These urban retreats reaffirm France’s long embrace of beauty brands, while also reflecting hotels’ status as arbiters of Parisian style. Here, we step inside two coveted addresses on each side of the Seine. Two different riverbanks, two different experiences…
In the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, historic hang-out for writers and artists, the Relais Christine is a place where guests return again and again. Insiders tell us that some loyal clients will actually change the dates of their Paris stay depending on the availability of their favorite room. Housed in a handsome 17th-century mansion, the Relais Christine is tucked away on a quiet street in the middle of the action; step into the leafy courtyard and it’s a world away from the hubbub. In fact, there’s a secret garden behind the hotel — a pocket of verdure complete with beehives producing honey for the hotel’s breakfast table. Four guestrooms open onto this garden, including two suites. Needless to say, there’s high demand for these rooms, which are unique in Paris.
Four of the rooms at Relais Christine open on to a private garden.
The hotel recently wrapped a top-to-bottom renovation by designer Laura Gonzalez. The public spaces and all 48 rooms got a makeover. Gonzalez injected color and a soupçon of whimsy while retaining the same classical French style that guests have come to expect since the Relais Christine first opened in 1979. Gonzalez sourced fabrics and wallpaper from brands like Pierre Frey, Hermès, Le Manach and Braquenié. It’s a bold and fun mix of patterns; a celebration of French craftsmanship. Booking Tips: In addition to the rooms on the garden, the duplex suites (like No. 63) are popular among guests. They have a downstairs sofa bed to accommodate children. For VIP bookings, reach out to Alice Leriche ([email protected]; 011-330-144-058-194), sales manager. Note that the same French family also owns the Saint James Paris, the city’s only chateau-hotel, located in the 16th arrondissement.
The 48-room Relais Christine also comes with Duplex Suites, here, that have sofa bed downstairs to accommodate children.
Arguably the hotel’s real jewel is the Guerlain Spa, located downstairs in what was once a 13th-century Abbey’s kitchen. (During the recent renovation, the former breakfast room was moved upstairs to make room for the spa.) It’s wonderfully atmospheric. Where else could you get massaged under medieval stone vaults that were once part of the powerful Abbey founded by Saint Louis? Step into the relaxation lounge and your eye will be drawn to the customized cave à parfum, a back-lit showcase for Guerlain’s famous perfumes. The “perfumer to royalty” — which has created custom scents for the likes of the Empress Eugénie — has been in the beauty business since 1828. Today the Maison Guerlain has designed signature treatments like the Orchidée Impériale Prestige, a results-oriented, anti-aging therapy that leaves skin smooth and rejuvenated.
In this bijou spa, you’ll find a jacuzzi, sauna, gym and two treatment rooms, including one couples suite, swathed in gorgeous wallpaper by Ananbô. We highly recommend the signature treatment, La Dédicace Guerlain, designed exclusively for the Relais Christine by the Maison Guerlain. This two-hour, head-to-toe ritual starts with a foot scrub, and includes both a full-body massage and a facial with nourishing masks. Everything is sur mesure here, with a pre-treatment consultation to personalize your spa experience. For bookings, contact spa manager Pauline Cordier ([email protected]; 011-330-140-516-080). Note: Non-hotel guests are welcome. Valet parking is complimentary for spa guests.
The couples suite at Guerlain spa.
Across the Seine on the Right Bank, the Mandarin Oriental, Paris commands a prized piece of real estate on the rue Saint-Honoré, not far from the Louis Vuitton Vendôme flagship. This palace hotel has been turning heads since it opened in 2011, and it keeps raising the bar for luxury. Case in point: The Mandarin just unveiled the Appartement Parisien, a palatial suite that ranks among the largest in Paris. Sprawling across 4,628 square feet, the apartment was three years in the making — the result of high demand for this type of spacious, ultra-luxe accommodation. (With four bedrooms, it’s ideal for an entourage — whether a celebrity traveling with security and assistants or a family with children.)
Acclaimed French interior architects Gilles & Boissier were tapped to create a retreat that follows the codes of a classic Haussmannian apartment, with contemporary twists reflecting the Mandarin’s chic aesthetic. A long corridor runs the length of the suite, which is flanked on one side by a balcony overlooking the rue Saint-Honoré and on the other side by a terrace, which is the largest hotel terrace in Paris. Landscape designer Christophe Gautrand has created a veritable jardin à la française with abundant magnolias, Japanese maples, climbing hydrangea, ferns and star jasmine. (Gautrand also did the Mandarin’s rooftop potager, where aromatic herbs are grown for the bar’s cocktails and restaurant’s oil infusions.)
The Mandarin Oriental Paris recently unveiled the 4,628-square-foot Appartement Parisien, which has a 2,476-square-foot terrace with a dining area, lounge and pergola.
Illuminated with a warm color palette, the apartment is decorated with chic furniture that may stop design devotees in their tracks: A vast dining table made of veined marble; a headboard crafted with gold leaf; a marble-topped vanity with glowing make-up mirror. Young Parisian artists were commissioned to create the suite’s artwork. No detail was overlooked — from the Toto toilets to the customized tea blend by Joséphine B.
Nice Perk: Until the end of the year, the Mandarin Oriental, Paris has launched a celebratory offer: Guests of the Appartement Parisien get to enjoy a personalized, multi-course meal prepared by two Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx in the dining room or on the terrace. For VIP bookings, contact Andrew Rein ([email protected]), sales manager.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental comes with a 46-foot lap pool.
For a little escapism after a day in the city, wind down with a massage at the subterranean spa. Like the hotel itself, the Mandarin Oriental spa fuses French couture chic with Asian serenity. Trade your shoes for slippers at reception and follow your therapist into your own private suite. Ask for Karen, a highly trained therapist who focuses on lasting results with detailed pre- and post-treatment consultations, leaving you with beauty and health tips to use at home.
Your individual spa suite is so well-equipped (changing room, shower, hammam and jacuzzis in the couples suites) that you may want to linger and make an afternoon of it. Note that there’s an additional fee for non-hotel guests to use the swimming pool.
Around the world, Mandarin Oriental’s spas feature products by Aromatherapy Associates along with a luxury brand that’s representative of the setting; in this case, Guerlain. Treatments also reflect this sense of place. For example, the Paris Passion body treatment combines a Quintessence scrub with a replenishing wrap. We recommend reboosting with an Oriental Essence body massage, a Mandarin signature, or opting for a “Time Ritual,” which allows guests to book an amount of time in the spa that can be fully personalized. Spa manager Isabelle Gobbo ([email protected]; 011-330-170-987-335) is happy to answer questions or help with bookings.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental has three couple’s treatment suites, one of which is shown here, with private facilities, steam showers and vitality pools.
The post-treatment sweet by Thierry Marx — creamy and pannacotta-flavored with green tea — is an appetizing introduction to the chef’s great cuisine. So, you might be tempted to linger even longer and book a table upstairs at Sur Mesure, the hotel’s gastronomic restaurant.