Paris is back and the mood is electric. As France reopens to vaccinated international travelers after a difficult pandemic year, Paris hotels are rolling out the red carpet. New luxury contenders are arriving on the scene (the LVMH-owned Cheval Blanc Paris will debut inside La Samaritaine department store), while existing palace hotels are showing off exciting renovations. 

The vibe in Le Bristol’s newly renovated courtyard garden reflects the city’s jubilant mood. Music floats over the luxuriant landscaping, blending with the sound of the fountains, while the beau monde sip Chateau Minuty rosé and signature cocktails like Le Bristol Fizz — a dash of rose syrup evoking the garden’s climbing roses. (If it’s on the menu, don’t miss the pâté en croûte starter, made with foie gras and marinated beets.) The popular bar has temporarily relocated to occupy the premises of the Epicure gastronomic restaurant, tables spilling out into the garden along with the DJ-spun soundtrack.

Suite 1925 at Le Bristol is adorned with portraits of famous entertainer Josephine Baker.

During the pandemic, the first ever closure in the hotel’s history, Le Bristol took the time to embark on a total garden transformation, recruiting Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, the landscape designer who’s won six Chelsea Flower Show Awards, to oversee the project. The courtyard was completely gutted and redesigned as a celebration of biodiversity with some 5,000 different plants, many of them native to the Paris region. It’s rare to find such a verdant space in the city center, just a cobblestone’s throw from the Elysée Palace, and the new-look garden is just the place for a sizzling summer soirée.

The garden wasn’t the only recent project for 112 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. A host of suites were refurbished and an entirely new suite was created called the Lumière Suite. Filled with sunlight, this fifth-floor suite has the feel of an elegant Parisian apartment, decorated with Louis XV and Louis XVI antiques, its bedroom and salon separated by a library corridor. The Paris Suite was done up with new embroidered curtains and a silk rug on the Versailles parquet floors. Devoted to Josephine Baker, the Suite 1925 is now adorned with original portraits of the famous entertainer taken at the hotel. The Panoramic Suite, immortalized on screen in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” also got new décor. One of our favorites, the fifth-floor Elysée Suite, has a spacious room for entertaining, equipped with a private bar, and bedroom views of the Avenue Matignon with the Eiffel Tower beyond. Rounding out the renovations, the Terrace Suite has a sublime rooftop garden with an outdoor spa, while the Honeymoon Suite offers top-floor Paris panoramas. And the Penthouse Suite? Bref, it’s an absolute love letter to luxury. 

A Prestige Elysée Suite at Le Bristol has 1,290 square feet of space and is bathed in natural light.

For VIP bookings, reach out to Catherine Hodoul-Baudry ([email protected]), director of sales and marketing. The well-connected concierge team, 12-people strong, can arrange just about anything on the Paris wish list. Contact Sébastien Alloggia ([email protected]) for expert city tips for A-list clients.  

Another innovation at Le Bristol: a new gourmet Epicerie with its own dedicated street entrance to serve Parisians looking to pick up an array of treats: pastries by fresh talent Pascal Hainigue, the new head pastry chef; ready-made, bottled Le Bristol cocktails like Negroni’s Lawyer; chocolates made at the hotel’s artisanal chocolate factory; and the bread usually only available to hotel/restaurant guests. What’s so special about this pain? Chef Eric Frechon, who’s held three stars in the Michelin guide for more than a decade, established the hotel’s very own grain mill in 2019 to work with heirloom wheat varieties (like khorasan and spelt) to create “living bread.” The Epicerie was meant to be a seasonal pop-up boutique for Christmas but it was such a wild success that it’s become a permanent hotel feature.

Curious about Le Bristol’s famous resident cat? Known as Fa-Raon, the Burmese cat has a devoted following (particularly among the kids who make drawings to decorate his room). With a penchant for riding up and down the elevators, Fa-Raon rode out the pandemic at home with Jean Philippe Quellier, who works in reception alongside Jean-Marie Burlet, front office manager. Between the two of them, they have worked 50 years at Le Bristol, welcoming different generations of families. Warmth pervades the place, a family-owned establishment. Just chat a few minutes with Jean-Marie Burlet and you’ll be laughing out loud.

The Duplex Suite at Hôtel Plaza Athénée, here and below, has a dining room, fitted kitchen, sauna, and upstairs bedroom opening onto a big terrace with sweeping views over the Paris rooftops.

Across the Champs-Elysées on the Avenue Montaigne, the Hotel Plaza Athénée also had a makeover during the pandemic. The palace hotel commissioned Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille, the design duo who decorated the lobby and public spaces in 2014, to wave their wands over the seventh-floor Art Deco Suites. The results are glorious, luminous retreats with covetable bespoke furniture (glass-topped tables you’ll want at home, not to mention the genius armoire that doubles as a bar with secret compartments). Art books are strewn on shelves, framed fashion photos adorn the walls, and vibrant pops of the Plaza Athénée’s signature red are found in paintings, pillows, and fabrics. The Art Deco aesthetic continues in the marble-clad bathrooms, decorated with a geometric pâte de verre mosaic. The whole effect is enhanced by the new lighting features.

In fact, light was a major focus of this renovation. You are immersed in the aesthetic starting at breakfast. Picture this: Sunlight is streaming through the windows, the Eiffel Tower peeking out above your seventh-floor perch. A table, swathed in white linen, is laid with gilt-edged porcelain, a silver coffee pot, a vase with a single rose, and a basket of viennoiseries that’s almost too pretty to eat. The pain au chocolat is sprinkled with finely chopped nuts, the crispy dough layers so fine they’re like paper. These marvels are the work of Head Baker Guillaume Cabrol, who, since 2015, has led a team of seven bakers in creating delicate delights for the hotel’s restaurants. And it’s a beautiful way to start the day.    

Booking Tips: The Duplex Suite (No. 750) deserves a special shout-out for its dining room, fitted kitchen, sauna, and upstairs bedroom opening onto a big terrace with sweeping views over the Paris rooftops. We also like No. 725, its succession of rooms configured under the eaves and along the geranium-filled courtyard. 

In addition to the newly renovated Art Deco suites, the hotel offers a range of over-the-top suites, dressed in a chic, classical style, that are adored by A-list celebrities. The Royal Suite, for example, is where Liz Taylor lived for six months in 1971. For VIP bookings, reach out to Beatrice David ([email protected]), area director of sales and marketing.

Drenched in haute couture elegance, The Plaza Athénée is big on style, drawing the fashion-forward crowd to the restaurants and lower-level spa. In fact, the Dior Insitut was also refurbished during the pandemic. The reception area has a warmer feel, while the couture vibe remains. (The hotel celebrates the long-time link with Christian Dior, who first opened his shop across the street and showed his inaugural collection at the hotel.) The most popular treatment at the spa is the Dior Prestige, a nourishing facial and massage. For assistance with bookings, contact the Spa Director Ichrak Laddem ([email protected]).

Note: The Plaza Athénée’s contract with Alain Ducasse will come to an end at the end of June, and a new chef will be announced to preside over the gastronomic restaurant. Stay tuned for news and in the meantime, Ducasse fans can indulge their cravings at sister hotel Le Meurice, where the Michelin-starred chef has an eponymous restaurant. Keen to try one of the hot new tables in town? Head Concierge Jérôme Poret ([email protected]) is a wealth of information on the Paris dining scene.

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