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Old Apr 15, 2008, 10:48 pm
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Paris luxury hotels (consolidated thread)

I'm just back from Paris where I made site inspections of ten hotels, nine of which are Virtuoso. Which is the best hotel in Paris? There's no one answer to that question. Different things appeal to different people. But I see three basic variables to consider in making your choice:
  • Location. Where do you want to be in the city? What do you want to do, go shopping or sightseeing?
  • Style. Do you want the original feel of a traditional palace hotel? Do you prefer something more updated? Or is your preference an ultra-contemporary kind of property?
  • Price. How much are you willing or able to spend per night?
With these criteria in mind, here are some answers to "What is the best hotel in Paris?":

FS George V. If you are a fan of Four Seasons, you will love the George V. I once stayed at this hotel in 1978 at which time it was a beautiful but "snooty" property. After Four Seasons acquired this property, it underwent a two-year, $200 million renovation. The make-over has been remarkable, both in terms of the physical appearance of the place and the service. When you enter "Le George" (as locals call the hotel), the lobby is beautiful and inviting with an ever-changing, creative flower arrangement in its center. Our reception could not have been warmer, and there is a genuine friendliness to the place today. The guest rooms are a perfect realization of the ideal FS hotel room - spacious and comfortable - with a French decorating motif that is evident in the crown moldings, the art on the walls, the elegant color schemes, fabrics, furniture, and carpeting. [The elegance of the guest rooms reminded me a bit of the RC Central Park.] Add to this a marble bathroom (that looks exactly like those at the FS New York) with a large tub, single vanity, separate shower, and ... no bidet! [All rooms except the four "Moderate" rooms have separate showers.] My Superior room looked out over a courtyard with a lawn; it was a great room, bright and spacious. The one morning I ordered my breakfast via room service, it came at almost precisely the time I had requested. The George V is an almost perfect realization of the Four Seasons ideal, and given its near 100% occupancy rates, a lot of guests obviously feel this way as well.

Le Meurice. As wonderful as the George V is, Le Meurice is my favorite hotel in Paris of all the places I visited. With absolutely the best location in Paris for tourists, it is right on the rue de Rivoli across the street from the Tuileries, an easy walk across the park to the Musee d'Orsay, to the Place de la Concorde to the west, or to the Louvre and Notre Dame to the east. It is the oldest palace hotel in Paris, originally built in 1835. In 2000, it underwent a $90 million renovation that has restored the hotel to its original splendor. While the FS is a contemporary hotel that reminds guests of a former era, Le Meurice is a palace hotel that offers guests modern comforts and amenities: a wonderfully comfortable bed, a great shower, and complimentary broadband internet in the rooms. As the entire hotel was booked the evening we stayed there, we were unable to have a site inspection. I had a twin bedded deluxe room overlooking a central courtyard. The room is large (though not as large as my Superior at FS) with double vanities and a separate stall shower in the bathroom. Le Meurice has a 3* Michelin restaurant.

Update: I spent three nights at Le Meurice in April, 2012. We were upgraded to a Deluxe Suite - essentially a Deluxe Room with a short hallway leading to a full living room and a complete second bathroom. We were very comfortable and enjoyed our stay. If we had one criticism, it would be the slow service at breakfast. There is a buffet, included as part of the Full American Breakfast that comes with a Virtuoso booking, but it took too long to get our eggs served. On the other hand, our wake up call and room service breakfast both came precisely at the times requested on our final morning when we had to fly to Dublin.

Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. This is the Virtuoso hotel of choice if you want contemporary style. Another TA on the site visit described it as having a GQ look. Walking in the front door, I was at first struck by the almost minimalist starkness of the reception area, but as I walked past reception and into the hotel, a sense of creative elegance began to emerge. The hotel is decorated with contemporary sculpture and painting, and this property does contemporary in a very unique and pleasing manner. Walking down the hallways to visit various rooms, the property seemed quiet and serene; the hallways are carpeted with sound-absorbing material on the walls. The rooms were creative and wonderful, assuming - again - that you want contemporary interior decoration. The Deluxe room is 420 square feet, including the bathroom (with vanities in two separate areas), shower (a rain shower), and walk-in closet. The hotel's design philosophy is guided by the principle that one only sleeps, watches the flat screen television, and works in the bedroom; bedroom space is limited but very efficiently designed. A large amount of space is provided to the bathroom and dressing areas. Park Hyatt offers through Virtuoso a 15% discount off the Best Available Rate, and three can sleep in a Deluxe room (with breakfast being provided for all three guests). While the Deluxe room might strike some as a bit small, the Junior Suite offers great space, the Prestige Suite offers 900 square feet, and the Imperial Presidential Suite offers 2500 square feet, a real WOW of a suite for 11,000 EUR (less the Virtuoso discount). 80% of the rooms connect, and the Park Hyatt can guarantee connecting rooms, so this property would be a good possibility for families traveling to Paris with children.

InterContinental Paris Le Grand. This hotel offers a terrific value in a very nice property. Probably better classified as a "high" 4* property, the Grand underwent a $200 million transformation in 2001 and 2002. Originally built in 1862 by Napoleon the Third, this hotel has the feel of a traditional Parisian hotel. The color red (Napoleon's color) predominates in the hallway carpeting. Virtuoso clients get an automatic upgrade at booking from a Classic to a Superior room. Although not an overly large room at 320 square feet, it nevertheless represents a great value at the Virtuoso pricing (5% off the BAR). The Junior Suite is a very spacious room; book a room on the second floor and enjoy the regal 12 foot high ceilings. The Grand offers a Family Plan; when children stay in a separate room from their parents, you enjoy a 50% discount on the second room. And all Virtuoso clients have access to the Club Lounge which offers breakfast for all members of your party (up to 6 if you use the family plan), afternoon tea, cocktails from 6 - 8, free internet, and grazing rights throughout the day (a 120 EUR value per day).

Ritz Paris. This was a sad visit. I had stayed at the Ritz Paris in the past and had great memories of the place. Having since become a travel consultant, done site inspections, and (in particular) hearing from my clients their impressions of the Ritz, my view is a bit changed. First, I still like the place very much, but I was looking for signs of "chipping paint" and "dirt in the corners" that others had reported... and it's true. The hotel is in need of some refurbishment, specifically some touch up of the paint, especially on exposed corners. It could also benefit from some modernization. Unfortunately, the building has been designated a historical landmark, and no such refurbishment can proceed without permission from the City of Paris. If you can imagine the glacial speed at which French bureaucracy moves, especially with civil servants who don't want to be blamed for allowing a historical landmark to suffer irreparable modernization, you get a sense of what management is up against. Some minor refurbishment has been done to the guest rooms with new mattresses (still too hard, I fear, although I couldn't lie down on the bed to test them) and linens. A few memories came back when I went into a bathroom... A tub, two sinks, and a shower in the tub. I remember the shower curtain in my room did a rather ineffective job with water ending up on the floor outside the tub. The Ritz is in a fabulous location, right on the Place Vendôme, a large and quiet-enough square. Some of the specialty suites facing the square are absolutely fabulous. But the hallways are narrow, and the guest rooms are tired. Tip: the rooms in the back of the property (the Cambon Street side) are actually quite attractive. It wouldn't take that much to bring them back to life. The place has "great bones," and the Ritz Paris has the best Virtuoso amenity package of any hotel I know of. Hopefully the City of Paris will collaborate with management to help this hotel return to its greatness as one of the top hotels of the world. Rumor: I was told that the Ritz will shut down in December for a number of months in order to do an extensive renovation of the property.

Plaza Athénée. The Plaza Athenee is right around the corner from le George on Avenue Montaigne. Here's the secret to get a view of the Eiffel Tower from your room in Paris. Book a Deluxe or higher room, request an Avenue Montaigne-facing room, and request a room on floors 3 or 5. Like all Haussman designed buildings in Paris, rooms on these floors have balconies. Standing on your balcony and looking towards the right, you have a perfect, unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower at the end of the street. For the ultimate view, book room 888 which offers perfect views from anywhere within your suite (and which, along with the other Signature suite on floor 7, comes with a complimentary dinner for 2 - and guaranteed reservations - at Jules Verne. On the other hand, if you prefer a quiet room - and the capacity to open your windows without hearing street noise, choose a Deluxe or higher room facing the large central courtyard. The ivy climbing the walls of the courtyard attracts song birds, and you hear the delightful chirping of birds -- with not a single sound of the city. Plaza Athenee is a palace hotel with a very Parisian feel. The public spaces are lovely. It has a 3* Alain Ducasse restaurant on the property and one of the trendiest bars in Paris (with a lighting scheme that changes hourly). This is a great choice for families, as nearly all rooms have the capacity to be connected. There is action on the ground floor of this hotel. When we entered, people were enjoying Tea or cocktails. The rooms have different color schemes, and you can even choose the color scheme of your room; the hotel's idea of luxury is to give its guests *choices.* The first six floors are decorated in a traditional French manor while the top two floors have a modern art deco look. Rooms are not overly large; the Deluxe we viewed at the Plaza Athenee, at 350 sf, was smaller than my Superior at the FS (although it did have a separate, glass doored shower and a double vanity). I was disappointed in the color scheme of the rooms. They lacked the sophistication of the FS or Le Meurice, and the hallways were a stark white.

Hotel de Crillon. The Crillon has a central location on the Place de la Concorde and boasts of being the "smallest palace hotel" in Paris. Originally built to be the palace of King Louis XV of France, it was converted into an intimate palace hotel in the early 20th century. From the suites in the front of the hotel, guests can look directly out towards the obelisk in the middle of the square and to the National Assembly beyond. Off to the right is a clear view of the top of the Eiffel Tower. The rooms have undergone a complete refurbishment with fresh paint and new carpeting. There is a choice of paint color, which guests should be aware of. While I did not really care for the rooms decorated in green, those painted in light blue are extremely attractive. We saw a Superior room which, at 300 square feet, was of adequate size. Bathrooms had twin vanities and a separate shower. The Sales staff stated that 95% of Virtuoso clients get upgraded. With a four night stay, clients receive a complimentary airport transfer; round-trip with an eight night stay. Free wireless internet connections are provided for guests throughout the hotel.

Le Bristol. This is an especially nice hotel on the fashionable shopping street rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, a very short walk to a variety of exclusive fashion and jewelry boutiques. The hotel itself is chic and sophisticated without being flashy (no gold gilt here). There is a definite feminine touch to the interior decoration with extensive use of French fabrics in the rooms. Bathrooms all have double vanities and a separate shower and tub. Every room in this property is different, and it is important to block rooms with at least two (or a double-wide) windows. My own room had just a single window in front of the desk (6 panes high by 4 panes wide) and was a bit dark, but the rooms we saw on our site inspection were light, airy, and extremely attractive. Even the entry level Superior Room is wonderful, but the Superior Suite is gorgeous and the Deluxe Suite is a real "wow" suite with large living room and very large bedroom.

Hotel Lancaster. I was frankly disappointed by Hotel Lancaster (now Hospes Lancaster). The public spaces are very nice (although the reception area itself is a bit plain), but the rooms are a bit tired and in need of some rejuvenation. The Hospes hotel group (which owns a collection of more contemporary properties in Spain) will begin a room-by-room renovation of the property -- although it will be a more cosmetic undertaking, as they do not plan to close the property. Hopefully they can freshen up the carpeting, wall treatments, and bedding. The rooms are on the small side, and the bathrooms have tubs with shower curtains. We did see the Suite Emile Wolf which has a large living room (with grand piano) and separate bedroom, a quite spectacular space. Single guests can stay in a Single room for only 320 EUR, which represents quite a good value for the trade-off of a small room.

Hotel Balzac. This is the only non-Virtuoso property I visited. It is a 4* hotel represented by JDB and also by Preferred Hotels & Resorts. JDB offers a package that includes an upgrade on check-in, if available, and a complimentary continental breakfast which is normally 28 EUR pp. The Sales Manager stated that the hotel is now offering free breakfasts to the American market; be sure to ask for it! Located a short walk from the Arc du Triomphe, just off a block from Champs Elysees, the hotel has a three-starred Michelin restaurant on property. The hotel recently underwent an extensive three year renovation and is a real possibility for clients seeking a clean, comfortable room in a four-star property. Through the end of 2008, rates begin at 350 EUR in April, July, November - December, and 380 EUR in May, June, August-October. The classic superior rooms are not large, but Hotel Balzac is good value for the money.

The following reviews are based on site inspections in April, 2012.

Raffles - Le Royal Monceau Located a block and a half from the Arc du Triomphe, Le Royal Monceau was built in 1928 at the height of the Roaring 20's. Along with the Ritz, it was a favorite of the expatriate community in Paris.

It has been recently renovated with a bold, contemporary interior design by Philippe Stark. In a nutshell, I would describe the hotel as "more LA than LA." The sales manager spoke of "the excitement and glamour of Paris for a new generation." It's not for everyone, however. Guests looking for something quirky, artistic, and avant garde will love Le Royal Monceau. But if you favor traditional Parisian styling, or prefer contemporary styling that is simple and elegant (I.e., "Thai chic"), you'll want to look elsewhere.

Public spaces have contemporary art on display, and the design of the two restaurants and bar is striking. Guest floor hallways are quite unusual; carpeting and wall treatments feature bold stripes, and guest room doors don't really look like doors at first glance. Guestrooms have a bit of a cluttered design (Starke is not a minimalist - his intention is to provide lots of details to intrigue the eye). Each room has at least one large widescreen TV within a mirror leaning against the wall.

Bathrooms have lots of mirrors, so you'll see yourself in multiple reflections. Each room has a large, deep soaking tub, two large vanities (large, square, and just an inch deep), step-in rain shower, and a separate WC. My favorite rooms were in the back of the house, very quiet and overlooking the large garden.

Among other features, Le Royal Monceau offers the largest hotel swimming pool in Paris and a movie theatre. Virtuoso amenities include free Internet.

Mandarin Oriental Paris The Mandarin Oriental Paris is a new hotel, having opened in June 2011, with an enviable location on the fashion street of Paris, rue St Honore. Just off the Place Vendome and a block from the Tuileries, it's an ideal setting both for visitors coming to Paris to shop as well as for tourists who want to stay in the heart of the city. Guests enter an elegant and sophisticated lobby overlooking a beautiful courtyard garden, planted with over 200 varieties of trees and plants. This sets the tone for the entire hotel which is designed to be an urban retreat in the middle of a busy cit.

As the hotel was nearly fully booked, we were shown a Deluxe Room and a Superior Suite. Rooms will appeal to guests who appreciate warm, contemporary interiors. Rosewood is used extensively in the doors, headboards, and built-ins. There are no painted surfaces in the room; walls are finished with fabric surfaces. Bathrooms are finished in polished white marble, and all rooms have dual vanities, deep soaking tub, step in rain shower, and separate WC. However, the design of the bath area in the Deluxe area was a bit unusual. The two sinks were on one side of the tiled entrance into the bedroom, while the tub, shower, and WC were on the other side. Although called a Deluxe Room, it felt like a Superior room in terms of space provided.

I had breakfast with the Sales Manager and, based on a prior comment about the MO’s slow service, took notice of the wait staff at breakfast. Everything was served promptly, and I did not notice any impatient diners!

Esprit St Germain Esprit St Germain is a small boutique hotel in the Left Bank, near the Eglise St Sulpice, an attractive location for visitors wanting to explore the 6th arrondissement with its shops, boutiques, and markets.

The major feature of the hotel are the two homey, comfortable living rooms on the ground floor. Guests make extensive use of these common areas which feature a complimentary open bar, soft drinks, and coffee and tea throughout the day.

Guest rooms are quite small, typical of Left Bank hotels which are situated in older buildings with smaller rooms. Most luxury guests will want to book either a Premier Room or a Suite. The Premier room is essentially the size of the hotel's Deluxe rooms with a larger closet and bathroom. The top floor Premier room has a terrace looking over the rooftops of other buildings on the street toward the Eglise St Sulpice, while the others have more floor space. Suites are essentially small Jr. suites with a small sitting area separated from the small bedroom.

Bathrooms are small with tub/shower combination, a single vanity, and a separate WC. Suites have two small bathrooms, one with a soaking tub, the other with a step-in shower.

Be aware that space is really tight in all room categories at this property. If having a lot of space is a priority to you, this hotel will not work for you. But Esprit St Germain has a lot of repeat guests who enjoy the residential feeling of the hotel.

Last edited by DavidO; May 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm Reason: corrected typo
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