There is no more glamorous city in the world than Paris. And some would say there is no more glamorous hotel in Paris than the Plaza Athénée. A “palace” hotel (a notch up from five-star), this 103-year-old Parisian landmark recently underwent a 10-month and reportedly €200-million ($314-million) expansion, taking over three neighbouring buildings, including two luxury townhouses. As a result, the opulent hotel is now home to eight new suites and six new guest-rooms, and its communal areas have been updated. In this transformation, the Plaza Athénée has lost none of the panache – and personalized service – that it’s famous for.
This bastion of Old World elegance is nestled on Avenue Montaigne, in Paris’s haute-couture district, steps from the houses of Chanel and Dior. (Christian Dior himself had a special relationship with the hotel, inspiring the hotel’s signature red colour and in the past, hosting private runway shows on the premises.) His influence is still felt: Guests visiting during Paris Fashion Week will notice the closets are expansive, and staff are on hand to assist with grooming; the bespoke concierge can also procure tickets to sought-after catwalk shows. The hotel is equally suited for exploring the city on foot, as it is within walking distance of Champs-Élysées, the Louvre, the Seine and neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
The heritage hotel’s renovation sought to merge the classic with the contemporary. The result is subtle and skillful – luxe futurism meets 18th-century grandeur. The marbled lobby and elegant event spaces and rooms feel like a stately old hotel. And yet the Plaza’s modern spaces, such as Le Bar (with its striking ceiling installation of blue fabric, reminiscent of ball gowns) and the Alain Ducasse restaurant (with its silver pod banquettes and stunning chandeliers composed of 10,000 crystal drops), somehow manage to not feel jarring.
The hotel’s private garden courtyard is a true gem. In the summer, it is an oasis of green Virginia creepers and red geraniums in the heart of the bustling metropolis, complete with singing birds. In the winter, it is an enchanted wonderland. There’s a private skating rink, lit trees and a sleigh that doubles as a dinner table for eating outside on the ice.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
One would have to search long and hard to find anything amiss at the Plaza Athénée, but after two days padding around an Eiffel Tower suite, it does occur to me that the hotel robes are not quite as fluffy and luxurious as they could be. Cue the world’s tiniest violin.
WHOM YOU’LL MEET
You’ll spot a range of sophisticates, from elegant Parisian grandmothers to hip, twentysomething couture enthusiasts. Look at the photo wall outside its Le Relais Plaza brasserie for the A-listers, style icons Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall and modern celebs from Bono to Hugh Grant.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Six suites have direct views of the Eiffel Tower, and more than 40 offer partial views. There is nothing quite like watching dusk fall on Avenue Montaigne, the boulevard twinkling with a thousand lights and the glowing Eiffel Tower illuminating a rose-coloured sky.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT
In a hotel this fabulous, you may be tempted not to leave. Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse is one of the darlings of the global culinary scene, and his in-house restaurant is a major draw for gourmands the world over. Ducasse’s exquisite haute-cuisine fare focuses on fish, vegetables and grains – think Cotentin blue lobster with smoked cabbage and preserved clementine; and Anjou quinoa with mushrooms, plums and black truffle. But be forewarned, dining here will cost you a small fortune. (Lunch, for instance, runs you about €210 a person.) But you can soak up the spectacular silver- and crystal-drenched setting in the mornings, with breakfast served daily in the restaurant’s grand dining room. Espresso, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, classically French pots of creamy yogurt and delicate croissants with butter and preserves are all on offer, infusing your morning with the very joie de vivre you came to Paris in search of.
Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris, 25 Ave. Montaigne, dorchestercollection.com; 208 rooms from €850 ($1,334) a night.
The writer was a guest at the hotel.
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