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In May 2011, the French Government announced the winners of the new top category of hotels in France (created in November 2010), the ‘Palace’ Hotel. From the current 5-star hotels, nine were picked. The jury, in typical French style, consisted not of faceless government bureaucrats and anonymous inspectors, but a novelist, television producer, a cinematographer, an architect and heads of various prestigious companies, headed by Academie Francaise member, Dominique Fernandez.
The rating is valid for five years. Included in the criteria to earn this prestigious award are the hotel's location, historical significance, room comfort, personalized service, multi-lingual staff, health and spa facilities.
There were some surprising omissions, like The Ritz in Paris, and the Negresco Hotel in Nice. So when you walk past a distinctive new plaque on the façade, you know you will get the very best. It goes without saying that these hotels are amongst the most expensive in France.
Le Bristol Hotel, Paris
Favored by stars like Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker, and filmed in Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Midnight in Paris, Le Bristol was always a fantasy building. The first hotel of 1829, The Vogue, was spectacularly rebuilt in the 1920s to open as the Hotel Bristol, named after the grand British traveler, the Count of Bristol.
During World War II, it became the official residence for all American citizens, due to its anti-gas shelter, and position on the Rue St. Honore. Today it has 210 rooms and suites all beautifully decorated in elegant French style, and a spa with a wonderful rooftop pool with a view of Paris.
The hotel has four restaurants, including Epicure, the fabulous 3-star Michelin restaurant overseen by Chef Eric Frechon, which now has a terrace and is decorated in a delightfully fresh style.
112 Rue du Faubourg St-Honore
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 53 43 43 00
Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
Like all the Four Seasons hotels around the world, the George V epitomizes luxury living. The original 1928 building, now beautifully restored, offers 245 guest rooms, which include 59 suites, 30 of which have a private terrace with great views over the famous Paris skyline. The whole hotel is extremely elegant with 18th-century tapestries adorning the walls and a rich color scheme.
The 2-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Cinq serves impeccable food, using top ingredients, while the smaller La Galerie, with plush seating, is the place for coffee, afternoon tea and a spot of people watching. In summer, the terrace has a view of the Eiffel Tower.
The Spa has a whirlpool in trompe l’oeil gardens and offers all the treatments, including a chocolate wrap.
31 av. George-V
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 49 52 70 00
Le Parc Hyatt Paris - Vendome
You get to the Pur’ restaurant past a wine wall that also doubles as a cheese and cigar cabinet. The restaurant has an open kitchen and offers a Tuscan grill burning vine shoots for an Italian slant. Four or more people can dine at the Chef’s Table here as a particular treat. The more casual Les Orchidees restaurant has a contemporary décor and is a great place for Saturday brunch. Finally La Terrasse is delightful for balmy days and evenings.
There’s a large spa, beautifully decorated, with all the treatments you could wish for, and a whirlpool bath.
Le Royal Monceau-Raffles, Paris
An Art concierge to guide you to galleries you want to see; an art bookstore for those weighty tomes designed to make you an expert; the longest swimming pool of a Paris hotel and a cinema, Le Royal Monceau competes with the best. 85 rooms and 46 suites including three Presidential Suites that at 350 sq m are bigger than most apartments, the 40s and 50s decor is different from many of its competitors. It's near major boutiques and landmarks and when you're done shopping or sightseeing, then take a break at the Chocolate Bar, overseen by master patissier, Pierre Hermé.
37 Ave Hoche
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 42 99 88 00
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Paris
The Mandarin Oriental, Paris, is as chic as you would expect from this top luxury group. Many of the 99 rooms and 39 suites have wonderful views over the fashionable 1st arrondissement. If you can, go for one with a private terrace and view over the camellia garden. For true luxury take the Penthouse floor taking up to 8 guests, which has 3 bedrooms and 2 terraces as well as a steam room along with the usual, very well equipped bathroom. The Camélia restaurant overlooks the private garden, with outdoor dining in the summer. Treat yourself to goodies at The Cake Shop. There’s a spa spread over 2 floors, pool and top treatments.
251 rue Saint-Honoré
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 70 98 78 88
Once the home of Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s grandnephew, the 189 listed building is very grand with a superb staircase to make a grand entrance. The 101 rooms, including suites, Rooms look out to the Eiffel Tower (some see this from the bathtub) and the river Seine, and all are in blue, white and ecru giving a light and airy feel. This is an elegant hotel with period décor though some rooms cater for the minimalist luxury taste. Bathrooms offer equal luxury with a flat-screen television in a large mirror and Bulgari White Tea toiletries.
L’Abeille offers 2-Michelin star dining; the 1-star Shang Palace offers top Cantonese cooking, and La Bauhania offers a fusion of both. The Spa has top treatments and a pool.
10 ave d’Iéna
Tel.: 00 33 (0) 1 53 67 19 98
L'Hotel du Palais, Biarritz
L’Hotel du Palais fits comfortably into the glamorous Basque coast resort that was once the Monte Carlo of the Atlantic coast. The resort was transformed by Napoleon III in the mid 19th century and his wife Empress Eugenie built a palace on the beach, which then became L’Hotel du Palais.
With 122 rooms and 30 suites, this grande dame of the coast is very spacious, elegant and sophisticated with most rooms reflecting the Imperial history of the Palace.
The 1-Michelin star restaurant La Villa Eugenie, is the place for top seafood cooking. In addition, there are three other spectacular restaurants: Le Jardin de l'Ocean, The Chief and His Brigade and L'Imperatrice.
The Guerlain Spa has a spectacular indoor swimming pool and treatments to keep everybody young and beautiful.
1 ave. de l’Imperatrice
Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 59 41 64 00
Les Airelles, Courchevel 1850
High up in the chic mountain resort of Courchevel, the grand Les Airelles has stood the test of time and is now one of the three Palace hotels outside Paris.
As you walk in, you’re enveloped in the warm décor and atmosphere of this fabulous skiing chalet of 37 rooms and 14 suites. The superb apartment on the top floor is perfect for families with children who even have their own hiding place in a tiny room. The Spa Valmont offers all the treatments and has indoor and outdoor whirlpools and a snow cave.
With top chef, Pierre Gagnaire, in charge of the 2-Michelin star restaurant, Pierre Bagnaire pour les Airelles, the dining takes on a new significance with his experimental take on classic dishes. You can eat more traditional local fare in La Table du Jardin, while Le Coin du Savoyard offers a rotisserie. You can also eat from the grand buffet at lunch on the Terrasse looking over the slopes, which are accessible directly from the hotel.
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 79 00 38 38
Le Chevel Blanc, Courchevel 1850
Owned by Bernard Arnault, head of French luxury group LVMH, Le Cheval Blanc is, as you would expect, the height of fashionable chic. With 28 rooms spread over three floors and a separate chalet, it’s as spacious and roomy as you could imagine. Colors and fabrics of the mountain side predominate –- rich browns and greens with plenty of wool, fur, velvet and leather used. Views are spectacular of course with beds facing the windows in many rooms so you wake up to the view of snowy expanses.
As for dining, the 2-Michelin starred 1947 is sophisticated in both its leather décor and its cooking under chef Yannick Alléno. The new restaurant, The White, is more casual. Looking out onto the slopes, it’s all-white décor is the setting for meals at any time. The White Bar is rather darker, despite its name, but the perfect place for apres-ski cocktails.
The Cheval Blanc Spa is exceptional and includes a shower that changes sounds and lights according to the button you press –- from Russian to American. Using Guerlain, peaceful rooms offer all the treatments. Slopes are of course directly accessible from the hotel.
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 79 00 50 50
Le K2, Courchevel
Le K2 is just fabulous. Its 29 rooms are spacious, with open plan living areas built in wood and with luxury fabrics, they have fabulous views over the mountains and forests. But for sheer luxury you can’t beat the 5 suite-chalets with 5 to 6 rooms, a swimming pool in each, home cinema and hammam, a large lounge with blazing fireplace, tv room, dining room, kitchen, ski room and lift. Oh…and large balcones as well. And you are waited on hand and foot by a butler, housekeeper and chef. There’s a 2-star Michelin restaurant, Le Kintessence, and the smaller Le Black Pyramid plus a cosy bar. Le K2 Goji Spa by La Prairie, a circular swimming pool looking over the valley, and top fitness room just in case you don’t get enough exercise on the slopes of posh Courchevel.
Le K2 Palace
Rue des Clarinnes
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 79 40 08 80
Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, Cap Ferrat
Overlooking the azure blue Mediterranean, the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat has long been a magnet for celebrities. Opened in 1908 by the Compagnie Hôtelière des Centres de Tourisme Automobile, it has seen statesmen, royalty and stars from the Duchess of Argyll, daughter of Queen Victoria of England to Charles Boyer and David Niven.
The hotel re-opened in 2009 after a 75 million euro refurbishment. The 49 rooms and 24 suites (which include eight with private pools) set in vast grounds, are decorated in calm, pastel shades and have views either over the pine clad surroundings or the Mediterranean.
You can choose to dine either in the main Michelin-starred Le Cap restaurant or out on the terrace where the lights sparkle on a warm summer evening and you’re surrounded by the scents of the Mediterranean. There’s a gorgeous Olympic-sized heated sea-water pool with poolside dining. The Spa offers day passes and all the treatments. It’s a family friendly hotel with an excellent kids club as well.
71 boulevard du Général de Gaulle
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 76 50 50
L’hôtel La Réserve-Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez
Stay at this hotel for one of the best spa experiences in France. The hotel perches above the Mediterranean, its clean Modern lines and cool colours reflecting the blue of the sea. Take one of the 19 suites or 9 rooms in the main building which look out over the sea. Or for extra privacy, one of the 14 villas, with 3, 4, 5, or 6 bedrooms set in the lush gardens. La Voile restaurant is the place for a Provencal/Mediterranean-style meal or a light sushi menu. The large spa really is the place for a glamorous make-over using Crème de la Mer products and has both indoor and outdoor pools.
Chemin de la Quessine
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 94 44 94 44
L’hôtel de Byblos, Saint-Tropez
This is the place to party in the chic surroundings of Saint-Tropez, the resort on the Mediterranean put on the map by Brigitte Bardot. It’s in the centre of the resort, is open from April to October. The hotel celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017.
The 91 rooms and suites include a secluded villa, a few kilometers away on Tahiti Beach. Otherwise while away your time in a beautifully decorated room, warm with the colours of the south of France, some with private terraces. Take breakfast or a light meal outside beside the pool at le B. Restaurant; or dine off the inspiration of Alain Ducasse at Rivea. You can buy gourmet treats at their on-site gourmet grocery, L'Epicerie by Byblos. And learn to cook here with head chef Vincent Maillard. The Spa is delightful, stone built and pretty; there’s an outdoor pool, a fitness centre and special anti-aging treatments so you too can look as beautiful as Brigitte Bardot was.
20 Ave. Paul Signac
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 94 56 68 00
Learn more about fabulous Saint-Tropez
Le Château de la Messardière, Saint-Tropez
The largest hotel in Saint-Tropez has 117 rooms set in 25-acre grounds where the birds sing and the resort seems a million miles away. The turreted building has everything you want including an art gallery and stands overlooking the sea. Built in the 19th century as a private residence, the château saw its fair share of parties. It went into a gentle then rapid decline until bought by a French hotel group in 1992 and converted into the grand establishment you see today. There’s a spa and a wellness center and a pool, They have a gourmet restaurant, L'Acacia, another one beside the pool, a Ciel ouvert and a Terrace Bar, Le Soleil d'Eau.
2 route de Tahiti
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 94 56 76 00