Le Grand Hotel: A Contemporary Palace in Paris
Fathom contributor and hotel critic Christina Ohly checks into a spectacularly grand boutique hotel in the heart of Paris.
Set in an 18th-century building partly designated as a historical monument, Grand Hotel du Palais Royal Paris is a true gem in a city bursting with wonderful hotels. The chic boutique bolthole has all the advantages of a large, luxury hotel, but at just 68 rooms, is the only five-star of its kind in the well-situated Palais Royal area.
A soothing, sumptuous escape, the hotel is a study in neutral hues and minimalist aesthetics. Best of all, it is literally feet away from the gardens of Palais Royal — just stroll through the colonnade across the street from the hotel's lobby and you're transported to another time. Also in striking distance are the Tulleries, the Louvre, and wonderful shopping on both Rue Sainte-Honoré and in St. Germain-des-Pres across the Seine.
Noted French interiors guru Pierre-Yves Rochon renovated the rooms and common spaces, including Le Lulli restaurant and a cozy bar. The idea is to make you feel like the Palais is your maison away from home. A Carita spa and a reasonably well-outfitted gym (it's Paris after all, this isn't a priority) have also been updated, and great focus has been put on the concierge team, who work tirelessly to secure everything from Paris Saint Germain football tickets to hard-to-score reservations at restaurants such as Frenchie and Semilla to in-room doctor visits for sick children in need of antibiotics. (It wouldn't be a holiday without this added diversion, would it?)
What's on Site
You have all the amenities of one of the palace hotels found in the 8th and the 16th (gym, spa with hammam, delicious restaurant, spacious rooms with terraces), but the whole experience feels more intimate. Excellent WiFi, international newspapers, and plentiful adapters are pluses. The staff is willing to source anything — groceries, pharmacy finds, advance tickets to the Picasso Museum.
I'm a huge fan of breakfast, and I can't say enough good things about the complimentary spread in the conservatory restaurant, Le Lulli. The bright setting — brilliant green plants and a design-led Bertoia vibe — starts the day off right, and the selection of freshly baked breads, salads, fruit, cheeses, and excellent coffee are well beyond your typical, all-inclusive fare. Omelettes made to order are another highlight. The staff is attentive to every wish, sometimes before you've identified the need for more thé vert or jus d'orange. Lunch is also lovely, with light pouring into the restaurant and exquisitely prepared fish dishes and refined takes on the classic chicken Caesar salad.
In the Room
There are 57 rooms and eleven suites across the hotel's five floors, and each is elegant and filled with light. The rooms feel both warm and modern — beige and cream with leather and wood finishes, desks, and gleaming marble bathrooms — and are wonderful places to return to after a day of work or sightseeing. Minibars are stocked with beverages but little else, so ask for additional supplies or stock up at the nearby Franprix just down Rue St. Honoré. There are flat-screen TVs with umpteen channels in all languages, as well as strong, hot showers, thick towels, and enormous robes which all coalesce to ease the pain of long-haul flights.
Room with a View
Our family of four occupied two interconnecting rooms (308 and 309) overlooking quiet Rue du Valois and the entrance to Palais Royal. Bright even on slightly dreary days, these rooms work incredibly well for children of all ages, but next time I will stay in one of the terrace or panorama suites. Both are on the top floor, accessible by private elevator. Some have views of Palais Royal, while others have vistas of the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, and Opera Garnier.
This Place Is Perfect For
Families, business travelers, fashionistas who want access to the nearby shops and ateliers of Paris' leading designers, and anyone who has a thing for the loggias and ambience of the Palais Royal. This is simply a rare gem.
But Not So Perfect For
Anyone who wants the big, shiny Parisian hotel experience. For this, head straight to the impressive new Peninsula on Avenue Kleber (also lovely, just a different experience).
Real life is happening here. You're not on a polished street in the Golden Triangle, but rather in the heart of the working city. Commuters come out of Palais Royal metro and scurry by, while tourists pass en route to the side entrance and the pyramids of the Louvre.
What to Do Nearby
There are no shortage of activities. Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, and the Opera are nearby. Excellent restaurants, of which there are many, include Café Marly in the colonnades of the Louvre, a perennial favorite for lunch and people-watching.
My favorite eateries are further afield, like the new Kinugawa Matignon in the 8th, which shines for both excellent sashimi and chic ambience. Ralph's in Saint Germain-des-Pres is wonderful for spring and summer lunches en plein air, as is a spread of Poilâne tartines at the casual Bar de la Croix Rouge (2 Place Michel Debré; +33-1-4548-0645), more toned down than nearby Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain; +33-1-4548-5526) and Les Deux Magots (which will always be mainstays).
Semilla, also in the 6th arrondissement, is an excellent choice for both the design-led space and small plates of grilled shiitake mushrooms and enormous bowls of cake and ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce — dishes meant for sharing that add to the relaxed, convivial vibe.
The high-end shops (YSL, Prada, Hermès...) are on Rue Saint-Honoré, while smaller gems are hidden across the Seine in St. Germain-des-Pres. L/Uniform is hands-down my favorite shop for stylish, practical canvas and leather bags by the daughter-in-law of the Goyard family. Muriel Grateau is a beautiful, spare space full of exquisite linen napkins, minimalist ceramics, and strong, statement-making crystal jewelry. Basics like Le Bon Marché and Du Pareil au Même (the French answer to/or a cooler version of Baby Gap) are both in this area of the 6th.
Lovers of good design should flock to 107Rivoli (part of Musee des Arts Décoratifs), which is full of incredible accessories, books, lighting, jewelry, and more. It's a short walk from the hotel next to the Louvre.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Good to Know
Book directly through the hotel so that upgrades and changes are handled directly with the front desk. The owners of this hotel are all about happy customers and will upgrade whenever possible. Don't be shy about asking. Ditto for early check-ins and bag storage. Both are helpful after a red-eye flight.
Uber is big in Paris: Cheaper, faster, nicer drivers (generally) who dole out sweets and bottled water make rides a win-win.
How to Get There
The hotel is approximately 45 minutes from Charles De Gaulle airport (CDG) by car (depending on the time of day) and 30 minutes from Paris Orly airport (ORY), which services much of Europe. The Palais Royal Metro is around the corner from the hotel and is by far the easiest way to get around, particularly during Fashion Week when the area becomes gridlocked.
Rates start at €495. Click here for reservations.