Do you have clients planning to visit France this year? You’re not alone. It’s arguably the most popular destination on earth, where intoxicated visitors get a hefty dose of culture, history, romance, and fantastic food. And the country’s magnificent hotels are destinations unto themselves, especially those with built-in appeal for luxury travelers.
Over the years, we have crisscrossed the hexagon’s diverse regions, testing out luxury accommodations. Beyond the country’s nine stellar “palace” hotels (such as Le Meurice and Le Bristol in Paris), we present some of our picks for the best of the bunch.
Cour des Loges, Lyon
Smack dab in the heart of Old Lyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cour des Loges takes its place amid the neighborhood’s distinctive Renaissance houses painted in colorful Italian style. Owned by Sibuet Hotels the Cour des Loges puts guests squarely in the midst of this history. The hotel itself is a graceful blend of the ancient and the contemporary: Four Renaissance houses overlook a Florentine courtyard covered with a glass roof. The restaurant, newly awarded a Michelin star, enjoys pride of place in the heart of the establishment. And despite its small size, the hotel has a spa by Pure Altitude.
Each of the 61 guest rooms is individually decorated; one Junior Suite is devoted to photography, another resembles an artist’s studio with painter’s palettes and an easel as decoration. Keep in mind that the smallest room category is a cozy duplex intended for one guest. There are four spacious suites, one on each floor. For VIP bookings, reach out to Karine Moiroud ( email@example.com; 011-33-50-90-63-63).
Concierge Gérard Ravet ( firstname.lastname@example.org, 011-33-4-72-77-44-44) is famous for knowing everyone and everything in town. President of the Clefs d’Or association for the Rhone-Alpes region, Ravet was awarded “World’s Best Concierge” by Vanity Fair in 2009.
Chateau De La Chèvre D’or, Cote d’Azur
The Mediterranean views from the hotel’s clifftop perch—high above the French Riviera, are enough to take your breath away. Chateau De La Chèvre D’or is, in fact, built on multilevel terraces connected by stairways carved into the cliffs. On one of these panoramic terraces, a giant chessboard overlooks the sea. On another, a heated pool and an outdoor Jacuzzi offer sky-high views, as does the gym. Eze has its own microclimate, favoring a biodiversity that’s on full display in the 30 hectares of hotel gardens, filled with flowers and hundreds of types of cacti. And the mythical chèvre d’or (“golden goat”) is found in marble mosaics, statues and paintings.
The chateau encompasses ancient villas and private houses on cobbled lanes. The hotel has only 37 rooms, each with unique architectural details (think balconies, timbered beams, a soaking tub beneath cave-like vaults and a stone fireplace). The seven suites are named after the famous personalities and artists (like Jean Cocteau) who left their mark on the Riviera. Our Favorite: The Presidential Suite with its private infinity pool. Note: There are no room numbers, and some of the rooms are situated along a public passageway in the village itself.
Your clients may not want to leave their luxurious lair, nor do they need to. They’ve got some of the best food on the entire French Riviera at their doorstep: The hotel’s gourmet restaurant has two Michelin stars. Passionate about fresh local produce, Chef Fabrice Vulin sources the best of the region’s crops for his seasonal Mediterranean tasting menus. In the 15,000-bottle wine cellar, there are fine local wines from Provence, along with rare vintages such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1918 and Cheval Blanc 1947. For lunch, Les Remparts and the poolside Café du Jardin are two casual options. Open in high season (May to September), both restaurants have panoramic terraces that offer prime views of the sea. The hotel’s fourth restaurant, Eden, can be booked for dreamy destination weddings and events. (Nice Touch: The pool can be sprinkled with rose petals and candle-lit.) The concierge may also recommend a meal at the Chateau Eza, a boutique hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant within walking distance.
Pavillon de la Reine, Paris
There’s no shortage of fantastic hotels in Paris, including a trio of upscale newcomers from heralded Asian brands: Raffles, Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La. We’re smitten with each of these, but our old favorite is the Pavillon de la Reine, a discreet address off the Place des Vosges in the Marais—one of the most coveted pieces of real estate in the City of Light.
Tucked away in a flowering courtyard, Hotel Pavillon de la Reine is the only luxury hotel of its kind in the fashionable Marais quarter. Indeed, the hotel has a coveted location directly off the Place des Vosges, the oldest public square in Paris, oft described by locals as the city’s prettiest. Built by Henry IV in the early 1600s, the square is perfectly symmetrical around a central, gated green; 36 brick houses with slate roofs rise above a vaulted arcade. Strolling along the galleried walkways, rubbernecking at art galleries and boutiques, you could almost miss the courtyard entrance to the Pavillon, housed in a 17th-century hotel particulier. The property’s discreet address in the historical heart of Paris is just one of the reasons it has cultivated a loyal following of repeat guests, ensuring its status as a cult favorite for rock stars and fashion designers.
Over the course of a recent 18-month renovation, the total room count was reduced to 54 rooms, a library was added near the reception and a spa was unveiled on the lower floor where the breakfast room used to be. The Spa de la Reine by Carita is a chic space with just two treatment rooms. Instantly calming, the spa—designed in Portuguese Cascais stone—is marked by a wall of cascading water at the entrance. Using Brigitte Bardot’s favorite spa products, the Carita-branded treatments run the gamut from jet lag massages to rice milk facials. There’s also a Jacuzzi, hammam and small fitness room where private trainers are available.
For your VIPs, consider the magnificent Victor Hugo Suite, where Jean Paul Gaultier bunked down for a year during his house renovation. It’s a sought-after space; the bedroom’s toile-covered walls have served as the backdrop for recent photo shoots for Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Because it has a kitchenette and can connect to another Deluxe Room, this suite is perfect for long-stay guests or families. Another favorite? The Suite de la Reine, where a giant Baudelaire text—artistically transcribed in elegant, flowing letters—hangs above the bed. Nice Perk: VIP guests are spoiled with welcome gifts: sweet treats, a red leather notebook, Carita amenities, or Esteban perfume. For clients traveling with Fido in tow, the hotel will provide a special doggie bowl and treat. For VIP bookings, contact Sales Director Karol Lor ( email@example.com, 011-33-140-291-919). Need to set up special arrangements? Guests sing the praises of Concierge Jonathan Buckles, who has planned and executed perfect marriage proposals for exacting clients.
Les Fermes de Marie, French Alps
Megeve has long been considered one of the world’s best winter destinations, beloved by the jetset, and Les Fermes de Marie is a fairytale of an alpine retreat.
The brainchild of Jocelyne and Jean-Louis Sibuet, Les Fermes de Marie is designed as a veritable village in the heart of Megeve. The Sibuets—a prominent Megeve family, which now helms a hospitality group—opened the hotel in 1989 as an ambitious project to preserve centuries-old Savoyard farms. From the region’s high mountain pastures, traditional chalets were dismantled, and then pieces of timber numbered and reassembled in a five-acre park. The hotel’s main restaurant is, in fact, an old barn with soaring timbered walls and a fireplace fit for a king’s castle. The nine chalets are all interlinked underground, so a spa-bound guest doesn’t have to brave the cold en route for a massage or Himalayan rose facial.
The 60 guest rooms and 10 suites are decked out with gorgeous antiques handpicked by Jocelyne Sibuet. Two separate chalets, the Chalet des Fermes and the Chalet Chatel, are the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity. Accommodating up to 10 guests each, the chalets have private spas, fully equipped kitchens and a governess to provide breakfast and cleaning services. For VIP bookings, agents should contact Director of Sales Karine Moiroud ( firstname.lastname@example.org; 011-33-450-906-363). Note: Les Fermes de Marie is a family-friendly hotel with a brand-new dedicated chalet where kids are entertained with arts and crafts, Nintendo Wii and magic shows.
The Grand Hotel Bordeaux
A historic monument transformed into a decadent luxury hotel, draped with sumptuous fabrics. From the rooftop spa, one can ogle the views of the famous Opera House across the street.
French designer Jacques Garcia, known for his over-the-top style and no-holds-barred approach to color, was responsible for the restoration of the Grand Hotel Bordeaux. Steeped in the city’s cultural heritage, Garcia channeled the theatric to his design, adding whimsical fairytale flourishes that pay tribute to the opera house across the street. Two symbols of the city, the Grand Theatre and The Regent Bordeaux, face each other across the famous Place de la Comedie, their neo-classical facades both built by architect Victor Louis in 1776. To secure opera tickets for your clients get in touch with Concierge Bastien Lalanne ( email@example.com, 011-33-557-304-300), whose team is known for its “spare-nothing” service.
Encompassing five different room categories, the 150 guest rooms are individually decorated and configured. Some rooms are done up in rich wine tones offset with gold, while others have a blue color scheme and walls of toile. Our Deluxe Room was a cocoon of luxury, swathed in fabric. (The wallpaper is said to conjure the image of theater curtain drapes). Lavish touches include Nespresso coffee machines, iPod docking stations, marble bathrooms with heated floors and Anne Sémonin bath products in every room. Complimentary Internet access is available throughout the hotel. Note: There are seven rooms with balconies on the fourth floor. #226 occupies a corner of the building, affording excellent views of the fireworks during annual summer festivals. Request a balcony room or a view of the Place de la Comédie when booking.
By Mary Winston NicklinCourtesy Travel Agent Central