The palace hotels of Paris have each taken their turn over the past years to undergo a major refurbishment. It’s about keeping up with the times, modernising the amenities, refreshing the decor but also always bearing in mind the history behind the hotel.
The latest to reopen is the wonderful Lutetia hotel. One of the most beautiful facades in the capital. This is the largest palace hotel of the left bank. A short trot from Le Bon Marché, in St Germain. The hotel is not only popular with its international travellers but also with the local neighbourhood. There is a pride surrounding this beautiful and rather huge building, standing proudly on the cross roads where the rue de Sèvres meets the Boulevard Raspail.
There is a good reason for the hotel being so close to Bon Marché, Paris’ first department store. They were owned and built by the same family! When Aristide Boucicaut created Le Bon Marché in 1848 it was flamboyant for its time, and a huge success. One of the innovations in the store that always make me smile is the ‘reading room’ for gentlemen, while their wives shopped. That’s smart!
Boucicaut wanted a high-end and convenient address for his clients to stay at, when they visited Paris on a shopping spree. He built the Lutetia across the road, and it was instantly popular. Over the years the hotel has been a favourite address with artists such as Picasso and Matisse who lived there for a while. James Joyce was a regular client and in the 50’s it also became popular with musicians.
During World War II the Lutetia was a haven for refugees fleeing to Paris from occupied regions of France. They were forced to leave when the Germans came into town, and when they also left it was home to American troops. Until the end of the war it was officially the repatriation centre for returning prisoners of war, concentrations camp survivors and displaced persons.
Today all this history is remembered honourably and affectionately by Parisians. The hotel has been closed for renovation since the spring of 2014. Four years were required to reduce the number of bedrooms, create new windows, remodel remodel and redecorate. New additions include the beautiful pool and spa; and seven new suites.
Maybe this is already one of your favourite addresses in Paris? and if so have you already booked a return trip?