A massive renovation at Hotel de Crillon — five years in the making during the mid 2010s, with a staggering 200 million dollar budget — brought together the world's most famous fashion designer, a team of interior designers, 250 master craftspeople, and 150 artisans, working around the clock. As a result the Parisian landmark was reborn.
After the Hotel de Crillon finally re-opened their doors following that long and expensive renovation, it took only a year for the hotel to win the prestigious Palace hotel status.
If, like us, you don't normally travel in the crême-de-la-crême hotel world, you might not know that the Distinction Palace status was created in 2010 by the French government to honor and recognize the rare and very, very special hotels whose standards are above the highest 5-star rating. There are only a couple of dozen of these Palace hotels in all of France; a dozen of them in Paris. The list now includes Hotel de Crillon.
Located in the epicenter of Paris on the Place de la Concorde, the Hotel de Crillon, a Louis-XV-era jewel, was originally designed by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, already famous for the estate of Versailles's Petit Trianon. Flash forward to 2012, the goal was to inject new life into the historic landmark, balancing conservation with transformation. The vision was to embrace the Crillon's history, to enhance its 18th-century charm, yet bring the hotel into the 21st century.
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You don't so much enter the Crillon as you are whisked in by a bevy of efficient staff, dressed in stylish uniforms created by young French fashion designer Hugo Matha.
If you've stayed at the Hotel de Crillon pre-renovation, the first thing you notice is that the former grand lobby has been replaced with a succession of smaller, intimate spaces. The entrance's ceilings have been raised one metre to allow more natural light to reach into the lobby. Gone are the days of formal check-ins behind a counter; guest registration is less formal and now takes place in one of these intimate spaces furnished with soft, cognac-colored leather chairs.
The aesthetic has changed from museum to private mansion with streamlined opulence. As your eyes dart around you notice that the restored grand staircase now features a trio of 18th-century pendant lights; the chandeliers are now draped with edgy metal chains; the regal furniture has been swapped for cleaner silhouettes and contemporary art; and the two design elements in abundance are forty shades of marble and gold.
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A well-known 18th-century antiques expert, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld took charge of the two Les Grands Appartements on the fourth floor as well as a deluxe room dedicated to his famous feline mascot, Choupette.
As you'd expect from Karl, every room in the 3,000-square-foot suites showcases stunning views of the Paris skyline. For the Grands Appartements Lagerfeld repurposed marble fountains from the former courtyard as sinks for the powder rooms. Carved from a single block of rare Carrera marble, the tub in one of the suites takes inspiration from the fountains of the Vatican.
Opulent details abound — from parquet marble floors, canopied beds, a Lagerfeld-curated library, and his-and-hers dressing areas, to living areas with carved wooden and hand-painted walls. Our favorite touch is a magic button that opens the bookcase to reveal a hidden dressing room.
Extravagant suites aside, even the standard rooms are luxurious. In the 78 guest rooms, the 18th-century feel has been polished and updated with the latest amenities. The Drouault duvets and pillows are as light as a feather and the beds are finished with luxury Porthault linens.
The washrooms are spacious, with a soaker tub and rain shower and custom Buly 1803 toiletries. Mini bars are stocked with fresh-pressed juices and the Nespresso machine is encased in leather. As you would expect, plush robes and slippers await you.
The best rooms (with the best views) are on the top floor where they sport gabled ceilings and terraces facing the Eiffel Tower. But the Signature Suites are the ultimate prize — the wraparound terrace of the Bernstein Suite (named for the American composer and frequent guest) takes in views of the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais.
Not many hotels can claim that Marie Antoinette studied piano in their rooms, but the Hotel de Crillon can. In fact, it was on the square (now called the Place de la Concorde) that Louis XVI married Marie Antoinette in 1770. A few years later, the queen was a regular at the mansion where she took piano lessons in the first-floor salon that now bears her name.
Who could have imagined that twenty-three years after her grand wedding she would face the guillotine right outside these doors? It seems fitting that the Hotel de Crillon has its very own suite dedicated to her. The Marie-Antoinette Suite, decorated in blush and taupe tones, features rose-gold faucets, vases of pink roses, and a private balcony.
Our Rating — Superb Plus !
10 Place de la Concorde
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The biggest change at the Crillon is that the former high-rococo restaurant Les Ambassadeurs, has been turned into a cocktail bar with low-slung sofas in crushed velvet. There are now three restaurants at the Crillon — Jardin d'Hiver for afternoon tea, Brasserie d'Aumont for casual lunches and dinners, and L'Ecrin, the white-tablecloth fine-dining restaurant.
Beautifully plated French bistro classics are enjoyed indoors or alfresco in the courtyard. The brasserie is where you'll satisfy your Paris culinary cravings with oysters from the coast of France, timeless pâtes and terrines, sole meunière, rabbit with mustard sauce, and plump baba au rhums.
This is the place for a civilized afternoon high tea.The walls of the lounge, decorated with shimmering mica panels, accent the glittering aubergine chandelier lampshades. But it's the plush, circular sofas that are the star of the show. Even the ceiling is adorned with gold leaf. The elephant in the room? Darling, it's the restored crystal elephant sculpture designed by Baccarat for the 1878 Paris Universal Exhibition. Hidden behind a mirrored door is L'Ecrin, the intimate high-end dining room. Let's peek behind the door.
The fine dining restaurant, L'Ecrin, with only twenty-eight seats, managed to earn a Michelin star in its very first year. The gastronomic restaurant is tucked away in the back, like a secret room. The decor and the menu are now lighter, cleaner and, shall we say, more refreshing.
No longer the dining room, the space formerly occupied by restaurant Les Ambassadeurs has been transformed into a 60-seat bar featuring the three C's — 100 brands of Champagne, trendy Cocktails, and the ultimate luxury snack food, Caviar. The original chandeliers have been lowered and the frescoed ceiling (a registered landmark) has been given a makeover with a dramatic cloudscape meant to evoke the Parisian sky after a rain.
Indulgent details are a key part of the Crillon — from a private cigar lounge with humidors, to a hipster lobby barber shop with professional shoeshines in vintage Aston Martin car seats, to the brand new golden swimming pool and spa. The breathtaking pool is lined with a gold-leaf mosaic of 18,000 pieces of molten glass, created by American artist Peter Lane. Swimmers now look through a glass skylight to a pretty garden that was once a forgotten, derelict area.
There's also a state-of-the-art fitness studio. Sense, the signature spa, offers luxurious treatments including massages, facials, and body treatments with health professionals on stand-by — from a shiatsu master and a naturopath to an osteopath.
The Crillon's origins date backto the 18th century, when Louis XV commissioned architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel to build a palace as a backdrop to the statue of his Royal Likeness mounted in Place Royale, as the Place de la Concorde was then called.. The Crillon, though, gets its name from the Duke of Crillon, who used the palace as his private residence. His descendants lived there for more than a hundred years, until it was converted to a hotel in 1909. Since then it's been a home-away-from-home for royalty, politicians, and celebrities.
The renovation, which was originally slated to take two years, encountered huge setbacks and restrictions, given the historic setting, plus the huge task of digging two floors underground to build the new spa and pool. Overall, the renovation ended up taking five full years. But it was worth the wait.
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