Hôtel Lutetia, Paris

The comeback act of the decade: a fabulous Art Deco grande dame that’s had a super-chic makeover.


Set the scene.

With its curvy exteriors sculpted in cream stone and trellised balconies, the Belle Epoque Hotel Lutetia has never looked finer. The double-height Art Deco lobby buzzes with impeccably dressed locals here for pre-dinner cocktails at Bar Josephine.

What's the story?

Paris’s singular Left Bank palace hotel, dates back to 1910. In the '20s, Andre Gide dined here daily; both Picasso and Matisse called it home. The writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a regular guest, as was James Joyce, who played Irish ballads on the piano in the bar where Josephine Baker ushered Paris into the Jazz Age. The original Romanesque frescoes in Bar Josephine were discovered and painstakingly restored by Paris architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

What can we expect in our room?

Some of the rooms face Boulevard Raspail and Rue de Sèvres, and from truly bijou balconies, views stretch beyond to the Eiffel Tower. Navy walls bordered in white resemble a ship’s stateroom; courtyard-facing rooms are decorated in neutral greys. Dark chevron parquet floors; Hermès silk pillows decorate the cosy Art Deco-style furniture by Poltrona Frau. Decadently oversized by Paris standards, bathtubs—carved out of a single block of marble—are reason enough to upgrade to the higher room categories. Tech was easy to master and intuitive.

How about the food and drink?

Six bars and restaurants, including one outdoors. Three-Michelin-starred seafood specialist Gérald Passedat from Marseille’s Le Petit Nice commands the kitchen at marble-, glass- and wood-clad Lutetia Brasserie; his sea bar, with its marinated langoustines and oysters soaked in aloe vera, has had rave reviews. In Bar Josephine, caviar toasted sandwiches are made with 30 grams of Osciètre caviar, and inspiring cocktails use outlier ingredients such as fennel, rhubarb and ginseng honey.

Anything to say about the service?

Check-in was smooth; but service at breakfast was slow and a little old-school. The doormen are fantastic, helping carry shopping bags and hailing cabs in the rain, with the utmost grace.

Who comes here?

High-profile loyalists from politics, arts and fashion. Denizens of Saint-Germain-des-Prés—Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Gainsbourg among them—have been counting down to the reopening of their regular boîte de nuit. And anyone not actually famous will be dressed to fit in among them—in black, of course, accessorized with orange shopping bags from the Hermès boutique in the hotel’s former indoor pool.

What's the neighborhood scene like?

Overnight, this Art Deco landmark went back to being key to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés scene. It is a two-minute walk to Le Bon Marché, five to the fabulous people watching and chocolat chaud at Les Deux Magots, and is surrounded by real Paris restaurants. On Sunday mornings there’s an organic market outside on the Boulevard Raspail, where Kristin Scott Thomas gets her veg.

And anything you'd change?

The temperamental lifts; the staff at breakfast. The minibar is uninspiring, particularly given that La Grande Épicerie de Paris at Le Bon Marché is only a macaron’s throw away.

Anything else we should know?

Make sure to look up in the Le Saint Germain salon at Fabrice Hybert’s vibrant, nature-inspired stained glass. And don’t miss the well-stocked library off the lobby.

Is it worth it—and why?

It’s expensive; but worth it to experience a true Paris palais hotel in its meticulously restored Art Deco grandeur, right in the thick of Saint-Germain action.

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