Armchair Travel: Peek Inside France's "Palaces de France" Rated Hotels

  • Ooh la la! Discovering France's Luxurious Palace Hotels

    There are the nice hotels and then there are the really nice hotels. If you're lucky enough to stay at five-star properties, you may have found it hard to choose one based solely on websites and price points. That's why Atout France (the French tourism folks) established a category of hotels that recognizes the most luxurious hotels and designates them as Palaces de France, more simply known as the "palace hotels." (Despite the name, they're not required to be actual palaces.) Only 16 have received the designation, half of them in Paris (including the Four Seasons George V, pictured above). Scroll through our gallery to discover what makes these hotels so special.

    Photo courtesy of Four Season George V

  • Hôtel Le Plaza Athénée, Paris

    Set along the posh Avenue Montaigne, the Plaza Athénée, with its iconic red awnings, will not disappoint luxury lovers. After reopening last year following a $268 million expansion and renovation, the hotel now has 15 rooms or suites with direct views of the Eiffel Tower (nine more than previously), all posh and decadent. 

    Photo courtesy of Dorchester Collection

  • Hôtel Le Plaza Athénée, Paris

    Inside the stately Plaza Athénée, guests in top suites are surrounded by crystal chandeliers, fresh flowers, bespoke toiletries and other high-end amenities. Not to be missed is a meal (even breakfast) at the famed Alain Ducasse restaurant where guests are treated like royalty...some even are.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Shangri-La Hotel, Paris

    Just around the corner from the Eiffel Tower in the 16th arrondissement is the Shangri-La Hotel which combines buttoned up formality with both formal and contemporary design. The property, originally built as the home of Prince Roland Bonaparte, harkens back to 18th century Paris complete with drawing rooms and salons.

    Photo courtesy of Shangri-La Hotel Paris

  • Shangri-La Hotel, Paris

    One of the few Palaces de France that was an actual palace, the Shangri-La is awash in grandiosity. Bonaparte's personal bedroom has been transformed to one of the hotel's poshest suites although it does not have a view of the Eiffel Tower. Apparently Monsieur Bonaparte had a less-than-positive opinion of the tower (this suite overlooks the street).

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Mandarin Oriental, Paris

    Shangri-La isn't the only Asian luxury hotel hitting the French market in recent years. The Mandarin Oriental, located on the chic rue Saint-Honoré, takes a much more modern approach with a sleek design and state-of-the-art technology. The works of American photographer Man Ray, who lived in Paris in the 1920s and 30s, have been incorporated into the gray and magenta interiors.

    Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Paris

  • Mandarin Oriental, Paris

    If you're craving the suite life in Paris, the Mandarin Oriental offers modern Asian suites including the two-story, 3,767-square feet Royale Mandarin with views of Montmartre, the Opera Garnier, Grand Palais, Louvre and Madeleine. At the Mandarin Oriental Spa, you can also book your own spa suite–a one-stop treatment room with private changing area, showers and bathrooms.

    Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Paris

  • Hôtel Le Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme

    If you want to be in the heart of Paris, opt for the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. A short walk from The Louvre and the Tuileries, the hotel is in an unassuming historic building a few doors from the column of Place Vendôme. Suites include yoga mats, signature bath and body products (featuring the hotel's own fragrance) and–in some–toilet lids that open automatically when you step in front of them.

    Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme

  • Hôtel Le Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme

    Don't let the Hyatt name fool you, the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme is the haute couture of Hyatt Hotels. The interior was designed around a 200-piece art collection curated by a Paris-based art dealer. Even room fixtures are worthy of display in a top contemporary art museum. 

    Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme

  • Hôtel Le Bristol, Paris

    Since its opening in 1925, Le Bristol has been one of the select properties in Paris to see and be seen. In the heart of Paris' fashion district, the hotel completed a six-year renovation in 2014.

    Photo courtesy of Le Bristol Paris

  • Hôtel Le Bristol, Paris

    With gilded ceilings and stark Louis XVI furnishings throughout much of Le Bristol, this hotel exudes opulence from the moment you step onto its white Carrara marble floors. The fact that its fine dining restaurant, Epicure, has three Michelin stars only adds to its appeal.

    Photo courtesy of Le Bristol Paris

  • Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz

    Overlooking the Atlantic's Bay of Biscay, the Hôtel du Palais was once the summer home of Napoleon III and his adored wife, Eugenie. It's now considered the most well-known and nicest hotel in the resort town of Biarritz. 

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel du Palais

  • Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz

    While Hôtel du Palais remains reminiscent of its aristocratic past, it has been updated to include modern luxuries and take advantage of its location overlooking La Grand Plage. 

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel du Palais

  • Hôtel Les Airelles, Courchevel

    Arriving at picturesque Hôtel Les Airelles on a winter day is like being transported into a fairy tale. Snow-tipped treetops surround the cozy chalet, which has been voted the Best Mountain Hotel in the World. The two-Michelin starred Pierre Gagnaire pour Les Airelles restaurant doesn't hurt. 

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel Les Airelles

  • Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris

    Consistently voted by guests as one of the best hotels in Paris, Four Seasons George V (walking distance to the Champs-Élysées) wows upon entry with its art deco lobby and award-winning floral designs. Guests are able to request use of the property's Rolls Royce for use in and around Paris.

    Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel George V

  • Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris

    Rooms at Four Seasons George V were designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon. With chandeliers, Renaissance art and traditional French furnishings (not to mention the hotel's noteworthy service), it's easy to put yourself in the shoes of the aristocracy.

    Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel George V

  • Hôtel Le Cheval Blanc, Courchevel

    Courchevel is one of the world's most premier and sought-after ski destinations. Set amongst the "Trois Vallées" (three valleys) of the French Alps, Hôtel Le Cheval Blanc's 29 rooms and suites were designed with a "contemporary mountain living" style accented with cashmere, fur, velvet or leather. For true luxury, guests can book the Chalet, a three-bedroom residence with a dedicated spa, private screening room and extensive outdoor areas.  

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel Le Cheval Blanc

  • Hôtel Le Cheval Blanc, Courchevel

    Cheval Blanc Spa offers signature treatments developed by Guerlain with winter sports in mind. The infinity-edge pool, ice water plunge pool, rain shower, steam room and sauna are popular after a day on the slopes, as is Le 1947, a two-Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant that fuses French cuisine with Chef Yannick Alléno’s culinary creativity.
     

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel Le Cheval Blanc

  • Le Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

    Recently added to the Four Seasons family, the French Riviera's Le Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat encompasses three buildings (including the original 1908 Palace) spread over 17 acres of lush grounds including gardens, pools and tennis courts. And it's just 30 minutes outside both Nice and Monaco.

    Photo courtesy of Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

  • Le Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

    With a bay-windowed rotunda designed by Gustave Eiffel and reproductions of works by artists including Picasso, Cocteau, Matisse, Chagall, Modigliani and Rodin, it's easy to see why Le Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat has been a popular choice among the rich and famous. And the view isn't bad either. 

    Photo courtesy of Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

  • L'hôtel Le Byblos, Saint-Tropez

    Jet-setters and celebrities have been flocking to Hotel Byblos since the 1960s when it was a favorite of the elite, including Mick Jagger and Brigitte Bardot. Just steps from the village of Saint-Tropez, the property is designed like a seaside village in Provence and boasts an Alain Ducasse restaurant and upscale spa.

    Photo courtesy of Hotel Byblos

  • L'hôtel Le Byblos, Saint-Tropez

    There's a feel of simple luxury in each of Hotel Byblos' 41 rooms and 50 suites. When not lounging at the pool in tiny bikinis and oversized floppy hats, guests can book a yacht, enroll in cooking class with the head chef or queue up for entry to the iconic nightclub Les Caves du Roy to rub shoulders with the rich and famous.

    Photo courtesy of Hotel Byblos

  • Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris

    Located in the 8th arrondissement near the Arc de Triomphe, Le Royal Monceau is now part of the Raffles brand and melds its 1928 Art Deco style with an artsy, more eccentric design. Once the playground of the Paris elite (think Hemingway and Josephine Baker), it now houses an art bookshop and art concierges who can arrange viewings of the hotel's private art collection.
     

    Photo courtesy of Le Royal Monceau, Raffles

  • Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris

    The 149-room Le Royal Monceau-Raffles, with interiors designed by Phillipe Starck, has been consistently ranked one of the best hotels in Paris since it opened in 2010. It's also popular among families who take advantage of its Le Petit Royal program with creative workshops and activities for kids including pizza-making, movie screenings and treasure hunts at the Louvre.

    Photo courtesy of Le Royal Monceau, Raffles

  • Hôtel Le K2, Courchevel

    Tucked away in the French Alps at one of the world's largest ski areas sits Hôtel Le K2, home to five suite-chalets (and 29 additional rooms and suites) with personalized service. The ultra-luxurious suite-chalets include a pool with home cinema, a hot tub or hammam, full kitchen, living room and a ski room, natch.

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel Le K2

  • Hôtel Le K2, Courchevel

    Although Le K2 is sleek and glamorous, it welcomes families and has dedicated children's areas, including video games and simulators, a recording studio and an interactive dance floor.

    Photo courtesy of Hôtel Le K2

  • L'hôtel La Réserve, Ramatuelle

    The words "Saint-Tropez" conjure images of glamour and perhaps not more so than at the stylish L'hôtel La Réserve which sits on the outskirts of the city like a discreet retreat. Twelve sleek Provençal-style villas (plus 19 suites and nine guest rooms) overlook the Mediterranean's beautiful Côte d'Azur. 

    Photo courtesy of L'hôtel La Réserve Ramatuelle

  • L'hôtel La Réserve, Ramatuelle

    Private butlers and chefs are de rigueur at La Réserve and the housekeeper takes care of the daily needs of guests, from filling the fridge to organizing your day. But La Réserve's piece de resistance is its spa where guests can chill out at the heated pool with jet stream, hammam, steam bath, sauna and solarium. 

    Photo courtesy of G. Gardette/La Réserve Ramatuelle

  • Le Meurice, Paris

    Le Meurice, which celebrated its 180th year in 2015, sits alongside Paris' infamous strolling street, Rue de Rivoli. It's a great option for luxury seekers traveling with children given the proximity to the Tuileries gardens (and its playground) and the hotel also caters to children with treasure hunts and other kid-friendly activities. 

    Photo courtesy of Le Meurice

  • Le Meurice, Paris

    If you want romance in the City of Lights, dinner on the terrace of Le Meurice's Belle Etoile Suite (pictured) is sure to impress. Or head to the hotel's Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse, designed to resemble the Salon de la Paix at the Chateau de Versailles, and recipient of three Michelin stars.

    Photo courtesy of Le Meurice

  • Le Château de La Messardière, Saint-Tropez

    Perched on a hillside overlooking the playground for the rich and famous sits Château de La Messardière. Once the home of Henry Brisson de la Messardière, it's now a luxury property on 25 acres compete with a preserved bird habitat and manicured gardens.

    Photo courtesy of Château de La Messardière

  • Le Château de La Messardière, Saint-Tropez

    The Château's panoramic views overlooking the gorgeous Gulf of Saint-Tropez, the beaches of Pampelonne and the vineyards of Ramatuelle can be soaked up from the private balconies or terraces on each of its 73 rooms and 45 suites. The hotel's "Cles d' Or" concierge can also provide personalized itineraries upon request.

    Photo courtesy of Château de La Messardière

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