It’s a well-known Parisian anomaly that all the city’s celebrated grand hotels are located on the Right Bank of the Seine, including the 10 that enjoy officially sanctioned “palace hotel” status. In contrast, the Left Bank is dotted with smaller properties of individuality and charm (six of which are Harper-recommended). But it wasn’t always this way.
The Hôtel Lutetia is located in the 6th arrondissement, at the corner of Boulevard Raspail and Rue de Sevrès, and when it opened in 1910, it was considered the last word in contemporary luxury. Designed in the art nouveau style, it quickly became a favorite of the French cultural elite. Charles de Gaulle chose it for his wedding night in 1921, and André Gide ate lunch there virtually every day. In the 1930s, both Picasso and Matisse lived at the Lutetia. But then came World War II, and the hotel acquired a darker reputation, after having been requisitioned by the Abwehr, the Nazi counterespionage service charged with destroying the French Resistance. After the war, the property never quite recovered its former status, despite being owned for a while by the Taittinger Champagne family. Until now, that is. On July 12, the Lutetia reopened after a four-year, $234 million renovation.
The hotel’s famous cream façade, stained-glass windows and a frescoed ceiling in the Bar Josephine (named for Josephine Baker) have all been laboriously restored, while a new central courtyard, installed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, admits much-needed light to the public areas. The number of rooms has been reduced from 234 to 184, and the property now boasts a 7,500-square-foot spa with a 55-foot indoor pool. The beloved Brasserie Lutetia will reopen later this year, overseen by Michelin three-star chef Gérald Passédat, of Le Petit Nice in Marseille. And I’m told that the Hôtel Lutetia will soon apply for palace hotel status. So it seems that the Right Bank monopoly may finally be over.