In 2010, France created a new official category for 5-star hotels that boat only the most luxurious amenities, services and premises: the palace. The criteria is stringent, and only a small number of top-end establishments have earned the label. Why? These “French palaces”, while not to be confused with places of historic royal residence, certainly have a tendency to treat their patrons like royalty. More than mere places to stay, they represent genuine destinations in their own right. Keep reading for details on our very favourite palaces, from Paris to the Cote d’Azur– six of which only gained the prestigious ranking in 2019 and 2020. Then get in touch with us to craft a private getaway to France with stays at one or more of these opulent havens.
The Top French Palaces: Ultra-Luxury Hotels With Special Status
..Prestige & Extraordinary Experiences
Le Bristol, Paris
There’s genuine old-world glamour about this Parisian palace: for one thing, it’s long served as a preferred place to stay among celebrities, musicians and the stars of old Hollywood. Silent film director Charlie Chaplin often hung his hat here, as did Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak and Ava Gardner. Opened in 1925 at the height of the jazz age, it embodied a boldly modern new Paris, also attracting artists and dancers like Josephine Baker. It manages to tow a line between traditional French elegance and forward-thinking modernity, which is certainly part of its appeal.
High-end visitors will find plenty of alluring amenities at this staple of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The Bristol is endowed with a total of 190 rooms, of which 100 are suites. All rooms are lavishly appointed with authentic furniture from the Louis XV and Louis XVI. Its vast, leafy garden– measuring some 1,200 square metres– offers a genuine oasis from the stress and noise of the city behind.
Gourmets will appreciate its superb three-star Michelin restaurant, Epicure, helmed by famed French chef Eric Frechon. And the Bristol’s stunning rooftop pool is delightful to the senses whether morning or night. The adjoining La Prairie spa is one of the city’ most luxurious, offering plenty of ways to relax.
Hotel du Palais, Biarritz
Situated on the glamorous French Basque coast in Biarritz, the Hotel du Palais is one of the most luxurious places to stay on the west coast of France. It also happens to hold the honour of being the only hotel in the region to claim “Palace” status– making it incredibly coveted.
Built on the premises of an opulent villa that was once the summer residence of the Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, the Hotel Palais is today part of the Hyatt hotel group. This does not prevent it from boasting some truly exceptional features, inviting you to enjoy the unique charms of Biarritz while staying in style. Set to re-open in October 2020 after extensive renovations, this iconic hotel is slated to become even more synonymous with French high-luxury. Its Second-Empire style rooms and suites, enormous, leafy courtyard, immense central staircase and panoramic views over Biarritz and the blue grandeur of the Atlantic Ocean are all part of its emblematic status.
In addition to the Imperial prestige of the rooms and suites, guests have a world of luxury awaiting them. Swim in (or lounge beside) the hotel’s expansive outdoor pool, built on a promontory of the Atlantic. Take a soak in the indoor colonnaded pool, and bask in luxurious treatments at the spa. Enjoy a splendid gastronomic dinner with views over the sea at the Villa Eugenie restaurant, where Chef Jean-Marie Gautier has devised a menu centred around traditional Basque dishes and flavours. This is a seaside Palace that certainly merits the name.
Hotel La Réserve-Ramatuelle, St-Tropez
This contemporary center for high-luxury in Saint-Tropez is an ideal place to stay if you prefer a minimalist, “zen” aesthetic and ambience over gilded, old-world style palaces. The La Réserve Hotel Ramatuelle is a genuine oasis nestled in the French Riviera. It boasts a main hotel, private villas for a quieter, more romantic stay, high-end spa and several restaurants. Its winning feature is probably the enormous terrace with sweeping views over the Mediterranean Sea– offering the utmost in calm and relaxation.
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The hotel is just metres from the coveted Ramatuelle Beach and guests can enjoy private areas there. It features 19 suites and 8 rooms– all equipped with private terraces and sea views. The 14 private villas are nestled in beautiful green surroundings, and boast a unique decor from acclaimed designer Rémi Tessier, nestled amid wild landscapes.
In addition to ultra-bespoke services, discerning guests will find a wealth of relaxing and sumptuous amenities. Enjoy treatments from Creme de la Mer and Nescens at the onsite spa, or let your cares melt away in the indoor and outdoor pools and steamroom. Meanwhile, the hotel’s onsite spa with 11 treatment rooms features luxurious treatments from Nescens and Creme de la Mer, as well as hydrotherapy and massages. An indoor and outdoor pool, steam room and fitness center add to the relaxing experience. Finally, gourmet experiences await at restaurants including La Voile restaurant, helmed by French chef Eric Canino and offering innovative new interpretations of Provencal cuisine.
Le Meurice, Paris
Heading back to the French capital, Le Meurice. is a palace hotel that belongs to the ultra-prestigious Dorchester Group. Its royal associations are strengthened by its proximity to the Louvre and views over the Tuileries Gardens, the former strolling grounds of monarchs and aristocrats. Offering an irresistible contras between old-world elegance and contemporary charm, the hotel was recently re-imagined by celebrated architect Philippe Starck. As part of renovations he led in 2016, Starck conserved 18th-century French design elements but ingeniously blended these with fresh, modern counterparts.
The hotel on Paris’ iconic Rue de Rivoli is a regular lodging place of choice for celebrities, wealthy and royal patrons. Gastronomes especially prize the hotel’s eponymous 2-star Michelin restaurant from Alain Ducasse, while the Bar 228 mixes supremely elegant cocktails from barman William Oliveri. Art fans may wish to enjoy a meal at Le Dali, named in honour of the Spanish surrealist artist who often stayed at the hotel.
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Other extraordinary amenities at Le Meurice contribute to it Palace status, from the panoramic rooftop terrace that affords sweeping views over the city and the Eiffel Tower, to the Spa Valmont featuring treatments from the luxury beauty brand as well as a sauna and steamroom, to the private dining rooms whose opulent decor make the perfect setting for a high-end French wedding or business event.
Le K2 Palace, Courchevel
Skiing and snow-sports enthusiasts, this warm yet ultra-luxurious five-star hotel in the heart of the Alps is calling your name. One of only three hotels in the prestigious resort town of Courchevel to claim Palace status to date, the K2 offers a rarefied combination of relaxation, contemplation and total opulence.
After a long day of adrenaline-filled runs down the slopes, enjoy the star-filled skies from one of the hotel’s private suites or chalets, or from a steaming indoor pool with stunning surround views of the snowy mountains and cozy, roaring fireplace. The Goji spa offers a long menu of indulgent treatments, ideal for easing tired muscles after a day on the slopes.
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The rooms, suites and chalets are designed in a style that perfectly melds contemporary, stylish codes with rustic, Alpine warmth. Meanwhile, for a taste of some of the finest cuisine in the region, the K2’s onsite restaurants and bars offer genuine gastronomic delights. At Le Kintessence, a 2-star Michelin restaurant led by French chef Jean-Rémi Caillon, you can sample local and seasonal cuisine that is nothing short of exceptional. There are also a variety of elegant bars and restaurants where the mountain views and sumptuous yet cozy surrounds guarantee that you’ll forget the wider world, at least for a stretch…
Hotel Cheval Blanc, St-Tropez
The ultra-prestigious Cheval Blanc group recently snagged yet another “palace” ranking at its extraordinary location in St-Tropez, one of the most luxurious places on the French Riviera and offering incomparable views over the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Offering privacy, deep relaxation, wild nature and pure prestige, the Cheval Blanc is a must for discerning travellers staying in St-Tropez.
Stay in remarkable accommodations such as the Duplex Pinède Suite, whose two levels offer incredible sea and pine-forest views, a private terrace perfect for enjoying a glass of wine or gastronomic meal, grand dressing room and enormous bathroom with rain shower and bathtub.
For relaxation in the Cote d’Azur sun, lounge, swim or sip a cocktail at the private beach and pool. Enjoy treatments or an indoor swim at the lavish onsite spa, featuring products from Guerlain. Onsite yoga and fitness classes will help you achieve total relaxation and wellbeing. And for a taste of Mediterannean cuisine that’s genuinely exceptional, an al-fresco lunch or dinner at the three-star Michelin restaurant La Vague d’Or, with inventive and beautiful culinary experiences presented by chef Arnaud Donckele.
Hotel Lutetia, Paris
This legendary Parisian hotel in the storied St-Germain-des-Prés district is steeped in history and glamour– some of it dark. And as of 2020, it is the latest 5-star establishment in the French capital to snag the coveted palace status, following a multimillion-Euro renovation project.
Opened in 1910 at the end of the “Belle Epoque”, the Lutetia was originally intended to serve as a luxurious hub for the well-heeled patrons of the nearby Bon Marché department store. Its opulent Art Nouveau and Art Deco design details and elegant modernity attracted wealthy and famous visitors from around the world. During World War II the hotel went through a dark period, when the occupying Nazi forces used the hotel as a place to entertain and lodge soldiers and officials.
Now one of the city’s most-coveted places to stay, the hotel’s success in gaining the prized palace status will only boost its already-prestigious standing. Come stay in one of the unique signature suites, decorated with lavish art-deco details, oak furnishings and marble bathtubs, original artworks and in many cases sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower.
Meanwhile, the hotel’s extraordinary amenities embody the understated, discreet elegance of Belle Epoque Paris. The Akasha spa boasts a 17-meter indoor pool, lavish marble decor, hammam and treatments from beauty brands such as Carita and Cellman. Gastronomes and lovers of old-world cocktail bars will also find the Lutetia an ideal hub: enjoy a gourmet Mediterranean-style experience prepared by chef Passadat at the three-star Michelin Brasserie, or sip a stylishly-mixed drink at the Joséphine bar. This hotel is truly the place to see and be seen on the left bank.
Chateau St Martin & Spa, Vence (Provence)
Nestled in the beautiful Provencal town of Vence, the Chateau Saint-Martin Hotel & Spa is a haven of pure luxury, and part of the ultra-prestigious Oetker Collection. Hidden amid olive and cedar groves and affording splendid views over the Mediterranean sea and the Cote d’Azur, the Chateau Saint-Martin was awarded with Palace status in 2019. It’s also been named a “World Luxury Romantic Hotel”– making it perfect for a dream French honeymoon.
Visitors have an array of choices for a relaxing and indulgent stay at the hilltop Chateau. The suites are lavish and romantic, designed in harmony with the rustic yet opulent character of the chateau itself. For total privacy, you can also opt to stay in one of six Provencal-style villas nestled across the 34-acre property, plunged amid the greenery. All of these options offer splendid views of sea and nature.
This is certainly an excellent choice for nature and outdoor lovers, with acres of hillside trails to explore, two tennis courts, an infinity swimming pool and pristine beaches just a few minutes away. Guests can also board a helicopter to access nearby golf courses, widely considered some of the best in the Riviera. The Saint-Martin spa features top-end treatments from La Prairie and intimate cabanas plunged in lush gardens, surrounded by flowers and greenery. Finally, enjoy superb Provencal cuisine and French wines at Le Saint-Martin, helmed by Jean-Luc Lefrancois and boasting a Michelin star. A second restaurant focuses on Mediterranean specialties and offers idyllic seating amid the olive trees.
La Reserve, Paris
Nestled in between the grandiose Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the prestigious Avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées, La Reserve garnered Palace status a few years ago after demonstrating that it’s one of the few places in the capital that feels genuinely palatial.
Inside the bright, airy premises, escape the tumult and noise of the world beyond and enjoy a true luxury haven right in the city. A gorgeous inner courtyard is lush with flowers and greenery, and the premises feature marble fireplaces and decorations, lavish tapestries, a smoking lounge, and an indoor pool that measures 16 metres. The spa is equally opulent, with hammam, sauna, and treatments from cosmeceutical skincare brand Nescens-Swiss. Meanwhile, for patrons with gourmet tastes, two-Michelin-star restaurant Le Gabriel will certainly please with its gastronomic cuisine served in a in an opulent, Napoleon III-style dining area.
Stay at La Reserve to feel like royalty. All of the rooms and suites are painstakingly decorated with period furniture, silk-hung walls, damascene brocade taffeta, and bathrooms crafted with Carrara and Turquin blue marble. In addition, guests are appointed with a private butler to ensure all of their needs and desires are perfectly met. This extraordinary palace hotel features more suites than it does standard rooms, some boasting unusual features such as private wine cellars. Many also offer sweeping views over the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais and other iconic Parisian sites.
Hotel L’Apogée, Courchevel
This creme-de-la-creme Courchevel property is yet another 5-star in the French Alps to have recently earned Palace status, and for good reason. The Oetker-Collection hotel is perched high above a historic Olympic ski jump, offering truly magnificent birds-eye views over the mountain landscapes, and ski-in-ski-out facilities that will please even the most demanding ski enthusiast.
L’Apogée Courchevel is designed with traditional Alpine, rustic charm in mind– but this doesn’t take away from its dedication to pure, unadulterated luxury. 53 rooms and suites, as well as five-bedroom chalets and a penthouse, await visitors after a day in the powder. Suites offer decks and balconies with incredible, private vantages over the snowy mountains, while decor melds traditional Alpine lodge with modern prestige and contemporary charm.
The après-ski amenities are as luxurious as you’d expect from a palace. The Spa L’Apogée by La Prairie is a haven of warmth and pure relaxation, with signature treatments from the high-end beauty brand, a blue mosaic pool, whirlpool bath, hammam and sauna and lounge areas overlooking the sublime beauty of the Alps. It also features a salon and beauty treatment centre. And after building up an appetite on the slopes, a visit to one of the hotel’s gastronomic restaurants or bars is in order: at Koori, taste some of the world’s most-refined and inventive Japanese cuisine, while Le Comptoir de L’Apogée serves traditional French gourmet fare and Savoyard specialities, from truffles to artisanal charcuterie and cheeses.
Villa La Coste, Provence
Luxury travellers seeking true privacy, peace and quiet will love this remarkable villa in the heart of Provence, situated between Aix en Provence and the Luberon natural park. The villa is nestled on the grounds of the biodynamic vineyard Chateau La Coste, which is prized by wine, architecture and art lovers worldwide. Perched on the hillside, the remarkable property boasts 28 private villa suites complete with terraces, each enveloped by lush gardens and floral landscapes.
The property’s extensive garden grounds, indoor and outdoor pools, and a lobby art gallery make it a genuine destination in its own right. Inside the spacious private suites, marble, natural stone and oak abound, with exceptional modern furnishing and luxurious amenities such as plunge pools and marble bathtubs. Views over the vineyards and the lush wildlife of the Luberon offer genuine peace and quiet.
Meanwhile, enjoy exceptional amenities such as the onsite spa, whose relaxing treatments focus on Provencal products such as rose, lavender, olive and apricot. The onsite hammam and pool will allow you to forget everyday stresses. As for gastronomy, this palace hotel certainly offers gastronomes plenty of unforgettable experiences. In addition to tasting remarkable wines from local vineyards, taste the authentic cuisine of Provence at the villa’s onsite restaurants, with inventive dishes from Louis Benech sourced from local markets.
Le Plaza Athenée, Paris
The iconic red-and-white facade on Paris’ elegant Avenue Montaigne has become tightly associated with prestige, wealth and celebrity in the French capital. Inaugurated in 1913, the Plaza Athenée is particularly lauded for its gastronomic French restaurant from legendary chef Alain Ducasse– despite fierce competition, the eponymous table has managed to hold on to its three Michelin stars for many years. It currently is ranked #13 among the world’s 50 best restaurants, and is certainly one that anyone with gourmet curiosity should pay a visit to.
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Of course, this opulent French palace hotel offers far more than a memorable gastronomic experience. A stay here represents the apex of Parisian glamour and style. The Plaza’s Louis XVI-style rooms and generous suites all feature Italian-style marble bathrooms, period furniture and linens, and elegant, relaxing areas for lounging, dreaming or sipping a house cocktail in the privacy of your room. Many rooms offer guests stunning views of emblematic Parisian sites and monuments including the Eiffel Tower. Meanwhile, after a day of exploring the city it’s time to indulge in exclusive Dior treatments at the onsite Dior Institute. It’s been routinely praised as one of the world’s best spas, featuring steamrooms for men and women, relaxation rooms, and specially curated treatments from the haute-couture brand.
Hotel Barrière les Neiges, Courchevel
Another of the recent high-end Courchevel lodgings to gain the palace label is the Hotel Barrière les Neiges, a magnificent choice for discerning travellers for whom skiing is an art and a lifestyle– not simply a sport. Nestled near one of the summits of Courchevel and affording breathtaking views over the slopes, this Barrière group property clearly deserves its palace hotel accolades.
Extraordinary features include a dedicated “ski room” with concierge-style service and plush amenities, ensuring you ski in safety, comfort and style. The 42 luxury rooms and suites are fitted in warm, modern, elegant wood, with stylish furnishings drawing on both Alpine and contemporary codes. Certain suites are equipped with private saunas and whirlpool baths. Butler services are available on request, and guests also benefit from a private cinema.
Après-ski facilities are idyllic and extraordinary at this hotel. The Spa Diane Barrière features 1,000m2 of luxurious amenities, from an enormous indoor pool to hammam, sauna and outdoor hot tub with mountain views. Treatments from beauty brand Biologique Recherche restore and revive tired muscles and eliminate stress. Finally, after a day in the powder, dine at the ultra-prestigious Fouquets restaurant, where high-end cuisine melds traditional French specialities with local, Savoyard flavors.
Le Mandarin Oriental, Paris
Situated in close reach of the ultra-prestigious Rue Saint-Honoré, one of Paris’ most-coveted shopping areas and lined with boutiques from haute-couture designers and antique dealers, Le Mandarin Oriental is an ideal place to hang your hat when you want to spend some of your time in the capital enjoying a luxury shopping tour. This opulent Parisian palace is also just steps away from Place Vendôme, home to flagships for high-prestige jewellers from Boucheron to Van Cleef & Arpels.
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Let’s get back to the hotel itself, which is itself an extraordinary luxury destination within the capital, of course. Anyone interested in art-deco design and contemporary elegance will appreciate the creative, uncompromisingly bold aesthetic details at the Mandarin Oriental. It innovatively fuses East and West with both art-deco and Asian design elements. The effect is both surprising and imaginative.
The hotel’s split-level penthouse boasts a spacious deck area complete with panoramic terrace, from which romantic evening views of the city are unforgettable and unique. It’s also endowed with a luxurious dining room, kitchen and bar. All of the guest rooms and suites come with opulent design details and amenities including long, plush divans, luxurious bedding in silk, Bang & Olufsen entertainment center and original work from contemporary artists.
Care for a bit of self-pampering in between exploring the capital? The enormous onsite spa is one of the city’s largest and most luxurious, at some 900 square metres. It features private spa “suites” where patrons can indulge in genuine relaxation in an intimate setting. You can also swim in the onsite 14-metre lap pool, have a treatment in one of the cabins, or calm body and mind in the Asian steamroom. Special facilities for couples at this spa make it an excellent destination for a luxury French honeymoon or wedding anniversary.
Last but certainly not least, guests with a love for gourmet experiences should spend an evening dining at the hotel’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Sur Mesure, helmed by celebrated French chef Thierry Marx. An avant-garde, experimental spirit reigns at this extraordinary Parisian table, bringing together taste, sight and sound in what you might call a series of “culinary happenings”.
Le Royal Monceau Raffles, Paris
Luxury travellers with a passion for arts, culture and cinema should beeline to this extraordinary concept palace hotel in the capital–one that pushes the envelope with its emphasis on bold design and individualistic notions of what defines luxury. The Royal Monceau Raffles was redesigned in the early 21st century by iconic architect Philippe Starck, who placed his bold and unusual signature across the sprawling, luxurious premises.
The hotel is something of an arty village in its own right: it houses a substantial art bookshop, private cinema, contemporary art gallery and a private collection that highlights around 300 original works from contemporary artists. For all these reasons, it’s correct to say that the Royal Monceau is more than a palace hotel. It’s an exclusive temple dedicated to artistic excellence and discovery.
Of course, visitors in search of high-luxury will not be disappointed by the onsite amenities at their fingertips: swim in the city’s largest hotel pool, indulge in treatments from French beauty brand Clarins at the opulent, mirrored spa, or enjoy a gourmet experience at the 1-star Michelin restaurant Il Carpaccio, featuring high-end, creative Italian cuisine. At the Japanese-themed table Matsuhisa, Chef Nobu offers up some truly beautiful, unforgettable dishes in a chic setting.
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