When in Paris: stay at the legendary Lutetia

The grandiose Lutetia Hotel located on the iconic Boulevard Raspail on Paris’s Left Bank, has reconquered its status as one of the world’s most iconic palaces. It continues to honour its rich history with intelligence and class.

The four-year makeover, by starchitect Jean-Michel Wilmotte brought this prestigious venue to new levels of luxury. The Lutetia reopened in summer 2018.

‘Lutetia’ refers to the original Roman name of the city of Paris. The hotel’s emblem? A valiant ship which never sinks and an allegory for Paris’ maxim Fluctuat Nec MergiturTossed by the waves but never sinks. The symbol is subtly embedded in the hotel’s visual identity.

This motto could ironically encapsulate one of the most important historical facts the hotel has endured. Upon arriving at the hotel, guests will immediately notice the plaque commemorating the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps welcomed by the Lutetia per De Gaulle’s (another regular resident) noble decision. Thousands of desperate families came to the Lutetia to seek their loved ones, lucky enough to have survived the horrors of the war.

In dark times, the Lutetia didn’t sink. Paris entered the conflict in September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The war seemed far away until the Germans attacked France and quickly defeated the French army in May 1940. The French government departed Paris on 10th June, and the Germans occupied the city on 14th June. François-Xavier Schoeffer, General Manager, a vintage watch collector and regular visitor of the Louvre and Photography Museum (MEP) said: “During WWII, like all the capital’s key venues and other palaces, the hotel was requisitioned. At the end of the war, the Lutetia welcomed deportees and their families. A plaque is set on the façade to ensure that this time is never forgotten. The Lutetia will celebrate its 110th birthday next year: a history full of challenges, stories, people, celebrities, events, art, and music. The hotel has faced waves of historical moments, sometimes tough, but also wonderful and happy events.” The Lutetia proudly stands today as the best hotel in the French capital.

The remarkable hotel has been the hub for the greatest artists, writers and creative minds who used to come to the hotel for private meetings, fun parties and delicious dinners. It’s also a hot spot for fashion shoots during Fashion Week. “The hotel very quickly became a favourite with talents from the worlds of literature (Albert Cohen wrote several pages of his masterpiece “Belle du Seigneur” here), of art (César and many more stayed at the hotel), of politics (De Gaulle, Pompidou, Mitterrand, Chirac made the Lutetia their meeting place) and of cinema (the hotel was featured in numerous movies such as “The scent of Yvonne” by Patrice Leconte or “The Bedroom” by Cédric Klapisch).” Matisse, Saint-Exupéry, Picasso, Arman, Hiquily,  Takis, Josephine Baker, Samuel Beckett, André Malraux, James Joyce, Serge Gainsbourg, François Truffaut, and Juliette Gréco are some of the artists, singers and writers who gathered at the iconic jazz bar or called the hotel their home. Fashion too; Sonia Rykiel revamped it in the 1980s with sculptor Arman. “When the hotel shut its doors in 2014 it contained no less than two hundred and eighty listed artworks.” Following in the footsteps of these artists, Fabrice Hyber designed the stunning glass canopy of Salon Saint-Germain.  “We have a great collection of masterpieces in our Suite Signature Présidentielle Carré Rive gauche.”

In 2014, Pierre-Guilhem Metayer auctioned old furniture, chandeliers and art objects, as part of the revamp and styling strategy. “We worked with a couple of art collectors to style the largest suite of the property, thanks to Carré Rive Gauche’s help (Saint-Germain-des-Prés’ galleries’ circle) too.” By the entrance of the palace, a dramatic sculpture of Gustave Eiffel by French artist César sets the tone. Both Pierre Bergé and David Lynch, art collectors and philanthropists, also spent proper time at the Lutetia. Today, the very efficient Concierge service offers tours of Carré Rive Gauche’s galleries. “Needless to say, that in the Lutetia, art is everywhere!” François-Xavier Schoeffer highlights.

Guests will enjoy the proximity of more iconic Parisian locations associated with the Lutetia: Le Bon Marché for which the fantastic hotel was built. It opened in 1910 to service their VIP clients. The Boucicaut family who originally owned the hotel and the appointed architects commissioned sculptor Léon Binet and Paul Belmondo (father of actor, Jean-Paul Belmondo) to create the hotel’s facade in the ‘Art Nouveau’ style. Inspired by nature, the architecture made famous by Ecole de Nancy used floral details, mingled with grape vines and branches. Other nearby notable places include La Grande Epicerie, Hermès, Carré Rive Gauche for its impressive galleries, Café de Flore & Les Deux Magots made famous by Simone de Beauvoir and Picasso, Saint Sulpice which hosts Jacob wrestling with the Angel by Delacroix, Abbaye Saint Germain-des-Prés, Panthéon, Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, Jardin des Plantes, Jardin du Luxembourg and the gorgeous Dries van Noten store.

The successful, revamped incarnation of the Lutetia combines heritage and modernity with a total of 184 uber-chic rooms including suites and signature suites. Seven signature suites, individually designed, feature two penthouse suites with private access to terraces and boast an unrivalled 360-degree view of Paris with probably one of the best views over the Eiffel tower. The stunning rooms boast Carrara marble bathrooms, Murano glass wall lights, touch screen room controls, modern amenities, brushed oak flooring, Bang & Olufsen LED TV incorporated in bathroom’s mirrors, and the height of luxury: Hermès toiletry products. “We worked with Atelier 27 which introduced 320 Artworks, 1591 Styling Objects and 4,000 books to the interiors of the Lutetia.” Books on Frida Kahlo, Cy Twombly, Louis Vuitton catwalks and Russian poetry are featured in the carefully curated collection of books in bedrooms and guest’s spaces.

“The challenge that was ahead of us, was to breathe new life into a place while respecting its roots, identity, and personality.” Jean-Michel Wilmotte said about the renovation. “And respecting this, is respecting the Art nouveau and Art deco atmosphere that reigns everywhere here. Jean-Michel Wilmotte drew all the lines of the new Lutetia, from furniture to the light. Then he asked faithful providers, especially in Italy, to produce the objects.” François-Xavier Schoeffer continues. Impressive, curved-wall alleys make for one of the most spectacular highlights of the new Lutetia. Colour code is a mixture of very elegant navy-blue, cream, and white. Art Deco-style furniture by Poltrona Frau elevate the rooms to the highest standards. Discreet pink roses also make for an absolute touch of luxury.

Service is impeccable, nice and very helpful across the board. “The Lutetia is for sure a wonderful human adventure. One of my biggest challenges is to spread the word about the new Lutetia globally, something that after a four-year closure, people tend to forget. Repositioning the Lutetiain the centre’ of Paris is one of my main goals.” François-Xavier Schoeffer said.

With five dining venues to choose from, guests come to the Lutetia stay for its gastronomy. A memorable start is breakfast at L’Orangerie, with a steaming cup of Brial’s signature chocolat chaud. For lunch and dinner, the three-Michelin-star Mediterranean recipes of Chef Passadat at the Brasserie (Sofitel Marseille etc.), his unique address in Paris. For fine dining, Le Saint Germain is the best. Bar Joséphine and Bar Aristid are stunning for the best after hour cocktails and wines. “Do you want a secret about the Lutetia? There were Grands Crus hidden by the Head Sommelier in the walls during WWII to keep them safe and stop being looted. French precaution for French treasures! Once the war was declared over, bottles were drunk to celebrate!” The Lutetia is a preferred location for collectors and artists during FIAC; they often come for a drink after the fair.

What are the green initiatives implemented by the Lutetia to protect the planet? “We are a proud member of the Positive Luxury Brand and of BREEAM. We believe in the possibility of offering luxury services and being sustainable at the same time. For instance, we collaborate with Unisoap which collects partially-used soaps, with charity Armée du Salut to offer meals to people in need. The hotel has a “GreenLab”. That’s a committee which meets once a month to discuss ideas and projects to continue working towards sustainable goals.”

The Akasha-branded wellbeing centre is without doubt the best in Paris. Jean-Michel Wilmotte designed every detail, choosing harmonious colour, light, material, orientation and texture. From state-of-the-art gym to shimmering full-length pool, secluded hamman to bespoke treatment rooms, each space is a celebration of the senses. Hedi Slimane, iconic creative designer of Celine and French actor Roschdy Zem are regular users of this amazing treatment, bath space.

“In a heritage site like the Lutetia, it is all about soul. The soul comes from Saint-Germain-des-Prés which represents something very special, the image of Paris and above all a Paris that has never gone out of fashion. It’s a vibrant and an intimate neighbourhood. 64,000 Parisians live here all year long. This changes everything and offers the “real” Parisian experience.” The three founding members of The Set Hotels are in the cultural heats of their leading cities. They have attracted clients who drive change and creativity for years. “The soul of the Lutetia relates to the other hotels [of the Alrov group] as the hotels Café Royal in London, and Conservatorium in Amsterdam are also so well located, in the heart of the world’s most vibrant cities.” While Café Royal in London, part of The Set Hotels, epitomised the French influx into London in the late 19th century and became the centre of art, food and culture, in Paris, the Lutetia was fulfilling a similar role.

“A lot more is coming. We just launched a new Signature Suite: The Coppola.” It was designed in collaboration with iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who, along with his daughter and fellow filmmaker, Sofia Coppola, is a long-time regular of the hotel. Stay tuned.

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François-Xavier Schoeffer’s five top-things to do while in the area:

1/ Wandering in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and stopping by the Bon Marché and the Grande Epicerie to always find some great things to eat!

2/ Eating a soufflé at Le Récamier.

3/ My kids riding poneys in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

4/ Exploring the Menagerie aka. the mini Zoo of the Jardin des Plantes.

5/ Exploring the rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, stopping by a great boulangerie for a fresh pain au chocolat and croissants, enjoying the evening and starring at the Church Saint-Médard from the park.

Hotel Lutetia - Akasha Spa pool raspail view

Hotel Lutetia - Bar Joséphine detail

Hotel Lutetia - Eiffel Deluxe room 1

Hotel Lutetia - Historic logo

Hotel Lutetia - Reception

Hotel Lutetia - Saint Germain

Hotel Lutetia -Deluxe room with balcony

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Hotel Lutetia - Akasha Spa pool

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