My recent trip to Paris was a series of ‘firsts’. To begin with, it was my first trip to Paris in 20 years; it was my first trip on Eurostar; and it was my first time to be so distracted at breakfast that I could barely eat my croissant.
I could be forgiven for the latter, as I was in the most beautiful restaurant I had ever seen in my life, and not far away was a table of well-known celebrities enjoying their morning coffee. Plus, I was still swooning from the effect of having stepped out onto my hotel room balcony just moments before, to be faced with the most stunning view of the Eiffel Tower – so close I could almost touch it.
Paris has seen an explosion in uber-luxury hotels over the past few years, both new and total transformations of old favourites – all engaged in a battle of one-upmanship, with every opening raising the bar, only for the next to raise it even higher. In 2014, the Plaza Athénée was closed for 11 months for a complete refurbishment and extension into two neighbouring period buildings. As a huge fan of the Dorchester Collection, which has owned the hotel since 2001, I couldn’t wait for what the Plaza Athénée had in store.
So what to expect from an iconic hotel in one of the most glamorous, exciting cities in the world? Exceptional location (le Triangle d’Or, credit cards beware); unsurpassed comfort (that bed!); world-class service (delivered with signature Dorchester Collection warmth and professionalism and Parisian panache); extraordinary cuisine from one of the most illustrious chefs in the world; a deep reverence for wine; and a fascinating and rich heritage (step forward, Monsieur Dior!). All in all, the essence of the city runs through every vein, wrapped up in a picture-perfect dream of a Parisian building, breathtaking decor and a magical sprinkling of glamour. The Plaza Athénée delivers all of this in spades. And then some.
- Food & Beverage credit
- £50 credit to be used during your stay
- VIP Welcome
- Mineral water and fruits in room upon arrival
- Daily breakfast for 2
- American breakfast
- Room upgrade at time of booking
- Maximum upgrade level of accommodation applies
- Spa credit
- €85.00 for treatments at Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie (one credit per stay)
- Daily breakfast for two
- Served in restaurant or via room service (extra charge)
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Spa credit
- €85.00 for treatments at the spa
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
The hotel sent a car to pick me up from the Gare du Nord, where the driver was waiting for me in the arrivals area. He chivalrously took control of my luggage and led me to the car, apologising that it was impossible to park closer to the station. The 15-minute drive to the hotel took me past picture-postcard views of Paris landmarks and ceremoniously deposited me outside the most beautiful hotel facade I’ve ever seen. In the late autumn sunshine, the combination of the sparkling Avenue Montaigne, the smartly uniformed doormen and the stunning spectacle of window boxes crammed full of scarlet flowers on every one of the hundreds of balconies, was magical.
Check-in was so fast I didn’t even notice it happen, and bags were delivered to my suite before I arrived myself, with a quick and efficient tour of the room and its facilities.
The Plaza Athénée takes its fashion heritage very seriously (it calls itself the ‘haute couture address in Paris’). Even the guest-relations manager, welcoming guests in the incredible lobby, wears a couture gown (and yes, of course, she changes into an evening gown as night falls).
I hadn’t eaten lunch, so the hotel thoughtfully arranged for a sandwich to be delivered to my room on arrival – a great example of the pro-active service here. It was reverently laid out with table linen, silver cutlery and a range of condiments on the table on my balcony, positioned perfectly for the absolute best view of the Eiffel Tower as I ate. There was also a bottle of champagne, an incredible chocolate creation from the award-winning pastry chef and a stunning arrangement of flowers awaiting me in the lounge area of my suite. I felt like I was being welcomed into the chicest of Parisian private homes, a feeling that lasted throughout my stay.
Rooms and suites
Over the past 10 years I have seen numerous world-class hotel rooms and suites, and only a few of them have that something special that makes them truly memorable. I’m not sure whether it was the view, the incredible decor or just the general feel of the hotel, but this suite, and indeed the majority of the rooms and suites I saw, absolutely had that elusive X factor. Some rooms are classic in style, and others are more art deco in feel, and although I can see that some people might have a clear preference between the two, both styles were beautiful and equally well appointed.
At 55sq m (592sq ft), there was a feeling of space. In fact, the suite felt like a supremely elegant apartment, with a lovely mixture of classic luxury and modern functionality. Expensive antiques were casually dotted around the rooms, with state-of-the-art technology and every modern comfort you could wish for. Floorboards were pleasingly creaky in places, and I was occasionally aware of the presence of others in the room above, the corridor or the stairs outside. But rather than annoying, here it was part of the charm of this grand dame of a building. The hotel windows, however, while they look utterly part of the original fabric of the building, are double-glazed, so traffic noise inside the room was non-existent.
The attention to detail throughout was impressive, with fashion influences and touches that nod towards the hotel’s history. This included the curtains, which reflected the style of a Fifties necklace, and the red soles underneath the slippers in the bathroom (à la Louboutin!). My dressing area was notably well equipped, with plenty of hanging and drawer space, a safe and various clothes-care equipment, including a glasses/screen cleaning cloth in the bedside table.
Technology was reassuringly easy to use – modern but not baffling, and not filling the room with annoying small lights at night. The control panel by the bed was straightforward and useful, and the large Bang & Olufsen TV had a number of multi-language satellite TV and radio channels, as well as hotel information. The desk in the living room had a ‘connectivity panel’ and iPad, through which you could connect your phone via Bluetooth and play music. The wi-fi throughout the hotel was free and very fast.
All rooms are categorised by their aspect, with either views of the Avenue Montaigne, or one of the hotel’s two stunning internal courtyards. Although the building was built as a hotel, it has 15 different room categories reflecting the feel of this building, with its beautiful staircases and mansion-like landings.
The Eiffel Signature Suites and Presidential Suite were especially impressive – designed to make the most of the views.
The bathroom had a reassuringly solid feel, very reminiscent of the bathrooms at The Dorchester itself, with gleaming marble, large silver taps and plenty of huge, fluffy white towels. The water pressure was fearsome, with piping hot water and a separate bathtub, a large walk-in shower and a double vanity unit with great lighting. (Plentiful) amenities were by Guerlain, with high-quality robes and slippers, an excellent back-lit magnifying mirror and even a manicure set. Some bathrooms had Nespresso-like essential-oil capsules that fit into the shower system to release an oil to match your mood as you shower. Several of the larger suites had stand-alone bath tubs, strategically positioned for an Eiffel Tower view as you bathe.
This is an area in which the hotel excels, and although there is huge emphasis on the quality of the food and drink, there is just as much importance placed on the surroundings and service.
I enjoyed a pre-dinner bellini in Le Bar, an impressive space with a very contemporary look and feel – almost at odds with the classic feel elsewhere in the hotel. The cocktail menu is encyclopaedic, and I would recommend stopping by for a drink if you’re staying elsewhere in Paris. This part of the hotel could tell some fascinating stories, being very much at the hub of the Paris fashion scene from the days when Christian Dior was a regular visitor, through World War Two and on to today.
I ate dinner in The Relais Plaza, a formal brasserie in a beautiful art deco- inspired room that evokes Thirties Paris. It can be accessed from the Avenue Montaigne, which gives it the feel of a destination restaurant, rather than a hotel eatery. It’s one of Paris’s hottest locations, proven by the number of non-residents eating here. I, however, entered the restaurant from the hotel, via a corridor lined with photos of the great and good who have visited over the years. Fascinating, it again reminded me of the hotel’s rich history – and its more recent past.
It was hard to choose from the excellent menu but I decided on king crab with radish rémoulade, grapefruit, gelée and shiso, followed by a grilled black Angus sirloin steak with Béarnaise sauce and peppered chunky potatoes, both of which were exceptional. For dessert there were too many delicious things to choose from, so I ordered a few to taste. The pastry chef’s 100% Vanilla (his signature dish) was delicious, but the pecan nut Paris-Brest was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced – worth the trip to Paris alone.
However, it was breakfast that was a bucket-list experience. It’s served in the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant, and as well as having an incredible three Michelin stars, it was 13th in The World’s Best 50 Restaurants in 2017. And breakfast was exceptional – huge baskets of amazing bread and pastries (from an in-house bakery), a delicious variety of butter and a selection of cold-pressed juices (the green juice, with spinach, fennel, apple, parsley, rosemary and lime set me up for a day in Paris). The eggs Benedict looked incredible but I enjoyed a more Parisian choice – pain perdu, better known as French toast.
Other restaurant options
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée comes into its own for lunch and dinner. The style is French haute cuisine – but, unusually, the menu is meat-free, focusing on the ‘trilogy’ of fish, vegetables and cereals. Ducasse has overseen the food outlets at the hotel for the past 17 years, and this was one of the first gastronomic restaurants in Paris.
On a more casual front, La Terrasse Montaigne’s tables elegantly line the Avenue Montaigne, perfectly placed for passing shoppers who stop for a coffee, pastry or a light lunch. And La Cour Jardin is the restaurant situated in the large interior courtyard, open between May and September. This capitalises on the views of the beautiful interior facades, with the same red flowers, canopies and parasols as the Avenue Montaigne frontage but peacefully tucked away from the road and shady in the Parisian summer. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can also be taken in La Gallerie, next to the lobby, where people-watching could be an Olympic sport.
Special mention, while not a restaurant, should go to the wine cellar – somewhere I was lucky enough to visit, and which felt like a Harry Potter film set. A labyrinthine collection of 35,000 bottles – there is even one in the safe from 1913. I didn’t ask the price.
Spa and wellness
The hotel is home to the only Dior Institut spa in Paris, fitting given that Christian Dior was a devoted patron of the hotel. The spa entrance lobby, with its decorative pool, is stunning. Its pale, understated colours create a peaceful atmosphere.
The term ‘institut’ is used to reflect the structured, specific process for facials and treatments – almost a scientific ‘best practice’ approach to clinical excellence. I thoroughly enjoyed an Express Facial with a therapist who was incredibly knowledgeable, and the treatment room was an absolute delight. My only observation is that as treatments exclusively use Dior products, the explanation by the therapist afterwards felt a little like a sales pitch.
The environment is so lovely, it would be great to relax and enjoy the space by having a pool/sauna/spa area. However, it’s so treatment-focused that there is only the relaxation area and six treatment rooms (one of which can be used for couples).
There is a steam room and sauna within the fitness centre but this is not a significant offering of the hotel, so it’s important to realise that the institut is not a spa in the traditional sense.
At first glance this is such a grown-up hotel that it doesn’t immediately appear family-friendly. However, despite the beautiful antiques, the hotel proactively welcomes families. Eighty per cent of rooms can interconnect, and many of the suites can accommodate an extra bed. There are kids’ menus and special amenities for younger guests, even special crockery. Babysitting is easily arranged, and nursery furniture provided where needed. The concierges are especially good at organising family activities, and the ice rink in the courtyard in winter would be magical with children and teenagers.
Staff and service
There are 580 staff at the hotel, and with only 208 rooms, that’s an impressive ratio, definitely reflected in such high levels of service. Although the service is warm and intuitive, it’s never intrusive, making you feel at home immediately. This is not an ‘are you good enough to be here?’ hotel but more of an ‘everyone welcome!’ place. The general manager has been here for 20 years, a unique situation, and all members of staff are involved with the management of the hotel. A fellow guest had left a notebook in her room, and staff found it and sent it on to her next hotel before she realised she’d lost it. Great service!
As one of the premier addresses in Paris, the hotel attracts its fair share of fashionistas and high-profile guests. However, the homely, relaxed atmosphere ensures everyone feels comfortable and at home here.
Some 90 per cent of guests are from outside France, although it does have a growing French clientele. Expect to be staying alongside American, British, Middle Eastern, Russian, Brazilian and Australian guests.
While perennially popular, the hotel is especially busy during Fashion Week, the French Open tennis, the air show and any other special occasions in the area (for instance, they are anticipating a busy time during the Ryder Cup in Paris in 2018).
Check-out was fast and efficient, with my bags quickly arriving in the lobby.
How to get there
50 minutes by road transfer from Charles de Gaulle Airport
154 rooms and 54 suites