Over the years I’ve learnt (sometimes the hard way) that there are three factors that go into making the perfect city hotel, whether for leisure or business. Those are location; a ‘sense of place’ (the feeling that you are actually in that particular city, rather somewhere so generic you wouldn’t know if you were in Barcelona or Buenos Aires); and great service, especially from the concierge.
Le Meurice delivers on all of the above – and then some. Quintessentially Parisian, it’s opposite the Tuileries Garden, in between the Place de la Concorde and The Louvre, and yes, with great Eiffel Tower views, too. With so much within close walking distance (or a very short drive), you are perfectly positioned, whether convenience or a sense of occasion is your priority.
And what could reflect this amazing city more than staying in the oldest Palace-status hotel in town? Opened in 1835 and decorated in such a wonderfully, sumptuously extravagant Louis XVI style, it could be nowhere else in the world. Eclectic, grand, quirky and unique, the old style is combined with all the high-spec, modern amenities and comforts you would expect from a world-class hotel. And it has always been this way; Le Meurice was the first hotel in Paris to offer both room service and hot and cold water in its bathrooms.
It’s also a centre for gastronomic excellence under the legendary Alain Ducasse. And it has a rich arts heritage. Salvador Dali was famously a resident for a month every year for more than 30 years, and the hotel has hosted the great and the good of the art world throughout its history – something you can sense in the overall dynamic of the hotel. Furthermore, the property runs an annual contemporary art competition, now in its 10th year.
Despite its occasionally overpowering interior design in the public spaces (attributable to a Philippe Starck refurbishment in 2016), the decor is opulent and understated enough elsewhere to be restful and comfortable, although the diverse clientele and large number of rooms err on the side of grand rather than boutique.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Food & Beverage credit
- €85 credit to be used during your stay
- 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.
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Pulling up outside the hotel, there is such a buzz along the Rue de Rivoli at street level that you don’t immediately notice how huge the facade really is, but it’s a beautiful building, and the lobby suitably grand, lively and impressive. Check-in was fast and efficient, staff smart and welcoming. There are many different seating areas in and around the lobby, all in use, and I was struck by the number of different nationalities of guests. Because of the location and the secure, safe nature of the hotel, it’s very popular with the diplomatic crowd, who also benefit from the fact that the first floor of the hotel can be made private.
Contemporary, sculpture-like furniture sits alongside items that are more traditional and palatial in style. My favourite feature was the huge ice-filled frame where guests can leave their signature or write a message, only for it to be refrozen overnight and begin as a blank canvas the following day. It’s the perfect introduction to the art focus of the hotel – a new masterpiece is created every day.
Rooms and suites
My room was beautiful. Nicely proportioned and spacious at 55sq m (592sq ft), it was open-plan with a living area with sofas and a desk at one end. High ceilings, light-painted wood panelling and huge windows accentuate the hotel’s classic style, in shades of supremely tasteful eau de nil, sage and pistachio, featured throughout the hotel. The room was luxurious and comfortable and thickly carpeted – there was no noise from the corridor or other rooms. Excellent double glazing on the original-looking windows kept out all street noise.
The king-sized bed was extremely snug, with gorgeous bed linen. The large flat-screen TV was cleverly designed to sit flat against the wall and to be as unobtrusive as possible in such a setting. It could be viewed from the lounge area, but could also be pulled out and angled towards the bed. With a good selection of multi-language satellite TV and radio channels, in-room technology was very easy to use, and wi-fi was free and of excellent quality and speed throughout the hotel – impressive in a heritage building.
To enter the room I walked through a small hall containing the well-stocked mini-bar. The bedroom itself led into another corridor, towards the bathroom, and a large dressing area, which had a very well-lit table with plenty of plug sockets nearby. All in all, it was very practically laid out, with tons of hanging and drawer space.
My room overlooked the uneventful-looking street that runs along the back of the hotel. Other rooms and suites I saw had some spectacular views, not only of the hotel’s courtyard but also the Tuileries Garden, Louvre and Eiffel Tower, so do bear that in mind when booking. If a view is important to you, there are 14 room categories with a size, layout and vista to suit every requirement.
Several of the other rooms and suites I saw were truly extraordinary. The Belle Etoile, one of the hotel’s signature suites, is vast at 300sq m (3,230sq ft) but it was the 250 m² (2,690 ft2) terrace that took my breath away, with panoramic views of the Parisian skyline.
Every one of the 160 rooms is unique, with many original furniture and fabrics, renovated furniture and fabrics re-used in the rooms. Each floor is decorated differently, and although various colours are used throughout, they are all tasteful and opulent.
Unusually for a building of this kind, there are some rooms that are specially equipped for guests with mobility issues, with separate access from the lobby.
My bathroom was beautifully appointed, very spacious and clad from floor to ceiling in marble – very much a signature Dorchester Collection bathroom: solid, functional and well equipped, with a feeling of classic luxury rather than contemporary style. It was spotlessly clean, and an abundant amount of thick, monogrammed towels were everywhere. There was a huge separate shower (excellent water pressure) with a frosted monogrammed door, a large bath tub with a shower-head attachment, chunky silver fittings and a double vanity unit. There was also a towelling-padded stool next to the bath – a great, practical touch. Amenities were Quercus by Penhaligon’s and in plentiful supply.
Other bathrooms were very similarly set up, the larger the suite, the more elaborate the bathroom in terms of space and use of marble.
The hotel has two main restaurants: the two-Michelin-starred Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, and Le Dali, which serves a very contemporary menu of Mediterranean-inspired small and sharing plates.
The restaurants are both on the ground floor, next to each other but striking in contrast between the two styles – Alain Ducasse being the epitome of 18th- century grandeur, an elaborate, ornate and utterly stunning room, the design based on the Peace Room in the Palace of Versailles. High-ceilinged and beautifully proportioned, it is truly breathtaking.
Le Dali, equally striking, surreal and named after the artist, was refurbished recently by Philippe Starck in collaboration with his daughter, Ara. Quirky touches, such as the elongated piano and the painted chair covers, reflect Dali’s style and sense of the bizarre, and the canopy that encompasses the ceiling was erected to conceal a dome that rendered the room rather dark. Apparently the atmosphere of the room is greatly improved as a result and certainly adds to the cosy, more informal, atmosphere.
I ate dinner in Le Dali and ordered a selection of sharing plates, including Nice-style stuffed squid, patatas bravas, marinated sea bream with chickpeas and lime, and seared octopus, followed by seared John Dory. It was all delicious: light and modern, blending the best of the Mediterranean with a French twist.
The award-winning pastry chef, Cedric Grolet, is, quite rightly, gaining a reputation for his incredible (and utterly Instagrammable) creations, which not only taste wonderful but have to be seen to be believed. The ‘red apple’, made of white chocolate with an apple filling, was an absolute work of art (and scarily realistic), and the Paris-Brest was a masterpiece.
After dinner I debated heading into the buzz of Saturday night Paris but, on balance, decided it would be difficult to find somewhere as cool, cosy and inviting as the bar at the hotel, so I stayed there and thoroughly enjoyed a couple of after-dinner drinks. The cocktail list is impressive, the staff lovely and the atmosphere sophisticated and urbane.
Breakfast, served in Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, was quite an experience – eating in such an incredible environment doesn’t often happen, even in some of the world’s best restaurants. From the many giant chandeliers to the huge fireplace and intricately painted walls, inlaid marble columns and generous use of gold leaf, the restaurant is unique and very beautiful. Happily, the service and food matched the surroundings, as it would be an easy mistake to let the restaurant itself be the main event. However, from the butter embossed with the Le Meurice crest, to the range of Christine Ferber jam (Ferber is known as the Queen of Confitures), the range of choice and attention to detail was truly impressive. The menu ran to many pages, with a choice of 15 teas and many pressed fresh juices (I especially enjoyed the Dynamisant juice: carrot, watermelon, strawberry, lemon, turmeric and flax seeds). The pastries were, as you would hope, exceptional, as was the home-made granola. There was a huge variety of cooked options (the entire menu is à la carte; there is no buffet option), which all looked delicious and portion sizes were generous.
Special mention should go to my waiter on that day – impressively knowledgeable about all aspects of the menu and helpfully suggesting various options and combinations. A waiter that takes breakfast service as seriously as an evening meal is, in my book, stellar, and his pride in his job an example to many.
Other restaurant options
The hotel has a simple offering of the two restaurants and one bar – although there are numerous seated areas around the ground-floor spaces where you can sit and enjoy a coffee or something stronger. I loved the extraordinary chairs, which have classical portraits of French aristocrats painted on each – very striking, especially when I found out they were portraits of those executed in the French Revolution.
You can enjoy breakfast in the less formal setting of Le Dali, should you prefer. The hotel is also renowned for its afternoon tea, which, while not exactly a Parisian experience, reflects the international clientele. From what I saw, it looked spectacular, and popular, with a buzzy mid-afternoon atmosphere.
There is also an exceptional room, the Salon Pompadour, in the heart of the ground floor, which takes the extravagant decor of the hotel to the next level. Available for private hire and suitable for groups of up to 100 people, this would also make an exceptional location for a private dinner or event and has been, understandably, used as a film location for several well-known films, notably Beauty and the Beast and Midnight in Paris.
The rather under-the-radar Chef’s Table experience is available here. In an understated, intimate dining room adjoined to the kitchen, and only accessible via the back-of-house system of corridors, this offers unprecedented views of the spectacular kitchen of the Le Meurice Alain Ducasse restaurant. Seating a maximum of ten people, to dine here would be an incredible experience.
The hotel’s location is very convenient for making the most of the Paris foodie scene, being central and easily accessible.
Spa and wellness
There is a small spa in the hotel, which features the exclusive Swiss skincare brand Valmont, found in only 35 spas worldwide. Offering a range of treatments, this is a nice addition to the hotel and has some lovely relaxation areas, three treatment rooms, a sauna, hamman and fitness centre, but is a typically understated area of the hotel, as with many city hotels – somewhere to get a great beauty treatment, rather than spend an afternoon relaxing pool-side.
Like its sister hotel, the Plaza Athénée, Le Meurice is ostensibly a very adult hotel in terms of decor and general look and feel. However, Paris is a wonderful city for children of all ages, and Le Meurice notably warmly welcomes families. The prevalent eau de nil colour scheme of much of the hotel is reflected in the hotel’s pet dog character Pistache – a pistachio-green cartoon dog that can be found in various places, from the children’s slippers to lovely toys that you can buy to take home.
The hotel thoughtfully provides children’s crockery and bathroom amenities, as well as extra beds and cots. Up to 70 per cent of rooms can interconnect, so the hotel has huge flexibility for families of all sizes.
It is also worth mentioning that the hotel is exceptionally pet-friendly, with pet-care facilities and no additional charge for any furry guests, regardless of size. (Although I think the hotel may draw the line at guests following in Dali’s footsteps and bringing their pet ocelot!)
Staff and service
In such grand surroundings, you could be forgiven for expecting rather formal, stuffy service. However, the hotel describes itself as a ‘Maison Bourgeoise’, which, roughly translated, is a private mansion and the warm, family-like vibe among the staff reflects that.
Service is pretty much faultless, as I have come to expect from every Dorchester Collection hotel, but in a very accessible, welcoming way. It made my stay a complete pleasure, as from housekeeping to concierge, restaurant to room service, the staff were a delight, clearly proud to work at the hotel. I imagine this is a big factor in why the hotel has such a loyal clientele.
Eighty per cent of guests here are on holiday, with just 20 per cent of visitors staying on business, and there is a pleasantly laid-back aspect to the atmosphere. There’s also a cosmopolitan feel to the clientele, again, mainly attributable to the diplomatic crowd, and the popularity of the international community who live in Paris and socialise at the hotel.
Although relaxed and less ‘see and be seen’ than the Plaza Athénée, there is still quite a smart feel to many of the stylish guests here.
Check-out was fast and efficient, with bags quickly dealt with and onward transport arranged effortlessly. It started raining heavily as I left, and Le Meurice umbrellas were magically produced as I was ushered into my car.
How to get there
50 minutes by road transfer from Charles de Gaulle Airport
160 rooms and suites