After a major revamp, the historic Hotel Lutetia in Paris still flirts with a bygone age. Words by Jonathan Whiley.
Even by Parisian standards, Hotel Lutetia is “très chic”.
Set in Saint-Germain on the famed Left Bank, it remerged from a four-year revamp in 2019
Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte redesigned the interiors with more marble than the Taj Mahal!
Today, natural light floods in with spectacular results throughout; particularly the subterranean spa with one of the most beautiful indoor pools in Europe.
While the £200-million plus makeover was hardly subtle, it was carefully considered.
The Art Deco and Art Nouveau features remain ever present.
The ornate revolving entrance doors and a sprawling fresco on the ceiling of Bar Josephine (pictured) still flirt with a bygone era.
History and art
The hotel, which opened in 1910, has snapshots of history etched into the walls – quite literally.
A plaque nods to its former use as a refuge for Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. It had also been requisitioned by occupation forces during the war.
The hotel has also been a magnet for writers, artists and celebrities.
Here James Joyce wrote Ulysses and regulars included the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett.
Artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse lived here for a while.
The lively hotel bar and a suite were named after jazz star Josephine Baker who was a regular.
De Gaulle, then a young officer, spent his honeymoon at the hotel.
Later François Mitterrand was a frequent visitor and, more recently, filmmaker David Lynch.
Love letter to Paris
“It belongs to Parisians,” one local tells me. “Old ladies still talk about it when you take the bus.”
Part of The Set Collection, which includes Hotel Café Royal, beauty lies at every turn with Hermès toiletries and baths hewn from two tonne single blocks of marble.
Breakfast is served in L’Orangerie. Lunch and dinner can be enjoyed in Salon St Germain (the steak tartare is knockout), or a buzzy brasserie where Parisians flock for the Bouillabaisse.
While service is good, it’s a little too stiff and formal for my taste.
This is a small footnote, however, in a hotel which will forever be the most stylish love letter to Paris.