The Hôtel de Crillon has always been an aristocrat in the world of luxury hotels. On March 20, 2013 it closed its doors for an extensive, no expense spared renovation, with the goal of preserving the historic building’s legacy and its legendary 18th century facade and interior, while introducing contemporary décor and 21st century comforts.
The building has a pretty impressive pedigree. Built in 1758, it was one of two identical palaces Louis XV commissioned architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel to build as government offices. In 1778 it was the venue for the official signing of the French-American treaty which recognized the Declaration of Independence of the United States and a trade agreement between France and the USA, thus making France (not England) the US’s oldest ally.
That same year the Duke of Crillon acquired the palace and made it his family residence. That didn’t last long, in 1791 the French Revolution’s victorious government confiscated the building. In 1793 Louis XVI was guillotined in front of it, on the Place de la Concorde. The palace was eventually returned to the Crillon family and they called it home again for more than a century. In 1907 it was purchased by the Societe du Louvre and turned it into a hotel, which opened its doors in 1909.
The renovation was scheduled to take two years, but, due to the numerous restrictions imposed when renovating a listed building, coupled with the ambitious extent of the project, which included digging down two floors to accommodate a new spa and pool with natural light provided from a skylight, and the hotel kitchen, reservations and back office (sans skylight, pardon), and further coupled with this being France (said with love), two years became four.
On July 5, 2017 the iconic, in some ways ultimate, luxury hotel reopened. Richard Martinet and the team at Affine Design had gathered a talented team, including some guest designers like Karl Lagerfeld, who added his fabulous touch to two suites and a guest room. The overall result is stunning, the immaculately preserved French Neoclassical style, Corinthian colonnade, the outside Coustou sculptures and, a new whimsical touch, a now classic 1973 Citroen DS parked out front.
Inside the opulence of marble and gold is impressive but not gaudy, just the right touch. The reception is welcoming with low tables and comfortable seats. Les Ambassadeurs bar has been gloriously restored and revitalized, once again serving the three C’s — cocktails, caviar and champagne — in a 60-seat room with wraparound frescoes and rococo-style detailing packed with marble. The Jardin d’Hiver is perfect for afternoon tea under a ceiling decorated with gold leaf, in the presence of the famous Baccarat crystal elephant originally created for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1878. Hidden behind a mirrored door is L’Ecrin, an exclusive fine dining establishment with seating for only 22–24 diners, where exquisite dishes, even by exquisite French standards, are created by Chef Christopher Hache. If your preference is a more casual atmosphere, the Brassiere D’Aumont has an oyster bar and courtyard. The Crillon has his and her salons, and for the gentlemen there is a grooming salon where the boys can stop in for a cut, a trim, a shave or have a shoeshine while reclining in a revamped Aston Martin car seat, or relaxing at a members only cigar lounge.
The Signature Suites are one of a kind — the Bernstein has a terrace with a view of the Eiffel Tower and Grand Palais, the Marie Antoinette is decorated in blush and taupe tones with rose gold faucets in the bathroom. And has a guillotine in the living room. Kidding. The Karl Lagerfeld Grande Apartments have direct views of the Place de la Concorde and his photographic work throughout, a touch of vanity justified by the fact he is a fantastic photographer. In the powder rooms the sinks have been made from pieces of the red marble fountain which was in the courtyard of the original hotel. Of course the 124 guest rooms (down from 147) are all exceptional and the attention to details incroyable with beds covered by Dronault duvets and lustrous pillows to guarantee a good night’s sleep. Even the Nespresso machines have a leather case. Which, although obviously not necessary, is nice.
Anytime a beloved institution, with its unique charms, quirks and personality (and personalities), undergoes serious surgery, its fans always fear the worst. Will the bricks remain, so to speak, but the spirit be extinguished? But the Crillon’s legion of devotees need not worry. The operation, we are happy to report, was a complete success.
10, Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 44 71 15 00