There’s nothing better than a five-star hotel, right? Officially, perhaps not, but the bar has been raised in recent years by hotels such as the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, which is widely described as “seven-star”. Perhaps stung by this, earlier this year the first rumours emerged of a new French “palace hotel” rating.
Finally, this week it was announced that eight luxury hotels in France are to bear the “palace” label. Of these four are in Paris: L’Hôtel Bristol, le Meurice, the Park Hyatt Vendôme and l’Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Undoubtedly each has all the bells and whistles of a five-star hotel – “normal” five-stars do not have to fulfil every single criterion on the five-star list, some facilities are optional – and then some. Note, however, that various luxury hotels in Paris have simply decided not to join in this scheme, so lack of a palace label does not imply lack of luxury.
In an interview earlier this year with the BBC, Didier Le Calvez, the manager of L’Hôtel Bristol, said each of the “happy few” palace hotels had to also be a landmark historic building, with a long tradition of excellence. The polyglot staff should answer the telephone within five rings – at the Bristol, he said, their rule is to answer within three.
At each of these palaces, spas and Michelin-starred restaurants run by celebrity chefs come as standard. But for an example of the kind of extras these hotels provide, look to the Plaza Athénée. This week it announced that guests staying in one of its “signature suites” will be offered the chance to discover Paris in an Aston Martin.
Whichever of the palace hotels you dream of staying in, the old adage applies – if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. But as a guide, the starting rate for a signature suite at Hôtel Plaza Athénée is 8,000 euros a night.