Despite its splashy name the Grand Hôtel Palais Royal keeps a surprisingly relaxed profile, focusing less on flagrant luxury and glamour and more on the kinds of essentials that make a hotel truly grand--service, quality, comfort, refinement, and quiet. This is the kind of discrete hotel one hopes to stumble upon, and with an absolute plum spot behind the Palais Royal gardens in the very heart of Paris.
History buffs will love the hotel's setting in the old Paris opera house on a quiet historic street among the gorgeous 17th-century buildings that were once a part of the Palais Royal (the boyhood home of Louis XIV), with views that can make you forget what century you're in.
This is one of those rare hotels where every category of room delivers, each benefitting from oversized windows, lovely views, and a refined, easeful decor in natural woods and classic-modern furniture. The two duplex signature suits are exceptional--done up in sophisticated creamy white, with luxurious touches, enormous terraces, a private kitchen (Panoramique Suite), and views of the Louvre, Palais Royal, Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Fifth and sixth-floor rooms on the rue de Vallois side of the building have terraces, but the courtyard-side rooms have more daylight and pretty views.
Sleek, modern bathrooms are separated by frosted glass doors that allow both daylight and privacy. All but the lowest category rooms have both a spacious bath and a huge walk-in rain shower, with all the luxury amenities--bespoke bath products, robes, and slippers.
The lobby is small, with some seating areas and complementary newspapers and magazines, but you can lounge in the bar all day over any kind of drink that takes your fancy and a menu of tasty snacks.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There is only one small elevator in the hotel, but the majestic grand staircase--a listed monument--is a must-see, even if you don't feel like climbing it.
A small Carita spa offers a range of beauty treatments and massages in two treatment rooms (including one double room), all by appointment only. The steam room and fitness area are self-service, with complimentary tea, bottled water, and dried fruit.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Be sure to book the steam room at least a half-hour in advance.
A small, modern fitness room offers all the basic equipment, plus fruit, towels, a locker, and changing room.
Bright, cheerful, and refined Le Lulli, the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant, is popular with guests and locals for its good-value lunch. Unfortunately, it's not open for dinner, but Chef Jean-Baptiste Orieux's light, tapas-style bar menu can easily fill in for dinner.
A buffet breakfast, including all the hot and cold choices you could want, is served in the restaurant. Or, you can order fresh juices and other, more substantial fare à la carte.
Two minutes from the Palais Royal-Musée de Louvre metro stop, you're in the true heart of Paris, smack dab in the middle of some of the city's most upscale shopping, starting with the glorious Palais Royal gardens and all the way down the rue Saint-Honoré. You're also a stone's through from the Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (with its lovely boutique) the Tuileries, Place Vendôme, Opéra Garnier, L'Orangerie (displaying Monet's Waterlilies, and the Jeu de Paume photography museum. This is an exceptionally convenient neighborhood with easy access to tons of Paris's top sites and museums.
This is an excellent spot for all kinds of dining, with a handful of top-notch Japanese restaurants a short walk away (we like Kunitoraya and Kunitoraya II) as well the well-regarded restaurant Verjus (all within a five-minute walk across the park). Paris's top Asian-inspired gastronomic haven, Yam'tcha, helmed by chef Adeline Grattard, whose imaginative, market-fresh dishes, along with a lovely atmosphere and small zen garden, inspire month-long waits. Try to snag a table, but if you can't, grab some gourmet buns to eat in or to go at her dumpling shop, Boutique Yam’Tcha, just down the street at 4 Rue Sauval. Also on rue Sauval (14) newcomer, Mumi is getting rave reviews (all about a 10-minute walk away).
Nearby palace hotel Le Meurice's atmospheric Bar 228 piano bar and the legendary Hemingway Bar at the Ritz--both helmed by a famous Parisian barman--may set you back a bit, but it doesn't get more Parisian than this. But by far the most glamorous nightspot is the newly restored Le Crillon Hôtel's Les Ambassadeurs. For something a bit less daunting, walk through the Palais Royal gardens to Willie's Wine Bar or Verjus Bar à Vins, both favorite expat hangouts with good food and a congenial atmosphere.
WHY WE LIKE IT
If you need to be treated like royalty, get thee to a palace hotel--there are five in the immediate neighborhood. But if you prefer a hotel that's long on the amenities without all the snobbery and fuss, in a neighborhood that's very hard to beat, this is your place.