Fabulous Paris: The Shangri-La Hotel

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Courtesy of the Shangri-La Hotel

First, we take Paris Many rooms at the new Shangri-La overlook the Eiffel Tower

Hoteliers everywhere have long tried to emulate the fabulousness of Parisian five-star hotels. But now an Asian usurper is taking on French hoteliers at their own game.

When the Shangri-La Hotel opened in Paris at the end of last year, it marked the first incursion by an Asian hotel brand into this innkeeping mecca. Fitting, then, that the Hong Kong-based group should be housed in a palatial property: the former residence of Napoleon Bonaparte's grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte. The 1896 landmark was painstakingly restored over four years, its salons and reception halls — with their frescoes, gilt work and chandeliers — returned to their former splendor.

The atmosphere of a grand private residence has been kept. With just 81 rooms and suites, this is the most intimate of Paris' grand hotels. Half the rooms and suites feature exceptional views of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine, and nearly half offer balconies or terraces — unheard of in Paris. Most rooms are decorated in blue, white and ecru, evoking at once European empire and classic Chinese color palettes.

Dining facilities are suitably princely. The airy La Bauhinia restaurant, named after Hong Kong's official flower, features a splendid cupola and serves both French and Southeast Asian fare. Later this year, the hotel will unveil an outpost of Shang Palace, Shangri-La's signature Cantonese restaurant. It will be Paris' first gourmet Cantonese establishment but presumably not, if the Asian invasion gains momentum, its last.

See shangri-la.com for more.