Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009

Four Seasons Hotel George V

In an unbeatable location near the Champs-Élysées, this majestic 1928 white-stone hotel redefined elegance when it reopened its doors as a Four Seasons in 1999. Today, it's tops with couture-clad jet-setters and bons vivants seeking a hushed city retreat with all the modern conveniences. Guests are greeted — and treated — to an eyeful of blooms upon arrival in the marble lobby; expect a sumptuous flurry of Flemish tapestries, crystal chandeliers, 19th-century furniture, and brocade fabrics throughout the public spaces. The 245 spacious rooms (doubles average a spacious 500 square feet) echo the same luxe detailing, and many rooms have private terraces overlooking the courtyard and rooftops beyond. And a heaven-can-wait full-service hotel spa adjoins an indoor pool ringed by a mural of the gardens at Versailles. But it's chef Eric Brifford — who oversees the hotel's Michelin two-starred restaurant, Le Cinq — who approaches godliness for his divine creations: fillet of red tuna with caviar from the Sologne region and tangy marinated vegetables, and Manjari chocolate soufflé and black-currant pulp. Lucky are the diners who can float upstairs to their rooms.

Insider Tip: Don't miss an Australian Sodashi body scrub in the sumptuous beige-hued spa.

Room to Book: Any Duplex Suite is worth the upgrade for space and skyline views. Book the popular Honeymoon Suite, with Eiffel Tower vistas, for the ultimate romantic stay.

Hôtel de Crillon

This Place de la Concorde landmark, built at the direction of King Louis XV in 1758, hasn't lost its ornate air, despite a 2008 overhaul by French architect Thierry Despont. Flat-screen televisions and high-speed Internet access bring modern touches to suites and salons still filled with gilt, mirrors, and Baccarat crystal, in addition to genuine Aubusson carpets and Wedgwood medallions. Even the entry-level rooms, at 115 square feet, are not unusually large, but have sitting areas and dressing rooms. The Sonia Rykiel–designed Bar du Crillon is nothing short of elegant, with its mirrored mosaics, red velvet–covered chairs, and dripping chandeliers. Request a song at the piano, then sit back on a settee and sip a Duc de Crillon (Armagnac and Taittinger champagne).

Room to Book: Request Nos. 409 or 511 for windows that look out on Place de la Concorde.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the elaborate Sunday brunch at Les Ambassadeurs — with formal silver service, house-made croissants and preserves, smoked salmon carved to order, baked eggs, and a to-die-for cheese plate.

Hôtel Meurice

Philippe Starck's public-space redo of this Paris institution, adjacent to the picturesque Tuileries gardens — including the bar and three-Michelin-starred restaurant — brought surreal new touches like a refrigerator-cooled mirror that's literally frosted, and three-legged tables dressed in fancy shoes. All tradition wasn't cast aside: Italian craftsmen were brought in to restore the lobby's green-and-white marble floors. Rooms, which were themselves renovated in 1998, are starting to show their age, so modern touches like iPod docks set upon the 18th-century furnishings are welcome. It's all complemented by lots of gilt, and no less than 100 yards of Rubelli and Branquenié fabrics in each room. For such upscale digs, the Meurice is surprisingly family-friendly, offering plenty of family packages and loaning custom-made boats for sailing in the adjacent Tuileries' boat pond.

Room to Book: The Belle Etoile suite on the seventh floor has a magnificent 3,200-square-foot landscaped terrace.

Insider Tip: A jazz duo plays nightly at Bar 228. Stop in for some music and its specialty cocktail, made with pear liquor, pear juice, and champagne.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée

This hip yet plush hangout between the Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower is as au courant as it was when it opened in 1911, thanks to a 2000 refurbishment courtesy of its new owner, the Sultan of Brunei. Today, the balconied freestone front is covered in signature red awnings; inside, crimson bouquets enliven nearly every surface. The bar, with a long glowing glass counter meant to resemble an iceberg, is one of the city's hottest scenes. At the Dior Institut spa, scheduled to open September 2008, treatments incorporate the fashion house's fragrances. The high-ceilinged rooms mix classic marble baths and Regency- and Louis XV-style details with modern touches like remote-controlled air-conditioning and a music library with 5,000 song choices. The hotel also offers tours of its 35,000-bottle wine cellar, led by Alain Ducasse's head sommelier, complete with a tasting.

Insider Tip: Ride along the Seine on one of the hotel's red bicycles, tricked out with a basket and saddlebags, perfect for toting lunch.

Room to Book: Light sleepers who want romantic seclusion should ask for one facing the expansive ivy-covered, geranium-planted interior courtyard. For less silk and more streamlined furnishings, request a room on one of the top two Art Deco–designed floors.

Ritz Paris

An institution since 1898, the lavish, opulent Ritz — near the Louvre museum and Tuileries gardens — has maintained its stature as one of Paris's leading hotels despite a plethora of trendy newcomers. Of course, not everyone can claim the Ritz's history: it was the world's first hotel to have a private bath in every room, and everyone from Edward VII to Coco Chanel has called it home (in Chanel's case, for 37 years). A massive renovation in 2007 updated its infrastructure, yet Belle Époque touches remain. Swan-shaped, gold-plated faucets grace the tubs; a surfeit of period Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Empire furniture fills the rooms; and thousands of euros worth of flowers scent the air each week. Traditional white-glove service, a Roman-style pool ringed with columns, and a Michelin-starred restaurant only add to this lap-of-luxury experience.

Insider Tip: Order a Bloody Mary at The Bar Hemingway (the cocktail was invented here for the namesake novelist), and let legendary bartender Colin Field entertain with tales of his romantic life.

Room to Book: Avoid the "intimate" rooms in the Cambon wing; instead, ask for No. 527 for a view of the Opéra, or a Superior Executive for a room overlooking the tranquil, newly planted Grand Jardin.