For the full Parisian Grande Dame embrace – gilt mirrors, sweeping ceilings, imposing chandeliers, and, of course, balcony views of the Eiffel Tower.
This is the blow-the-budget Parisian honeymoon, where the classic trappings of romance were pretty much invented – the macaroons, the curly cornicing, the red-canopy balconies and the silver-clad tables scattered with viennoiserie. Couples are treated to charming courtyard views from Parisian windows, Haussmann facades or framed scapes of the Eiffel Tower. This is Paris at its haute couture best, where lazy breakfasts in bed, couple massages and afternoon rosé in the courtyard are mandatory and prompt little squeals of delight.
Set the scene:
An imposing, marble entrance hall greets guests with Plaza Athénée’s signature splashes of red (the cushions, the kaleidoscopic carpet, the fashion figurines suspended over the reception desk). Porters and maids hark back to old world Paris in their smart red uniforms and military precision service. To the right, a series of chandeliers trace the ornate ceiling of the gallery – a convivial all-day spot for breakfast, tea or Champagne. With its pillared walls, gold leaf ceilings and vast, Versailles-style chandeliers, a high-octane main dining room turns the opulence up a few notches. Floor to ceiling windows pull in the natural light and reveal a photogenic courtyard flanked by the hotel’s iconic red-capped balconies. A mix of American, Middle Eastern and European guests sink into the velvet chairs and sofas scattered throughout Plaza Athénée’s ground floor, while a more local crowd pours into Le Relais Plaza, the hotel’s brasserie-style restaurant, for piano and martini-fuelled soirees.
Elegant and quintessentially Parisian rooms spread across the hotel’s eight floors, all varying in size but only the top two floors notably different in style (more Art Deco than Belle Epoque, with less flounce and swirly details – more lacquer and unfussy furniture). If the £20,000 a night Haute Couture Suite is not an option (yes, the scene where Emily in Paris had to babysit a reckless LA actress was filmed here), the third floor suites ooze classic Parisian romance, with marginally less damage to wallets. Traditional sketches of Parisian squares hang on duck-egg blue walls, whose panelling and dimmed lamps recall a noble age of Chateaux et Champagne. The latter can be sipped à deux while soaking into the marble bathrooms’ deep tubs or curled up in a lavish bed with chocolate macaroons.
Food and drink:
Of Plaza Athénée’s five restaurants and bars, Jean Imbert au Plaza Athénée is the standout. Here, a riot of chandeliered decadence unfolds with a pricey menu showcasing creative spins on french classics, all theatrically rolled out. A long Breccia marble ‘royal’ table supporting enormous urns of pink hydrangea, dominates the room and echoes the French Republic’s more regal era. For a marginally less extravagant soiree (though foie gras and trout caviar still open the show), the Art Deco le Relais Plaza seizes on the spirit of a refined piano bar with a lively mix of locals and international hotel guests. The signature gratin of sea bream is the one to order – a paean to Imbert’s grandmother, along with the terrine. The buzz continues into the nightclub-style bar, whose energy ramps up on weekends with DJs and whose bartenders slide Mojitos and Martinis along a smooth bar mimicking a slab of ice. Instagrammable plates and silver bowls of viennoiserie, fruit and perfectly-cooked eggs roll out for breakfast in the grand restaurant or amid the comings and goings of the gallery on lower armchair-style seats. But a romantic stay at Plaza Athénée wouldn’t be complete without the bells and whistles breakfast-in-bed, the sort Julia Roberts enjoyed in Pretty Woman, but most probably, even better.
Emily in Paris and Sex and the City may have been filmed here, but Plaza Athénée’s fashion roots go far deeper. Not only is the hotel located in Paris’ haute couture epicentre, the Triangle d’Or (and more specifically, Avenue Montaigne), it became a hotspot for fashion designers, journalists and models during the shows.. This fashion legacy is manifest throughout the hotel, from the necklace style curtains in the bar to the Dior products and cushions scattered throughout the spa (Dior showed his inaugural collection at the hotel in 1847 and later named a suit after Plaza Athénée’s cocktail bar).
Haute Couture Suite Plaza Athénée
While the hotel and its restaurants resemble a hedonist’s playground, Plaza Athénée’s team welcomes children – the signature red teddy usually goes down well with most tiny tots while cots and baby monitors are available on request.
Dramatic, light and Dior-heavy, the spa resembles a vast, subterranean film set of water features and shiny white floors, where one imagines the Parisian shoppers of yore would spend long afternoons pampering and gossiping. Pastel-hued chaise longs (another ode to Dior) would cater perfectly to such activities, while a moment of private calm can be found in the treatment rooms with therapists (top of their game) work well-trained fingers into shoulder knots and serious equipment over facial imperfections. Results are reflected in the rates.
The Triangle d’Or is Paris’ ultimate luxury shopping destination, where excess comes to play and the Eiffel tower has a larger-than-life presence. Fashion houses such as Chanel, Saint Laurent and Dior line the legendary Avenue Montaigne and the Petit Palais’ art exhibitions and smart surrounding restaurants beckon. A little further afield, the Tuileries gardens, the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay are musts for Parisian first-timers.
Rates start from £1,300 per night per couple, including breakfast, plazaathenee.com
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