Travel Guide to France’s Palace Hotels

Les Prés d’Eugénie
Les Prés d’Eugénie is the newest Palace Hotel in France.

In France, a country known for many of the world’s most lavish hotels, there’s luxury and then there’s palace hotel ranked luxury. Les Prés d’Eugénie is the newest addition to this exclusive club designed for hotels that go above and beyond a five-star rating. 

But how does a hotel make the cut? 

For Les Prés d’Eugénie, it might be the eight separate flower and vegetable gardens that surround the property, or the restaurant that has held three Michelin stars since 1977, or maybe it was the grandiose 19th century architecture featured throughout the property’s houses.

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More than likely, it was a combination of everything that sets the hotel apart. 

Les Prés d’Eugénie is one of just 24 hotels to garner the distinction of a palace hotel rating, 11 of which are located in Paris. Since 2011, the distinction has been given by the French Agency for Tourism Development. Five-star hotels undergo a thorough examination by Atout France to determine whether or not they qualify as a palace quality hotel. Hotels must first meet criteria including certain amenities available. Then, a 10-person panel will judge the hotel on factors like location, character, and restaurants to determine whether the hotel meets the palace level. Hotels hold the palace rating for five years, at which time the hotel is reviewed again and can renew their title. 

Staying at any of the 24 palace hotels is bound to be an experience that will be unforgettable. These hotels have been vetted by the French government and surpassed other five-star hotels. For those looking for the best of the best, palace hotels are the place to stay. 

The Shangri-La, Paris

This is an internationally recognized hotel and the former home of Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s grandnephew. Many hotels offer views of the Eiffel Tower, but few offer these views from a guest’s bathtub. And when they’re done taking in views (or watching the flat screen TV that’s integrated into the large bathroom mirror) from the bath, they are greeted by heated marble floors. 

Plaza Athénée, Paris

The Plaza Athénée is part of the Dorchester Collection and offers views onto the Avenue Montaigne, the Cour Jardin, rooftops of Montmartre, or the Eiffel Tower. Guests can stay in classically decorated rooms fit for royalty or Art Deco rooms for a more modern feel. In a city known for its gastronomy, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée boasts three Michelin stars and top of the line cuisine. But the (luxury) cherry on top might be the Dior Institut. The beauty center offers a full range of spa options inspired by the famous fashion designer.

Le Royal Évian, Évian-les-Bains

Located off Lake Geneva and near the Swiss Alps, the hotel is situated on private 47-acre wooded grounds.  The hotel has three restaurants, a cocktail bar, a La Prairie spa, indoor and outdoor heated pools, hydro-circuit, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, fitness center, children's club, a sport and culture department, a high-end boutique, a hairdressing salon, four tennis courts -- including a covered one -- and a ski shop. There is also an 18-hole golf course that hosts the The Evian Championship golf tournament every September.

Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

The Southern Four Seasons hotel overlooks the Mediterranean and has housed both celebrity and royalty. Eight of the 24 suites offer private pools, or for a more social environment, guests can take a dip in the Olympic-sized heated sea-water pool with the option of poolside dining. If dining by the pool isn’t your thing, Le Cap is the property’s main Michelin star restaurant.

Hôtel Les Airelles, Courchevel

Known for its skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snowmobiling, the hotel offers easy access to the slopes. There is also a private ice rink on the property, as well as the option for exploring the area by snowshoeing or ice climbing. Children have their own space complete with a carousel. 

Le Bristol, Paris

The Parisian hotel opened in 1925 and has a long history of luxury recognition. In 1954, the first Pierre Cardin boutique opened nearby. Christian Lacroix, Louboutin and others followed. Famous former guests include Konrad Adenauer, Kim Novak, Rita Hayworth, and Charlie Chaplin. In 1962, the American “Fielding's Travel Guide to Europe” ranked Le Bristol Paris in top place. Today, the hotel’s restaurant, 114 Faubourg, has been awarded a Michelin star and was also recently renovated.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris 

Located just steps from the Louvre, this hotel has everything for a luxury experience. The hotel offers 138 rooms and suites, many with private balconies. Dining is overseen by award winning chef Thierry Marx and options range from fine dining to a cake shop. For the most extravagant guests, the J’aime Paris Penthouse Suite offers a three bed three-bath space with two terraces, kitchen, and gym. From the terraces guests can check out all of Paris.

Le Cap Eden Roc, Antibes

The hotel overlooks the Cote d’Azur and was the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "Tender is the Night." Located near the historical city of Antibes where Picasso lived and worked, and Cannes, home of the internationally known film festival, the hotel’s restaurant overlooks the Mediterranean and offer fresh seafood options, something the region is known for.  

Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz

Located on the beaches of Biarrtiz, the hotel overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is within driving distance of the Spanish towns of San Sebastian and Bilbao. Guests can dine at a Michelin star restaurant, La Villa, or opt for an ocean or poolside meal at La Rotonde, or L'Hippocampe. There is also a Guerlain spa offering ocean views.

L'hôtel La Réserve, Ramatuelle

Located near Saint-Tropez, the hotel, spa, and villa property offers both garden views and Mediterranean views. There are 19 suites and nine rooms as well as 14 three-to-six bedroom villas to choose from. All accommodations are designed to be light and airy to allow guests to fully enjoy the environment. The restaurant, La Voile, serves fresh Mediterranean cuisine. 

Le Meurice, Paris

Decorated with extravagant 18th century luxury, the hotel combines past with present. Italian marble bathrooms, period furniture, and beds with fine linens give the hotel a Henry XVI feel. The two Michelin-star restaurant, Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, is considered one of the world’s most beautiful dining rooms. The spa is part of the exclusive V35 Club, reserved for only 35 spas worldwide. In partnership with Swiss brand Valmont, the spa has a couples area, Turkish baths, sauna, fitness room, and courtyard.

Hôtel Le K2, Courchevel

With only 26 rooms and eight suites, the small hotel still delivers luxury. Many of the top-tier suites have their own private indoor pool. The largest suite, Suite-Chalet Abruzzes, can house 12 people in six rooms, each with their own en-suite bathroom. The hotel also offers ski in and out access and an Olympic ice skating rink. There is a two Michelin star restaurant, Kintessence, along with the Black Pyramid restaurant and two bars. 

Park Hyatt Place Vendome, Paris 

Situated in a great location for walking down the Champs-Élysées, having a picnic at the Tuileries Garden, or spending the day at the Louvre, like many of the hotels on this list, it's all about location, location, location. Some suites face the Eiffel Tower or Vendome Square. There are 153 guest rooms and suites as well as five restaurants.

Le Royal Monceau-Raffles, Paris

Until September, the hotel is offering special Belvedere Vodka cocktails on the terrace in the hanging gardens that overlook the outdoor pool. When summer is over, guests can still enjoy the location of the hotel which is just a short walk from the Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, and Parc Monceau. In-house restaurant Il Carpaccio boasts one Michelin star.

The Peninsula, Paris

Inspired by haute couture, the Peninsula building opened in 1908 as one of Paris’ “grand hotels.” Unlike some other hotels on this list, all guests can enjoy 360-degree views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower, at L’Oiseau Blanc, the rooftop restaurant terrace. All Peninsula hotels offer the Acadamy program; an inside look at local historical and cultural experiences at the hotel’s location. At the Peninsula Paris, guests can take a class in the art of perfume and soap making, or take a Rolls-Royce to the Palace of Versailles for a private tour, including areas that are normally closed to the public. 

Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, Saint-Barthélemy

The only hotel with a palace rating outside of France itself, Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France offers picturesque views of the northern Caribbean. With rooms, suites, villas and bungalows with ocean or garden views, guests have a wide range of accommodations to choose from. Guests can also book a private picnic on a desert island, cruise at sunset, or explore St. Barths by hiking the island with a guide, jet ski, or fly over on a helicopter. 

La Bastide de Gordes, Provence

Housed in an 18th century castle in the old city of Luberon, the hotel features antique furniture so that every one of the 40 rooms and suites are individually decorated. Overlooking the Librton valley is L’Orangerie restaurant where guests can dine on the terrace. The three Michelin starred Pèir, Pierre Gagnaire, offers a small, eight-table dining room with a la carte or tasting menu options. 

Les Sources de Caudalie, Martillac

A perfect place for wine lovers, the hotel is located on the château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards and just 20 minutes from the center of Bordeaux. The hotel’s restaurant offers fruits, vegetables, and herbs that were grown right in the property’s gardens without pesticide while the hen house supplies fresh eggs. For everything else, the chef works with local producers to use as much organic sustainable products as possible. Keeping with the organic theme, the Caudalie products offered in the bathroom are free of paraben, phenoxyethanol, phthalate, mineral oil and animal products. The spa recycles spring water for all wet treatments.

L'hôtel Le Byblos, Saint-Tropez

Open from April to October, the luxury hotel is located is the village of Saint-Tropez, between the Citadel and the Place des Lices. Guests can dine by the pool until 2 a.m. at B Restaurant or more formally at Rivea at Byblos. Guests can book a yacht during their stay or spend the day at the Sisley spa.

Le Château de La Messardière, Saint-Tropez 

With 117 rooms, spa, two restaurants, art gallery, and 25-acre grounds, the Château de La Messardière is the largest hotel in Saint-Tropez according to the website. The property is home to the French Bird Protection League/Birdlife International ornithological reserve. Built in the 19th century, the original design is seen throughout the hotel. The heated pools offers views over the Bay of Saint-Tropez. Guests can also take the free shuttle to a private beach in Saint-Tropez just a few minutes away. 

Four Seasons George V, Paris

The Four Seasons hotels are known for their luxury, and the Paris location is no exception. Just steps from the Champs-Elysees, rooms offer fantastic views of the city. There are three room categories and 11 suite categories guests can choose from including the penthouse that offers 360-degree views of the city including the Eiffel Tower from a private terrace.

Le Cheval Blanc, Courchevel 

Owner Bernard Arnault is no stranger to luxury; he is also chairman of Louis Vuitton, Moët, and Hennessy. Ski boots can be pre-heated every morning by the ski service team before guests head to the slopes. If skiing isn’t your thing, the hotel also offers sled-dog excursions throughout the area. Earlier this year, restaurant Le 1947 was awarded its third Michelin star. 

La Reserve, Paris

With fireplaces, marble bathrooms, pianos, and even private wine cellars, the suites in La Reserve have everything. While only the top-tier suites offer pianos and cellars, there are still more suites in this hotel than there are rooms. Guests can also enjoy a library exclusive for guests and friends, an inner courtyard, smoking lounge, and 16-meter indoor pool. 

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