The newest wave of accommodations sweeping through London and Paris includes a number of boutique hotels. These smaller properties are housed in repurposed historical structures that provide an air of authenticity among the upgraded contemporary touches. Here are some highlights.

London: Bloomsbury, Chelsea

In London’s West End, YTL Hotels’ The Academy Hotel had its soft opening last month, following a multimillion-dollar interior makeover. Inspired by the Bloomsbury Set authors, writers and philosophers who lived and worked in this part of London in the early 20th century, New York-based design firm Champalimaud worked closely with the hotelier to convert five Georgian townhouses into a sophisticated and historically relevant hotel. They previously collaborated on YTL’s first British property, The Gainsborough Bath Spa.

Each of the 50 guestrooms have been designed to celebrate 240 years of the Georgian property’s history. High ceilings and sash windows fill bedrooms with light, while en suite marble bathrooms and high king-sized beds add to the luxury. Guests may choose from the Bloomsbury Suites, the Bloomsbury Double, the Townhouse Twin room or, for solo travelers, the Townhouse Single.

The new library is a peaceful space with a selection of books lining the wall, each hand-picked by modern-day Bloomsbury-based figures. The cozy Alchemy Bar leads out into a sunlit garden. The Academy also houses the Courtyard, for English Afternoon Tea, and The Refectory, serving traditional English breakfast. The Academy, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is just moments from the British Library and many of London’s fine-dining restaurants and designer boutiques.

Slated to open in early 2019, the Belmond Cadogan Hotel will have just 54 rooms (two-thirds of which are suites), a private garden and tennis courts. Inside, guests will find interiors that reflect modern British style, blending the building’s original features with a contemporary feel. Original elements include wood paneling on the ground and first floors, as well as stained glass windows in the Tea Lounge. The property, originally built in 1887, underwent a three-year, $48 million renovation project to prepare for its debut. 

Belmond Cadogan will also have four dining venues: Adam Handling, Chelsea, the flagship restaurant serving upscale British cuisine; The Bar, with an extensive champagne and cocktail menu; Terrace Café, a Mediterranean-style café; and The Cadogan Tea Lounge, where guests can partake of a fun twist on English Afternoon Tea classics. Guests can expect locally inspired and seasonally changing menus. The property will also have a 24-hour fitness suite, a spa suite with a range of treatments, and a library. 

Tip: Guests can stay in the room where Oscar Wilde was arrested with a bottle of Perrier Jouet in-hand (Room No. 118). It’s part of the Royal Suite, but can also be booked separately. Other top suites include Park View Corner Suites and the Penthouse Suite; these have king-size beds, a walk-in closet and living rooms with “vintage flourishes.”

Belmond Cadogan Hotel is on prestigious Sloane Street, a luxury shopping enclave between chic Chelsea and glamorous Knightsbridge, offering the best of two of London’s most fashionable and artistic neighborhoods. 

Hôtel Brach Paris is a new five-star hotel designed by Philippe Starck.

Paris Boutique Boom

Over the last few months there have been a number of significant new small hotel openings in Paris, including the restored, 137-room Hotel Lutetia; the 54-room Fauchon, the first hospitality concept for the renowned gourmet brand; the 75-room Hôtel de Berri, A Luxury Collection Hotel; and the 60-room Hotel Alfred Sommier — all of which have their share of suites. 

Now, Evok Hotels has joined the buzz with Hôtel Brach Paris, a new five-star hotel in the 16th arrondissement, designed by Philippe Starck. (Evok is also behind the Nolinski Paris, between the Louvre and the Opera Garnier.) The renowned designer was given carte blanche with a former postal sorting center — a vast space of more than 75,000 square feet. Starck describes it as 1930s architecture meets modernism, Bauhaus, Dada, Surrealism and Art Brut. 

When Travel Agent stopped by during the 59-room / suite hotel’s soft opening in October, we found the result to be chic, fun and eclectic — a warm, light-filled space with abundant marble, leather and rare exotic wood. The trendy restaurant was already filled with locals. 

The downstairs sports club offers a packed program of classes, such as boxing and Pilates). The swimming pool is flanked by an enormous hot tub — calling it a “jacuzzi” would be a misnomer because it’s such a large pool. There will also be a hammam, salt grotto and sauna. The rooftop terrace has a vegetable garden, egg-laying hens and a dining space — with all of Paris at one’s feet and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. This is exclusively for the use of guests staying in any of the seven suites, all of which have terraces.  

Mama Shelter Toulouse has 120 rooms, each with king beds and modern amenities.

Southern and Alpine France

Beyond Paris, Mama Shelter Toulouse opened last month in the south of France. The brand’s fifth French property is set behind the facade of an old movie palace off Boulevard Lazare Carnot, about a 10-minute walk from both the city center and Basilica St.-Sernin, the largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe — and host site of the city’s best flea market.

Mama Shelter Toulouse has 120 cozy rooms, each with king beds, high-speed Wi-Fi and other contemporary comforts. Three meeting rooms, an outdoor terrace, and a 46-seat cinema for screenings and presentations are suitable for any events or gatherings.

From the 550-square-foot rooftop terrace, guests can view the city below while sipping a glass of local wine or eating fresh pizza from the brick oven. The lounge there provides live music, DJs and craft cocktails. 

In Biarritz, Hôtel du Palais has joined The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, which has initiated a full renovation of the 163-year-old property. Several design companies, including Atelier COS, have been engaged to honor the hotel’s traditional French luxury and heritage. A partial reopening is set to take place between July and October 2019, and final renovations are expected to be completed by June 2020. New touches will include renovated guestrooms, two revitalized signature restaurants, and a new lounge and bar.

In the French Alpine village of Megève, one of the world’s great winter playgrounds, the Coeur de Megève is getting a new lease of life after a major renovation. On rue Charles Feige, the village’s main shopping street, this boutique hotel that’s been run by a local family for three generations is set to reopen on December 22 — just in time for the winter ski season in the Mont Blanc massif. Purchased in 2017 by Martine Kampf, the Coeur de Megève will be the first hotel in the Kampf family’s new hospitality company called Steller Hotels. The boutique hotel group will also operate properties in Paris and Rome. 

The hotel’s makeover by interior designer Sybille de Margerie (her other projects include Mandarin Oriental, Paris, Cheval Blanc Courchevel, and the Royal Champagne) will upgrade the 39 guestrooms in a contemporary chalet style. Most rooms will have balconies or terraces. Facilities include La Muse Restaurant, Le Meige cocktail bar, and a spa by Tata Harper.

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