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Hotel Lutetia, Paris review: A luxury landmark that Hemingway and Picasso once called home

Many of the hotel’s original features have been painstakingly restored  (Hotel Lutetia )
Many of the hotel’s original features have been painstakingly restored (Hotel Lutetia )

In a nutshell: Glamorous lodgings in the heart of Paris, with a subterranean spa, chic brasserie restaurant and rooms with an Eiffel Tower view

Location

Hotel Lutetia is in the centre of Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Prés. A historic hub for literature, music and the arts, Hemingway’s old haunt Café De Flore, the bookstore Shakespeare & Co (go early to avoid the queues) and Serge Gainsbourg’s graffitied house and museum can be reached on foot in under 20 minutes. This part of town is also home to Hermes’s flagship store, which you’ll find just around the corner from the hotel, which itself was founded in 1910 by the iconic Le Bon Marche department store, located a short walk across the green.

The nearby Latin Quarter is known for its cobbled streets, bistros for whiling away the hours, cabarets, bars and historic landmarks such as The Pantheon (the ‘temple of the French nation’ and final resting place of, among others, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola Jean-Jacques Rousseau). You’ll find the Jardin de Luxembourg 10 minutes south; Head here for the romantic setting of the Italian Renaissance-era Medici Fountain, lawns, tree-lined promenades and to watch the model sailboats on the octagonal Grand Bassin.

The vibe

Bar Josephine is named after Josephine Baker, the jazz singer who frequented the hotel (Hotel Lutetia)
Bar Josephine is named after Josephine Baker, the jazz singer who frequented the hotel (Hotel Lutetia)

A mammoth renovation in 2018 painstakingly restored Hotel Lutetia’s historic features, helping it retain a 20th-century Parisian feel. A former hangout for the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henry Mattisse, James Joyce (it’s where he wrote much of Ulysses) and the jazz singer Josephine Baker, the hotel’s history helps it stand out from trendier and more contemporary accommodation in the area. Attracting an older crowd, Lutetia knows its audience and harks back to its heyday with a blend of Art-Nouveau and Art Deco style interiors to reflect the original 1910 building.

Brasserie Lutetia and Bar Josephine (named after Baker) both ooze elegance thanks to grand ceilings and intricate frescoes, with floor-to-ceiling doors and windows for plenty of natural light, and an Art Deco-style bar with a piano for nights of live music. The drinking den is a quiet place for whiling away an hour or so while admiring your beautiful surroundings, before heading out for dinner or more drinks.

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The service

Service is great. From the concierge to the waiters and bartenders, the staff at Hotel Lutetia know their stuff, whether it’s advising on the local area or explaining the extensive menu at the brasserie. Breakfast feels a little rushed with a bit of a wait for table service, but the staff are still welcoming. Upon arrival, you’re escorted to your room and given a tour of all amenities, a welcome drink and dark chocolate replica of the hotel’s ship emblem (complete with a mini hammer for smashing the shell). Head down to the spa and you’re greeted with a warm reception by the Akasha staff, particularly the therapists – after a last minute cancellation of a treatment, they rapidly rebooked with profuse apologies from the manager.

Bed and bath

A deluxe size room at Hotel Lutetia (Hotel Lutetia)
A deluxe size room at Hotel Lutetia (Hotel Lutetia)

There’s a range of bedroom options at Hotel Lutetia, from the spacious deluxe rooms with balconies (if you’re lucky you’ll have a view of the Eiffel Tower) to the junior suites that include family-size spaces. If you’re really pushing the boat out, the signature suites are a grand affair – think a penthouse space with 360-degree views of Paris and a room designed by the Francis Ford Coppola, where personal touches include an antique camera and reproduced annotated pages from his copy of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (the director reportedly stays there himself whenever he’s in town).

Marbled bathrooms with deep tubs and spacious rainfall showers are a stand-out feature, while the bedrooms are a blend of tinted oak flooring, Murano glass wall lights and incredibly comfortable beds (the personalised pillowcases with a guest’s own initials are a nice touch). Plenty of natural light ensure it’s a cosy environment, while compared to the Art-Nouveau style in the hotel’s public areas, the rooms have more of a contemporary feel.

Food and drink

The hotel is home to two places to eat: the restaurant Brasserie Lutetia and cafe Le Saint Germain. Frequented by both locals and hotel guests, the Brasserie serves classic French fare (opt for the clams and egg parfait for starters and the indulgent freshly caught lobster linguine for a main) with an extensive wine list and sommelier at hand. Breakfast is also served at the Brasserie and is a highlight of any stay at Hotel Lutetia. There’s an à la carte menu (the light, fluffy French waffles are a must), as well as a buffet with a vast selection of deliciously flakey pastries, fresh detox juices, cured meats, smoked salmon, fresh fruit and every type of bread you can think of for the ultimate Parisian morning feast. Despite the grand interiors, Le Saint Germain has a more laidback feel, with indgulant afternoon tea spreads available and an unfussy all-day menu.

When it comes to an evening drink, Bar Josephine serves up a wide range of cocktails (opt for the gin-fulled ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ for a spot-on balance of sweet and sour), champagnes and wines. While the cocktails were varied with a mix for every palette, the space lacked the buzzy atmostphere of bars in the busy Latin Quarter. If you’re after somewhere a little more glamorous, the jazz bar Bar Aristide is tucked away on the first floor. The speakeasy-style saloon has a relaxed vibe, with attentive service, leather sofas to sink into, moody lighting and a cocktail menu that puts a fresh spin on classics (the Hemingway daiquri includes punchy grapefuit).

Facilities

The spa’s 17m pool (Hotel Lutetia)
The spa’s 17m pool (Hotel Lutetia)

The subterranean Akasha spa is a calming sanctuary, with marble interiors, a 17m pool, whirlpool tub, sauna and steamroom. The treatment list is extensive, from collagan-boosting facials to exfoliating massages, manicures to resurfacing treatments. There’s no need to break your fitness regime, thanks to the large gym and personal training sessions, as well as yoga and swimming classes.

Disability access: There are five rooms with accessible facilities, plus a lift down to the spa and an accessible chair to get in and out of the swimming pool.

Pet policy: One pet weighing less than 12kg allowed per room at Lutetia Paris, €50 (£43.37) extra per night.

Check-in/check-out: 3pm check-in, 12pm check-out.

Family friendly? Yes. There are two-bedroom and family suites available that accommodate up to five, with living areas and multiple bathrooms. Swimming lessons are also available for children (additional cost).

At a glance

Best thing: The first-class spa with treatment rooms and a pool (plus the quality of the food).

Worst thing: Bar Josephine and Brasserie Lutetia lack the buzzy atmosphere that can be found in nearby spots.

Perfect for: Culture enthusiasts and those wanting a truly luxurious city break.

Not right for: A younger, livelier crowd.

Instagram from: The terraces that have a view of the Eiffel Tower.

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