History of Le Meurice
Le Meurice is a luxurious five-star hotel in the heart of the 1st arrondissement, nestled perfectly between the Place de la Concorde, Musée du Louvre, and the Tuileries Garden. Its dreamy interiors flaunt extravagant Louis XVI décor and have been dazzling celebrities for centuries.
The history of the hotel begins in 1771 and, surprisingly, nearly 300 kilometres (186 miles) from Paris. It’s in Calais, where upper-class British voyageurs would stop off after crossing the Straits of Dover. It wasn’t until 1835 that Le Meurice moved to its present site, taking the breath away of the elite aristocracy ever since.
Le Meurice has undergone five major renovations. It was in 1898 that the property was first endowed with modern-day amenities, like individual private baths, costing an improbable eight million francs. Interestingly, it was during this renovation that workers took in a stray greyhound, thereby finding its modern-day mascot.
Fast-forward a few decades and the hotel closed again, serving as a hospital for wounded soldiers for several months during World War I. When it re-opened, the hotel proudly reclaimed its reputation for lavish entertainment, with long dinners lasting from eight in the evening until eight the next morning.
More recently, renovations have focused on restoring this landmark hotel to its 18th-century splendour. It was particularly embellished by famous French designer Philippe Starck in 2007 and 2016, whose unsurpassed attention to detail has graced areas like Bar 228 and the Galerie Pompadour.
‘I was lucky to collaborate twice with Philippe Starck, in 2007 and more recently last year. I always thought he was a genius!’, says Mme Holtmann, owner of Le Meurice. ‘He has the talent to use contrasts up to perfection and give immediate life to the places he designs’.
‘We will never deny the heritage we are very proud of, the historical aspects of our building, with period mosaics and original paintings’, says Mme Holtmann. ‘But before all, our cultural heritage; from the way we welcome and serve our guests, to the gestures and the transmission of our savoir-faire. I strive to offer an experience that goes beyond the basics any traveller can ask for: a true French art of living that makes our hotel more than a reference, a shelter’.
Staying at Le Meurice
The current vibe is a cocktail of classic and modern: with televisions concealed behind paintings, USB ports in the sofa armrests, and iHome systems equipping each of its 160 suites – so guests can wake up to the sound of their favourite music – there’s an ambitious mélange of Louis XVI tradition and the latest technology.
‘Nowadays, in the 21st century, technology is more than ever part of our everyday life’, said Mme Holtmann. ‘In the prestigious and muted environment of a palace, we have to make it work 100% and make sure it’s user-friendly and accessible to everyone, considering that we welcome guests from all countries and all generations’.
‘Personally, I think a palace has to offer an unforgettable experience, which engages all your senses: smelling fresh croissants in the morning, getting pampered at the spa, touching silky fabrics, hearing the melody of the piano at the bar, tasting sweet pastries… Everything has to be a delight from the beginning, to become a perfect “French experience”’.
One aspect that hasn’t ever faltered is the flawless, 24-hour concierge customer service. With kings, sultans, arch dukes, maharajahs and princesses to satisfy, performing duties less than perfectly is simply unthinkable. ‘Le Meurice has welcomed travellers from all over the world, among them many artists, famous people and personalities who have made the history of the hotel,’ said Mme Holtmann. ‘It has always been a place where guests immediately feel embraced thanks to a genuine welcome’.
Yet this has invited some strange room service requests over the years. Salvador Dalí, for example, once demanded a herd of sheep be brought to his room. Another time, he settled on a single horse. Most hilariously of all, he once asked the staff to capture flies for him from the Tuileries next door, paying them five francs (around one euro) per fly. Keen to conserve the humorous legacy of secrets, Le Meurice’s two Michelin-starred restaurant has been named in his honour.
‘Thanks to Philippe Starck, the public areas have been revamped with a little twist and subtle winks to Dali everywhere. Don’t forget, you are in Dali’s place, and he is watching you’, said Mme Holtmann.
‘Enter Le Meurice, let yourself go and you will experience a bespoke and harmonious service, in an unpretentious ambience. Elegance in all its expression is certainly one of the keys to offer intense and authentic moments and leave an everlasting impression in our guests’ memories’, she said in closing.