Built as an hotel particulier (a private mansion) for Napoleon Bonaparte’s great nephew, Roland, this is one of the most beautiful buildings in a city that has more than its fair share of remarkable architectural jewels.
With unparalleled views of the river Seine and the Eiffel Tower (I was compelled to take a picture of the latter from my room window), on Place d’Iena in the 16th arrondissement, the hotel offers an opportunity to experience some of the city’s rich history in truly palatial style.
By all accounts, Roland Bonaparte was a man of taste, learning and great fortune, living at a time when sumptuous homes reflected the social station of their owners. Indeed, this was no ordinary home – for a generation, it became the hub of Parisian society, as well as that of scientists and intellectuals whose company the owner favoured.
Fast forward to the 21st century when Robert Kwok’s Shangri-La group acquired the historic building and, after important works, re-opened its doors as a 5 star hotel.
A number of original features and rooms have been restored and preserved in accordance with their status of historical monuments. The magnificent reception rooms and areas would bowl over even the most jaded traveller – it is not often that one gets to sample the suite life in the former home of a Bonaparte!
The interior, designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, is an opulent mix of dark wood, marble, oriental wall papers, gold leaf and bronze, murals and mosaics. The Asian element is discreet – a vase here, a framed artefact there, a pot of welcoming jasmine tea on arrival, the staff uniforms….
The hotel is not striving to appeal just to a wealthy Chinese clientele as many of its European counterparts hope to do – it simply is, and while I was there, guests included an array of nationalities.
I loved the view of the gardens below and the vast swimming pool (said to be the largest indoor pool in Paris) with its sky-blue ceiling. A small but perfect steam room nestles in the ladies changing area and the fitness room is exceptionally well-equipped for a city hotel.
My suite had its separate sitting room, a vast bedroom with a sitting area and an intricate bathroom split in 3 distinct areas: vanity room, bath tub room and shower room. Even more intricate and entirely delicious were the little cakes and red fruits platter – a great welcoming touch that never ceases to delight me.
The Shangri-La has 3 dining establishments: Shang Palace, a Cantonese restaurant with a team of chefs from China, L’Abeille, an haute-cuisine French restaurant, and La Bauhinia where breakfast is served. If you are accustomed to a full buffet breakfast, you would be disappointed – the menu is a la carte and offers continental, American, Asian and organic versions.
Staff are incredibly attentive and multi-lingual.
This is a property of exceptional pedigree, boosted by the financial muscle of a major hotel chain, and would appeal to those who love discreet opulence, an absolutely impeccable standard of service in every area and an atmosphere of restrained elegance that counter-balances the splendour of a truly imperial palace.
Why else do we love it?
Because, in a city full of pretentious hotels that often do not live up to their image or website’s promises, this one goes beyond expectations.