From Hemingway to Hepburn, Dali to Dietrich… Paris has attracted the rich, famous, and creative for years; they’ve flocked to the city in search of artistic inspiration, or just simply the “joie de vivre.”
Here you’ll find a round-up of some of the Paris hotels famous for hosting these celebrity guests, as well as some of the stories that they tell of those who have stayed, dined, danced, and even on occasion, made the hotel their home.
Le Grand has a long and rich history, and has seen famous visitors from WWI socialite and spy Mata Hari, to Charles de Gaulle, Victor Hugo, and Marlene Dietrich pass through its doors. One of the hotel’s most regular guests however was actress Sarah Bernhardt, whose portrait now hangs in the hotel’s lobby. And, according to a legend that still lives on to this day, Erick, the famous “Phantom of the Opera”, also stays at Le Grand, using a secret passage to go from the hotel to the Opera.
The hotel’s Café de la Paix was also a regular haunt of Oscar Wilde during his days in Paris, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he visited the city; he would sit on the terrace and correct his proofs from the printers.
Relais Hotel du Vieux
The Relais Hotel du Vieux is a must-stay for Beat Generation fans, since it contributed to the birth of the movement back in the 50s and 60s when it was a regular haunt of William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and more. Located in the Latin Quarter, it is now a stylish four-star boutique hotel.
Possibly the most famous hotel guest ever, Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz Paris for 30 years until her death in 1971. The hotel has named one of their historic Prestige Suites after her, along with other famous guests F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marcel Proust. The legendary hotels has also starred in three Audrey Hepburn films, Funny Face, How to Steal a Million, and Love in the Afternoon.
Hotel du Petit Moulin
Set in the 17th century building which housed Paris’ first bakery, the Hotel du Petit Moulin’s claim to fame is that Victor Hugo used to buy his daily baguette there, back when the hotel was a boulangerie.
It has since been transformed into a four-star hotel designed by Christian Lacroix; however the beautiful 1900 shop frontage thankfully still remains, and is now listed as part of French heritage by Historic Monuments.
Although still found on the Rue des Beaux Arts in Saint Germain-des-Pres, the hotel has had a luxurious transformation since Wilde’s days, who famously quipped whilst staying there, “either this wallpaper goes, or I do.” The wallpaper won, and Wilde died in the hotel in 1900. Although it is often reported that he lived in the suite now named after him, we were told during our stay that the room is actually in honor of the writer, who lived and died in what is now the bar area.
Since Wilde the hotel has been home to many famous guests, including Serge Gainsbourg, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Salvador Dali, Princess Grace of Monaco and Frank Sinatra.
Les Bains has been through a few transformations over the years, and has attracted writers, artists, musicians, and creatives ever since it first opened in 1885. Originally Les Bain Guerbois, the city’s most prestigious bathhouse, Zola and Manet were regular visitors along with other famous names of the Belle Epoque. In 1978 it became Les Bains Douches, a nightclub, restaurant and music venue, which attracted David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, and more, before closing in 2010. Now known simply as Les Bains, the luxury hotel still has a rock ‘n’ roll feel thanks to Joy Division album covers gracing the hotel walls, replica sofas from Andy Warhol’s New York studio Factory, and the Philippe Starck-designed 1978 black-and-white checkered dancefloor in the dining room.
Like Coco Chanel at Ritz Paris, Marlene Dietrich also took up residence in one of Paris’ most glamorous hotels, the Hotel Lancaster. The actress lived in one of the hotel’s apartments for three years in the 1930s, and today the suite named after her has a grand piano in the living room. Jane Fonda, Emma Thompson and Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar, are some of the other famous names to have also stayed at the hotel.
One of the most famous guests of French palace Le Meurice was surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who spent at least one month a year at the hotel. In fact, Dali even chose Le Meurice to celebrate his wedding in 1918. He was also, as one might imagine, one of the hotel’s most outrageous guests; he once he demanded that a herd of sheep be brought to his room. The hotel obliged, but upon their arrival, Dalí took out his pistol and shot them. Luckily however, the gun was filled with blank bullets. Another time he asked for a horse, and on another occasion he asked the staff to capture flies for him in the Tuileries Garden, paying them five francs (around one euro) per fly. He is now honored by the hotel with the Restaurant Le Dali.
Lead photo credit : ©Le Meurice