Even after just one visit, Paris visitors seem to come to fast conclusions about their favorite hotel. Business travelers like the Four Seasons bling of George V, socialites like the comfort of Le Meurice and boutique lovers tend to gravitate to the Petit Moulin in the Marais or L'Hotel in St. Germain-des-Pres.
But before you decide to book into your favorite Paris hotel again, there's a new crop to consider, including high-profile brands, out-of-the-box amenities and a few famous design names.
Iconic designer Philippe Starck has redesigned Paris' Le Royal Monceau, which opened originally in 1928 but has been closed for a two-year revamp.
In the coming year Paris will be the stage for five grand openings by
W Hotels, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula Hotels and -- first out of the gates -- Raffles' revamp of Le Royal Monceau.
Originally opened in 1928, Le Royal Monceau was the preferred scene for such luminaries as Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker and later served as a diplomatic outpost for Golda Meir and Ho Chi Minh.
The waning Le Royal Monceau was acquired in 2008 by French investor Alexandre Allard and Barwa Real Estate, a Qatari developer, who signed a management agreement with Raffles. Iconic designer Philippe Starck was brought on to oversee a two-year remodel that shuttered the hotel and essentially sold off much of what was inside.
looks much as it always did from the outside, rising regally above Avenue Hoche in Paris' esteemed 8th. There's a newly pristine awning and fresh red carpet that leads to a fully reimagined reception, now freed from its old circular velvet settees and infused with Starck's signature black-and-white motif, cabinetry with collectables and clustered seating under the hotel's countless Baccarat chandeliers.
In creating a hotel with a modern design aesthetic, the room count of Royal Monceau was cut by a third. The larger rooms are suited for business travelers and press junkets run by the booming French film market. A unique detail is the LAG acoustic guitars provided in each room, lessons for the novice and an on-demand soundproof studio.
Le Royal Monceau was once home to two one-star Michelin eateries and hopes history repeats itself. Il Carpaccio features a Southern Italian bistro menu by Pierre Herme, while La Cuisine offes a more formal Matisse-inspired French eatery by chef Gabriel Grapin. Its dishes are created from ingredients grown in the hotel's first-floor garden.
The basement-level The Spa My Blend is branded by Clarins and features trademarked facials and body treatments amid more Starck design. Hamams and laconiums -- cooler versions of a sauna -- are offered, and a fitness center with pilates classes. The space also features a new 55-foot swimmer's pool, which management claims is the largest of any Paris five-star luxury hotel.
Demand for the new Le Royal Monceau is impressive. Rooms are priced well above $750 but sold out for much of the fall.
Competition is coming though, and fast, with the December opening of
in the former palace of Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon's grandnephew. In lieu of Starck's edginess and modernity, Shangri-La Paris will be interpreted by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, whose work, at least as demonstrated at the George V and more recently at Four Seasons Florence, tends toward the opulent.
Perhaps the most anticipated opening of the group comes on Rue Saint Honore, where
will open in late spring. In the center of the city's most fashionable shopping district, the Mandarin Oriental Paris has recruited the most elite of design names to oversee construction: Patrick Jouin, who designed Jules Verne and Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee, is behind most of the restaurants and bars, while the designer of LVMH-owned Cheval Blanc, Sybille de Margerie, will design the 138 guest rooms and suites.
Starwood's W Hotels and Resorts plans to inaugurate its first French hotel in October 2011 with the W Paris -- Opera. It will join the brand's Paris Le Meridien, Westin, Luxury Collection and Sheraton brands. The 90-room, party-minded W Hotel will be next to the iconic department store Galeries Lafayette in a converted 1870s building, complete with a loft-style room aesthetic that maximizes 12-foot ceilings, fireplaces and views of the Opera Garnier.
Rounding out the luxury stampede on Paris is the arrival of Peninsula Hotels and Resorts, a division of Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited, which is developing Peninsula Hotel Paris with the assistance of Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Limited. As one of the world's top three hotel markets, Paris is a pivotal entrance point for Peninsula Hotels to the European hotel market. The hotel, scheduled to open in early 2012, will be housed in the rehabilitated Hotel Majestic, originally opened in 1908, which will feature 200 guest rooms just off the Arc de Triomphe at the far end of the Champs-Elysees.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.