Business trip: Paris
The view from a room at the new Shangri-La Hotel Paris. (Chris McGinnis)
Business trip to Paris? Pourquoi pas? (Why not?) There are few other assignments that light up the eyes of a business traveller like a trip to the French capital.
Despite shrinking economic growth in the Eurozone, a record 88 million travellers passed through the city’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in 2011. To this day, the City of Light remains the world’s most visited city — and nearly half of those visitors (45%) are there on business.
Paris is in a constant state of renewal, and recent additions and upgrades to the city’s airports and hotels reflect its intent to remain a premier business and leisure travel destination. For example, in June 2012 Air France opened the bright, airy, 580-million-euro S4 boarding satellite area at Charles de Gaulle Airport, which includes the carrier’s largest business class lounge, a Clarins spa and enough space to handle six giant Airbus A380 aircraft.
The city centre is laid out on an east to west axis, bisected by the River Seine. Key business centres are located in La Defense, a district of skyscrapers and corporate headquarters in the city’s northwest, and on the left (south) bank of the Seine, near the Eiffel Tower, are most governmental and quasi-governmental offices. The central core of the city on the right (north) bank of the Seine is home to fashion houses, banks, department stores, most large hotels and embassies.
Paris has long been home to some of the biggest names in the world when it comes to hotel elegance: Le Bristol has an exquisite courtyard garden, Hotel de Crillon overlooks the prestigious Place de la Concorde, Georges V has a rich history of hosting celebrities, Le Meurice is also known as the “hotel of kings”, the Plaza Athenee is the centre of the city’s haute couture scene, and Le Royal Monceau has new interiors by Philippe Starck. They all drip with legendary five-star opulence and luxury, and have kept up with the times with frequent revamps, facelifts and modernisations. Even the Ritz-Paris, perhaps the city’s best-known luxury hotel, closed earlier this year for an unprecedented, two-year renovation.
Nipping at the heels of Paris’ established five-star players are two newcomers from Asia. The elegant 81-room Shangri-La Hotel opened in 2010 among the embassies and mansions in the Trocadero district, after a four-year revamp of a building that was once the residence of Roland Bonaparte, grandnephew of Napoleon. Nearly half of the rooms face south with dramatic views across the Seine to the nearby Eiffel Tour. Room decor, service and restaurants are a blend of Europe and Asia -- for example, guests can enjoy foie gras and a glass of wine at its chic, two-Michelin starred L’Abeille French restaurant, or order congee (a thin rice porridge that is served sweet or savoury) for breakfast from the hotel’s Shang Palace, which serves authentic Chinese cuisine. It is one of the few five-star hotels in Paris that offers free wi-fi.
Near the Place Vendome, a brand new, 138-room Mandarin Oriental opened in June offering some of the city’s largest contemporary rooms and suites, and a spa with a 15m indoor pool. For the day crowd, hotel chef Thierry Marx offers a quick 55-minute lunch for 55 euros at Camelia — where fashionistas gather to dine al fresco on warm days.
The brand new W hotel Paris-Opera is on the leading edge of edgy in Paris. Housed in a beautifully restored Haussmann-era building in the centre of town, this 91-room hotel offers what W guests around the world have come to expect from the hip Starwood brand — a trendy scene in the lobby punctuated by a deep bass beat from a DJ, quirky in-room touches like pillows emblazoned with caricatures of famous French men and women, hangover remedies in the mini-bar, and a buzzy new Catalonian tapas restaurant, Arola. For more business-minded travellers, wi-fi in the lobby is free, the hotel has two modern meeting rooms, and there is a bright gym located on the top floor. The W is also centrally located next to the exquisite Beaux-Arts-style Opera Palais Garnier (ask for a room with a view of it) and easy access to several Metro lines.