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I’ve written in the past about the general issue with hotel star ratings. Hotels can ultimately identify themselves however they’d like — while there are organizations like AAA and Forbes that award stars, personally I don’t put too much weight into those ratings. They seem to care more about whether there’s a phone next to the toilet than whether the hotel offers personalized service.
If you ask me, a hotel can technically have five stars, but still not be a luxury hotel (in the sense that it’s actually a luxury factory with 300+ rooms and very little personalization). That’s why I thought it would be interesting to take a look at France “Palace” distinction for hotels, which is one of the few government-awarded hotel rating systems out there.
What is France’s “Palace” hotel rating system?
France is known for luxury and amazing food, and by connection, some amazing hotels. This is where France’s “Palace” distinction for hotels kicks in.
Since 2010, Atout France (France’s official tourism development agency) has been awarding certain hotels “Palace” distinction. This is a much higher honor than being a five-star hotel, as there are currently only 31 hotels in France with this distinction.
Note that a French hotel having “Palace” distinction doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s in a former palace (though several properties are). Rather it’s intended to describe just how grand these properties are.
This concept is intended to encourage hotels to be their best, all while increasing the profile of these properties on the international scene. I know many Francophiles go out of their way to stay at “Palace” properties, and for good reason.
You’ll find that hotels with “Palace” distinction heavily promote that honor, and typically put it right next to their name online.
How do hotels in France get “Palace” distinction?
How does a hotel in France earn “Palace” distinction? While the exact criteria aren’t published, here’s what we know:
- “Palace” hotels must contribute to enhancing the image of France throughout the world, and must have qualities that embody French standards of excellence; they must have good locations, architectural heritage, great design, and bespoke service
- Hotels earn “palace” Distinction in two phases — first there’s an initial investigation phase, based on objective criteria, including having certain facilities, and then there’s an evaluation phase, conducted by a panel, intended to judge things like the character of a property, the service levels, the quality of the restaurants, etc.
- When a hotel receives the “Palace” distinction, it’s valid for five years, and can then be renewed
New “Palace” distinctions were most recently awarded in late 2019, when six hotels were added, bringing the total to 31 hotels. It remains to be seen when the next batch of properties will be added.
Which hotels in France have “Palace” status?
As mentioned above, currently 31 hotels in France have “Palace” distinction. I think it’s important to emphasize that if a hotel has “Palace” status, it’s probably pretty awesome. However, it’s possible for a hotel to be great without having “Palace” status.
It’s possible that a hotel is new and just hasn’t been judged yet, or it’s possible a hotel just didn’t meet one of the criteria, but is excellent nonetheless. For example, Cheval Blanc Paris and Ritz-Paris are both excellent hotels, but don’t have “Palace” distinction. I also have to imagine that Airelles Château de Versailles and Airelles Val d’Isère will likely be considered during the next phase of hotels being added.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the hotels in France with Palace status. As you’d expect, Paris is the biggest market for “Palace” hotels, as there are currently 12 properties with this distinction:
- Four Seasons George V Paris
- Hôtel Lutetia Paris
- Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris (Dorchester Collection)
- La Réserve Paris
- Le Bristol Paris (Oetker Collection)
- Le Meurice Paris (Dorchester Collection)
- Mandarin Oriental Paris
- Park Hyatt Paris
- Peninsula Paris
- Raffles Le Royal Monceau Paris
- Rosewood Hôtel de Crillon Paris
- Shangri-La Paris
The next biggest market for “Palace” hotels is the South of France, and in particular the Côte d’Azur, as there are currently 12 properties with this distinction, though they’re more spread out than in Paris:
- Airelles Gordes, La Bastide
- Airelles Saint-Tropez, Château de La Messardière
- Château Saint-Martin & Spa Vence (Oetker Collection)
- Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez
- Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat
- Hôtel Byblos Saint-Tropez
- Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Rock Antibes (Oetker Collection)
- Hyatt Unbound Collection Hôtel du Palais Biarritz
- La Réserve Ramatuelle
- Les Prés d’Eugénie Maison Guérard Eugénie-les-Bains (Relais & Chateaux)
- Les Sources de Caudalie Bordeaux
- Villa La Coste Aix-en-Provence
The next biggest market for “Palace” hotels is in ski destinations, as there are currently six properties with this distinction, five of which are in Courchevel:
- Cheval Blanc Courchevel
- Hôtel Barrière Les Neiges Courchevel
- Hôtel Royal Evian Evian-les-Bains
- L’Apogée Courchevel (Oetker Collection)
- Les Airelles Courchevel
- Le K2 Palace Courchevel
The last hotel with “Palace” distinction is the only one that isn’t in Metropolitan France:
As you’ll notice, there are two points hotels with “Palace” distinction, and both belong to Hyatt — they include the Park Hyatt Paris and Hôtel du Palais Biarritz.
France is one of the only countries to have an official distinction for the country’s top hotels, in the form of “Palace” status. There are currently 31 of these properties, and they’re most heavily concentrated in Paris, Courchevel, and Saint-Tropez. Furthermore, French hotel brands like Airelles and Cheval Blanc are also heavily featured.
You can expect that “Palace” properties have a great sense of place, amazing dining, and good French service. While I know lots in the miles & points world have stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris, I’m sure I’m not alone in being intrigued by Hôtel du Palais Biarritz — I’ll have to add that to my list.
If you’ve stayed at a French “Palace” property, what was your experience like?