What Are France’s Famous “Palace” Hotels?

What Are France’s Famous “Palace” Hotels?

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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.

Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat

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.

Shangri-La Paris

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 Paris George V

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 Saint-Tropez, Château de La Messardière

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:

Les Airelles 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.

Park Hyatt Paris

Bottom line

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?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Leonard Guest

    My wife and I have stayed at many of these hotels, and while most are palatial in appearance, we have found that what makes most "palace" hotels truly regal is their service and hospitality. For us, Le Bristol in Paris comes out on top.

  2. GH Guest

    How the Park Hyatt in Paris remains on this list, I do not know. There is nothing special about it except perhaps the location.
    Shangri-La is also somewhat questionable,

  3. Guest Guest

    I believe the Raffles Le Royal Monceau is also a points hotel with Accor.

  4. Andrew Guest

    We rented a house in Provence in the summer and visited Gordes, which was about 8km away. We had a great visit, and then wanted to get back home. We tried Uber, we tried phoning a bunch of taxis but there were none available. So, feeling a bit dispirited we staggered into Airelles La Bastide and thought we'd have a drink on the terrace while we considered our options. After several astonishingly expensive (but nonetheless...

    We rented a house in Provence in the summer and visited Gordes, which was about 8km away. We had a great visit, and then wanted to get back home. We tried Uber, we tried phoning a bunch of taxis but there were none available. So, feeling a bit dispirited we staggered into Airelles La Bastide and thought we'd have a drink on the terrace while we considered our options. After several astonishingly expensive (but nonetheless delicious and well worth it) cocktails on one of the world's most beautiful terraces we asked whether they could arrange a taxi for us.

    They couldn't, but they could give us a lift back home in the rather luxurious hotel car.

    We didn't stay, but it's a wonderful place.

  5. JL Guest

    I wasn’t very impressed with the food at the park hyatt paris vendome.
    Quite disappointing actually.

  6. Lee Guest

    Le Crillon is an actual ducal palace. Built in the 1700s, it is the former residence of Le Duc du Crillon. The moment you walk in, one word comes to mind: Grandeur.

  7. Clem Diamond

    Interesting that the Aman in Courchevel didn't get it! But yeah a lot of these palace rated hotels are pretty epic.

  8. Kevin Guest

    Actually, in France all hotels get their stars (1 to 5) from Atout France based on clear criterias, which are debatable indeed.

    Although you are right that for "Palaces" the process is specific and as described in your article

  9. FR Guest

    Le Bristol is truly amazing and worthy of the designation.

  10. BLisboa Guest

    Airelles Gordes is AMAZING, though the village is almost too busy in summer. Wonderful region with more adorable villages all around as well. I had my birthday lunch there and the service and food was exceptional.

    FYI Les Sources Caudalie near Bordeaux is SLH and bookable w/cash on Hyatt website, though no points/award bookings allowed. I assume you would still earn Hyatt points though?

  11. pstm91 Diamond

    Ritz does not have it because it closed in 2012 for major renovations. Since it ended up being closed for so long due to delays and a fire during this period, it was considered a "new" hotel in 2019 during the last voting. At least that is what I read... But I would be very surprised if it didn't get the status back during the next vote.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      Thank you!

  12. TravelinWilly Diamond

    Surprised the Ritz Paris isn’t on the list, though admittedly I don’t know much about it other than its fame.

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pstm91 Diamond

Ritz does not have it because it closed in 2012 for major renovations. Since it ended up being closed for so long due to delays and a fire during this period, it was considered a "new" hotel in 2019 during the last voting. At least that is what I read... But I would be very surprised if it didn't get the status back during the next vote.

3
Lee Guest

Le Crillon is an actual ducal palace. Built in the 1700s, it is the former residence of Le Duc du Crillon. The moment you walk in, one word comes to mind: Grandeur.

2
Andrew Guest

We rented a house in Provence in the summer and visited Gordes, which was about 8km away. We had a great visit, and then wanted to get back home. We tried Uber, we tried phoning a bunch of taxis but there were none available. So, feeling a bit dispirited we staggered into Airelles La Bastide and thought we'd have a drink on the terrace while we considered our options. After several astonishingly expensive (but nonetheless delicious and well worth it) cocktails on one of the world's most beautiful terraces we asked whether they could arrange a taxi for us. They couldn't, but they could give us a lift back home in the rather luxurious hotel car. We didn't stay, but it's a wonderful place.

1
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