Shangri-La Hotel Paris: refined elegance steeped in history

Formerly the home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grand-nephew, Roland, (whose wealthy wife died at childbirth), Shrangi-La Hotel Paris is as elegant and gracious a hotel property as you’re likely to find in the City of Light.

From its tall, impressive black cast iron gateway on Avenue d’Ilena, light butter-colored façade, domed entryway and giant twin Ming dynasty inspired porcelain vases either side of the front door to the intricately-ornate ceiling of the grand ballroom and perfectly-proportioned staircase leading to it, the 101-room (inc. 36 suites) Shangri-La oozes class.


Much of the original architecture was – and remains – a blend of styles from the 17th and 19th centuries, simply known then as ‘eclectic,’ created by the same architects and sculptors whose craftsmanship is also obvious in the Louvre and the Tuileries

Palaces. Its façade is inspired by the Louis XIV style with masonry stone from L’Oise and features the family’s coat of arms – lion heads and antlers. Due to its age – the building dates from 1896 – Shangri-La was listed in 2009 with the prestigious title ‘monument historique,’ after four years of renovation of the 20,000 sqm building. Part of this included uncovering magnificent hand-carved mahogany panels in the Sale a Manger that had been personally commissioned by Roland Bonaparte.


To dispel any notions that its historic, century-old lifestyle has permitted any elements of dowdiness to encroach upon it, the hotel comes to dynamic life every Wednesday evening when two salons become the hotbed for young, attractive Parisian-based cosmopolitan trendies deeply engaged in dancing delights and the age-old game of ‘find a mate.’

Historical significance begins upon entering the foyer, a wide marble corridor under a large hanging chandelier. Five different types of the stone were used to create the startling effect – from the Pyrenees, the Alps and Tuscany. The vaulted ceiling above features zodiac symbols.


Two rooms beckon either side. The smaller of the two, to the left, is a cozy sitting room with an open fireplace, several soft sofas, diverse paintings decorating its walls, including 18th century Parisian street scenes, garden and river views and still-lifes of flowers, as well as lacquered Chinese vases. The open doorway to the right leads back in time, to a larger set of rooms (where the Wednesday evening soirees take place), where once billiards was played. Here again, reflecting sheer elegance, are delightful furnishings including an intricately-carved walnut fireplace, ornate wood ceiling and various paintings, one of note depicting two young Chinese ladies staring out dreamily from the edge of a lily pond. Lamps are decorated with alabaster cherubs. Beyond lie two more rooms, one whose sides are covered in gold-colored wallpaper and the other with the bronze statue of a winged angel above a central fireplace, a large lacquered Chinese cupboard and a modern, and a quite dramatic, impressionist oil painting entitled “Dialectic of Nature.”  Beyond these is a short, carpeted stairway that led to our ground-floor suite.


The first thing that should be said about some of the suites is they come with a private garden terrace that grants a wonderful view towards the Eiffel Tower, which stands majestically as if it had sprouted just beyond the trees. Outside table and chairs create a perfect platform for midnight champagne and leisurely afternoon conversation and reading. The high-ceilinged suite itself reflects a classic design with stucco décor, gold-rimmed wall paneling and chandeliers. Highlighting Roland Bonaparte’s, predilection for collecting flora from different parts of the world, the paintings in the suite are mostly of plants. The suite is spacious, including a marble step-in shower and separate bath, double sinks; a large sitting room with beige sofa and armchair and accompanying gold embroidered cushions; and separate room space for clothes and accessories. Each room has a flat-screen television, including one embedded in the glass of the bathroom mirror. The suite is decorated in shades of white, gold and ecru, in keeping with both the European Empire and Asian aesthetics, with silk-threaded wallpaper, textured wall-panels and custom-made furnishings, designed under the guiding force of Pierre-Yves Rochon. Toiletry products are BVLGARI and White Tea.


Ready for relaxation after settling in? Below ground, the Shangri-La group has taken a portion of what was once Bonaparte’s horse-stables and transformed it into a 157-square foot swimming pool and fitness area, filled with airy light pouring through large glass windows looking out on to the Iron Lady. Two spacious rooms offer a selection of facial and body treatments by Carita.

The hotel boasts 850 sqm of events space suitable for weddings, conferences and banquets, with three connecting rooms – the Grand Salon, the Salle a Manger and the Salon de Famille – leading to a first-floor gallery. The former is decorated in Louis XIV style and features an impressive white marble fireplace, decorated with bronze and a trumeaux mirror. Two golden wood and marble tables and two crystal chandeliers enhance the whole. The Salle a Manger features mahogany carvings of battle arms and military trophies within the upper arches above the salon doors and windows opening on to an extensive terrace. Two massive eagle statues with spread wings hold pride of place in the room. The Salon de Famille, in delicate blue tones, is decorated according to Empire style, its paneled walls painted with winged women around a medallion. The ceiling features an orb of sphinxes and plants.


Reflecting its spacious diversity, the hotel offers a range of restaurants to dine in, including La Bauhinia (French and South-east Asian cuisine); L’Abeille (2-Michelin star gourmet French); Shang Palace (traditional Chinese, Cantonese-inspired, one-star Michelin). The hotel also features a cozy bar simply called La Bar, designed after a Napoleonic post-Egyptian theme invoking a romantic sense of voyage, adventure and discovery. The black granite bronze and mahogany bar is complemented by tones of jade and a nearby Tisserand bronze light fixture. Head barman Christophe Leger’s cocktails, featuring exotic flavors such as horseradish, wasabi, Szechuan peppers and pomegranate, give some idea of the diverse choice of drinks. La Bar’s signature drink is the ‘Pink Lady’ in four variations named after Lady Mendl (aka Elsie de Wolfe), a New York interior designer who formerly lived in the building’s private apartments in the 1930s and famously entertained Paris society there.

Nestled at a chic address in the refined residential 16th arrondissement, the Shangri-La lies but a stone’s throw from Place Trocadero high on Chaillot Hill and across the Seine from the Tower. The area has one of the highest concentrations of museums in Europe. Mere steps away is the renowned Guimet Museum with Paris’s most extensive permanent collection of Asian art and Oriental exhibits. Nearby also is the Palais Galliera, Palais de Tokyo, the Museum of Man, the Museum of Modern Art and the Marmottan Monet Museum, all within walking distance. And then, there’s the prestigious Avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Elysees.

For sheer elegance and chic, with fine dining at Michelin-star restaurants and an easy ramble to many of the foremost museums in Paris, the Shangri-La Hotel is the place to be.


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