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A Night in Paris

The city’s finest hotels place guests in conversation with creative masters who inspired or designed characterful, one-of-a-kind suites.

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WHEN I FIRST lived in Paris in my early 20s, I frequently had the feeling I was tripping over the tracks of the great artists who had called the city home. Sometimes it was intentional — I spent endless hours in museums — but just as often, it was by chance. I was young and my work was intermittent, so I spent long, rainy afternoons engaged in the most Parisian of activities: sitting in cafes, reading.

While doing so, I would come across references in the pages of my books to Gertrude Stein, one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heroines, or James Joyce sitting in the same cafe. Then I would walk down the street, turn a corner, and see a plaque announcing that Ernest Hemingway had lived in the building I was standing beneath; later on the metro, deep in “A Moveable Feast,” I would realize it was the same home he referenced in the memoir.

The past is always close in Paris. The city is alive with the ghosts of those who have made their mark on it and allowed it to make its mark on them. This conversation is one of my favorite things about what is unquestionably one of my favorite places in the world. It is certainly still found in smoky cafes. But for those of us who no longer have the luxury of whiling away our days in such ways (ah, youth), a number of the city’s greatest hotels have found a way to ensure the dialogue endures.

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From the Suite Marcel Proust at the Ritz Paris to the James Joyce Suite at Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain to Suite 1925 at Le Bristol Paris, which honors Josephine Baker, each of the destinations in this collection draws inspiration from a creative master who made a home for themselves in Paris, be it literal or figurative. Some are designed by the namesakes themselves; others simply pay homage to them. In both cases, they allow guests to veritably stand in their shoes.

Suite Marcel Proust, Ritz Paris

The Ritz has no shortage of rooms with connections to geniuses who have called the hotel home for a time or — in certain cases — a lifetime. Dedicated suites honor: Maria Callas, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel (who lived in the hotel for 34 years), and Marcel Proust (among others). The wood-paneled Proust suite feels like a cozy, Belle Epoque bachelor pad, complete with leather-bound editions and paintings that depict the famous writer. After days spent in bed in his nearby apartment, writing “In Search of Lost Time,” Proust would emerge in the evenings to dine in a private room at the hotel: a place, he said, where “no one pushes you around.” On his deathbed, the novelist was still yearning for the Ritz, ordering cold beer to be sent over from the bar, which did not arrive quite in time.

Les Grands Appartements, Hôtel de Crillon

Housed in a building commissioned by King Louis XV, the Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel has 10 suites that pay homage to creatives — from rooms inspired by ateliers for poets, writers, and artists to a grand suite that honors composer Leonard Bernstein, a frequent guest of the property. The most luxe of these accommodations are the Les Grands Appartements, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, on the fourth floor. Inspired by Versailles, both of these 3,600-square-foot suites have a single bedroom (but don’t worry, they can be combined) and jaw-dropping views. But one has the showstopper — a marble bathtub that, in true Marie Antoinette style, had to be hoisted through the window and positioned using a block of ice. When it melted, the tub was perfectly aligned to soak while gazing out over the Place de la Concorde.


Suite 1925, Le Bristol Paris

Though Le Bristol has no shortage of beautifully appointed suites, Suite 1925 is the only one dedicated to a person: the legendary Jazz Age performer Josephine Baker, a quintessential example of an American who found her true home in Paris, where her artistry and talent were properly recognized and celebrated. And she returned the favor to her adopted home: Her aid to the Resistance during World War II earned her the Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur. A regular guest at Le Bristol, she celebrated the 50th anniversary of her first performance in Paris with an opulent gala at the hotel. The suite that pays homage to her features photos of the event and a curated selection of books that can be enjoyed while lying by the property’s iconic, wood-paneled rooftop pool.


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Ray Charles Suite, Le Royal Monceau - Raffles Paris

Le Royal Monceau has a storied history that long predates its sweeping 2008 renovation by Philipe Starck. In its previous incarnation, it was a beloved home-away-from-home for musician Ray Charles, who stayed at the hotel whenever he was in Paris. The suite that bears his name honors this history, featuring intimate photographs of him, taken at the hotel by his longtime partner, photographer Arlette Kotchounian, juxtaposed with Starck’s signature opulent, yet off-kilter design. And it makes a grand piano its centerpiece — quite literally: The entry room is devoted exclusively to the instrument and photographs of its master.

Saint German Penthouse, Hotel Lutetia

The only Palace hotel on the Left Bank, Hotel Lutetia has long been a haunt of artistic visionaries, from Henri Matisse to Miles Davis. Several of its signature suites nod to this history, including one inspired by Josephine Baker and another designed by Isabelle Huppert. But the most playful among them is the Francis Ford Coppola–designed suite: the Saint German Penthouse. Whether you’re a superfan of the director or a low-key cinephile, you’ll delight in perusing Coppola’s personal items — from signed film posters to hand-annotated pages from “The Godfather.” Plus there’s a private roof terrace with 360-degree views.

James Joyce Suite, Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain

Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain is a luxury boutique hotel tucked into a quiet street in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Its unassuming exterior belies its beautiful interior, which includes the excellent brasserie Les Parisiennes. It also underrepresents the building’s truly remarkable artistic pedigree: This is where James Joyce finished writing “Ulysses.” A top-floor suite honors the literary master, with an area under the eaves designed to evoke a writing space and shelves stocked with books from Éditions Gallimard, which published James Joyce’s novels while he was alive. Best of all is the view of the city’s rooftops, unchanged from Joyce’s time and as illustrious as his works.

Lead image: Suite Marcel Proust, Ritz Paris

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Our Contributors

Skye Parrott

Skye Parrott is the editor-in-chief of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor-in-chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.

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