The Crillon may have a remarkable heritage, but it is not without competition in a city where eight hotels hold the coveted “palace” status, a better-than-five-star classification introduced by the French government in 2010. And the Crillon’s revamp has lagged behind its rivals - a year ago the Ritz on nearby Place Vendôme reopened after a €400m refurbishment; the Plaza Athénée and Le Bristol have both been redesigned, and a new wave of Asian-owned rivals has arrived in the form of the Peninsula Paris, the Shangri-La Hotel and the Mandarin Oriental.
But the delay in the Crillon’s relaunch may end up having a silver lining. The mood in Paris - the second-most popular tourist destination in Europe - is enjoying a boost from the election in May of Emmanuel Macron, who has promised political renewal and an overhaul of France’s stringent labour laws and high taxes. Tourism in Paris, hit hard last year following the terrorist attacks, seems to be picking up. During 2016, occupancy rates decreased to a historical low of 69.4 per cent, down almost 10 per cent on the previous year, according to PwC. Now the Chinese tourists who frequent the likes of Hermès on nearby Rue Saint-Honoré are returning, and this year PwC predicts occupancy rates of 72.1 per cent, rising to 74.2 per cent in 2018.
The Crillon’s relaunch coincided with Paris’s Haute Couture Fashion Week, a fitting coincidence, given its long association with the city’s top designers. For two decades the hotel hosted the Bal des Débutantes, at which young swans would don magnificent couture gowns - often for the first time - and dance with their fathers. Bruce Willis and his daughter Scout, Alain Delon and his daughter Anouchka, Robert F Kennedy and his daughter Kyra were among those who waltzed in the glamorous Marie Antoinette suite overlooking the Place de la Concorde.
With the hotel’s closure, “Le Bal” moved up the Champs-Elysées to the Peninsula Paris, but on Wednesday night, the Marie Antoinette suite was in full swing once again. This time, the revellers were there for a fashion week soirée courtesy of French fashion retailer The Kooples. It is more high street than haute couture but perhaps it encapsulates the contemporary twist on grand French tradition that the new iteration of the Crillon is trying so hard to create.
Harriet Agnew was a guest of the Hôtel de Crillon (rosewoodhotels.com). Double rooms are currently available at the special opening offer rate of €1,250 per night including breakfast; the standard rate is from €1,420