The Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris is one of the most iconic hotels in the City of Light. The palace on the tree-lined Avenue Montaigne was once called home by Marlene Dietrich and it is still a coveted spot, frequented by celebrities and influencers. The likes of Negin Mirsalehi and Caro Daur are often spotted there. The hotel recently celebrated its 110th anniversary. As we’re in the midst of fashion week, we thought we would dive back into the history of one of the symbols of Parisian opulence.

An Embodiment of Past and Present

Paris has always been a city that effortlessly blends the past with the present, creating an ambience of timeless elegance. This year, as the Hôtel Plaza Athénée marks its 110th anniversary, it stands as a shining embodiment of that ethos.

Since its grand opening in 1913, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée has been a stalwart presence on Avenue Montaigne. It has witnessed over a century of global and local events. From the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties, to the trials of two World Wars, and the cultural shifts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Throughout its remarkable journey, the hotel has evolved, adapted, and yet remained undeniably true to its roots.

Left: a black and white photo of old facade of Plaza Athénée, Right: facade of Plaza Athénée now
Top: Mark Read
Left: Hôtel Plaza Athénée; Right: Masahiko Takeda

The Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris isn’t just elegant accommodations; it’s a living archive of stories and memories. Imagine the countless romantic rendezvous at the cocktail bar, afternoon tea, diplomatic meetings, and creative musings that must have taken place within its walls. All with the iconic backdrop of red awnings, marble bathrooms and story book views of the Eiffel Tower.

Left: view of the Eiffel Tower from the balcony of Hotel Plaza Athénée, Right: the facades of Hotel Plaza Athénée with the restaurant in the courtyard
Left: Francis Amiand; Right: Mark Read

A Haven of Luxury on the Prestigious Avenue Montaigne

Over the past 110 years, its guest list has read like a who’s who of global icons. From Hollywood stars to renowned fashion designers and political figures. The hotel has discreetly played host, ensuring their stays were filled with comfort, luxury, and, most importantly, privacy.

The hotel was the brainchild of the French architect Charles Lefebvre in 1913. The Hôtel Plaza Athénée, located on the prestigious Avenue Montaigne, was envisioned to be a haven of luxury and exclusivity. World War I posed challenges. Yet the hotel sailed through, only to be seized during World War II by the German army. In the post-war era, the hotel regained its stature swiftly. It became a preferred location for American soldiers and hosted jubilant celebrations of liberation and peace.

Left: an announcement for the opening of Plaza Athénée in 1913, Right: the concierge service at Plaza Athénée
Hôtel Plaza Athénée

The Golden Era of Icons: Grace Kelly, Rudolf Valentino, Josephine Baker, Jackie Kennedy and More

The post-war period ushered in what can be considered the hotel’s ‘golden age’. The Hôtel Plaza Athénée became the darling of Hollywood legends and international royalty. Josephine Baker, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Jackie Kennedy, Rudolph Valentino, and Grace Kelly, were just a few of the illustrious figures to frequent the hotel. The iconic actress Marlene Dietrich once remarked that it was her Parisian home. She met her lover Jean Gabin, a French actor, at the Relais du Plaza. She later bought an apartment opposite the hotel. 

Left: Jospehine Baker, Right: a photo of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Hurley
Left: Xavier; Right: Kate Gabrielle

Thanks to their love story, the hotel’s windows are always filled with fresh flowers. The legend says that Gabin asked the concierge to decorate the hotel’s balconies with hundreds of red roses so they could be visible from Dietrich’s window. Since then, the balconies have been draped in red geraniums, and red has become the palace’s emblematic color.

Left: Haute Couture Suite at Plaza Athénée, Right: the facade of Plaza Athénée
Left: Mark Read; Right: Katie Mitchell

A Fashion Hub on the Most Sophisticated Avenue of Haute Couture

But it wasn’t just Hollywood that was taken by the hotel’s charm. The fashion world made the Hôtel Plaza Athénée its hub. Fashion legends like Christian Dior were so inspired by its charm. So much so, they often used it as a backdrop for photo shoots. The bond between the House of Dior and the hotel is so deep that since 2008, guests can also enjoy the Dior Institut Spa, a nod to the historic relationship. The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand recently renovated the space and it re-opened in September 2023.

Modern Evolution: From Sex And the City to Emily in Paris

In 2014, the hotel underwent a significant refurbishment under the supervision of internationally acclaimed interior designer, Marie-José Pommereau. The design cleverly integrated modern luxury with the classic aesthetics the hotel is known for. Pommereau’s approach was to respect the establishment’s heritage while infusing it with a fresh touch.

It is still a favorite hotel for Hollywood. The Palace has been used as the backdrop for Sex and the City in 2004 and The Devil Wears Prada in 2006. More recently it was featured in the the Netflix phenomenon, Emily in Paris, in 2021.

Left: the staircase at Jean Imbert restaurant at Plaza Athénée, Right: the staircase at Plaza Athénée

Contemporary French Cuisine – From Alain Ducasse to Jean Imbert

Today, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée continues its legacy as one of the city’s best hotels and a beacon of Parisian luxury. With 154 rooms and 54 suites and breathtaking Eiffel Tower views, it’s more than just a place for a good night’s sleep. Food has been central to the establishment’s reputation. Jaws dropped when Alain Ducasse, who led the dining room to earn three Michelin stars, and the luxury palace parted ways. Ducasse’s shoes were ably filled by the great Jean Imbert who leads Au Plaza Athénée’s gourmet dining rooms by offering the finest gastronomic French dishes.

The art deco charm of their traditional brasserie, Le Relais Plaza, is the perfect celebration of traditional French cuisine in an exquisite setting. And don’t forget one of the most iconic areas of the building la cour jardin for seasonal ingredients and a summery menu.

Left: food served at Restaurant Jean Imbert at Plaza Athénée, Right: gold and blue interiors of Le Relais Plaza restaurant

A Parisian Legacy 

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée is its unique blend of the past and present. For over a century, this establishment has not only witnessed history but has been a part of it. From war-torn periods to the glamorous golden age of Hollywood, the hotel stands as a testament to Paris’s resilient spirit and timeless elegance.

As visitors stroll down Avenue Montaigne, the sight of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, with its iconic red awnings, is a gentle reminder of Paris’s enduring charm.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

25 avenue Montaigne

8th Arrondissement, Paris

The haute couture suite at Plaza Athénée combining modern luxury with classic aesthetics
Mark Read

Transport: Alma Marceau Metro Station (4 minutes)

Nearby: Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Grand Palais, Eiffel Tower, Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe

Amenities Include

  • Dior Institute Spa
  • 5 restaurants including: Le Relais Plaza, La Cour Jardin, Le Bar, La Galerie
  • fitness studio
  • American breakfast
  • shoe shine service
  • seasonal ice-skating rink


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Alessia Armenise

Alessia is a writer and creative based in Paris. After a few years working in London, she moved back to Paris and now writes freelance for media and brands, specialising in eco-luxury, slow travel and sustainability. Her work has been featured in Stylist, Milk Magazine and Grazia France among others. She also runs a sustainability and slow living focused website called Pretty Slow and hosts a podcast called Pretty Good Business.

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