There are two kinds of luxury hotels in Paris, those that beat their chests and dominate the boulevard, and those that prefer to take a step back from the main avenues, and let you find them (however years it may take). This is the case with the Victoria Palace Hotel, a family-run four-star hotel, located just off the busy Rue de Rennes shopping street.
Because I live in Paris, I don’t sleep in luxury hotels, but that doesn’t stop me from being nosey and walking into the lobby which is carefully attended by a greeter at the front door. How is possible that I’ve walked past this hotel dozens of times on my way to FNAC? Because, to notice the tidy pierre-de-taille façade and neatly trimmed shrubbery, you’d have to walk down the narrow street connecting Rue Blaise Desgoffe to Rue de Rennes. The Hotel Victoria is tucked in between FNAC and ZARA, but far enough from the noise and the hubbub to remain a bemused observer.
For an obvious intruder into four-star territory, I am warmly received, explaining that I live in the neighborhood. From the concierge, I learn that the Victoria has been in operation since 1913 – and more surprisingly in this era of luxury hotel chains, the same family has run the Victoria since 1936. Albert Schmitt was the proprietor from 1936 – 1988 and the current owner is Philippe Schmitt.
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Family-run luxury hotels in Paris are a rarity these days. I have a soft spot for such nostalgia. Hotels run by a family reflect the soul of the family. I truly believe this (which is one of the reasons I’m a big fan of the Windsor in Melbourne because the owner lives there – Natasha Oberoi– and she is VERY cool!). From my brief visit to the Victoria, I feel this must also be true – that guests are attended to in the same way that you might treat house guests. The concierge handed me a list of local artisans and boutiques that had been highlighted for their guests. “We try to work with artisans and specialty boutiques in the neighborhood,” he explained. (This is very helpful if you’re visiting – there are SO many shops on Rue de Rennes (that you could easily get sidetracked some of the less remarkable shops).
Although the Victoria is technically outside of the St. Germain-des-Pres district, you can easily get into the thick of the neighborhood by hopping on the #95 bus which will take you not only to St. Germain-des-Pres, but straight across the Seine to the Right Bank with a bus stop right at the Louvre. Take the #96 bus and you can go to the Marais, and even Montmartre.
I didn’t want to rely just on the pleasant chat with the concierge and the attractive reception area, I thought I’d ask two American guests who were waiting for a cab at the front entrance. They told me in the past they had stayed at the Lutetia (Blvd. Raspail) and in the St. Germain-des-Pres district for past Paris visits.
“It’s a little farther from St. Germain. Our room is nice with a marble bathroom. The breakfasts are good.”
(There are 62 rooms and suites. Currently, at the time of this post (July ’07), room rates start at 320 Euros).