New Year’s Eve in Paris. It’s just one of those settings that make you swoon, isn’t it?
Indeed, it’s hard to put into words the feeling of stepping out of George V Métro station and right into the heart of the Champs-Elysées, its distinctive elm trees lit up in the glimmering red lights of the festive season.
I hadn’t been to Paris in about four years, but a visit to the City of Light is always a special time, not least with the Hôtel de Berri, a new boutique property within Marriott’s Luxury Collection that only opened in mid-2018, serving as our home for the next four nights.
This entire trip was designed around trying out some of Marriott’s top-tier luxury hotels, especially the Category 8 hotels that would cost 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night after March 2019, but at the time of booking had only cost 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Two such properties could be found in Paris: the Prince de Galles, traditionally known as one of the city’s leading luxury hotels, and the Hôtel de Berri, a new property in the 8th arrondissement with a more boutique, art-deco twist.
It was something of a toss-up between the two, but eventually I chose the Berri for its alluring visuals and its beautifully appointed rooms and suites, booking four nights at the hotel for a total of 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
The hotel is situated on the eponymous Rue de Berri, a side-street that branches off from the Champs-Elysées a few blocks southeast of George V station.
I was able to take some daytime photos of the exterior the day after our arrival – it’s not the most memorable hotel exterior in the world, and you’d almost be forgiven for thinking it was simply an ordinary office building as you walked by.
That only serves, of course, to keep the hotel’s stunning interior a surprise until the very last moment. As soon as you approach the entrance, the double doors swing open automatically, welcoming you to the Hôtel de Berri.
The lobby is as simple in its physical makeup – it’s only one large rectangular room on the ground floor – as it is complex in its choice of design. Everywhere you look, some kind of sculpture, print, or accent catches the eye.
The check-in desk is located immediately to your right as you enter, while the concierge desk is positioned in front of you, and the lobby lounge (complete with a Christmas tree during the festive period) to your left.
You sense immediately that this place is very much a boutique hotel – there are no soaring ceilings or glimmering chandeliers; instead, marble prints, ornate sculptures, and innovative design are the order of the day.
The front desk associate was quick to process our check-in, noting that we were one of only two parties who hadn’t arrived yet for the evening. He welcomed us to the hotel, confirmed that we’d be staying for four nights, and offered me (as a Platinum Premier Elite member with Marriott at the time, now known as Titanium Elite) a voucher for complimentary drinks at the hotel bar.
Besides the striking design, another reason I had chosen the Hôtel de Berri was the fact that almost half of the hotel’s guest rooms are designated as suites (there are 76 rooms in total, including 37 suites). I therefore knew that my odds of a nice suite upgrade were very favourable as a Platinum Premier Elite member.
Having said that, since New Year’s Eve in Paris was such a special occasion, I did want to try my luck at securing a suite upgrade using my Suite Night Awards, so I had put in a request beforehand to upgrade to one of the hotel’s nicer suites. To my delight, the request had cleared successfully four days before my stay, and the associate confirmed that we had indeed been upgraded to the Berri Suite for our four-night stay.
As the first of many gestures of excellent service that we encountered at the hotel, the front desk associate offered to walk us to our room and show us around. Along the way, we also dropped by the restaurant, where the associate explained that we could enjoy complimentary breakfast every morning as a Platinum Premier member, or alternatively we could have the breakfast delivered to our room as well.
The Berri Suite was the official name of Suite 9 at the end of the ground-floor hallway. The hotel building’s structure is a little mysterious at first, with the ground-floor guest rooms being located a half-level down from the lobby and entrance on the Rue de Berri.
Walking to your hotel suite at the very end of the hallway is always a good indicator that you’re in for some very swanky surroundings, and the Berri Suite did not disappoint.
Entering the suite, you walk down a long hallway before arriving at the foyer. A series of cabinets and a chest-of-drawers are located here, before the room opens up further into the sitting area and bedroom. Right away, the artwork in the room catches your attention and never lets go of it as you proceed further inside.
In front of the foyer is the sitting area, where a large three-seater couch taking up most of the space, flanked by two armchairs.
Opposite the couch is a slice of the wall that separates the sitting area from the bedroom. Embedded in this wall is a faux fireplace as well as what seems like merely a mirrored surface…
…until you discover the fact that it’s in fact a TV!
That’s an example of something I loved about the Hôtel de Berri: while the hotel’s design identity draws upon artistic styles from bygone eras, it’s also taken many steps to incorporate cutting-edge technology into the overall guest experience.
Continuing with the tour of the room, we move past the mirror-cum-television and into the bedroom, where a gorgeous king canopy bed dominates the space.
The quality of sleep over our four-night stay was as heavenly as you’d expect from a luxury hotel like this one, and the canopy overhead was a nice touch that really brought together the artfully elegant decor of the room itself.
There’s a television on this side of the very same wall as well, this one a more traditional flatscreen standing atop the mantlepiece.
Given the size of the room, there are several more furniture pieces to fill up the space. Opposite the king bed is set of chairs and a table, which was a nice spot for Jessica and I to enjoy a nightcap before resting for the night.
Meanwhile, further into the suite, there’s a smaller, more intimate sitting area, fitted with a Chinese-style couch, leopard-print chairs, and several pieces of framed artwork.
Opposite that was the desk, which was large and comfortable, and I had a great time working from it.
At the end of the bedroom is the door to the bathroom, which takes on a much more uniform design motif than the rest of the room: white marble.
The bathroom features a separate shower and bathtub…
…and the standalone bathtub – complete with the ornate designs on the handles – was definitely the highlight.
The toilet comes with a bidet, which doesn’t strike me as something you find too often in European hotels.
My only complaint about the bathroom? While the white marble tiles looked really nice, they did serve to make it awfully cold to walk around without slippers on. Heated flooring would’ve definitely been preferred.
Needless to say, Jessica and I were blown away by this magnificent suite. And as our lovely front desk associated explained to us upon arriving in the suite (once our “wow”s and “OMG”s had subsided a bit), there were even more little surprises within the room for us to discover.
First off, all the electronics, lighting, curtains, and ambient sound in the room is controlled via a dedicated tablet. There are two tablets, each resting on a charging station on one of the bedside tables.
These tablet controls would allow you to switch the televisions on or off, as well as fine-tune the brightness of the lights, the position of the curtains, and yes – the exact genre of music you wanted to hear from the speakers in the room. Wow!
In addition to the tablet controls, there are also a few master switches located by your bedside if you wanted to control the lights in the more traditional way. Power ports and USB chargers were available here as well – another indicator of the thought put into the use of technology in the room. While there were only European-type power outlets by the bedside, there was a universal power port over by the desk.
One of the cabinets in the foyer houses the minibar, which was impressively stocked. Not only was there a Nespresso coffee machine, but also an electric kettle that’s designed to steep tea as well.
The other cabinets simply served as storage space. There was a note in one of the cabinets that informed us of the hotel’s complimentary shoe-shining service, although we didn’t end up taking advantage of it.
In terms of the artwork in the room, what really struck me was the sheer variety of styles that the designers drew upon in selecting the pieces. You have black-and-white photographs of Paris in the old days, you have modern art, you have Ming vases, you have leopard print, you have African wood sculptures, all showcased in a unified art-deco setting.
It was an impressive collection, and I almost felt scared to touch the sculptures that were standing freely in the room, in fears of damaging something that looked like it could be worth a lot of money (although I’m sure the pieces would’ve been more style than substance, with this exact scenario in mind).
It’s my understanding that every room in the Hôtel de Berri features its own unique design principles, so our Berri Suite would’ve only been one of many examples of the designers’ flamboyance.
Let’s talk about the breakfast at the hotel – there’s quite a lot to say.
Don’t expect a breakfast buffet of any kind; instead, the breakfast amenity for Platinum Elite members and above consists of the American Breakfast, which usually costs €45. That would be a downright extortionate amount to pay considering what you get, which is simply a “baker’s basket” of pastries, yogurt, juice, and eggs any style, as well as some trimmings on the side, like honey, butter, and jam.
You can add side dishes to your order as well, like ham, mushrooms, cheese, or salmon, for €4 apiece; however, as part of the elite breakfast amenity, Jessica and I were allowed to choose one side dish each, free of charge.
If you’re paying for breakfast, your other options include the €35 Continental Breakfast, the €39 Gluten-Free Breakfast or Healthy Breakfast, the €45 Asian Breakfast, and the €115 Caviar Breakfast. À la carte orders are also possible. The full breakfast menus are as below.
Put simply, the prices are ridiculous for the average person, although they make sense in the context of a luxury hotel in Paris. After all, if you’re shelling out €500+ a night for a room here, you probably wouldn’t bat an eye at paying €35 for nothing more than croissants and pains de chocolat with juice.
But as someone who was staying here on points (admittedly, likely not the hotel’s target clientele), I was pretty taken aback by those prices, and so I was content to stick with the complimentary breakfast amenity of the American Breakfast with one side dish.
The other thing to discuss about the breakfast is where to take it: you can enjoy it in the restaurant, or you can have it delivered to your room by hanging the breakfast card outside your door the night before (most hotels usually charge you an extra service fee for this, but it’s complimentary for Platinum members and above here at the Hôtel de Berri). And I highly recommend the latter option.
Why? Because service is painfully slow in the restaurant. I’m not sure if it’s something that the hotel staff are still working on during the initial few months, or if it’s simply part of the service culture at a Parisian luxury hotel, but the wait staff in the restaurant were not attentive or diligent in any way.
As a result, having breakfast in the restaurant was an entirely negative experience on the first morning of our stay, since we were starving and grumpy beyond belief by the time our food arrived, and the slow breakfast service also significantly cut into the time we had planned to head out and explore Paris.
Suffice to say, we chose to take breakfast in our room the next three mornings, where we could rely on the food being delivered at an exact time. The breakfast tray would be wheeled to our room on a cart in the morning and withdrawn later in the day when housekeeping came by.
Credit where it’s due: the quality of the breakfast was excellent. The pastries were deliciously soft and tasty, and the eggs prepared very well. Furthermore, we had a French press to pour our coffee from, and the fruit juice also left a particularly good impression.
Overall, I’d say that the elite breakfast amenity at this hotel is good, but not great. While the food quality is impressive, the quantity is relatively lacking compared to a breakfast buffet, and the slow pace of the service in the restaurant also detracts from the experience.
Speaking of the restaurant, while Jessica and I never returned for breakfast after the first morning, we did redeem our complimentary drinks at the bar on New Year’s Eve right before heading out for the celebrations. Everything on the menu was fair game for the drink voucher, and we treated ourselves to some pretty tasty cocktails.
The restaurant faces outwards to the Hôtel de Berri’s private courtyard (the same view that we enjoyed from our own Berri Suite, although I didn’t get a photo of it).
At the time of my stay, the private garden wasn’t open to guests, but it’s my understanding that it will be open soon, at which point the little pocket of green space will provide guests with a welcome reprieve from the busy streets of Paris outside.
As with the rest of the hotel, you simply can’t deny that the restaurant is beautifully decorated; I just wish the service flow were more up to standards and I would’ve loved to spend more time here.
The hotel doesn’t have much in the way of additional facilities, besides a small fitness centre and spa on the ground-floor level, which was conveniently positioned at the opposite end of the hallway from us.
The facility has a self-operated sauna and shower, as well as what seemed like a private exercise room with its own treadmill, sink, and shower as well.
As a result, there’s not a lot of room for exercise equipment, and the gym starts to get pretty crowded with just two or three people using it. To compensate for this, it’s my understanding that the hotel is happy to install an in-room treadmill at a guest’s request.
Now, let me take a moment to talk about the service at the hotel, interspersed with a few pictures of the impressive artwork and sculptures that I admired over the course of my four-night stay.
Everyone at the hotel was friendly and professional, and there were no traces of that “snobby” attitude that you sometimes hear about in regards to the staff at Parisian luxury hotels. From the front desk manager who welcomed us to the hotel, to the concierge who made very good recommendations for the New Year’s Eve dinner, to the wait staff who delivered breakfast every morning, to the housekeeping staff who freshened up our suite, everyone had a pleasant smile on their face and were happy to help you if you needed something.
That’s not to say that everything functioned perfectly at the hotel, though. As a relatively new property, I think there was still a bit of friction in terms of making the experience a seamless one for the guest. For example, there was lots of confusion as to whether or not the breakfast side dishes would be chargeable for a Platinum Premier Elite member, and I had to phone the front desk to clear this up in the end.
Moreover, our breakfast card wasn’t picked up on the night of New Year’s Eve, leading to a rather frantic breakfast on New Year’s Day before we departed for the next leg of our trip.
Having said that, the service recovery was excellent overall, and I think that’s what really matters. Take this as an example: I had ordered a package to be delivered to the hotel in advance of my stay, and had been in touch with the concierge about it. When the package did not show up throughout my stay at all, even though the La Poste tracking number said it had been delivered, the concierge diligently remained in touch with me after my stay, ensuring he was able to locate the package and forwarding it on to the desired destination at no cost.
Overall, while there were gaps in the service, you could tell that the staff were putting in the effort, and I think the service culture will be very strong once the hotel moves beyond its growing pains.
Lastly, a quick word about the hotel’s location. The area in the 8th arrondissement, around the Champs-Elysées, is home to many of Paris’s luxury hotels; the walking distance to the Champs-Elysées itself, and the Arc de Triomphe at its northwestern end (where the New Year’s Eve celebrations were taking place), is naturally unbeatable. However, I know many travellers also prefer to stay in the 1st arrondissement around the Place Vendôme area, which is closer to the major attractions like the Louvre, the Notre-Dame, and the Centre Pompidou.
So the Hôtel de Berri is a solid choice location-wise, but perhaps not the most central. That shouldn’t matter if you enjoy walking, given how beautiful Paris is to explore on foot; otherwise, hop on the Métro at George V and it’ll take you anywhere you want to go.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Hôtel de Berri, and thought it was the perfect choice for our New Year’s trip. The Berri Suite was a visually stunning, yet refined and tranquil space that’s quite unlike most other hotel rooms I’ve stayed at, and it was a real pleasure to ensconce myself within its elegant art-deco surroundings.
While I wished that certain elements of the stay were different, like the limited breakfast amenity or the handful of service hiccups, I do recognize that my experience was very much in line with expectations at a Paris hotel (i.e., this isn’t Asia, where humongous breakfast buffets are the norm).
At 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, I thought the value was excellent. Now that the hotel is charging 85,000 points per night, would I come back for a repeat visit? I’m not sure. While I enjoyed my time here at the Hôtel de Berri, in a city like Paris, you never really spend too much time in the hotel anyway, so there is that sense of such a huge quantity of points being “wasted” on a hotel room where you’ll only spend a few hours per day in the mornings and evenings.
I’ll probably lean towards booking a more affordable property the next time in Paris, though I’d love to return to the Berri many years down the road to recapture the special experience of New Year’s Eve, 2018.