There are two InterContinental Hotels in Paris with InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris across the street from Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera and InterContinental Paris Avenue Marceau, near the Arc de Triomphe. Most of the reviews I have read comparing the two hotels show a preference for Le Grand Hotel.
Hotel Location in Paris
The location of Le Grand Hotel was perfect for my Paris plans and especially convenient for transportation from Paris Charles de Gaulle CDG Airport with the Roissybus stop only 200 meters from the hotel entrance. Roissybus cost 11€ one-way from CDG to Paris Opera. The bus is a direct bus from CDG to Paris Opera and there is space on the bus for luggage. There is also free Wi-Fi. They don’t take credit cards on the RoissyBus though, so be ready with cash. There is good signage in the CDG airport terminals for the bus and it runs every 20 minutes or so throughout the day.
InterContinental Le Grand Hotel – a storied history in Paris
Le Grand Hotel is a Paris icon with a storied history. The immense hotel filling a triangular shaped city block was built in 1861 by Isaac and Emile Periere, bankers who created Credit Mobilier bank, one of the most powerful financial institutions of the world in the mid-19th century.
Architect Alfred Armand had 25 years of railway station construction experience in Paris and around northern France by the time he was commissioned to build Le Grand Hotel. The building is one of the major projects from the reconstruction of Paris in the mid-19th century during the French Second Empire.
Reconstruction of Paris (1853-1870)
France was in the Second Empire from 1852-1870 when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, elected President of France in 1848 staged a coup d’etat and proclaimed himself Emperor of France as Napoleon III. His time as head of state for France remains the longest since the French Revolution.
Napoleon III had spent much of his life in exile and traveled extensively, including living several years in London. His time in London influenced his concept for modernizing Paris. One of his great achievements was the reconstruction of Paris in a vast public works program from 1853 to 1870. Much of central Paris was medieval neighborhoods with narrow streets, crowded buildings, few parks and limited access to fresh water and sewage systems. Disease was a significant public health issue with frequent deadly epidemics of cholera. Transportation congestion was a major impediment to modern commerce for a major city in the industrial age.
Emperor Napoleon III gave the task of reconstructing Paris to Georges-Eugène Haussmann, aka Baron Haussmann. Over the next two decades, much of central Paris as seen today with its wide boulevards and parks and uniform height buildings are the result of Haussmann’s renovation of Paris. During the reconstruction of Paris, the city was a vast construction site as buildings in the city center were demolished to make room for new roads and an estimated 350,000 people were displaced. During this reconstruction period, Paris was expanded from 12 to 20 arrondissements, the current boundaries of the city. Hundreds of kilometers of pipes were laid to distribute fresh water and transport sewage around Paris, gas lines were installed for streetlamps in the City of Light. Buildings along the 80 kilometers of new avenues in Paris were regulated to be the same height, something I have noticed in my previous visits to Paris.
One of the wings of InterContinental Le Grand is named Haussmann.
The significance of all this history is the signature piece of the new Paris was the Place de l’Opera, a vital traffic nexus in front of Palais Garnier, connecting many of the major new roads of Paris and Rue de Rivoli at the Louvre. Slums were demolished to create fashionable and wealthy neighborhoods.
InterContinental Le Grand Hotel is located here at Place de l’Opera.
Le Grand Hotel and Café de la Paix at Place de l’Opera as photographed from Paris Opera-Palais Garnier.
Palais Garnier façade seen from Place de l’Opera.
Palais Garnier was built 1861-1875. Originally called Salles des Capucines for the street in front of the theater, the name was changed to Palais Garnier to honor its architect. Also known as Paris Opera, the building was the most expensive and opulent piece of architecture constructed during the French Second Empire. The stage remains the largest in Europe. Architect Charles Garnier was a relatively unknown and young 35 year old when he won the competition for the design of the Opera House. Palais Garnier is considered one of the major icons of Paris architecture and the crowning representation of the Second Empire Beaux Arts style.
Charles Garnier (1825-1898) architect of Paris Opera, Palais Garnier.
Inside InterContinental Le Grand Hotel
Back to my stay and my first impression of the lobby was WOW! I did not snap many photos in the lobby due to the presence of guests. The elevator foyer is black marble and grand.
InterContinental Le Grand Hotel elevator foyer
InterContinental Le Grand Hotel has 470 rooms, including 72 suites. I stayed in Room 4201, a standard room on the 4th floor. The hotel fills a city block and my room was about as far from the elevator as one can be in the hotel. I spent a lot of time admiring wall art as I walked different routes through the corridors to and from my room and even did the stairs a couple of times. My room was an interior facing room. The rooms across the hall probably had views of Palais Garnier. The view from the interior was pretty nice too since I was on an upper floor in the five story hotel.
The location was actually probably better for me to be on the quiet interior. The room windows opened wide and I kept them open all night to let cool fresh air fill the room. The rooftop architecture view from bed really helped me feel like I was in Paris without the noise of the streets outside.
I must note that the pillows on this bed were the most comfortably soft feather pillows I have slept on in some 50 nights in hotels since June. The only hotel pillows I have enjoyed more than my pillows at home.
The cabinet holding the mini-bar was as impressive as the item prices listed on the paper of the night stand. There was a postcard note from the general manager addressed to me on the table by the window.
There was a bottle of Vittel water beside the bed, but no indication whether it was a complimentary bottle. I think it was as an IHG Platinum member, but I was not going to take a 5€ gamble and I was too lazy to call reception and ask. I was fine with tap water from the sink and I knew that was free.
There were lots of bathroom amenities.
Everything else in the room.
The room map on the door provides valuable information on the floor layout for this immense hotel.
InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris Hallways and Stairways
One of the features I love about 19th century luxury hotels are the stairway spaces. InterContinental Le Grand has plenty of interesting spaces and I only saw a fraction of them I’m sure, since I spent far more time on the streets of Paris and primarily used the hotel for a bed to sleep.
There are dozens of pictures to admire in the hallways of Le Grand Hotel and little nooks to hide away inside the halls of the hotel.
When I walked down the stairway, I had difficulty finding my way to the lobby doors to exit the hotel. The result was a grand detour into what is probably one of the premier spaces of Le Grand Hotel.
I found myself in this hall at the bottom of the stairs, which is apparently a group event space. To the left was the main interior restaurant bar space for the hotel and to the right, through the doors, was the most impressive space I saw in Le Grand Hotel.
Le Grand Hotel Opera Ballroom – a historically listed Paris monument
I could have spent an hour in Le Grand Hotel Opera Ballroom taking photographs, but I expected to be kicked out at any moment by the workers setting up for an event. Nobody said a word to me. I wish I had pulled out my telephoto lens to capture more detail.
These images of Le Grand Hotel Opera Ballroom set my mood for Paris after 32 hours of travel to reach Paris from Monterey, California and got me jazzed for another three hours walking the streets to Montmartre and around Sacre Coeur and back to the hotel before going to sleep in a bed with wonderful pillows.
The main room of the lobby Le Bar offers this view of the atrium skylight and chandelier.
That was my experience at InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris. I did not use any services at the hotel, did not have access to the Club Floor lounge or visit Café de la Paix.
I had a few interactions with the Concierge desk to discuss transportation to Orly Airport. Each concierge told me to take a taxi as there was not much difference between the cost of a taxi (45 to 50€) compared to taking the metro, train, or bus. Even mentioning the metro induced disbelief in the potential of that option. I did take the metro and that was a challenging experience. I’ll cover Paris airport transportation in a separate post since I arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle CDG Airport and left Paris from Orly Airport, so I have comparative experience in transportation to both airports.
InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris Room Rates
I stayed using free nights I earned from the IHG Rewards Club Into the Nights Fall 2014 promotion. I stayed for free. My observations on the regular rates for InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris is a low rate is the low 300€ range. Rates during my stay at the beginning of Paris Fashion Week were in the 500 to 600€ range.
IHG Rewards Club standard reward rate is 50,000 points per night.
Loyalty Traveler related posts with more information about Le Grand Hotel Paris and the streets of Paris.
Liberté and free nights in Paris (Sep 30)
Feeling Paris under full moonlight (Sep 28)