The LUTETIA : a majestic Belle Epoque palace with a Rive Gauche spirit

Marguerite Boucicaut, Bon Marché co-founder along with her husband, Aristide Boucicaut, initiated the building of this hotel in 1910 to welcome clients and suppliers. The Lutetia Hotel boasts an Art Nouveau architectural style and Art Deco interiors. Architect Louis-Hippolyte Boileau (son of the Bon Marché architect), and sculptor Léon Binet (designer of the grape bunch motifs on the façade signifying abundance and serving as a reminder that vines used to grow there) endowed this majestic building with the sumptuous style and charm of France’s Belle Epoque.

In the 1920s, the hotel was soon contributing to the Rive Gauche’s intellectual effervescence as the area, at that time, attracted many writers and publishing houses (including the famous NRF, Nouvelle Revue Française). Since then, it has continued to encourage and support artistic creation.

It was, in fact, continuing a tradition started by Juliette Récamier in the 1830s at Abbaye-aux-Bois, a convent where she lived due to a change in her fortunes (this location today is Rue Récamier, located between 12 and 14 Rue de Sèvres, directly opposite the Lutetia). There, she held her famous and legendary salon which attracted in particular her ardent admirer, Chateaubriand. Of particular note were readings performed there from Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe, a text written just a few steps away at 120 Rue du Bac.

Numerous writers have stayed at the Lutetia, among the most notable being André Gide, Albert Cohen, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway. A few artists such as Arman, César, Hikily, Takis and Bisch created artworks which still adorn its rooms and hallways. In particular, a 2m high Eiffel by César welcomes clients in the reception hall. Several suites were decorated by these artists and hung with their works. Recently, it was the turn of the Campana brothers to add their creative touch. The hotel also organises literary and musical evenings, and transforms its gallery (linking the reception hall to the restaurants) into a veritable art gallery welcoming temporary exhibitions of contemporary artworks.

If you find yourself in the area, a visit to this hotel is a must. Discover (or rediscover) a place bursting with history and charming with its slightly outdated décor. This is one of the stops along the “Art walk with a difference: Montparnasse to Rue du Bac”.

Copyright Fabrice Rambert