Paris hotel

This Paris hotel was a favorite of artists like Picasso, Dalí and many more – here’s what it looks like

View and terrace of a suite at Le Meurice

Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

Le Meurice calls it “the hotel of artists and thinkers” – an ambitious title to claim. However, after my stay, it was clear that the title was never ambitious; it was just factual.

On a rainy Friday morning, our group headed out for one of the hotel’s exclusive walking tours, “Picasso’s Montmartre”, as part of a series in the footsteps of legendary artists in Paris.

The Montmartre district sits atop a considerable hill, offering spectacular views of the city. Today it’s one of Paris’ most iconic neighborhoods, but in the early 1900s when Picasso was staying there, it was a run-down village that attracted artists with its cheap rent and vibrant nightlife . Other household names like Van Gogh, Renoir and Matisse also resided there for some time.

From left to right: the exterior of Lapin Agile, a historic bar in Montmartre;  Exterior of La Maison Rose, a famous restaurant in Montmartre

From left to right: the exterior of Lapin Agile, a historic bar in Montmartre; Exterior of La Maison Rose, a famous restaurant in Montmartre

Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

We saw the studio where Picasso lived and painted some of his best-known works, as well as a bar where he paid for drinks with a painting (the masterpiece sold for $40 million after his death) , while discovering the life events that inspired his different stylistic periods.

I don’t always feel like I get much out of the guided tours, but this one was captivating, despite the rain. But what I didn’t realize while strolling around Montmartre was that my admiration and appreciation for this fascinating history would only grow stronger upon our return to the hotel.

That evening, we dined at Salon Pompadour at Le Meurice, a private dining room and event space that transports you to a 19th-century palace with its opulent decor. The room alone is enough to take your breath away, but its intrigue goes beyond the gold trim and sparkling chandeliers.

The salon hosted Picasso’s wedding banquet when he married Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova in 1918. In fact, a painting that hangs in the room still bears a dent from a champagne cork that was stolen during the celebration.

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Interior of the dining rooms of Le Meurice

Interior of the dining rooms of Le Meurice

Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

I felt like I had been immersed in Picasso’s life for a day, and somehow I came to understand him and his work much more than I did. ever done in my many art history classes at school. Moreover, Picasso is not the only famous artist linked to Le Meurice.

For more than 30 years, Salvador Dalí spent a month at the hotel each year. An eccentric character, Dalí was apparently quite demanding with the staff, but my favorite anecdote was that his pet cheetahs left scratches on the carpet in his suite. Still, the hotel named a restaurant after him — Le Dalí serves local, seasonal French cuisine, and the decor mimics the artist’s surrealist style.

The hotel is in the center of Paris, less than a 10-minute walk from the Louvre, making it a natural meeting place for artists and intellectuals for decades. (Coco Chanel, Franklin Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela have all been there.)

From left to right: a seating area inside Le Meurice;  View from a window of Le Meurice

From left to right: a seating area inside Le Meurice; View from a window of Le Meurice

Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

Today, many forms of modern art are on display. Pastry chef Cédric Grolet serves up his signature carved fruit, which looks like a regular apple or pear, but is actually a wonderful dessert. And the chef of Le Meurice Alain Ducasse’s two-star restaurant, Amaury Bouhours, leads a team that performs a kind of ballet while preparing dinner in the kitchen each evening. (You’ll only get a taste of the magic if you’re lucky enough to eat at the Chef’s Table.)

Le Meurice has a fascinating history and enduring relevance, between its artistic connections and its evolution of taste, but it only takes a short stay to realize that the hotel is a work of art in itself.


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