The Palace of Versailles opens its first hotel | Condé Nast Traveller India | InternationalJune 11, 2021
The extravagant tastes of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the culinary excellence of Alain Ducasse (who has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world) and modern sensibilities come together at Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle.
This is the first hotel to open on the grounds of the Château de Versailles and each of its 14 rooms and suites is painstakingly restored to its 18th-century grandeur. Included in the stay, which starts from €1,700 (Rs1,51,130) per night, are the services of a dedicated butler; breakfast, afternoon tea and the mini-bar; daily private tours of the Château, Marie Antoinette’s private Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet; and exploration of the palace grounds via boats and golf carts. The property is within an hour’s drive from Paris.
An opulent time-machine
The new opening is the seventh property by Airelles, whose hotels include La Bastide de Gordes and St Tropez’s Pan dei Palais. Le Grand Contrôle was designed in 1681 by Louis XIV’s star architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Using 1788, when Le Grand Contrôle was last inventoried, as a benchmark for restoration, architect and interior designer Christophe Tollemer drew inspiration from Louis XVI’s style and the Petit Trianon, the pleasure palace on the grounds that the king had gifted Marie Antoinette on his coronation. Even staff uniforms and the hotel’s dining rituals pay tribute to the 18th century.
Period furniture fills the rooms, alongside art and objects from the 17th and 18th centuries curated by French heritage specialist Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau. Artefacts include a love letter from Madame de Staël, the political theorist who lived here as her father served as finance minister to Louis XVI. Historical features from the parquet flooring to wood panelling and stonework were restored and recreated, and design house La Maison Pierre Frey created wall hangings displaying archival designs.
The restoration comes with modern comforts: antique chandeliers are equipped with LED lights and geothermal energy heats the building. The Valmont Spa features a 15m indoor swimming pool and a hammam, and a roster of restorative treatments including the Swiss brand’s cutting-edge anti-ageing facials. The restaurant, too, revamps the classics.
Ducasse at Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle serves reimagined French classics and a Marie Antoinette-inspired tea, over views of the Orangery parterre. Dinner gets the full royal treatment, with a five-course meal served by staff in period costumes. It is topped only by the Sunday brunch employing seasonal ingredients and traditional recipes, which is inspired by the royal couple’s ceremonial dinner in front of a public audience.
A key highlight is the private access to parts of the 2,000-acre gardens and palace buildings that are usually closed to visitors. The hotel offers views of the Orangery, the Lake of the Swiss Guards and the Château. Boats and canals are available to explore the property at leisure, and guests are offered daily private tours that cover different areas of the Trianon and the palace apartments every day. More experiences can be had for a fee: after-hours access to the Hall of Mirrors, a day themed around Marie Antoinette that of course includes a costume fitting, a private performance at the Royal Opera, private dining with a string quartet at a former royal apartment, and a tour themed around André Le Nôtre, who designed the palace’s splendid gardens. The hotel is also up for hosting weddings and intimate events for up to 54 guests, with the option of booking out the hotel to sleep up to 36 guests.
Doubles from €1,700/Rs1,51,130) per night. Website.