Embrace the Soul of European Cities
By Carolyn O’Neil | Photography courtesy of The Set Collection
The world is still out there inviting us to explore someplace new or to relive visits to our favorite destinations. While travel restrictions of one sort or another may still be in place for a while, one thing is for sure: we can still dream about and plan where we want to travel next.
The good news is that hospitality, at its very heart, is about welcoming visitors and making them feel comfortable and safe. Never has this been more important to hotels and resorts worldwide than it is now. Many have used the “downtime” created by the COVID-19 pandemic to renovate and innovate by adding amenities and updating decor.
As an example of excellence in this pursuit of luxury with safety as a priority, let’s get to know The Set Collection, a chic group of hotels with properties in London, Paris, and Amsterdam.
The Hotel Café Royal, London
Steps from London’s busy Piccadilly Circus, a grand sense of arrival greets guests in the vaulted two-story lobby of the Hotel Café Royal. The sleek, contemporary main entrance is just the beginning of architectural splendors found throughout the hotel, which comprises three historic buildings restored by famed architect David Chipperfield.
“It’s a gem as you check in, with layers to discover,” says Guillaume Marly, managing director of the Hotel Café Royal. “The style of the hotel mixes old and new and offers something for every generation, old and new!”
The hotel’s address is on well-heeled Regent Street, known for traditional shops and clothiers; but it’s also in the heart of the fashionable Soho district humming with top bars and restaurants. “You are in the epicenter of London when you stay here,” says Marly. “With Piccadilly Circus right outside your window, you can almost reach out and touch a double-decker bus.” Joking, of course, Marly points out that those windows are triple-glazed glass to muffle city noises. “We sell sleep too, you know.”
This unrivaled setting, with London’s history, culture, business, and the theater district nearby, is one of the reasons that for more than 150 years, people have returned time and again. From Oscar Wilde to David Bowie, Winston Churchill to Muhammad Ali, Princess Diana to the Rolling Stones—the Café Royal has been known as one of the vibrant living rooms of London. Guests today can step back into that history by enjoying a traditional afternoon tea service in the ornately gilded Oscar Wilde Lounge or experiencing the art of mixology at Ziggy’s, with flashes of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust lighting up the intimate bar via photographic art.
Maybe you’d rather channel Churchill and order a steak with Stilton cheese and Champagne. While Hotel Café Royal’s restaurants and bars are subject to closure related to government lockdowns, its chefs continue to create delicious meals for guests and local delivery. This includes the world-class cuisine of Michelin three-star pastry chef Albert Adrià, who oversees the menu at the hotel’s in-house coffee shop and bistro, Cakes & Bubbles.
The Hotel Café Royal has 160 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, including seven signature accommodations such as the Tudor Suite, echoing the elegance of its architectural past. With an eye on the future, the hotel’s rooftop is a green space that reduces water runoff from the building and features birdhouses to attract and support the city’s winged wildlife.
Travel & Leisure named Hotel Café Royal one of the Top 100 hotels on the planet in 2020. The hotel’s spacious underground spa, Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre, boasts one of London’s most beautiful swimming pools and is a sparkling jewel in its crown.
“This is a spa for spa people,” says Marly.
It’s important to note that the hotel’s Akasha Safe Spa procedures and protocols are in place so guests can feel confident when planning treatments.
Another excellent reason to stay at a hotel connected to what’s happening at the moment is that the concierge can help guide guests to places that are open and safe. Concierges at the Hotel Café Royal list several London experiences they can help organize when the time is right, including a private pod on the London Eye observation wheel or a private socially distanced tour of the Tate or Tate Modern art galleries.
Learn more or book a stay at HotelCafeRoyal.com.
Hotel Lutetia, Paris
Lutetia was the Roman name for what is now known as the city of Paris, and that’s where the Hotel Lutetia, housed in one of the most beautiful and fascinating buildings in Paris, got her name. Built in 1910 with a novel blend of Art Nouveau and Art Deco design elements, the hotel is an iconic landmark in the vibrant Saint-Germain-des-Prés area on the city’s Rive Gauche (Left Bank). Long known as the Paris of writers, artists, and philosophers, today it’s where you’ll find fashion-forward eateries and boutiques. Right across the street from the hotel, the famed Le Bon Marché department store, founded in the 1850s, is still setting trends.
“It’s the real Paris,” says Marly, who of course is intimately familiar with all three of The Set Hotel properties.
At the heart of the Saint-Germain community for more than a century, the Lutetia’s history echoes the growth of modern-day Paris—surviving the struggles of two World Wars and emerging even more beautiful than before.
The hotel was closed in 2014 for an extensive four-year renovation led by famed architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Today, guests experience the historic frescoes and elegant architectural details integrated seamlessly with a new contemporary environment. Amenities include a sunny courtyard at the center of the hotel and an Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre spa with a large swimming pool bathed in natural daylight.
The hundred-million-dollar-plus hotel beautification decreased the room count, so rooms are happily larger now. The bathrooms, stocked with Hermès amenities, are showstoppers with Calcutta marble throughout, including marble bathtubs.
For food lovers (and isn’t this why we go to Paris?), the hotel’s lively ground floor features a marvelous mix of elegant restaurants, bars, and lounges including the return of the iconic and newly recharged Brasserie Lutetia. Seafood is a specialty here, including fresh oysters from Normandy.
Explore more or plan your trip at HotelLutetia.com.
The Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam
Would anyone like to take a trip down memory lane with Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and the other old masters of art? You’ve come to the right place! Located in the stylish Museum Square district of Amsterdam in a landmark heritage bank building that later became a conservatory of music, the Conservatorium Hotel is a masterpiece of architecture. The sleek, contemporary hotel has repeatedly been crowned the top luxury hotel in the Netherlands.
Upon arrival, order a gin and tonic at the Conservatorium Lounge (after all, the Dutch invented gin). Or for a more adventurous introduction, step inside the hotel’s Taiko Bar and discover what feels like a night out in Bangkok, Tokyo, or Shanghai.
The guest rooms and public areas feature Dutch design with a juxtaposition of historic edifices and modern glassed-in spaces. The hotel has been awarded a Green Globe certification for its attention to sustainability in design. To help you sustain your energy while traveling, there is an Akasha Well Being Centre spa here as well.
Head to ConservatoriumHotel.com for more information.
The Grand Tour
As long as you’re finally traveling, why not keep going? The Set Hotels group has introduced the Grand Tour concept for guests who want to experience more than one city during their European jaunt.
Think of it as an elegant cruise on land where the next port of call is another modern grand hotel. Available when booking two or more of The Set Collection hotels in a single trip, each Grand Tour journey is personally curated by the concierge to introduce guests to the cultural heart of each city. Also included are business-class travel on Eurostar between London, Paris, and Amsterdam and private transfers to the hotels.
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To learn more about The Set Collection and all its properties, visit TheSetHotels.com.
Carolyn O’Neil is an award-winning Atlanta-based food writer who specializes in culinary travel and healthy lifestyles. She believes that travel is the ultimate way to learn about the people of the world and cuisine is the most exciting way to learn about their histories and cultures. Visit her blog at TheHappyHealthyKitchen.com.
The Set Collection Presents Safe Stay
Each hotel follows local regulations for closures and restrictions for operating restaurants and bars. In addition, safety protocols are in place to ensure the highest level of sanitation safety for interiors and staff interaction with guests.
Visit TheSetHotels.com/safe-stay to learn more about how The Set Collection is handling COVID-19 at each property and keeping guest and staff safety top of mind.