With its red window awnings as iconic as red-bottomed Louboutins, the Plaza Athénée has long stood as a beacon of French splendor from its perch along the Avenue de Montaigne in Paris. Since it first opened its doors in 1913, its sumptuous accommodations, white-gloved hospitality, and emphasis on culinary excellence have become so celebrated and beloved by both tourists and locals alike that the Plaza—officially the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Dorchester Collection—is now more than a Parisian landmark: It’s a travel destination in itself.
That’s why the publisher and luxury lifestyle brand Assouline is releasing a new book dedicated to the hotel, titled simply Plaza Athénée, out November 6. It’s the latest addition to Assouline’s Travel Series of coffee table books that offer, through stylish photography and evocative text, windows into some of the most beautiful places in the world. Following titles like Cairo Eternal, Jaipur Splendor, and Provence Glory, this latest volume is the first in the collection devoted not to a city, island, or region, but a hotel.
The book features an introduction by the chef Jean Imbert, who oversees the Plaza’s restaurants, including his eponymous and Michelin-starred Jean Imbert au Plaza Athénée; text by the writer, literary critic, and Academie Française member Marc Lambron; and new original photographs by Oliver Pilcher. All three creatives depict the Plaza—its rooms and its restaurants, its workers and its famous guests—with unabashed fondness, creating something like a visual love letter to the hotel and its people.
Clocking in at 272 pages, Plaza Athénée boasts over 300 illustrations and photographs, some of them archival images (see: a young Keanu Reeves reclining on the terrace of the Eiffel Suite, circa 2003) and stills from films and TV series that feature the hotel (see: Emily in Paris, Sex and the City, even the animated film Miraculous, les aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir). The bulk of the book, however, is made up of Pilcher’s photos, all of them decadent and inviting. Pilcher’s no stranger to the assignment (his work is featured in Assouline titles like Turquoise Coast and New York Chic, among others), and he skillfully captures the beauty of the Plaza’s architecture, cuisine, and community, treating it like any other destination worth visiting and seeing for yourself.
Some of Pilcher’s photos resemble bonbons wrapped in golden cellophane, enveloped in either warm sunlight or the glow of the Plaza’s chandeliers. Others have the flashy look of nightlife photography—a chic artistic move born out of necessity. In an interview with Traveler, Pilcher recalls first arriving at the Plaza Athénée in February 2023: “My first concern was how dark Paris was! We weren’t blessed with the best weather at that time—we had better weather in June when I returned—so I had to adapt my style to shoot a lot of on-camera flash to accommodate for the lack of natural light.”
While on assignment, Pilcher wandered around the Plaza Athénée, hunting for charismatic vignettes of daily life at the hotel. At times, it was a lonely job, he says: “It forced me to make lots of new friends. I hung out with the boys in maintenance, chatted about my next project with the chambermaids, spoke Spanish with my Portuguese butler, and spent a lot of time with the painter and decorators when they were fixing up the presidential suite.”
As a result, many of the Plaza’s workers—everyone from the valets and clerks, receptionists and concierge, housekeepers and butlers, sommeliers and chefs, florists and window cleaners; the veritable village of them—get a turn in front of Pilcher’s lens. It’s a delightful, almost moving spotlight on the everyday people who comprise the soul and lifeblood of this glamorous hotel.
“The hotel is practically a city in itself,” says Francois Delahaye, the general manager of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée and chief operating officer for Dorchester Collection. To the hotel’s name, Delahaye counts 600 employees, 208 rooms and suites, several restaurants, a spa, and a courtyard, spread across almost 270,000 square feet of floor space in the heart of the capital. “France is a destination renowned for its hospitality, architecture, gastronomy, haute couture,” Delahaye says. “You can find all this in the hotel, all this cultural richness concentrated in a single space.”
It was an exciting challenge to distill the Plaza’s legacy and atmospheric abundance into a coffee table book, Lambron says. The text he provided for Plaza Athénée’s literary interludes leans on memory and favorite anecdotes—a long-ago interview with Faye Dunaway at La Galerie; the sight of the Eiffel Tower framed like a painting in the large window of the suite where he was staying. Still, while writing, Lambron challenged himself to see the cherished hotel through fresh eyes: “I had to put myself in the mindset of an explorer landing on an unknown island—I was Robinson Crusoe at the Plaza Athénée.”
Imbert, too, approached the project with a traveler’s eye. The book opens with a missive from his desk about the Plaza Athénée and his time thus far at its creative helm. He writes of the hotel as a destination—certainly, a personal one (“At some point, I told myself, One day, I am going to be the executive chef at the Plaza.”), but a literal one too (“I love to wander the hallways of the Plaza the way I love to follow Brittany’s Emerald Coast…”), a landscape to be explored.
That the head chef was the one to pen the introduction to Plaza Athénée is fitting: This is a hotel that privileges the senses—taste itself, in all meanings of the word. “You can almost taste the atmosphere,” Imbert writes of one of the dining rooms and its Regency-era decor, “the candlelight, the huge bouquets of flowers—plump hydrangeas, perhaps, accented with a few spiffy roses.”
As with Lambron’s text, anecdotes animate Imbert’s ode to the Plaza: He praises the staff he works with daily, likening them to his crew and the hotel to their steadfast ship; he tells stories of cooking for Pharrell and Jay-Z, falling into a Beyoncé after-party and how, the next day, the dining room was spotless, as if the fête were all a dream. “So many memories are made here,” Imbert tells Traveler, “and it was important for me to capture them in this book.”
Perhaps that’s ultimately what makes the Hôtel Plaza Athénée a more-than-suitable subject for Assouline’s travel-themed coffee table books, shoulder to shoulder with Mexico City, the Amalfi Coast, and the Bosphorus. It’s a place that inspires the imagination, imprints itself on you one way or another, even if you’ve yet to visit—a place so special that even the mere thought of it could whisk you away.
Plaza Athénée does a fine job of just that, inviting you into its glamorous pages, offering a romp through its palatial halls, however brief and imaginary—until, that is, you book a stay at the real thing.
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Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler