“Honey, for our 30 years of marriage, which do you prefer: a five-star hotel or a palace?” “If we have the choice and the budget, a palace!” Your husband or your woman. Before making your choice, take the time to find out. Do you know what sets them apart? The classification of hotels, currently in the process of reform, can be complex. When you search online for high-end establishments in France, the results show either 5-star hotels or palaces. How to find it?

The last major reform of the hotel classification took place in 2009. Two main innovations have appeared: the creation of a new category of hotels, which concerns five-star hotels, and the “palace” distinction. The latter aims to promote 5-star hotels “with exceptional characteristics”, indicates Atout France, the Tourism Development Agency of France, responsible for the classification of tourist hotels.

And to detail: “The palace distinction must make it possible to promote these establishments on the international scene vis-à-vis an increasingly important competing offer. More generally, it must contribute to the influence of French culture and to the attractiveness of the France destination.”

Admittedly, the Atout France agency establishes the classification criteria, which are revised every five years, but the classification of stars is carried out voluntarily by the hotel establishments. The checks are carried out by an accredited private appraiser, itself freely chosen by the hotelier, and at his expense. They are supplemented by a mystery visit of the establishment for 4 and 5 star hotels.

So what are the criteria for a five-star hotel to be recognized as a palace?

For a luxury establishment to be recognized as a palace, it must meet two phases:

It is based on objective eligibility criteria derived from the classification of the five-star category, such as: a multilingual team, a tailor-made service (concierge service for example), a spa or a gym.

These are more subjective criteria, observed by a commission, made up of qualified personalities. Are taken into account: the geographical location of the hotel, its historical and heritage interest, but also the aesthetics of the place or the quality of the gourmet restaurant, reports GEO.

The “remarkable architecture” of the building, the suites (20% minimum), the presence of works of art, the bedding, the concierge, the service and catering in the room also play a part.

Is this valid everywhere in the world?

Four Seasons Hotel George V, Meurice… France has only 31 establishments with the palace distinction. Most are concentrated in the capital.

A new procedure for awarding stars, made up of 243 criteria, came into force in April 2022. This reform emphasizes sustainable development (with 12 mandatory criteria compared to 3 currently) and new uses in the hotel industry.

Note also that the ranking of hotels in France is only valid for our territory. A 5-star hotel will therefore not have the same standing in Paris or Lyon as in London or New York. As for the palace distinction, it only exists, for the time being, in France.