Hotel Dieu — Lyon, France
It’s been a decade in the works, but InterContinental Lyon - Hotel Dieu has finally opened its doors. Occupying a slice of the sprawling landmark Hôtel Dieu, a former hospital on the banks of the Rhône – which has now been transformed into a wider complex to include a buzzing collection of shops and restaurants – the 144-room property adds further reason to visit France’s gastronomic capital.
Behind the imposing 375-metre long façade, the French designer Jean-Philippe Nuel has layered the building’s powerful architecture with contrasting details – inspired by the establishment’s monastic past – to create what he describes as ‘humble luxury’. ‘In the Middle Ages, these Hôtel-Dieus were designed to accommodate the sick and the needy,’ explains Nuel. ‘Yet this did not prevent the architects of the time from creating exceptional and luxurious spaces in prime locations.’
This is seen to best effect in the hotel’s lobby, where simple white-washed timber beams and bare stone flooring – using local alabaster from the original quarry that was re-opened just for this project – are embellished with decorative silk and rope screens by local artist Veronique De Soultrait. ‘The lobby screens express my inspiration for the whole hotel,’ explains Nuel, ‘It’s the dichotomy between sophistication and monastic.’
Elsewhere, absurdly high, vaulted ceilings, restored stonework and oversized arched windows form a lofty backdrop for cloistered corners and impressive Duplex Suites, which are set over two floors, with views of Rhône. The highlight, though, is almost certainly the bar, which sits within a former church beneath a lofty 32-metre high dome. Here, a modern black and gold palette is revealed through bold artwork by Manuela Paul Cavallier; custom furnishings, by French company Ligne Roset, that mirror the curves of the architecture; and rich silks – created by century-old Lyonnais silk company Verel de Belval, a subsidiary of the Hermès group – that nods to the city’s past as the capital of the European silk industry.
Make sure to stop by Le Dôme for a preprandial cocktail, as the late evening sun streams through the high windows, before making your way over to Epona, the in-house restaurant where chef Mathieu Charrois serves jooshed up classic Lyonnais dishes, like crisp quenelle dumplings, served with a deliciously rich Nantua – or crayfish – sauce.§