There are places where celebrities go to be seen, and there are rare places where celebrities don’t go to be seen. There’s only one place, however, that has elegantly enveloped celebrities in its seemingly secret 12-acre garden for over 70 years: The Hotel Bel-Air. The Prince of Wales reportedly said: “I slept better in the Bel Air Presidential Suite than in any other hotel in the world. Tom Cruise once said: “I lived at the Bel-Air Hotel, and I always feel very good there. How about that classic hotel, with soaring swans, no less, that endures as Hollywood paradise? During a recent stay at the Hotel Bel-Air, I believe I discovered it.
The premium quality required to endure as a celebrity sanctuary: stealth by design. Although located only about a mile from Sunset Blvd, the drive to the Bel-Air Hotel is indescribable along a narrow road marked by colossal hedges and fanciful gates that wrap around mansions and areas for which Bel-Air is known. A few subtle pink signs indicate the direction of the property, but other than those directions, Hotel Bel-Air appears just around the corner like any house in a neighborhood. Except, of course, this neighborhood is Bel-Air, and almost no houses sit casually on a street.
The friendly valet picks up your car and you’ll cross a small footbridge, perhaps spotting one of the property’s swans (Chloe, Athena, Hercules, or Odette) skating on the hotel’s ponds. There is a massive old tree that literally emerges through the bridge from the walkway, and 12-15 foot tall white birds of paradise, miniature yellow daffodils, puffy red bougainvillea and orange blossoms frame the walkway . Water trickling from a fountain can be captured somewhere. No one seems to be there, and that’s on purpose. This is the moment that I have had on several occasions at the Hôtel Bel-Air during my stays over the years, but particularly during this visit: a precise moment of crossing “over the rainbow -ciel” (or at least the hotel’s deck) and feeling a little transported into a sparkling and secret world.
Across the bridge, one can meander through the hotel lobby to the right (discreet, again by design) or cross Wolfgang Puck’s open-air restaurant which often swings on its own to accommodate guests on their way home located a few blocks from the hotel. I’ve always found it endearing (and have met it twice in the restaurant), and it’s another reason why the Hotel Bel-Air maintains not only its discretion but a remarkable warmth: it’s an irresistible feeling. back at home. Celebrities always get it. Long after the stays of Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Richard Nixon, Doris Day and countless others, Hollywood’s elite still find their way to Hotel Bel-Air. Fashion “royalty” Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi and Oscar de la Renta would often hang out. Russell Crowe hosted his Oscars party in one of the hotel’s 45 suites in 2001. Oprah Winfrey hosted the cast of Friends for their final interview at the hotel, and Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston had lunch as last girlfriends. ‘ meeting in 2015. As Prince Charles once described it, the Hotel Bel-Air is like “staying at a rich friend’s house”. Even if you are rich and famous, anyone can enjoy such a treat.
The rich, friendly warmth of Hotel Bel-Air continues in its 103 guest rooms and suites, courtesy of the all-star design eye of Canadian-born Alexandra Champalimaud. My suite had a real fireplace, assembled and lit at night by a doorman, swept patio doors, heated limestone floors, and a small bottle of lavender pillow spray for me to sleep in. Other suites feature two-panel fireplaces, private infinity spa pools, and the most luxurious bathrobes imaginable. Given the range of suites with their custom design motifs, such as the Grace Kelly and Chalon suites, it’s a good idea to ask the reservations team for recommendations on which suite or room to book. Consider the range of rooms another perk of a rich friend’s warmth, which it certainly is.
Some people visit a hotel once, perhaps for a business trip or vacation. I like to think of the Hotel Bel-Air, which celebrities certainly do too, as a luxurious home you often return to. Maybe your rich friend owns it, but that dear friend keeps welcoming you back. With its utmost discretion and warmth, the Hotel Bel-Air remains such a dear place.