La Samaritaine Reborn

LVMH’s marquee mixed-use development project is giving a beloved Paris landmark a new lease on life.

The Rue Monnaie facade of La Samaritaine. (Photo: We Are Contents)

A Parisian retail institution for more than a century, Right Bank department store La Samaritaine has emerged from a 16-year redevelopment as Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf, reclaiming its place among the French capital’s most sophisticated shopping destinations. Founded in 1870 and now majority-owned by French luxury conglomerate LVMH, the historic landmark (which comprises several buildings) has seen its original art deco and art nouveau elements restored, while a new structure on Rue de Rivoli sports a wavy glass facade — an ultramodern addition that shocked some Parisians but plays off the rhythm of the surrounding buildings. This was the creation of Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architecture firm Sanaa, which worked in tandem with conservation architect Jean-François Lagneau to balance the old and new. The resulting revamp was carried out to the tune of 500 million euros (over US$591 million), injecting plenty of 21st century style while bringing back the vision of architects Frantz Jourdain and Henri Sauvage.

Inside, there are four floors dedicated to luxury fashion, jewelry, and watches, and what is billed as Europe’s largest beauty floor; the main building’s glass-roofed atrium, with its grand central staircase, ironwork balustrades, and Belle Époque peacock frescoes, is an attraction in its own right. Appropriately enough, the new contemporary wing with its undulating façade focuses on streetwear — adding to the selection will be a series of pop-ups curated by young designers. And if all that shopping (more than 600 brands are represented across the entire complex) leaves visitors feeling peckish, they can always head to the fifth floor to stake out the culinary offerings at nearly a dozen restaurants, cafés, and tearooms.

Left to right: An original molding at La Samaritaine; inside Cinq Mondes spa on the beauty floor. (Photos: Matthieu Salvaing; courtesy of Cinq Mondes)

Left to right: The accessory space below the art nouveau central staircase; risotto at Ernest. (Photos: We Are Contents; courtesy of La Samaritaine)

Left to right: A detail on the wrought iron railings; the dining room at Voyage Samaritaine. (Photos: Matthieu Salvaing; Bellot 9)

Here, two venues deserve a special mention. Ernest, named after La Samaritaine’s founder Ernest Cognacq, showcases the creativity of female celebrity chef Naoëlle d’Hainaut, whose L’Or Q’idée restaurant in the historic Parisian suburb of Pontoise has been awarded one Michelin star. The seasonal menu puts a contemporary twist on classic Parisian brasserie fare — think beef entrecôte with caramelized onion and pommes frites, or sous-vide pollock with zucchini and buckwheat foam. Voyage Samaritaine, meanwhile, sits right under the Jourdain glass roof and the aforementioned peacock frescoes, delighting patrons with its eclectic and experimental approach to French cuisine by Matthieu Viannay (of two-Michelin-starred La Mère Brazier in Lyon). Viannay’s artful creations include a foie gras “ingot” comes encased in gold leaf and served with pieces of raspberry.

Staying overnight is an option, too, thanks to this week’s launch of Cheval Blanc Paris, where all 72 rooms and suites offer views overlooking the Seine. The ultra-luxe hotel also contains a Dior spa and a quartet of restaurants, which are set to provide stiff competition for those inside the department store proper.

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On the beauty floor at La Samaritaine. (Photo: We Are Contents)

Restored art nouveau peacock frescoes. (Photo: Julien Luttenbacher)

Looking up to the central staircase toward the glass roof. (Photo: We Are Contents)

 

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