Each fall, Lyon—once overlooked by travelers speeding through from Paris en route to the south—hosts a biennale that toggles between world-class art one year and modern dance the next.
La Confluence, a former industrial neighborhood, is now a starchitect’s playground with a massive Jean Nouvel project joining other mixed-use spaces, and young chefs are energizing the restaurant scene with lighter cooking that honors and advances the city’s gastronomic traditions.
Now, with the opening of Villa Maia, there’s a hotel that feels right in a reinvigorated Lyon.
The designers—a French dream team that included architect Jean- Michel Wilmotte (who updated the Louvre), interior designer Jacques Grange (he did Karl Lagerfeld’s home), and garden guru Louis Benech (he redesigned the Tuileries)—have created a sophisticated space that soothes rather than wows with hackneyed design trends.
The minimalist spa with an arched arcade is modeled after ancient Roman baths.
Its 37 guest rooms (which lookout on meditation gardens or over the red-roofed city) have neutral textured walls, wood trim, and sliding panel doors leading to bathrooms done in Carrara marble and heavy nickel, creating a sort of ryokan-meets-Art Moderne feel.
Design aside, the real key to understanding Villa Maia maybe, well, the room key.
It’s an actual key attached to a heavy leather fob.
It doesn’t demagnetize or remind you of a credit card.
You leave it at the front desk when you head out and retrieve it when you return.
It’s a welcome moment of hospitality in an increasingly automated world.