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An hôtel particulier (French pronunciation: ​[otɛl paʁtikylje]; "hôtel" being rendered in Middle English as "inn"—as only used now in Inns of Court—and "particulier" meaning "personal" or "private")[1] is a townhouse of a grand sort, comparable to the British townhouse. Whereas an ordinary maison (house) was built as part of a row, sharing party walls with the houses on either side and directly fronting on a street, an hôtel particulier was often free-standing, and by the 18th century it would always be located entre cour et jardin: between the cour d'honneur (an entrance court) and the garden behind.[2] There are hôtels particuliers in many large cities, such as Paris, Bordeaux, Albi, Aix en Provence, Avignon, Caen, Lyon, Montpellier, Nancy, Rouen, Rennes, Toulouse and Troyes.



The word hôtel represents the Old French hostel, from Latin hospitālis "pertaining to guests", from hospes, hospitis, a stranger, foreigner, thus a guest.[3] It thus appears that the city townhouse of the French nobleman was used by him not as a home but as a private place of temporary lodging, perhaps with a permanent staff, where he was treated as an occasional guest. The term had exactly the same equivalent in medieval London as "Inn", of which almost every great nobleman possessed one, generally within the City of London. The English word "hotel" developed a more specific meaning as serviced rooms for rent, as did the word "inn", when replaced by the suffix "house", for example the mediaeval townhouse of the Earl of Northumberland would have been known as "Northumberland's Inn", but a later version was called "Northumberland House" . Cognates can be confusing: the modern usage in English of hotel denotes a commercial building accommodating travellers, a hostelry that is more ambitious than the modern meaning of inn. Modern French also applies hôtel to commercial non-private hotels: confusingly the Hôtel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde was built as an hôtel particulier and is today a public hotel. The Hôtel des Invalides retains its early sense of a hospice for war wounded.

In French, an hôtel de ville or mairie is a town hall (and not a hotel), such as the Hôtel de Ville, Paris or the Hôtel de Ville de Montréal. Other official bodies might give their name to the structure in which they maintained a seat: aside from Paris, several other French cities have an Hôtel de Cluny, maintained by the abbey of Cluny. The Hôtel de Sens was built as the Paris residence of the archbishop of Sens.

Hôtel-Dieu ("hostel of God") is the old name given to the principal hospital in French towns, such as the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Collins Robert French Dictionary
  2. ^ Michel Gallet, Les architectes parisiens du XVIIIe siècle, Paris;
  3. ^ Cassell's Latin Dictionary

Further readingEdit

  • Monographs have been published on some outstanding Parisian hôtels particuliers.
  • The classic photographic survey, now a rare book found only in large art libraries, is the series Les Vieux Hotels de Paris by J. Vacquer, published in the teens and twenties of the 20th century, which takes Paris quarter by quarter and which illustrates many hôtels particuliers that were demolished during the 20th century.
  • Blanc, Olivier, Hôtels particuliers de Paris (1998)
  • Caylux, Odile et al. Les Hôtels particuliers d'Arles (2000)
  • Coquery, Natacha, L’hôtel aristocratique. Le marché du luxe à Paris au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998
  • Courtin, Nicolas, L'Art d'habiter à Paris au XVIIe siècle : L'ameublement des hôtels particuliers, Paris, Faton, 2011
  • Cros, Philippe,Hôtels particuliers de France (2001)
  • Gady, Alexandre, Les Hôtels particuliers de Paris, du Moyen-Âge à la Belle époque, Paris, Parigramme, 2007
  • Naudin, Jean-Baptiste et al., Hôtels particuliers de Paris: Visite privée (1999).
  • Papillault, Remi Les hôtels particuliers du XVIe siècle à Toulouse (Serie Memoires des pays d'Oc)

External linksEdit