by Michael J. Shapiro | August 01, 2012

River Seine2. Paris The City of Light overtook Barcelona for second place on the 2011 ICCA ranking, with 174 events. But attendance was up across the board for Paris meetings, not only those that meet the ICCA's criteria. The Paris Convention Bureau tallied 996 congresses for 2011, drawing a grand total of 792,000 attendees. That exceeds the number of 2010 Paris attendees by a solid 18 percent.

Nearly half (48 percent) of congresses in the city last year were related to the medical sector, adds the bureau, and a number of high-profile medical meetings are on the books for 2012 as well — including mammoth international gatherings for urology, cardiovascular operations, anesthesia and hemophilia.

On the hotel front, the 153-room Hilton Paris La Défense recently completed renovations, debuting an expanded number of guest rooms as well as a new contemporary décor in the modern, distinctive CNIT building, below the Grande Arche. An entire floor of the building has been converted for meetings and seminars, offering eight modular meeting rooms with panoramic views. As many as 240 attendees can be accommodated in the meetings area.

A couple of high-style boutique properties also have debuted recently in the French capital. Hotel Original, the brainchild of fashion designer Stella Cadente, is a 38-room, fairy-tale-inspired property between Place de la Bastille and Place des Vosges. Each unique room has been designed to project the guest "into a fascinating, sublime world" reminiscent of an enchanted forest, a mermaid paradise or Alice in Wonderland, to name a few examples. The Montmartre Mon Amour Hotel, on the other hand, a 24-room boutique hotel created by Lebanese designer Sandrine Alouf, takes its cues from love in the real world. Eight of the guest rooms pay tribute to famous couples of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Baudelaire and Duval or Rimbaud and Verlaine, while the rest promote more general themes of love and romance — including the love for Paris itself, perhaps more appropriate for those traveling alone for business.

The Montparnasse Tower recently wrapped up renovations and offers groups a panoramic, iconic view of the Parisian skyline. From the 56th floor attendees can take in the city's splendor — more than 70 monuments can be spotted — while indoor exhibitions of historic Paris feature photographs, multimedia and touchscreen displays. The venue's panoramic bar, the 360 Café, has been fully renovated as well, as has Espace 56, a private function room that treats up to 300 attendees to a clear view of the Eiffel Tower.

Among historic Parisian properties temporarily closed for revamping is the 159-room Ritz Paris, which will reopen by late 2014 fully refreshed, including the L'Espadon restaurant and the Ritz-Escoffier cooking school. The 168-room Prince de Galles, Paris, will reopen in the first quarter of 2013 with a new fitness and health center.

New developments include a conversion of the former La Samaritaine department store into a luxury hotel, Le Cheval Blanc. Planned for a 2015 debut are 80 guest rooms and suites overlooking the Seine, a cultural center and assorted retail shops.

PHOTOGRAPH: © Paris Tourist Office/Daniel Thierry