Review by Fiona Duncan, published 16th March 2008.
Whatever your style, there’s a Paris hotel to fit the bill. They fall into four distinct categories; once you know what they are, it’s a question of choosing the type that suits you, or your mood, best.
First, there’s the thing that Paris does better than anywhere in the world, that indeed it invented: chic. Don’t stand at the reception desk of a chic Paris hotel in a pair of trainers, with a rucksack trailing on the ground. The reception staff won’t expel you, but the merest glance, even the flicker of an eyelid, should be enough to send you straight round to Prada for emergency supplies. You won’t mind the expense: these hotels may be haughty but they are also elegant and beautiful in a way that’s authentically French, entirely natural and very seductive.
The French may have invented chic, but they do hip pretty well too, though not always with such successful results. Sometimes style beats substance by a country mile, but when it works, it works spectacularly well. Witness Costes, in rue St Honoré (tel 0033 1 42 44 50 00) a hotel so cool that it doesn’t even stoop to a website, and where, once you are inside its faux-Napoleon III cocoon, you are swept into a parallel universe of beautiful people (the staff often outdo the guests) lolling on stuffed velvet love-seats, grooving to DJ Stephan Popougniac’s disco sounds, and canoodling behind wispy curtains around the misty, subterranean pool. But if Costes is still the daddy of them all, there have been a crop of successful new openings of late, each one creating a well-deserved buzz and its own following. We bring you the best.
And then there are hotels with traditional French character, legions of them. Crooked floors, old beams, breakfast rooms in stone-walled cellars, nostalgic decoration. Many of them have been around for decades; some are on their last legs, while others have been refreshed. A few, even, are new, or have been substantially renovated in a characterful way. The trick is to know which are well run, and which have had their day.
As for budget hotels, most in Paris tend to be of the ‘character’ variety rather than contemporary, although there are one or two exceptions. Expect tiny wrought iron lifts and the feeling that you should be writing a novel at your desk, in the style of Colette, or getting out your easel. All the hotels listed here are in locations that make the best of this incomparably beautiful city.
Meurice (228 rue de Rivoli, 1st; (00 33 1 44 58 10 10; www.meuricehotel.com; doubles from £599 per night, including breakfast).
If Costes is the daddy of hip, then the Meurice is the mère of chic. Officially Paris only rises to “four star luxe” rather than five-star hotel accommodation, which is probably what makes its top hotels so sensational: they are all in traditional mode and set in historic mansions, rather than bling new builds as in so many other cities. If only for its location, entered from the arches of the rue de Rivoli and overlooking the quintessentially Parisian Jardin des Tuileries, it has the edge, for my bar of gold, on its rivals the Ritz, Plaza-Athénée, Four Seasons Georges V, Bristol and Crillon. Once inside, it only gets more and more chic, the revamped interior glittering in gold, marble and glass in a way that’s dramatic yet dainty, with rows of gilt framed glass doors leading into the shadowy majesty of the Bar Fontainbleu, and the scintillating Versailles-themed, Michelin-starred restaurant. Rooms and suites hark back to the Empire and 18th century and many have superb views, while the terrace of the Belle Etoile Suite has an amazing 360¬º panorama over Paris. Spoiling spa; appropriate service.
Lancaster (7 rue de Berri, 8th (00 33 1 40 76 40 76; www.hotel-lancaster.fr; doubles from £336 per night, including breakfast).
A recent stay at this aristocratic Champs-Elysées hotel proves that its new owners, the Spanish Hospes group, headed by the high society owners of Zara, have left well alone, only improving amenities such as beds and in-room entertainment. The grand ancien régime townhouse was bought in 1930 by legendary hotelier Emile Wolf, who filled it with unusual things and a starry array of guests from Coward to Dietrich. The original furniture remains intact, as does the enchanting Salon Berri and the red leather lift that takes you to your lovely bedroom. For the epitome of chic, choose the Marlene Dietrich Suite. Michel Troisgros oversees the menu in the classy restaurant.
8 rue de Verneuil, 7th (00 33 42 60 82 14; www.hotel-verneuil.com; doubles from £146 per night, including breakfast).
Chic usually means expensive, and it certainly doesn’t mean cheap, but this Saint-Germain address is at least affordable and provides a bolthole that feels both exclusive and welcoming, decorated in the manner of an elegant private house. Bedrooms (specify a large one) are furnished with antiques, with attractive lighting. There’s a cosy sitting room, and once you step outside, a wealth of antique and fashion shops. Owner Sylvie de Lattre, Parisian to her fingertips, picks out her favourite local shops and cafés on the hotel’s website.
Thérèse (57 rue Thérèse, 1st; 00 33 1 42 96 10 01; www.hoteltherese.com; doubles from £154 per night, including breakfast).
A smart whitewashed building in a narrow street near the Louvre announces the Thérèse, carefully and calmly designed in classic/contemporary style, with an eye for quality. The elegant bedrooms have good quality beds and linens, while bathrooms neatly mix contemporary with traditional, such as Philippe Starck lighting and attractive old style tap fittings. Most importantly, the hotel attracts an interesting clientele, many from the world of publishing and fashion.
(8 rue de Navarin, 9th; 0033 1 48 78 31 80; www.hotelamour.com; doubles from £115 per night, including breakfast).
Brainchild of graffiti artist and nightclub entrepreneur André, the Amour has come storming on to the Paris hotel scene. It has the right name, is in the right place – up-and-coming SoPi (south Pigalle) – and is achingly hip. Bedrooms lead off black-painted corridors lit by naked bulbs. Some have been decorated by named artists; others display risqué photographs; all are eclectic, done out in vintage colours and with finds from the marché aux puces. The buzzing bistro downstairs, all black, white and fire-engine red, swarms at night with young bohos. In warm weather, tables and chairs spill out into the lush courtyard garden.
(41 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 8th; 0033 1 53 23 75 75; www.hoteldesers.com; doubles from £401 per night, including breakfast).
Less than 100 metres from the iconic George V, here is a smaller mansion turned hotel with a dash of zaniness. When architect Thomas Vidalenc remodelled the 19th-century home of the Marquis de Sers, he made a happy marriage between the traditionally elegant and cutting-edge design. Through a sliding glass door, the entrance hall sets the tone: a gallery of heavy gilt-framed portraits hangs on the panelled wall above a row of funky grey armchairs on deep purple carpet. The wood-clad, candlelit S’Bar becomes a magnet for a glamorous young crowd at the cocktail hour, and bedrooms offer deep-pile, wrap-around comfort.
Murano Urban Resort
(13 boulevard du Temple, 3rd; 00 33 1 42 71 20 00; muranoresort.com; doubles from £290 per night, including breakfast).
If Costes is hip in an opulent way, then Murano Urban Resort, a close contender for top contemporary hotel of choice for A listers, is hip in a fun way. You may find the lift lined in faux fur on your first visit, glitter on your second; the iconic white chesterfield sofa stretches in front of an enormous working fireplace; the restaurant ceiling is a sea of stalactite lights; fingerprint scanners have replaced room keys, the corridors feel like nightclubs, two of the suites have tiny rooftop pools. Austen Powers is in there somewhere, and A Clockwork Orange, with a dash of Sci-Fi. Fun. And not nearly as intimidating as you might think.
(8 rue Fréderic Bastiat, 8th; 00 33 1 42 56 17 00; www.hoteldanielparis.com; doubles from £350 per night, including breakfast).
Turning its back on the all-white minimalism of some of the latest hotels, newcomer The Daniel puts Chinoiserie firmly back on the style map, with Khotan carpets, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, jewel-coloured silk sofas and porcelain lamps. The look, created by designer Tarfa Salam, is flamboyant and uplifting. From the lobby, in tones of almond green and grey, a lift resembling a Chinese box whisks guests up to the lovely bedrooms, most lined with toile de Jouy and all furnished with hand-picked oriental pieces. An Asian influence continues on to the menu of the excellent restaurant.
Caron de Beaumarchais (12 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 4th; 00 33 1 42 72 34 12; www.carondebeaumarchais.com; doubles from €129 per night, including breakfast).
A glimpse through the glass front of this Marais hotel tells all: a recreation of 18th century taste, complete with pianoforte, card table and first editions, and the world of Mozart’s librettist Caron de Beaumarchais, who lived in the street. It may be mannered, but it’s impossible not to be caught up in the charm and warmth of the place. Bedrooms, the best with walk-out balconies, are decorated with as much care as the public rooms. Good value for the area.
(13 rue des Beaux-Arts, 6th; 0033 1 44 41 99 00; www.l-hotel.com; doubles from £236 per night, including breakfast).
The ‘pavillion d’amour’ of the early 19th century, the final home of Oscar Wilde in the early 20th century and the louche and decadent celebrity hangout of the 60s and 70s is now, resplendent in its Jacques Garcia livery, in the caring hands of Jessica Sainsbury and husband Peter de Frankopan of Cowley Manor. Climb the fabulous circular staircase to rooms like jewel boxes and themed suites (if you can bear the tristesse you can sleep in the room in which Wilde expired beyond his means).
(8 rue Laferrière, 9th; 0033 1 48 78 60 92; www.arvor-hotel-paris.com; doubles from £88 per night, including breakfast).
Around the corner from one of the city’s hidden gems, place Saint Georges, the Arvor is the new kid on the budget block. Behind a sober façade, hands-on owner Nadine Flammarion has transformed a standard three star into a hip, laid-back hotel with chic, retro-contemporary looks. The finished bedrooms – some are still being refurbished – major in white but with a single wall of vivid colour and are minimally yet carefully furnished. The open-plan ground floor incorporates a sitting area with bookshelves, a bar, reception and breakfast area decorated with the striped posters of French conceptual artist Daniel Buren. The tiny patio comes into its own in summer.
(10 46 passage Jouffroy, 9th; 0033 1 47 70 58 10; www.hotel-chopin.com; doubles from £76 per night, including breakfast).
Glimpsed through a glass façade at the end of one of the 19th-century arcades which thread this shopping and theatre neighbourhood, the Chopin’s entrance looks cosy and inviting. Inside, plants, a piano and, predictably, Chopin playing in the background infuse it with old-world charm. It could easily be a tourist trap. But it’s not. Staff are caring and attentive, and prices close to rock bottom. The bedrooms, off salmon pink corridors, are simple but attractive and blissfully quiet. The best, tucked under the eaves, have classic views across the Paris rooftops.
(3 rue Mayet, 6th; 0033 1 47 83 21 35; www.mayet.com; doubles from £90 per night, including breakfast).
Fun, relaxed, breezy and good value, the Mayet shows how colour – judiciously applied – can lift a hotel from the rut. There’s colour everywhere: graffiti-style murals; painted tables; carpets; even the mugs for your self-service breakfast (which you can take back to bed or eat at a long table d’hôte in the vaulted cellar). The more sober bedrooms in red, grey and white use stylish ‘office’ furniture to good effect, and all have excellent beds. Wondering where to dine? The friendly staff chalk up recommended restaurants on a lobby blackboard.