If Paris for you means Céline, Chanel and Lanvin, and you feel lost without an eyeful of the Eiffel, then you’ll feel at home in the 8th, 6th and 1st arrondissements. Hotel rooms in the smartest central districts bring to mind the famous JP Morgan quote, ‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ — especially the elite palace hotels such as Le Meurice and Hôtel Le Bristol Paris, where the wealthiest guests are known to take over whole floors
We recommend: Le Meurice
Opened on Rue de Rivoli in 1835, Le Meurice originally catered to the English upper crust, then royalty and world leaders (often fleeing or deposed ones) plus celebrities of their day such as Salvador Dalí and Yehudi Menuhin. Its position — overlooking the Tuileries Garden, facing the Musée d’Orsay and just up the road from the Louvre — gives it an edge over some of the other super-deluxe addresses in the 8th or 16th arrondissements. The other thing that gives it crème de la crème status is the service — lacking, alas, at some high-end Paris hotels. Rooms and suites are decorated in Louis XIV style — golds, pale greys and blues, wide beds and roomy marble bathrooms. The public spaces combine listed mosaic floors, neoclassical pillars and antique mirrors, plus witty design by Philippe Starck, who carried out a major revamp in 2007. Alain Ducasse has recently taken over the kitchens, and young pastry star Cédric Grolet is in charge of cakes and desserts. Don’t miss out on a cocktail in the old-school bar.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €640 (£543). lemeurice.com
Best for the Champs-Élysées: Prince de Galles
This newly restored hotel thrills with its art deco architecture and design by Pierre-Yves Rochon, whose other recent clients include the London Shangri-La and Savoy. The original 1920s mosaic, murals and Prince of Wales feather sconces in the bar are stand-outs; the rooms and suites are all about sleek details, from drawers that pull themselves closed to Bulgari bathroom products. The restaurant does bento-style lunches and gastronomic grandeur by night.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €600 (£509). princedegallesparis.com
Best for affordable flair: Hôtel Crayon
This boutique hotel (26 rooms, one suite) sets the standard for fun, inexpensive city-centre stays. The decor mixes colour-blocking — with walls, textiles and details in bold, saturated reds, blues and greens — and an illustrative theme, extending from the lobby to some of the rooms. Designer Julie Gauthron scoured Lyon, Marseille and Nice, as well as Paris’ own Saint-Ouen flea market for customisable vintage furniture. Low prices — for this area — mean no frills but you do get Le Palais Royal, Les Halles and the Louvre, all just minutes away.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €150 (£127). hotelcrayon.com
There isn’t a huge choice of lovable establishments in the 3rd and 4th, considering how visitor-friendly and enticing this part of Paris is, with its cobbled streets, art galleries and enticing monuments. The ancient architecture and relatively recent gentrification means that what accommodation there is tends to be a little on the small side. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you look north of the city, but if the Marais is a must, choose carefully.
We recommend: La Pavillon de la Reine
Family-owned, beautifully-kept and ‘mini grand’ in style and status, this ivy-draped 17th-century monument is set back from the Place des Vosges, the exquisite arcaded square commissioned by Henri IV and the former home of Cardinal Richelieu, Madame de Sevigné and Victor Hugo. Its porte principale is flanked by a breakfast room with a very civilised honesty bar, furnished in classical, sumptuous textiles, and paintings in the ancestral-portrait style. The 54 rooms and suites look and feel cossetting, private and quiet — despite the occasional operatic busker on the pavement below. Service is excellent, whether you’re a bigwig who comes regularly with family in tow, or a couple spending two nights for a special treat. There’s no restaurant (try Le Petit Marché, just around the corner, for dinner) or bar as such, or pool or gym, but they have installed a diminutive Carita spa in the basement. This charming address deserves a place on any ‘best of Paris’ list. It wears its grandeur lightly: fans include Patti Smith, John Malkovich and members of Radiohead.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €380 (£322). pavillon-de-la-reine.com
Best for design: Hôtel Jules & Jim
This new boutique hotel was conjured from the site of a former precious metals workshop during a five-year conversion project. The atmosphere at Jules & Jim is low-key and friendly, while the four types of room include chic little ‘pods’ with glowing bauxite walls and rooftop vistas, and more conventionally designed rooms in a courtyard annexe. The outdoor space is also overlooked by the former carriage house — now the bar and breakfast room — replete with vintage-style tables, and chic, contemporary chairs and settees.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €200 (£169). hoteljulesetjim.com
Best for history buffs: Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais
Ravishingly romantic, this townhouse has something of a living museum about it. The communal areas are decorated in homage to The Marriage of Figaro, whose illustrious librettist, the eponymous Beaumarchais, did actually live next door; a 1792 piano, printed music and baize-topped card table are set up as though noble residents have just this minute left the scene. The 19 rooms are antique-filled, pretty and occasionally witty: one tiled bathroom wall features trompe d’oeil vases. Book well in advance to be on the safe side.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €145 (£123). carondebeaumarchais.com
The trendy 10th
Gentrification took hold around Canal St-Martin in the 1990s. Other pockets of cool are appearing around the 10th, from once hippie-ish Rue Ste-Marthe to the fizzing micro-quartier between Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière and Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. A handful of chic hotels have opened, too, on the cusp of the 9th and 10th, with more due in 2014 — notably from Hôtel Paradis’ owners, who are developing a second site near the Folies Bergères.
We recommend: Hôtel Paradis
Revitalised late last year by Julie and Adrien Gloaguen, plus interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon, the Paradis is perhaps the coolest Paris address for under €100 — popular with rock musicians, digital yuppies and style editors. The lobby and lounge are all high-sided sofas and designer lighting; the airy ground-floor space is split in three by factory-salvage window frames. The 38 bedrooms are comfy, while the old-fashioned bathrooms are undergoing improvements; breakfast is functional, if ample, with staff on hand to produce more pastries and boil you an egg to order. The hotel is next door to produce-led Vivant Table and its wine-bar sibling Vivant Cave, and a lobster bar is soon to open in a former synagogue just up the street.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €95 (£80). hotelparadisparis.com
Best for gourmets: Hotel de Nell
This sleek hotel has 33 rooms — 27 featuring Japanese baths carved from single chunks of marble — all with Sealy beds and bespoke Artemide lighting. Its restaurant, La Régalade du Conservatoire, was created by Bruno Doucet, a pioneer of the bistronomie movement.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €300 (£254). hoteldenell.com
Best for grown-up gappers: Le Citizen Hotel
This perky, 12-room pad, overlooking hip Canal St-Martin, is poky but the layouts are so ingenious you’ll not notice. Generous touches abound, from the free mini-bar to in-room iPads, preloaded with music, films and local recommendations.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €195 (£165). lecitizenhotel.com
The 5th and 6th arrondissements are packed with characterful places to stay, with the lively Latin Quarter, boho cafes and the Pantheon adding to its cultural weight. Regular Paris visitors have their favourites but, if you’re not in the know, it can be hard to tell one old-school three-starrer from another. The good news is the Left Bank tends to be more affordable, especially for families, as well as quaintly photogenic.
We recommend: Hotel Verneuil
Cosy and classy, with 26 rooms in a 17th-century building, Le Verneuil is very ‘old Paris’, but looks spruce and in tune with its locale following a recent refurbishment. The dimly lit reception area and sitting room are chintz-free, with antiquarian books deployed as decor, exposed beams and a crackling fire in winter. Rooms are dinky — opt for a Club or Deluxe if you’re staying longer than a night or two — but properly appointed, with top-end beds and bedlinen, vintage lamps and mirrors, and a contemporary palette of whites and neutrals with pops of colour. Rue de Verneuil is quiet, calm and super-central, with the bars, shops and restaurants of Blvd St-Germain on one side, and Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre on the other.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €179 (£151). hotel-verneuil-saint-germain.com
Best for budget: Hôtel La Manufacture
Down in the 13th, just off Place d’Italie, La Manufacture features bright, art deco-inspired decor. All 56 rooms have bathtubs, several have balconies, and the top-storey Superior Room has quite a view. The attractive Butte-aux-Cailles ‘village’ is on your doorstep and the Place de la Contrescarpe and Jardin des Plantes are 20 minutes away.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €74 (£62). hotel-la-manufacture.com
Best for classic comfort: Hôtel Duc de Saint-Simon
Refreshingly cheerful, from the onslaught of bright, beautiful decor to the uber-helpful staff, the Duc de Saint-Simon offers peace and quiet, comfort and a little leafy garden. Bedrooms were revamped last year; ask for a garden-side room, or one with a private breakfast terrace. The Rodin Museum, one of the city’s most romantic visitor attractions, is a short walk away.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €275 (£233). hotelducdesaintsimon.com
Published in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)