Art lovers: where to stay in Paris

Culture

Art lovers: where to stay in Paris

Masterpiece neighbours and imaginative interiors paint the ultimate portrait of Parisian charm at these artistic escapes

Gemma Askham

BY Gemma Askham28 September 2021

Paris had you at Mona Lisa, but new artistic openings are entrancing eyes in the city where people-watching could be a national sport. Newly opened private collections – such as the 10,000-piece archive of Saint Laurent owner and art connoisseur François Pinault – sit alongside talent-seducing contemporary art spaces (bookmark Fondation Cartier, which will house Damien Hirst until January 2022). Back at the grand dame museums, collections read like a dinner party of pioneering former residents: Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, María Blanchard, Henri Matisse… And this breadth in the art world is increasingly reflected in the hotel scene, which boasts individuality, panache, and critic-proof comfort. So if you’re hoping some of that artistic spirit might rub off, here’s where to stay in Paris

FOR AN INSIDER’S FIND

Hotel Saint-André des Arts

For decades, something curious happened inside Hôtel Saint-André des Arts. Despite only scraping one star, guests arrived loaded with Louis Vuitton luggage and returned every year. So, how was it luring in clientele with premier-cru budgets? Take a bow, location. Situated before a pap-worthy passageway in the 6th (where you’ll find Paris’s oldest restaurant, Le Procope), the village-like streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés have long been a cultural celebrity magnet, attracting Picasso, Prévert and de Beauvoir. Now, newly upgraded, the hotel is a creative force in its own right. Led by designer Chloé Negrè, who created the VIP shopping rooms at nearby Samaritaine (the LVMH-owned department store that’s Paris’s hottest shopping spot), the Sixties and Seventies were the inspiration for Hôtel Saint-André des Arts’s groovy new incarnation.

Creative licence Explosively colourful interiors generate a joy normally only experienced when your mouth is stuffed full of crêpe. Each of the four floors has a different colour theme, reflected in swirling-pattern carpets, Henry Massonet Tam Tam stools and colour-pop Kartell tables. Design has been diligently planned, right down to the retro fonts used for the door numbers and lace curtains that cast clover-shaped “flower power” shadows.

Masterstroke The hotel is perfectly positioned for taking in art and making art. Charvin Arts supplied paint to Cézanne and still produces dazzling quality oil colours. Grim’art stocks specialist paper, calligraphy pens and hand-bound books. Au Vieux Document is known for its chaotic stash of rare books, but it’s also a gem for prints – bag an original Miró lithograph for €150.

Further a-muse-ment Want classical inspiration? Musée Eugène Delacroix pays tribute to the Romanticism pioneer in his former apartment and studio. For contemporary kicks, 59 Rivoli is a squat-turned-art-collective where 30 artists create and exhibit, welcoming public visits.

FOR AN ARTIST’S RETREAT

Saint James Paris

There are private views in the art world and then there’s the private view you uncover at Saint James Paris. One minute you’re marvelling at canvas-worthy Haussmannian townhouses; the next, an unsuspecting archway catches your eye. Inside? A sweeping gravel driveway swings past a fountain and lands at a manor house enveloped in… gardens. Ooh là là! Finding a private lawn in Paris might be as rare as finding someone shoddily dressed, but don’t be fooled by rumours of the ‘sleepy’ 16th arrondissement. Yes, you will sleep like a Bordeaux-imbibed log, but you’re only a 15-minute walk from Trocadéro (and therefore the Eiffel Tower) and seven to Victor Hugo metro, where line two directly whisks you to Pigalle and Montmartre.

Creative licence Saint James has gone through a few artistic phases in its time, but its 2021 interpretation by architectural designer Laura Gonzalez is, simply, beautiful. There are ceiling frescos, Pierre Frey fabrics as thick and irresistible as frites, ceramics by Jean Roger, and slabs of marble topping everything from bathtubs to desks. Yet the atmosphere swerves stiffness for the warmth a sprawling family house. The heart is the Library Bar, where 12,000 tomes meet the dexterity of a master whiskey-pourer.

Saint James Paris | Mr & Mrs Smith

Masterstroke The Guerlain spa makes an artform of reclining. Expect Greco-Roman design, palms living their most opulent life, and a glass-ceilinged indoor pool that lets you bob under Paris’s stars.

Further a-muse-ment A 25-minute wander through the Bois de Boulogne woods brings you to the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton, currently displaying the French and Russian art amassed by brothers Mikhaïl and Ivan Morozov. If their names don’t ring a bell, their works – spanning Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Matisse and Picasso – will.

FOR ENVIABLE ARTEFACTS

JK Place Paris

The Parisian sister of Capri’s most chichi address (yeah, the JK Place family has seriously good genes), this former embassy remains discrete on the outside yet laden with curios inside. The vibe? Imagine crashing at the opulent apartment of your Platinum Tier friend with the ridiculously good eye for art. And did we mention that the Musée d’Orsay, bearing Manet’s Olympia and Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait, is only four minutes’ walk?

Creative licence Designer Michele Bönan scored the hotel’s objet d’art from Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – a sprawling flea market just north of Paris (accessible via metro, open Friday to Monday). You could easily lose a day there just imagining how to ship home a 7ft Louis XVI mirror. Within Puces, Paul Bert Serpette market was the specific source of many JK Place pieces, which include Hermès lamps and Picasso drawings.

Masterstroke One glance at the snow white, monogrammed bedlinen and you’re practically snoring. Just as well that complimentary coffee is served at all times – a substance the owners consider as vital as water. There’s also a Dr Barbara Sturm spa and pool, and possibly the smartest-equipped hotel gym you’ll see (or, let’s be honest here, won’t).

Further a-muse-ment For proximity to art, consider yourself in the brush pot of Paris. Nearby attractions include Musée de l’Orangerie (Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings), Musée Rodin (sculpture), Petit Palais (fine arts) and Hôtel de la Marine (a 550-room palace fresh from a four-year restoration).

FOR A CONTEMPORARY CANVAS

Hôtel National des Arts & Métiers

In a square between Le Marais and Rue Montorgueil, the pedestrianised street that’s a Francophile’s bistro-and-cheese-shop dream, Hôtel National des Arts & Métiers appears to be in a Haussmannian building like a thousand others. Or…. not. Inside, it’s an all-out modern affair, with a glass-roofed courtyard, muted steel palette, hipster crowd, and an intimate rooftop that offers an entire menu of spritzes and serves them with a view stretching from the Sacré-Cœur to the Eiffel Tower.

Creative licence Design blurs the boundary between minimalism and maximalism. The excellent Italian restaurant has blue-velvet booths and huge, hand-painted ink canvases. The breakfast area has an installation of oxidised copper pipes. There are plants everywhere. Yet the effect is very slick. Ditto in the bedrooms, where wood-panelled walls and terrazzo bathrooms sit elegantly next to shelves curated with catalogues of Le Corbusier and Albert Frey. La Chambre Signature with Balcony has that all-important B-word.

Masterstroke The Herbarium bar gets creative juices flowing; perfume-inspired cocktails play with tastebuds <and> nostrils. The spot-hitting Haigball marries Haig Club whiskey with a splash of cider, ginger liqueur, and cinnamon bitters.

Further a-muse-ment The hotel’s namesake, Musée des Arts et Metiers, showcases industrial design spanning timepieces to typewriters. You’re also near one of 2021’s most hyped openings, the Bourse de Commerce: Pinault Collection – considered a phenomenon not just because of the 40,000 works inside, but for the dome-topped space they occupy. Go.

FOR THE AVANT-GARDE

Sinner Paris

Sinner Paris is equal parts hotel and performance art. Initially, a religious scene is set: there’s a dramatic wall of stained glass, gothic candelabras, staff dressed in monastic robes. But its second act is altogether naughtier. Awaken your senses by skulking along the almost dark, red-walled corridors to the bedrooms; once inside, you’ll find a two-person shower, a vinyl turntable, erotic literature and, if the rumours are true, a riding crop in the wardrobe. Don’t bring the kids.

Creative licence Inspired by the carefree 70s, as well as Sinner’s bohemian location in Le Marais, Designer Tristan Auer has brought varying levels of risqué. The bar is all about the social scene – pink sofas, candlelight, and a liquor list made of small distilleries create an intimate vibe that’s catnip to the party crowd. Then there’s that mischievous edge. Take L’Ablutio spa, which is accessed via a nail-studded door. Or the Crypt, a dungeon-cum-concept store selling the hotel’s signature frankincense scent.

Masterstroke Tastemaker Amélie du Chalard, founder of the anti-elitist gallery Maison d’art, curated the Sinner’s 400-piece art collection. Expect the classic (Helmut Palla chairs) and the curveball (some armour).

Further a-muse-ment Put activated senses to use at the nearby Pompidou Centre; until December, a Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective makes its first trip to France. For lesser-known talking points, contemporary gallery Galerie Templon never skimps on talent. Its latest exhibition showcases busts that artist Prune Nourry sculpted simply by touching and talking to her models – she was blindfolded throughout.

FOR A BRUSH WITH HISTORY

Cour des Vosges

Place des Vosges is one of Paris’s oldest squares – with lawns neater than a nail technician’s manicure – and Cour des Vosges is the only hotel that overlooks it. If that sounds poetic, you’d be right – Victor Hugo penned much of Les Mis only a few doors up. Despite the privileged location, this 12-room, 17th-century townhouse still remains something of an insider’s secret. Perfect if you like your getaways heavy on privacy, and on pastries – there’s an on-site patisserie.

Creative licence There is art everywhere inside: sculptures, ceramics, tapestries, first-edition books, statues, furniture amassed over the centuries. But it’s often the building itself that’s the masterpiece – take the suites on the first and second floors, which boast hand-painted ceiling beams designed to wow the bourgeoisie.

Masterstroke Four-poster beds made of stainless steel make an impressive design statement, though the Roman Baths in the basement steal the hidden-treasure award.

Further a-muse-ment Two must-sees are on your doorstep. Musée National Picasso-Paris, which features 5,000 works including Picasso’s Self-Portrait and Man with Guitar. Then, Musée Carnavalet. A city history museum rather than a straight-up arts space, it has an epic collection of paintings from the likes of Joos Van Cleve, Paul Signac and Louis Béroud, as well as images of Paris through the ages, personal items belonging to Marie-Antoinette, and candid street snaps by the late, great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

If you’re seeking yet more inspiration, browse our full gallery of hotels in Paris