Paris’s ‘palace hotels’ once reigned supreme. Sanctioned by the French government for their better than five-star status, these swirling grandes dames were all sparkling chandeliers, gilded grandeur and double-height ceilings. But recently, a new breed of design-forward dens has emerged in Paris to disrupt the status quo with a tasting menu of lean-in restaurants, moody bars and cavernous rooms, that just so happen to be affordable, too…
In Paris’ 1st arrondissement – steps from the Louvre – Le Roch is the grandest of our non-grandes-dames hotels. Yet, in essence, it’s a home-style hotel at heart. Butler service and ballrooms are banished in favour of understated lounges and living rooms, all impeccably designed in dark, decadent shades by Parisian interiors doyenne, Sarah Lavoine. Grab a tome from the artfully stocked bookshelf, curl up by the fire and rejoice in the fact that the equitably open-plan restaurant, dining patio and bar are a slipper-stroll away. You need not even get dressed for dinner, though the menu of razor clams and rosemary-oil linguine – by Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Fayechef – warrants it.
This hotel takes two Hausmann-era buildings and turns it on its head. Rooms feature bare concrete walls, accented with carefully propped artworks. In-suite bars let you mix your own measures and courtyard-facing balconies are the place to sample them. Downstairs, an Italian-accented restaurant unites a trio of talented chefs, who’ve teamed up on dishes such as ravioli with sage butter and tuna carpaccio. Master mixologist Oscar Quagliarini lures guests to the enveloping Herbarium bar and the terrace come summer, which overlooks the graffiti-scrawled rooftops of the Marais. A spa and club-like yoga studio seal the crowd-pulling appeal.
In the 10 years since Paris’s Experimental Cocktail Club shook up the French capital with their maiden drinking den, they’ve also launched a hush-hush speakeasy in London’s Chinatown, plus two Parisian hotels: Grand Boulevards and Grand Pigalle. The latter, especially, is symptomatic of the changes taking place in the French capital’s hotel scene at present. Set in the bohemian-beloved sub district of SoPi (South Pigalle), it showcases revival-style rooms by designer Dorothée Meilichzon and an Italian restaurant by Giovanni Passerini – the chef behind micro-brasserie, but massively successful, Rino. Dine on spagettone with ‘nduja, before slinking up for a nightcap in your theatrical, bar-stocked room. It’s everything you need and nothing you don’t.
This hotel looks to the past as it journeys into the future. Its inspiration is 19th-century French writer Alexandre Dumas and his novel The Count of Monte Cristo: a blueprint for travel and adventure. Dark woods abound, from the apothecary-style reception desk to the atmospheric, mural-lined bedrooms. And yet, it emerges as a contemporary remake of an old classic, thanks to the lair-like underground pool and guest-gathering Bar 1802 that transforms from breakfast brasserie to tea lounge and rum den throughout the day. Even the perfectly packaged toiletries demand to be taken home. Just plan your escape route – like the Count himself.
Proof of the affordability of these edgier new wave hotels comes from Hotel Bienvenue. This budget-boutique retreat is styled by designer Chloé Nègre with contemporary floral fabrics and blushing pastel shades. Again, it doesn’t completely abandon the past: rounded headboards give the place a pleasantly Art Deco feel, yet larger rooms come with modern flourishes, such as in-built hammams. The restaurant sidesteps the traditional French favouritism of Gallic food in place of Japanese flavours such as yuzu-garnished haddock carpaccio. Views onto a leafy courtyard at the back belie its inner-city location.
Gare du Nord
Paris’s 10th arrondissement used to be known as the insalubrious entry point for Eurostar travellers arriving at Gare du Nord. However, things are changing, and boutique hotels such as Hôtel Providence are playing a part. The man behind this address is Pierre Moussié, a young Parisian, responsible for trendy restaurants such as Brasserie Barbès who, along with wife Elodie and friend Sophie Richard, has taken an old Hausmann-era building and reworked it for a cosmopolitan crowd. It’s equal measure period pomp – with printed House of Hackney wallpapers and vintage lampshades – and hot-right-now hangout, thanks to its decadent downstairs bar and restaurant. The east of Paris is on the up…