Art de vivre – the stylish French ‘good life’ – might be an intangible concept, but in creating the luxurious yet unostentatious Parisian hideaway Château Voltaire, the owner of cult fashion house Zadig & Voltaire Thierry Gillier has teased it into being. With fellow aesthetes Franck Durand (of interiors studio Desselle) and architects Festen, they’ve made beautifully understated rooms with iconic artworks from Gillier’s impressive trove and bold carpeting, turned the former brothel bar into an exclusive sultry sanctuary, added a just-for-two spa and turned the top floor into a dream apartment complete with a garden terrace. A place of discretion and intimacy unexpected in its 1st arrondissement setting, self assured in its subtle sumptuousness, it makes for rarefied high-living quarters indeed.
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A glass of wine each and tapas to share in Emil Brasserie
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability and an extra cost.
Double rooms from £488.93 (€571), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €10.73 per person per night on check-in.
Rates don’t usually include a Continental breakfast (€37 a guest), but guests do get a private 50-minute session in the spa (if it’s available) and a pastry of the day in their room. A €200-a-night pre-authorisation will be requested upon arrival.
The hotel’s pared-back aesthetic isn’t just to show off its eye for just-so style – it’s because it also makes the picks from Gillier’s personal art collection pop. The magnate has amassed many important pieces over the years, so you could have a Picasso or Cy Twombly hanging by your bed. Further evidence of the hotel’s impeccable taste and attention to detail includes the lavish minibars (or rather ‘treat-filled larders’), the custom woody scent that wafts through the halls (created by a professional ‘nose’ for the hotel), the music by Gilliers’ son playing in the spa, and the dog-bed in the lobby, where you’ll sometimes see the manager’s French bulldog snoozing.
At the hotel
Small spa with a sauna and hammam, laundry service (charged), free WiFi. In rooms: Smart flatscreen TV, Illy coffee machine, minibar, free WiFi, bathrobes and slippers, plug adaptors, air-conditioning. The Apartment has a furnished rooftop terrace too.
Our favourite rooms
Chicness is so ingrained here that the hotel doesn’t feel the need to yell about it from the rooftop. Instead you can sense it through luxurious finishes and tactile fabrics: handmade glazed ceramic tiles; rich velvets and cottons in ochre, navy and coral; varnished oak panelling; sultry marble; custom Art Deco lighting; heirloom artworks. And, the 1940s-inspired deep-pile black carpet with gold bay leaves throughout – a bold visual signature. We’d expect no less of the art-loving owner and co-founder of label Zadig & Voltaire Thierry Gillier; and artistic director – the interiors whizz behind Deselle Partners – Franck Durand (who also happens to be husband of Vogue France editor-in-chief Emmanuelle Alt), who collaborated on everything from the paint to the teaspoons. We’d feel at home in any of the rooms here (except for the singles, perhaps – there’s plenty of romance to go around here); however, there is one where you could yell about the luxury from the rooftop if you wished – the Apartment, which runs the whole length of the building, and has its own private terrace planted with fruit trees and wild grasses, set for alfresco dining. Plus a dining room for up to 12 and a full kitchen stocked with vintage Limoges porcelain.
You’d have to be quite petite to actually swim in the spa’s heated plunge pool in its arched stone chamber – even then, you’d hit the side in one stroke. Still, however diminutive it may be, it’s a rare find for a city stay, with a submerged bench to pose on – and, you’ll have it all to yourselves, because each guest gets a private 50-minute session in the spa.
The small basement space has a sauna as well as the heated pool, so, while you’re secluded in there, you can schwitz and soak to your heart’s content and relax on a heated day-bed.
If anything, pack light – you’re surrounded by designer boutiques and ateliers peddling covateble wares, so leave room to acquire.
Junior Suites – which are roomier than most in Parisian hideaways – are best suited for guests with mobility issues.
The bar’s plump banquette is the most inviting pew in the place. If you’re staying in the Apartment, arrange for a private meal on your terrace.
Picks from the house brand will be right at home here. But, whatever you wear, try to match the stay’s understated cool.
Emil Brasserie turns up the charm with its black-and-white floor tiles, solid-oak banquettes, and vintage touches (floral crockery, crisp white tablecloths, silverware and copper pans), evoking a kitchen of the south with Parisian flair. It’s sweetly named after Gillier’s son, and the menu aims for a small and simple selection, with the highest quality ingredients, so the chefs can focus all their love and attention on what you’re about to eat. There’s charcuterie plates and beef in béarnaise sauce with excellent skinny frites, but the chef has an affinity for fish, with langoustines, seabass carpaccio and scallops being the stand-out dishes. Leave room for dessert too: the chocolate mousse is a rich dark delight. Breakfast, also served here, is a hearty spread of baguettes and brioches, viennoiseries, honey and homemade jam, smashed avo with pomegranate, chia pudding, muesli, seasonal fruit and fresh juices.
La Coquille d'Or has been a hush-hush sanctuary and meeting place for centuries; although its purpose has shifted somewhat over the years. Back in the day, this was where young Parisian bucks of a high standing would come to be entertained by young ladies, likely in the hope of their ‘coquilles’ getting some attention; but nowadays it’s an intimate and exclusive club-style bar in the vein of Chateau Marmont or Chiltern Firehouse, where interactions are more along the lines of third dates, friendly catch-ups and business meetings. Decor is black and gold, with shell motifs adorning the bar and custom scallop-shell lighting – a nod to a 16th-century decal found on the building’s façade. In keeping with the classic feel of the space, there’s no frou-frou faffery when it comes to drinks – the cocktail includes negronis, mojitos, manhattans and other tried-and-true favourites.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 10.30am, lunch from noon to 2.30pm, and dinner from 7pm to 10.30pm. The bar pours from 5pm till 1.30am.
Bien sur: the day menu runs from 7am to 11pm and an edited night menu from then on (note, there’s a €39 tray charge at breakfast). The higher-category rooms have more space for in-room dining.
Château Voltaire has an address worthy of its exclusive nature, set on the Rue Saint-Roch, between the Tuileries and Opéra Garnier, a short stroll from the Louvre. Just look for the giant gilded scallop shell above the brasserie door.
The hotel is around a 40-minute drive from both Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports (the former has more direct flight connections worldwide); the hotel can help to arrange transfers from €100 one-way, and you’ll see the buildings become more haute and Haussmanian as you cross from the 10th to the 1st arrondissement.
Eurostar and international TGV arrivals at Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est can hop in a taxi and be at the hotel in around 20 minutes. And for those coming in from other French cities, Gare Saint-Lazare is a 10-minute drive north and Gare de Lyon is a 30-minute drive south-east. The hotel is surrounded by handy Metro stops, but Pyramides is the closest, just a few steps away; it’s on the 7 and 14 lines which criss-cross the city.
Driving is something of a faux pas in Paris. The city’s currently cleaning up its emissions, requiring all vehicles to carry a Crit’Air sticker denoting its eco-friendliness; parking is as rare and expensive as winter truffle (the carpark closest to the hotel is €60 a night; and frankly, it’s unnecessary – the hotel’s within walking distance of iconic treasures along the Seine and various Metros will zip you further afield should your Louboutins start to chafe.
Worth getting out of bed for
So, this is what it feels like to live in one of the city’s most coveted arrondissements… Part of the hotel’s appeal is its NBD attitude and hidden-away atmosphere, so take some time to wander its maze of staircases, canoodle in the made-for-two spa, and knock back a few of the classic-with-no-twists cocktails in the softly lit bar. The hotel also works with the far-too-chic-for-sweating-it fitness club L’Usine, a short walk away, where you can work out for €50 a day. Rue Saint-Roch has a few discoveries to be made: pass by number 41, which used to be a base for British espionage in the Second World War, and stop into the grand Eglise Saint Roch, a Baroque beauty where the Marquis de Sade was married and painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard is buried – occasionally classical concertos are held here. Pick up antique homewares and curios from Brigitte Tanaka (say, a baguette-shaped lamp, dainty napkins, canelé soaps and organza totes), nab superlative pre-loved couture at vintage boutique MB Select, who have a healthy stash of Chanel 2.55s; and high-end homewares from Maison Sarah Lavoine (the design visionary behind fellow Smith stay Le Roch Hotel & Spa). Close by on Place Vendôme is Charvet, one of the first ateliers to make fine shirts and blouses in Paris, alongside France’s finest labels and jewellers (Boucheron, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chopard). And, it would be rude not to swing by one of Zadig & Voltaire’s stores – the closest is at 244 Rue de Rivoli. The legendary French writer after which the brand is named (the ‘Zadig’ comes from his novella Zadig; or the Book of Fate) doesn’t have his own museum (it’s located in Geneva), but head south-east along the Seine to 63 Quai François Mauriac and in the National Library you’ll find a statue which contains his – actual – heart, which was preserved after his death. If the body parts of controversial Enlightenment novelists aren’t your thing, then go for genteel strolls in either the Tuileries or the grounds of the Palais-Royal, catch a play at the Comédie Française or Théâtre des Bouffes, roam the vast halls of the Louvre and muse on the Centre Pompidou’s more modern masterpieces, or explore the gloriously domed Bourse de Commerce. If you have some spare change from your Place Vendôme spree, splash it in Galeries Lafayette and to end your night see who’s playing at L'Olympia Bruno Coquatrix – or just take a classic stroll arm in arm along the Seine.
The 1st arrondissement may have the most thunderous of Paris’s tourist footfall, but the city has too much of a stake in its reputation as the gourmet capital of the world to let the Louvre’s neighbourhood be overrun by Flunches. Whether you want something very fine or – well – a burger (but on the more sophisticated end of the scale) you’ll find a spot here. Book cult Italian eatery Cibus (5 Rue Molière) way in advance of your stay – it’s next to the Louvre and has just 15 seats, so some tenacity is involved. The menu is all organic and serves Italian with a French accent, with dishes such as bass and bottarga carpaccio or octopus with green beans. L’Absinthe looks like a traditional bistro on the outside, but its dishes sample Franco-Asian-Latin flavours in exciting ways, say smoked-herring maki with warm potato and sweet pepper or sweet-and-sour duck breast tacos with jalapeño sauce. Housed in an old printing factory in picturesque Passages des Panoramas, Racines has a blackboard menu that’s dictated by the season. Chef Simone Tondo uses his Italian grandmother’s recipes and his French savoir faire to craft elegant eats – the huge veal-chop Milanese is a favourite. Brasserie d’Aumont may be Hôtel de Crillon’s more casual eatery, but the kind of casual that still calls for a suit and offers a burger for around €40. It’s a treat-yourself joint for sure, but worth the splurge for picks from the temptingly backlit seafood bar, steak bathed in garlic butter, a superlative wine list and pâtisserie they’re justly proud of – and spilling out tipsy and full onto Place de la Concorde feels rather magical.
Brûlerie Saint-Roch is within easy stumbling distance of the hotel for when you need a jolt of caffeine. They have a selection of home brews and bags of beans lining the walls, and each coffee comes with a square of chocolate. If you want to add a sense of occasion to your morning wake-up call, head to Grand Café Capucines, which has been serving up petits dejeuners with a side of people watching since the 1800s.
Disguised as a papered-over storefront and not designated a bar per se, but an Organization in Defense of French Spirits, Le Syndicat has an anarchic streak, but after a few rounds of cocktails laced with Bénédictine, Cognac, Coquerel Pommeau de Normandie and other regional specialities, the politics go a little fuzzy and the good times roll. If you’re very particular in your tastes, then Bisou is for you – pull up a stool at its marble bar and tell the barkeep your likes and dislikes (drinks-wise, that is, they’re only paid so much), and they’ll make you something bespoke on the spot. And, low-lit Mabel Paris is more for making flirtatious eyes at your SO over a punch-packing negroni or old fashioned (with a tiramisu martini for dessert) – and if you overdo it, they have an excellent range of sober-me-up toasties.
'I’ve booked us two nights at a château in central Paris,' I say. 'Come again?' says Mr Smith. 'It’s called Château Voltaire. It’s by Zadig & Voltaire. It’s going to be very cool'.
Though country house or castle Château Voltaire is not, positioned in the well-heeled 1st Arrondissement, neighbouring many of the palace hotels of Paris, it is by all accounts a sumptuous pad.
Conceived by Thierry Gillier, the Founder of Parisian label Zadig & Voltaire, the hotel is plotted on Rue Saint-Roch at the former HQ of the brand. As a fashion house, Zadig & Voltaire is known for its irreverent and juxtaposed designs, so it seems only fitting that Gillier’s hotel – imagined in collaboration with artistic director Franck Durand and Festen agency – follow suit.
Dropped off on the corner of Rue Gomboust and Rue Saint-Roch, we give our temporary home – a tall(ish) white building sealed with a 16th-century shell motif on the exterior’s entrance – the once-over before stepping inside. The lobby is petite and the reception desk discrete, with check in carried out in the lounge – always a welcome approach for the travel weary (yes, a mere two hours on the Eurostar can render one weary).
We’re shown to our room – number 35 (there are 32 rooms, including one epic suite, in all) – which is perfectly understated, save for the trompe l’oeil black and gold carpet, which we are first introduced to in the corridor. It fits a velvet pink sofa (chicer than it sounds), oak oval table, and an XL bed (which is supremely, supremely comfy, made increasingly so courtesy of an old-school bolster cushion).
Slipping into our cream slippers (with black piping around the edges – a nod to Zadig &Voltaire’s rock ‘n roll aesthetic perhaps?) we make a start at unpacking while nibbling on a complimentary plate of luscious cherries – a rather sophisticated welcome snack we concur. Noseying about our room, we trot in the direction of the wardrobes.
Quelle surprise: there’s a rather ritzy mini bar stowed away behind the built-in unit’s slim doors. It takes up approximately one third of the overall wardrobe space and is stocked with posh crisps, artisan chocolate, tempting sweets, and a selection of soft drinks and spirits, as well as fresh citrus fruits (a nice touch).
After pouring ourselves a sharpener, and wolfing down a packet of vegetable crisps, the desire to fold and steam has mysteriously fallen away, and I decide the next thing to do is draw myself a bath. Unpacking can wait.
The bathroom itself is generously sized, fitted with a tub and walk-in shower. Milk-hued, glazed ceramic tiles dominate the monochromatic space, which is finished with a double sink, so there’s ample room for Mr & Mrs Smith to spread out their toiletries.
If (like us) you’re too lazy/tired/content to go out and explore the many treasures on your doorstep on night one, head to the hotel’s restaurant, l’Emil (named after the owner’s son) for dinner.
The compact menu is cosmopolitan, with a seasonal steer. Tuck into starters that range from the simple (half a melon by the spoon) to the slightly more elaborate (seabass carpaccio). The linguine al pomodoro with stracciatella, or the chateaubriand, accompanied by mashed potatoes and green beans, are both good options. And for dessert, the chocolate mousse, of course – old-school and so satisfying.
it’s easier to take in l’Emil’s charming surrounds at breakfast. There’s a lovely stained-glass bar, which is flanked by bulbous lights hanging from golden chains and Provincial nods – traditional delft, copper pots, and silverware – are dotted about the place. Still, the overriding feeling is firmly Parisian (note the banquette seating, black-and-white floor tiles and varnished oak tables).
Breakfast itself is simple – we opted for avocado toast with berries and pomegranate and pancakes, presented on orange-edged white scalloped plates, washed down with grapefruit juice and a café au lait. Fruits, viennoiseries, eggs – to your liking – and more are also available.
When venturing out for the day, do consult the in-the-know hotel team, who are always willing to offer of-the-moment suggestions vis-à-vis where to head next. Wherever your adventures take you, do factor in a pit-stop back at the hotel to enjoy the compact sub-terra sauna and heated (plunge) pool. There’s room enough for two (that would be this Mr & Mrs Smith, then) and you’ll have the place for your exclusive use for 60 whole minutes.
Come 5pm we made a ritual of heading to La Coquille d´Or – which translates as ‘the Golden Shell’ – for a tipple. Open to non-residents, it’s a bolthole to know when seeking a little privacy in the city – we’ve stored it in our (digital) address books for future visits. Classic pours are what you come here for; nab a cabaret-style table and cosy into the jacquard cushioned seating with a negroni or a Manhattan in situ.
Overhead, you’ll note gilded trios of shells serving as light fixtures, a nod to the bar’s name; it’s all a bit suave and we loved it. For something brighter, less moody and with more of a daytime atmosphere, the lounge area, which is decorated in soft creams and offset with a deep-seated navy couch, a needlepoint chair, hexagon-shaped stools, solitary reading lamp and a petite Picasso for Gillier’s personal collection, no less, is a comfortable place to plot and plan your day’s activities.
Next time we come back, we’re keen to check in to the top-floor suite – ‘the apartment’. With hard-to-beat views of Paris’ famed rooftops and a terrace designed by landscape designer Louis Benech, we hear it’s something pretty special. After all, it’s always good to have a reason to return to Paris…