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
12 noon; late check-out available up until 4pm for 50 per cent of the room rate, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Guests are welcomed in the bar, which adds to the ‘make yourself at home’ feel.
Double rooms from £424.21 (€500), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.75 per person per night on check-in.
Rates don’t usually include a Continental breakfast (€34 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.
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 12 noon to 2.30pm, and dinner from 7pm to 10.30pm. The bar pours 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.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this modestly à la mode hotel in the 1st arrondissement, shot their room one last Mona Lisa smile and unpacked their Zadig & Voltaire vêtements, a full account of their ‘yes sir, I can bougie’ break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Château Voltaire in central Paris…
We would say there’s an alluring je ne sais quoi to Château Voltaire, but its charms are very apparent. After all, its pedigree is impeccable: these three grand 17th- and 18th-century buildings were formerly the headquarters of cult fashion house Zadig & Voltaire (and before that, they were stables under Richlieu’s reign), and owner Thierry Gilliers, along with artistic director Franck Durand (of top interior-design studio Desselle Partners) and architecture firm Festen have turned it into a guesthouse with the quiet yet confident style of those who are innately cool, an embracing yet discreet attitude and throwback touches (a bold 1940s-style carpet, custom Art Deco light fixtures and mirroring, antique Limoges crockery, fringed velvet chaises) that make it subtly decadent. The tastemakers worked from a mood board of Claude Sautet films, lively squares in the South of France, hallowed hideaways such as Chateau Marmont and the Chiltern Firehouse, Sarah Bernhardt, Hollywood’s Golden Age and Casanova. Somehow they’ve hit all these notes without going overboard, especially in the rooms, which are the picture of understated chic, and Gillier has put his own stamp on things by hanging his – not insignificant – art collection on the walls (think, Picasso, Twombly, Basquiat…), and naming the elegant brasserie after his son. From the basement spa – only open for two at a time – to the reformed one-time brothel turned sultry bar, to the signature-scented hallways and the penthouse apartment with its lush garden terrace, it’s achieved the effortless (yet clearly tirelessly conceived) style and art de vivre Parisians excel at – so maybe there is some ineffable Gallusness at play. Its namesake scribe once said, ‘Sensual pleasure passes and vanishes, but the friendship between us, the mutual confidence, the delight of the heart, the enchantment of the soul, these things do not perish and can never be destroyed.’ But this urban home, rich in both sensual pleasures and soul-enchanting touches, shows you a hotel can deftly do both.