Hôtel Récamier is a petite B&B on the Left Bank in Paris, with cosy rooms overlooking Place Saint-Sulpice. Inside, six storeys of traditional townhouse reach up to reveal an oh-so-chic interiors, lavished with fashionable fabrics and fancy fixtures. Space may be limited, but the hotel makes up for it with sheer sophistication and a smart location near many Parisian boutiques – it even has a tucked-away terrace. Aim for the rooms at the top for the best views of Saint-Sulpice church and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
Get this when you book through us:
BlackSmith members get free entrance tickets to the Louvre or the Musée d'Orsay. SilverSmith members get half a bottle of champagne; GoldSmith members get a whole bottle
Noon, but flexible for half a day's rate. Check-in, 2pm (earlier if the room is available).
Double rooms from £176.50 (€200), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.88 per person per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast (€11 to €20). Full-English, American and Continental are offered.
Between 4pm and 6pm, there's afternoon tea in the lounge. Soft drinks and snacks will also be available.
At the hotel
Terrace, lounge, original artwork, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar and bottled water. Higher-category rooms have a Nespresso machine too.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the rooms has been decadently dressed with exotic furniture and textured trimmings; all have canopied beds. Room 42 triumphs in size and has a chocolate, cream and beige palette, with a striped canopy over the bed, an ornate gold mirror and tactile wallpaper. We also like Room 64 on the sixth floor, which is smaller, but has a balcony overlooking Parisian rooftops. For family stays, each floor has a pair of rooms that can be connected to form a suite. If you prefer a bath tub to a walk-in shower, book a Classic or Club room.
Sunglasses, scarves and stilettos to keep up with the super chic of Saint-Germain.
In-room beauty treatments and massages can be arranged.
Baby cots can be added to rooms for free; extra beds cost €50 a night. A local nanny can take over for €18 an hour, given half a day’s notice. The hotel is surprisingly family friendly, and many of the rooms can interconnect to form a cosy apartment.
Squeeze into the cosy den off the main lounge, and bag one of the brown-velvet sofas or gold-leather armchairs arranged around the fireplace. In summer, step out with your drinks amid the bamboo on the terrace.
Nothing leopard-print: you might clash with the carpet.
There’s no restaurant, but a Continental breakfast is put on in the homey lounge every morning – guests help themselves from the old-fashioned dresser. Between 4pm and 6pm, free soft drinks and snacks are served.
Guests can kick back at the little bar in the breakfast lounge, where a waiter serves drinks in the evenings.
It’s a relaxed affair: breakfast runs from 7.30am till 10.30am or 11am; drinks at the bar are available from early evening until around 10.30pm.
A menu of omelettes, cheese platters and sophisticated main meals – sauté of veal or duo of prawns and scallops – is available until 11pm.
Tucked away on a little plaza to the right of the imposing Saint Sulpice church, Hôtel Récamier is within walking distance of Saint Germain's best shops and cafés.
A 20-minute drive away, Paris Orly is the closest airport, with good domestic links to most of France. UK and international flights land at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, a 30-minute drive away. A taxi from Charles de Gaulle international airport to the centre costs about €50; buses and trains run regularly into town at a fraction of the cost.
Montparnasse station, a 20-minute walk away, has connections to cities such as Bordeaux, Toulouse and Rennes. The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord is about 20 minutes away by car, or 25 minutes away on the metro. The hotel is well placed on the metro network, with stops on lines 4, 10 and 12 within walking distance.
There’s a public car park on Place Saint-Sulpice, 100 metres away, if you’ve chanced driving in central Paris.
With separated bike lanes and quiet back streets, the Left Bank can be a pleasure to explore on two wheels. Hire a self-service bike from a Vélib station; there are several near the hotel. You'll need a credit card to leave the €150 deposit required.
Worth getting out of bed for
Crowded but irresistible, the Eiffel Tower is open 9.30am–11pm (midnight in high season). If all that steel doesn't take your fancy, visit L’Institute du Monde Arabe: as well as an interesting modern façade and Islamic art exhibitions, its top-floor terrace offers great views across the Seine to Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité. The Louvre houses some of the world’s most famous art (open late Wednesdays and Fridays; closed Tuesdays and some holidays). The Musée National d’Art Moderne is on level four of the Pompidou Centre; Richard Rogers’ radical architecture is another draw. Musée National Picasso Paris occupies an old house in the Marais, and is full of the artworks Pablo couldn’t bear to part with; the venue is as alluring as the art itself, also the case for Musée d’Orsay, a converted train station packed with arty treats.
Follow in the footsteps of Degas, Toulouse Lautrec and Amélie, wandering through Montmartre (the bohemian hill streets that saw the birth of the can-can), and up to the Sacré-Coeur. There are quirky independent shops, cafés and bars plus cutting-edge fashion in the Marais district (aka the quartier Juif) – also the only area largely open on Sundays. Porte de Clignancourt is by a fleamarket for clothes and antiques, open Monday to Saturday until 7pm. If you’re a sucker for department stores, head to Le Bon Marché on Rue de Sèvres. Splurge with a healthy conscience at Merci on Boulevard Beaumarchais. The luxury emporium donates profits from its cut-price Annick Goutal perfumes, Baccarat crystal vases, Stella McCartney and Yves St Laurent glad-rags and hip homeware to a children’s charity in Madagascar. Outside the city, live out your Louis XV/Mme de Pompadour/Marie-Antoinette fantasies (delete as applicable) at the incomparable – and enormous – Château de Versailles. Or hit the beach without leaving the city, thanks to the palm-tree-lined white sand of Paris-Plages, a summertime pop-up near the Pont Neuf and Hotel de Ville. Grab a bottle of bubbly from the minibar and some pastries, smoked-salmon baguettes or tarts from Gérard Mulot at 76 Rue de Seine, and enjoy them in the Jardin de Luxembourg on the Left Bank. Another good green grazing spot is the Jardin de Tuileries near the Louvre: get gourmet snacks at Fauchon or Hédiard on Place de la Madeleine. St Germain is an edifying place to stroll around, with shops, cafés and culture to occupy you; thanks to its university heritage, the area has historically been the haunt of artists, poets and intellectuals, and there are still plenty of great bookshops and galleries to help kick-start your grey matter.
The Seine’s open-top Bateaux-Mouches riverboats are a popular way to see the sights; most depart from Pont de l’Alma. Stick to a one-hour trip and give the touristy dinner cruises a miss. Or sweep your Mr or Mrs off their feet and arrange dinner for two on a sleek Yachts de Paris launch. US-run Fat Tire Bike Tours will whizz you round the sights on Schwinn bikes, Segways or your own two feet; the nighttime tours are fun. marvel at Paris’ unique layout from atop the 200-year-old Arc de Triomphe, one of France’s most iconic monuments and the epicentre of bravura city-planner Baron Haussmann’s star of boulevards; it’s worth clambering up its many internal stairs to peer down the Champs Elysées and enjoy photogenic views down to Place de la Concorde and up to La Défense.
Call in at La Société, a glamorous yet relaxed brasserie on Place Saint-Germain, to admire Peter Lindbergh photographs, sculptures and a marble bar. There’s even jazz for your ears. Good-value bistro La Ferrandaise is known for its well-sourced meats, including the eponymous beef, 8 rue de Vaugirard. For inventive and inspired South East Asian flavours, try Ze Kitchen Galerie on Rue des Grands Augustins. La Méditerranée, overlooking the theatre on Place de l’Odéon, serves lipsmacking seafood, including bouillabaisse and monkfish stew. Bread & Roses, 7 rue Fleurus, is a rightly famed organic café and purveyor of fine breads, pastries and tarts. Kong on Rue de Pont Neuf is the king of cutting-edge Starck design – Parisian chic with a Tokyo twist. The ultra-modern glass-bubble restaurant on the second floor is worth visiting for the killer views of the Seine alone. Great for champagne brunches and a buzzing bar scene. Trendy white-tiled bistro ECC Beef Club on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau is carnivore nirvana – it’s even produced a cookbook. Their succulent steaks are cooked to perfection with a smoky finish and appealing accompaniments (there are fresh fish specials daily, too). One of the best bars in Paris is conveniently located below deck, modelled on London’s own Experimental Cocktail Club. The Parisian ECC crew shake up cracking cocktails to tingle your tastebuds and while away the hours in this atmospheric speakeasy drinks den.
For inimitable Italian ice-cream, visit Grom on Rue de Seine.
Paris! City of Light, city of lovers, city of… remarkably well-behaved prepubescent skateboarders? Admittedly, there’s less of a ring to it but, as Mrs Smith and I learn, the best way to locate the slim façade of the Hôtel Récamier, in the southwest corner of tranquil Place Saint-Sulpice, is to look out for the group of skate kids (more Ralph Lauren than Stüssy) politely pulling ollies and kickflips across the road from its front door. In a sense, these gently wheeling garcons summed up the bobo (or, to the Anglophone, bourgeois bohemian) spirit of the 6ème arrondissement.
Once the playground of 20th-century philosophical and artistic rebels, from the Existentialists and the Surrealists to the ‘Lost Generation’ of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is now firmly established as the home of grown-up Parisian style, while retaining just enough of its former edge to keep things interesting.
Passing through the doors of the 24-room Récamier, designed by French interiors notable Jean-Louis Deniot, we feel less like we’re entering a hotel than the private apartment of a wealthy archaeologist with a taste for the earthier, more textural end of modernist design. In the lobby, black-and-white chequered marble is offset with warm-toned wooden furniture and fabrics that span the colour spectrum from espresso to macchiato. On a side table, a cast of a bronze West African Ife portrait bust stands, its gaze directing us to the tiny check-in desk across the hall. With decorous efficiency we’re escorted past a twisting staircase to the lift, which we take straight to the top of the supermodel-slender building. Six storeys up and we find ourselves in a perfect lovers’ haven. While the city goes about its business below, our garret hideaway is untroubled by so much as a dove cooing.
Room 64 is peaceful, full of bright springtime sunlight, snug and well equipped for a city retreat. There’s a private terrace from which to look out over the crooked Parisian rooftops, and a fridge full of eminently gluggable wine to celebrate our arrival. The decor continues the safari-meets-1950s-ethnography-museum vibe, with hessian-effect wallpaper and a tent-like canvas canopy sheltering the bed. Relaxing on its great drift of plump cushions and pillows a little later on, we really do feel like the rest of civilisation is far, far away.
Having negotiated the numerous taps that control the twin showerheads, Mrs Smith emerges from the bathroom – which, in contrast to our boudoir, turns out to be all black slate and polished white simplicity – to pass judgement on the range of toiletries. ‘Fragonard – herby, fresh, mmm. Very nice. Do we have to go out?’ I’m experimenting with the entertainment centre (flatscreen TV, iPod dock) and stumble on a Gallic radio station that seems to play nothing but Bryan Adams and Sting. Even the French, it seems, have their style lapses every now and then.
Time to hit the streets. One of the great advantages of Hôtel Récamier is that we find we don’t have to wander very far from its doors to experience the mixture of history and contemporary refinement that make Paris unique. Dominating the square outside the front door is the Eglise Saint-Sulpice. Dating back to the 13th century, this atmospheric church features in The Da Vinci Code – but we don’t let that put us off. Much more significantly, it’s home to some seriously sensuous murals by the Romantic painter Delacroix, and was the place where the Marquis de Sade was baptised, not that it exactly set history’s most celebrated libertine on the straight-and-narrow path. Mrs Smith and I leave the church with far-from-heavenly things on our minds.
As I’m to learn on the short shopping spree upon which Mrs Smith embarks nimbly the following day, flanking the square and the surrounding streets are some of the fashion capital’s most chic shops, including a clutch of sophisticated younger French labels such as APC, Vanessa Bruno, Sonia Rykiel and Paul & Joe. For now though we wander through the streets to the local organic café/deli, Bread & Roses, where we eagerly scoff millefeuille knocked back with café crème. A stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg and back to the hotel brings us to nightfall, dinner at nearby bistro La Ferrandaise (inventive takes on provincial French classics and delicious Côtes du Rhônes), then drinks in a hip dive bar favoured by art-student locals. Mrs Smith’s theory that its jukebox contains ‘(Everything I Do) I Do it For You’ remains, however, sadly unconfirmed.
The following morning we wake to breakfast in bed. The previous night we’d eagerly ticked boxes on the promising menu and are now confronted with a feast of fresh fruit, poached eggs, croissants, bread, yoghurt, freshly squeezed juice, coffee and an impressive cheeseboard. For those who like more company there is a breakfast room and courtyard downstairs. Here, the rustic feel is contrasted by quirky, glittering details: a driftwood sculpture sits on a golden tabletop, and lamps are supported by gilded birds’ legs. There’s a bookcase full of tomes on contemporary photography, a clutch of board games and a small array of art photos on the walls. But it’s not for us – not yet. This is Paris. City of Light. City of lovers. City of lounging in bed long after the rest of the world has greeted the morning sun.