Named after an 18th-century socialite, hotel La Belle Juliette leaves a sweet taste in your mouth, thanks to its confectionery-coloured interiors, hideaway spa and fresh-from-the oven Parisian breakfasts. Perched over the rue du Cherche Midi, its boudoir rooms have long been Smith favourites, but the new garden wing is just as charming, primped with bold colours, scorched-wood floors and sensuous mid-century furniture in a nod to Juliette’s daring, art-loving side. We're also partial to the champagne bar, too…
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm. A baby cot (free) for under-2s, can be added to the Superior Rooms upwards, and the Duplex Suite has a single sofa bed for a child to sleep in (free).
Double rooms from £126.40 (€143), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.53 per person per night on check-out.
Continental breakfast is an additional €20 each. (Or, stroll to one of the nearby pâtisseries.)
Following in Juliette Récamier's footsteps, La Belle Juliette delights in supporting up-and-coming artists. In the garden-view rooms, look out for ethereal photos from the PHPA project, inspired by overnight stays at the hotel. The bar has a revolving programme of exhibitions too.
The hotel restaurant is closed every August.
At the hotel
Spa, steam room, lounge, courtyard terrace, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, iMac, minibar with free bottled water. Deluxe rooms and above have Nespresso machines, and if you're staying in a Boudouir, Garden or Duplex suite you'll have access to an unlimited wifi hotspot that works throughout Paris.
Our favourite rooms
Spreading out from a grand central staircase, each floor has a distinctive feel, inspired by the ever-present Juliette’s colourful personality. The first floor’s romantic Junior Suite has a dusky-pink complexion and a stately roll-top bath (a perfect setting for a Parisian proposal scene). Decorated in deep royal blue and sea-green, the third floor’s Deluxe Room is peaceful and private, with a more masculine feel. Looking out over the garden, Duplex Garden Suites have Sixties-screen-siren stylings, decorated in blue-and-grey tones, with a mod dressing table and industrial-chic stairs leading to an upstairs bedroom.
Tucked away in the basement spa, the miniature pool has a seductive grotto feel and a powerful artificial current to practise your swimming strokes.
La Belle Juliette's hideaway spa is small but perfectly formed; with a bit of advance warning, you can ask to have the little pool and steam room to yourselves (ask for poolside candles and champagne for a truly indulgent treat). The treatment menu takes its cues from ancient Chinese medicine. Pick your pampering ritual according to which bits need TLC. Sore feet? Have the Peking at Your Feet soak, scrub and massage. Tired paws? Go for Happy Hands. DIY touchy-feely types can also learn the ropes from an expert massage therapist.
Candy-pink beach shorts/bikini for the spa; something dramatic for descending the ornate spiral staircase in style (silk or satin for Mrs; crisp tailoring for Mr). Leave plenty of space in your suitcase – Rue du Cherche-Midi is dotted with discerning boutiques.
The hotel has a sizeable lift and common areas, and some of the upper-tier suites are roomy enough to be wheelchair accessible.
The hotel's not ideal for youngsters, and definitely not for under-12s. There are no interconnecting rooms and extra beds are not available.
We like the cosy spot by the open fire: order chocolat chaud and snuggle up.
Dip into the hotel’s pretty palette of pinks, parma violet, purple and blue. Nothing’s too frivolous here – model gold lace, berry-bright velvets and a witty little hat.
Le Clos Belle Juliette offers chic Mediterranean-style small plates, including tomato-and-mozzarella-topped crostini and platters of aged San Daniele ham, bresaola and assorted fine cheeses, alongside light, seasonal pastas and risottos – expertly prepared by globetrotting chef Flora Mikula and her team. Wash these down with cocktails and very good French and Italian wines. Breakfasts, served in the hotel's flashy salons, are true to their French roots: Le Boulanger de Monge bread, La Ferme d’Alexandre cheeses from Normandy, all-butter croissants and rich jams from Burgundy.
Pull up a cherry-red barstool or sink into the hot-pink sofas in the hotel's cosy drinking quarters; bottles of fine champagne and a gold-edged bar add an air of decadence. The cocktail list is short but sippable, with a superb selection of herbal-tea-shaken concoctions, including a caipirinha with spiced rooibos. Equally enigmatic – and vividly hued – is the rococo Salon des Voyageurs, where guests can help themselves to a tipple from the honesty bar, stocked with beers, spirits and soft drinks. Next door, the Salon de la Musique has a piano and a collection of literary classics, should you wish to stage your own impromptu gathering. Take a glass of wine or champagne up to your room to savour with a long soak in the tub – it's what Juliette would have wanted.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 11am. Small plates are available whenever you feel peckish. The restaurant is closed every August.
Have small plates (caesar salads, soups and plates of charcuterie, smoked salmon or cheeses) brought to your room round the clock (for a €5 tray charge).
La Belle Juliette is on a lively boutique-lined street in the 6th arrondissement, just a quick jaunt from Pierre Hermé and the shopping haven of the Bon Marché.
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. Air France runs regular airport shuttle buses to the nearby Montparnasse station, a 10-minute walk away.
Montparnasse station, a 10-minute walk away, has connections to cities such as Bordeaux, Toulouse and Rennes (www.uk.voyages-sncf.com). 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, 6, 10, 12 and 13 all within walking distance.
Paris is not a fun city to drive in. If you do decide to brave the traffic, the hotel can point you to parking spots close by.
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
Tucked away in the 6ème arrondissement, just a stone's throw from Rue de Rennes' high-street shops, La Belle Juliette makes an enviable base from which to live out your Left Bank fantasies. Spend some time relaxing in the hammam and swimming pool, and, of course, stretched out on the massage bed in one of the treatment rooms. Brush up on French history with a walk to Notre Dame and the Abbey of Saint-Germain des Prés on Rue Bonaparte. Stroll up and down the hotel’s own street, Rue du Cherche-Midi, exploring the boutiques and bistros. Leave your diet at the door and venture out to Pierre Hermé’s first pastry boutique; savour passionfruit macarons and light-as-air millefeuilles by Saint Sulpice's gloriously over-the-top fountain. Cross the Jardin du Luxembourg's serene, palm-fringed parterres for a night at the Théâtre de l'Odéon. Nearby,Le Bon Marché's three scintillating floors are a shopper's delight, sure to relieve any Parisian existentialist malaise you might pick up on the way.
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain on Rue de Montalembert is known for its elegance, both in terms of decor and cuisine. Follow in the footsteps of Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway, and visit the famous Les Deux Magots at 6 place Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Order omelettes and café au lait, or apéritifs and nibbles. Poets and artists have always loved La Closerie des Lilas at 171 boulevard du Montparnasse. Lenin used to play chess with Paul Fort on the terrace. And H Kitchen is a minimal mod bistro with judiciously picked menu choices.
Pause at left-bank institution Brasserie Lipp on Boulevard Saint-Germain for a quick crème, cognac or sole meunière (take a box of matches home with you as a souvenir.) Café de Flore at 172 boulevard Saint-Germain has a cocktail buffet involving champagne and petits fours. That alone is enough to get us there, but there’s also the lure of French snacks (onion soup, croque-monsieur, oeufs in various guises) and lipstick-red leather booths.
Low-lit and lined in trompe-l'œil bookshelves and brick walls, the Prescription Cocktail Club on rue Mazarine has a sophisticated speakeasy feel. The drinks list is a serious read, but if you want to offload the burden of choice, give the bartender your preferred spirit and they'll dream something up. The intimate, shabby chic Castor Club on Rue Hautefeuille is similarly secretive.
I've always thought it unfair that the French have a reputation for being unfriendly to tourists. Thankfully the characters behind La Belle Juliette hotel could double as ambassadors for France’s tourist board. Nowhere have we experienced service like this: from the €2,000-a-night digs overlooking the Eiffel Tower to quaint country inns with Michelin-starred chefs in the basement.
Nothing is a problem for beautiful Juliette’s staff. Every request, however large or trivial, is greeted with a smile and a ‘pas de problème’ attitude. From the teeny: ‘A taxi, madame?’ – which elicits a clean car with a charming driver who’s been fully briefed on our destination and the fee negotiated, to the big: the all-important late check-out. No unspeakably snide glances or terse replies or exorbitant quotes in exchange for the trouble. Here, as we discover, such an appeal is met with good grace and a cup of tea in the garden.
The ability of the staff to maintain such joie de vivre is especially surprising considering that we are staying during Paris Fashion Week when the drama, urgency and bizarre nature of requests are at their peak. Polar bear needed for a photoshoot? The concierge phones Deyrolle, a taxidermy store on nearby Rue du Bac, to beg a full-size white-fur stuffed beast for the afternoon.
Named after an 18th-century socialite, the hotel is delightfully feminine, befitting of its muse, Juliet Récamier (yes, we have her to thank for the récamier sofa), born 4 December 1777. A voluptuous bohemian socialite, she nabbed herself a wealthy husband at just 15 (some say he was her father). Known for her artistic soirées, the Saint Germain des Pres hotel also hosts its own monthly musical gathering in her honour.
The hotel’s decor is dictated by Juliette’s loves and friendships, with each floor dedicated to a different chapter in her life. Designed by Anne Gelbard (who also creates fabrics for Dior, Balenciaga and Hermès), the lavender tones chosen for the lobby prove a welcome reprieve from Paris’ bustle. Little wonder the hotel is popular with radar-ducking editors and designers. Located on the Left Bank, on a quiet street of the bustling 6th arrondissement, the building is discreetly squeezed between foreign embassies and antique shops. This is the Rive Gauche of your imagination, a world away from the heaving boulevards of sweaty tourists stamping their way up St Germain.
There may be no views, and you could almost be anywhere, but with that anonymity comes serenity. As lovely as a selection box of Ladurée macaroons, rooms are styled with sugar-sweet shades – strawberry and raspberry, cherry-red and violet; and deeper darts of blackcurrant, chocolate and liquorice. And the pretty cake stands aren’t just ornamental – afternoon tea is a daily ritual. Pastries are supplied by the biodynamic bakers of Boulanger de Monge and at breakfast they are accompanied by a pot of Tea Forté tea – parfait. When a bowl of exemplary muesli is placed in front of us, Mr Smith and I gasp. We haven’t seen a wholegrain for over a week, and the notion that anyone would choose bird feed over a basket of wonderfully bittersweet pains au chocolat and buttery croissants leaves us positively perplexed.
By night, this pastry parlour morphs into the hotel’s bar, Le Talma. A grand piano is tucked into one corner, a mean looking salumi slicer in another. Despite being located near some of Paris’ best suppliers of heart-stopping artisanal charcuterie and cheeses, it’s a wonder the hotel chooses to serve snacks with an Italian provenance. Regardless of this swerve from nationalism, the room feels utterly French. Bookshelves line the walls, the piano is put to good use with concerts, which enhances the salon feel, and the small fireplace insures it is cosy in winter.
Our autumn visit sees the sun out and the doors flung open onto a small, gravelly garden. Afternoons appear to be frequented by Left Bank ladies for a spot of tea; at cocktail hour in flock well-heeled chain-smoking Brazilian business people, and British fashion editors poring over the next day’s show schedule. The passing parade means Mr Smith and I can indulge in Paris’ favourite past time, people-watching, with a glass of wine in hand and a salumi plate to pick at.
When we eventually stumble upstairs the elevator door opens to a black void. Mr Smith is falling all over me; it is not the Vouvray, or the aphrodisiac effect of the most romantic city in the world: it is the fact that there is no light. We eventually grope our way to the hushed lilac tones of our boudoir where a well-sized bathroom is illuminated by long windows that let in the City of Light’s golden glow.
A Nespresso machine, quickly becoming ubiquitous in boutique hotels the world over, earns snaps from Mr Smith who is so far struggling with the Parisian coffee. (Australians are notoriously particular about their blends and brews, even in France.) A 24-inch iMac, standard in every room, is another beloved amenity, and it makes researching dinner spots and museum opening hours the most pleasant chore.
While la Belle Juliette may not have an award-winning chef in the basement, there is a spa offering massages and a small subterranean pool. After investigating the local bistros, salons de thé and Poilâne, the revered bakery, I treat myself to a Claret Coquet foot therapy. I deserve my Parisian pampering: my hooves have copped a pounding from Mr Smith’s insistence we walk everywhere, and having had so many gastronomic temptations to investigate. Besides, we needed to clock up some serious kilometres a day just trying to counter all those calories. On that note, Mr Smith, do order us another cup of la Belle Juliette’s special hot chocolate with some of their financier cakes would you?