The city of lights, the city of love, a museum town, in all and any of its guises, Paris is instantly recognisable by its Hausmann architecture, iconic landmarks and historic monuments punctuated with modern structures. It’s a city people fall in love in and with thanks to its streets championing food, fashion and art. With spring in the air and an invitation from Small Luxury Hotels of the World to discover three of their hotels, I turned to the quote that inspired a thousand Instagram posts and said ‘yes, Paris is always a good idea.’
Arriving in the most civilised way, the Eurostar, we headed straight to the heart of the golden triangle in the 8th arrondissement, the Knightsbridge of Paris if you will. An area of wealth and luxury, not necessarily the favourite with locals but popular amongst tourists, the super-rich and home to the most famous street, Champs-Élysées the recent place of social disrupt thanks to the Gilet jaunes.
Set back from the main hub, our first hotel was Grand Powers. Built in the mid-19th century in the Haussmann style as a home to the aristocratic, (including many British who used it as a pitstop en route to the French Riviera) Powers first opened as a hotel for the discerning traveller in the 1920s. Now almost a hundred years later, the maison has undergone a transformation that has seen it re-emerge as the 5* Grand Powers, ready to take its place amongst the glittering streets of the Golden Triangle. The new look marries together Art-Deco designs with Italian flair, French charm and English cosiness. There’s an eclectic mix of velvets, embroidered florals, gold, teals, geometrics and modern lighting. Marbles and earthy reds sit alongside millennial pinks and bottle greens, I could imagine both Villanelle and a modern day Poirot staying here.
All the rooms feature huge beds, high ceilings, bespoke moulding, Diptyque products in the bathroom, tailor-made furniture from Paris based Artifact and art chosen by gallerist Françoise Durst, so you know whichever room you stay in, it’s going to be luxe. That said, if you want to go all out then book The Elegant suite where top floor positioning will give you views of the Eiffel tower and the Parisian stone facades below. The restaurant, Café 52, headed up by Maxime Paab (formerly of Fouquet’s) is perfect Instagram fodder, light, airy and mixing marble and brass with florals. It serves up indulgent, pretty but not traditional French dishes, think substantial Caesar salads and Swedish inspired salmon on rye. After a day perusing the shops of the Champs-Élysées and getting those must-have pics by the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, there’s a small spa where you will find Dermalogica tailor-made treatments.
After a fleeting dip in the Jacuzzi pool at Grand Powers, we were whisked over to one of the most fashionable districts in Paris, Marais. Once uninhabitable (Marais means swamp), the area never got the Hausmann makeover, it remains a maze of low houses and narrow streets. Outside the main warren sits the unapologetically futuristic Pompidou centre, whilst inside you’ll find the Jewish quarter full of boulangeries. The epitome of Marais, is Rue des Rosiers, a now protected and recently pedestrianised street where none of the buildings reflect the typical city architecture. On the street you can see examples of pre-Hausmann building and stock up on falafel and pastries. The perfect hotel for exploring this effortlessly cool area is The Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal, and thanks to its prestigious position in the heart of Paris it’s also a baguette’s throw from the Louvre, Seine and Jardin du Palais Royal. Not that you’d know, situated in a courtyard off a one-way street it’s in a quiet nook away from tourists. The 18th century building has been a hotel for the past ten years and was recently revived by Pierre-Yves-Rochon, who has infused bold design with elegance – it still features the original wooden staircase. Eat in the restaurant Lulli, which is recognised by Gault & Millau and the Michelin Plate or drink in the spring Parisian air on the terrace. The pièce de résistance though has to be the two signature suites, the ‘suite’ and the ‘palais royal suite’. Divided over two floors they give unrivalled views of the city’s landmarks, if you’re choosing a place to propose then on your own private terrace looking over the rooftops of Paris seems like a good place to start.
Pierre-Yves Rochon has also been busy over at Hôtel San Régis, having also designed the rooms at the family run hotel that sits between Champs-Élysées and Avenue Montaigne. Currently run by sisters, Sarah and Zeina Georges (who took over from their father and uncles) the hotel has that real home away from home feeling – if your home is an 18th century Parisian town house filled with antiques, their father had a penchant for them. Many of the staff have worked there for so long they saw the sisters grow up and welcome guests back as if they are family. Unlike the first two hotels with their bold, modern designs, Hôtel San Régis is more refined and rooms are snugger, decorated with rich, florals and damask fabrics. Styled as a winter garden, the restaurant, Les Confidences du San Régis sits below a glass atrium roof, bringing the outside in, whilst the bar with oak-panelling and fire places makes for a cosy spot for a night cap. From the hotel it’s a 30-minute stroll over to St Germain the ‘brains’ of Paris if you will. The spot where the philosophers and politicians gathered in the likes of Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Margot and Café de Flore – they might be a tourist attraction now, but you’ll still find plenty of locals sitting outside with a paper and glass of wine. Or head over to Tomat’s Deli to source some of the finest products including truffle pencils and award-winning Henri le Roux chocolate.
Three very different hotels, three different takes on luxury, these boutique hotels though will all give you their undivided attention, superb hospitality and a bed that you can sink into after your 99th croissant. After exploring the areas of Marais, St Germain and the Golden Triangle it was time to board the Eurostar back with one final toast to Paris, with champagne all the way home of course.