If you are looking for a grand hotel experience, summer can be a good time to come, with excellent rates in August before the autumn decorating salons and fashion shows. All year round, look for last-minute deals, good rates on Sundays, or offers with breakfast included – which in luxury hotels can easily save you €100 for two.
The Royal Monceau set the ball rolling. It reopened nine months ago – following a demolition party and two years of work – as a self-proclaimed “hotel for creatives”, complete with art bookshop, art gallery, art curator and art concierge, in-house cinema, mobile recording studio and a concept/fashion store from L’Eclaireur.
Downstairs is a brilliantly buzzy meeting place – at the crossroads between the Long Bar, quickly colonised by local lawyers and financiers, La Cuisine restaurant, with its painted ceiling and illuminated bar, and the grand staircase, which is pretty much all that’s been kept of the original 1928 hotel. There is also a sultry red smokers’ fumoir and an Italian restaurant, Il Carpaccio, which resembles a Florentine Renaissance grotto.
Bedrooms draw more mixed reactions. Described as large, very large and extra large, with the possibility of linking several together should you want to take over an entire floor, they are an incredible artistic clutter of mixed styles and metaphors.
This is the hotel where Philippe Starck proclaimed that he had rediscovered his “Frenchness” – but this is Forties France with a definite touch of Hollywood. There are plenty of gadgets, too: a television concealed in the giant mirror that stares at you from the bed, and Toto lavatories and a fistful of light switches. A My Blend by Clarins spa (specially personalised skin products) with a 92ft pool will open in the adjoining building this autumn.
Combining a great view of the Eiffel Tower with an illustrious pedigree as the former town house of Prince Roland Bonaparte (great-nephew of Napoleon), the Shangri-La is the most classically French of the new arrivals. It has giant porcelain vases at the entrance, staff in satin cheongsam dresses and a few Asian dishes on the menu, but essentially it offers an escape into a sybaritic vision of France past.
Roland Bonaparte filled his home with eagles, crowns, imperial bees and Bs in a style that is rather more Louis XIV than Napoleon, with a wedding-cake facade, grand stairway and a string of historic salons, which have been painstakingly restored with hand-gilded panelling and neoclassical friezes.
Apart from the modern penthouse suite and the Imperial suite in Roland’s former private apartment, which has nymphs dancing across the bathroom, the 81 bedrooms and suites are calmly classical, with deep beds and sofas, Empire taps and marquetry desks that hide the requisite cabling. Room layouts vary: some are duplexes, some have large bathroom windows, others appear small yet still have the feel of private flats, while the best have large rooftop terraces with views of the Eiffel Tower.
The hotel has an excellent gastronomic restaurant, L’Abeille – the chef, Philippe Labbé, was formerly at the Château de la Chèvre d’Or in Eze – as well as a more casual, all-day restaurant, La Bauhinia, under the rediscovered steel dome of what used to be a private theatre. The Shang Palace, serving authentic Cantonese food, is due to open in September.
Opened on June 28, the latest of the Asian arrivals proudly proclaims its Parisian-ness – although if you have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, you will notice plenty of Asian touches. Virtually a new building behind an Art Deco facade, it is trumpeting its HQE (high environmental quality) credentials – but is a presidential suite of 8,000 sq ft ecologically sound?
The other 137 rooms are more sleek and businesslike, with plummy colours and a recurring motif of Man Ray’s The Kiss, reproduced over the bed and woven into the corridors – although one could do without the pink butterflies in the carpet outside each room.
Most rooms overlook the courtyard, and some have teak-decked roof terraces. The lobby is lofty, with curtained niches containing velvet armchairs, and there is a great courtyard garden where you can eat in what appears to be a birdcage.
This hotel wins on location, neatly placed between the Costes and Colette, and has a brilliant chef, Thierry Marx. His gastronomic restaurant, Sur Mésure, is the hottest in town – although a few tables are held for those staying at the hotel.
At the all-day Camélia restaurant, meanwhile, watching the chefs at work will be part of the fun.
Sitting within walled grounds at the end of a gravel drive, the Saint James is the nearest Paris has to a country-house hotel. The château was built at the end of the 19th century by the widow of President Alphonse Thiers to house poor students; in the Eighties it became a private club, whose members still use the restaurant and spa. It was subsequently bought by the family that owns the Relais Christine in St Germain – who brought in Bambi Sloan, a Franco-American decorator, to update its traditional antiquated style in a gloriously over-the-top take on the Second Empire, or what they describe as “crazy chic”.
The grand staircase is now a My Fair Lady extravaganza painted in black and white with a cascade of chandeliers. The listed library has leopard-spot carpeting and smart black sofas where you can dine more informally than in the main restaurant.
The 48 rooms and suites (many of them two-room suites) are all different, with a whimsically eclectic feast of imitation parquet carpeting, antler lamps and tartan, leopard spots, chinoiserie or architectural prints, antique desks and empire sofas. Service is discreet and courteous; the clientele one of old France and cosmopolitan visitors. It’s the sort of place where many of the guests are regulars.
In a very grand part of the 8th arrondissement, between the avenue Montaigne with its couture houses and the Grand Palais with its exhibitions, the Maison des Centraliens has had a gloriously ghostly revamping by the Maison Martin Margiela fashion house in a brilliant play
of trompe l’oeil and mirrors. In the white salon, chairs are all swathed in trademark white linen dustcovers as if they have just been abandoned; picture lamps light patches on the walls left by missing paintings; and the ceiling mouldings are black-and-white photographs.
The six suites are fantastical creations: one is papered in black-and-white panelling and fading chandeliers ; another is all black with a cabinet of curiosities and bird-wing candelabras; another is ghost-white and has even the iMac swathed in a white linen cover.
It’s not all good news, however. Margiela designed only the 17 new Couture suites and bedrooms in the period building at the front, so be sure to specify you want to stay there, otherwise you will end up in one of the 40 redecorated but much blander rooms in the Nineties wing at the rear.
Juliette Récamier, immortalised reclining on her chaise longue by the painter Jacques-Louis David in 1800, is the muse behind this lovely intimate hotel, the most sophisticated yet from the small Hôtels Paris Rive Gauche group, in a distinguished yet discreet corner of St-Germain-des-Prés.
Different floors represent different periods of Juliette’s life, in an agreeable mixture of historicism and the contemporary: carefully sourced antique prints in period frames and early editions of Romantic literature meet sleek modern console tables, Aalto chairs and iMacs, and even the old bergère chairs rescued from the previous hotel.
Yet while the building and the inspiration are historic, the atmosphere and services are definitely of today. LED lighting in the Talma bar adapts to the mood: from leisurely lunch rendezvous to afternoon tea – presented on quirky porcelain cake stands – to evening wine bar or music salon.
There’s a small Japanese-style garden and a gorgeous basement spa, complete with a small but perfectly formed swimming pool, ideal for one.
Seven suites in seven moods, courtesy of four different interior designers, immediately make you want to try them all out. They include the Alice suite, with White Rabbit coming out of the wall and a double lavatory where you can play chess à deux; 007, for James Bond of the Sean Connery era, in slinky curved wood with the complete set of Bond films to watch on a screen; On and Off, with decor that changes at the turn of a switch; seductive Sublime, with circular bed and deep sculpted carpet; or the caveman chic of Lovez-Vous, with its rough stone-clad walls, cowhide bath and open fire.
Even the 28 ordinary rooms are out-of-the-ordinary here, with theatrically lit levitating beds (suspend your disbelief), starry ceilings and glowing floating shelves; some even have levitating baths. It could have been kitsch, but it succeeds in being young and fun, attracting an eclectic international clientele and young French couples in a Latin Quarter side-street location.
There’s a bar with misty mirrors, velvet seats and glass droplet lamps, and a basement that doubles as wine bar and breakfast room, where the breakfast is a child’s party feast of cakes, fruit salad, coloured macaroons and waffles.
The name instantly hints that the ethos here is more republican, in a cool urban setting beside the Canal St-Martin. Twelve rooms beautifully crafted by the furniture designer Christophe Delcourt use lots of light wood, which seems to be moulded around every kink in the wall to maximise every inch of space, with dramatic shelves rising like a pyramid behind the beds and colourful window seats overlooking the canal.
Here the atmosphere really is laid-back and arty, with little in the way of service but a friendly personalised welcome – and Usagi, a casual Japanese bento-box restaurant, downstairs.
If you are looking for a complete antidote to all those king-size beds and that fawning service, then you could always try the Hi Matic, which opened in April. The long-awaited ecological, economical sibling designed by Matali Crasset has transformed a seedy old Bastille hotel into a Pop-coloured conceptual experience.
You book online, check in at a terminal and buy snacks from machines; staff are kept to a minimum. The (organic) breakfast comes on a tray in the basement and information is delivered on an iPad. There’s a mini desk in each room, and beds are a sort of tatami system with mattresses to be rolled up during the day.
However, while they seem made for a future franchise, the structure actually reduces the space in already small rooms. Probably not the sort of place you would want to stay for long, but interesting to try for a night.