Though battered by rough seas, Paris is far from going under. It’s the world’s most visited city for a reason, and its essential appeal remains undimmed.
In fact it’s arguably as safe as it’s ever been, thanks to unprecedented efforts to restore a sense of security — and it’s cheaper than ever at the moment, because many would-be travelers are still in a state of shock. Don’t be one of them. The time to go to Paris is now — for all of these reasons, as well as for the fact that the boutique-hotel scene just happens to be blossoming. Here’s our capsule summary of the best and the brightest in the up-and-coming faubourgs and the resurgent central neighborhoods.
Pigalle & Poissonnière
The legendary red-light district of Pigalle is exchanging its sex-shops one by one for cheeky cocktail bars, and becoming the headquarters of a great world-cuisine scene. And since nights are hot there, get down to rue La Fayette to enter the Faubourg Poissonnière, where dive bars and terrasses attract a beautiful and wild crowd.
The first Parisian hotel to style itself a “bed & beverage,” the Grand Pigalle brought together a dream team that knows how to eat, drink and party: the Experimental Cocktail Club team at the helm, the Italian chef Giovanni Passerini (ex-Rino) in the kitchen, and more than 200 trans-Alpine wines in the cellar.
Caution: wet paint! Le Pigalle Paris is an authentic neighborhood hotel, a product of the cultural mixing bowl that is the southern slope of Montmartre. The rooms feel a bit naughty, the collaborators are local to the area, the ground-floor public spaces are in constant motion, and anyone who fancies a pole dance will find they’ve thoughtfully been provided with all the necessary equipment.
A hotel that resembles its quartier: artistic, affordable, dynamic, and unfailingly cool. Sandwiched between the faubourgs of Poissonnière and Saint-Denis, this boutique is all atmosphere, a bit of visual poetry by the decorator Dorothée Meilichzon, spanning disparate styles — artist’s workshop, Scandinavian retro — without disintegrating into patchwork.
Sentier & Porte Saint-Martin
Bonne Nouvelle, Sentier, Strasbourg-Saint-Denis… these Métro stations might sound a bit “no-go zone” to tourists more used to the fancy Champs-Élysées or the bohemian-chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But these hotels already feel broken-in, perfectly comfortable in their (brand new) skin.
A hip address in the back of the Porte Saint-Martin, between the upper Marais and the lower Canal, marks this little gem of 18 rooms, once an hôtel de passe (a house of ill repute), now a hotel whose charms are entirely above board, and scarcely less irresistible. The best part? The hotel’s food and beverage offering, which marries fresh seafood and in-room cocktail service.
A new four-star in Montorgueil, the Bachaumont is an Art Deco institution, now under the flag of the Experimental Cocktail Club (see also the Grand Pigalle Hôtel). It’s a vision in light-touch elegance, with its kitchen supervised by Grégory Marchand, the brilliant chef from the hyper-desirable Frenchie.
A former textile factory in the micro-quartier of Little Egypt, with a proprietor who invited his friends – designers, directors, artists – to transform the space into a quirky boutique hotel, arty but chic, with a fine seafood-centric bistro on the ground floor and a young and beautiful terrace scene that makes the most of the sunny days.
Le Marais & Beaubourg
To go along with their concept stores, hip bistros and design bakeries, Upper & Lower Marais now have a pretty nice collection of arty boutique hotels. Exactly what you need to extend your shopping trip. Or just wander around the streets of one of the most picturesque ‘hoods in Paris.
Les Bains Douches is one of Paris’s historic places: a private bathhouse beginning in 1885, a temple of nightlife in the 1980s, frequented by the likes of Andy Warhol, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Kate Moss, closed in 2010 for the perfectly French crime of “insalubrity,” renovated from top to bottom and reinvented today as a luxury boutique hotel. Total class.
Situated right in the heart of the Marais, steps from Centre Georges Pompidou and the capital’s most prestigious art galleries, the Georgette is heavy on comfort while going easy on the pocketbook. One need only read the comments of Tablet customers regarding the quality of the bedding to be instantly convinced.
A courtyard that’s invisible from the street, an oasis hidden among the market stalls, with a vertical garden for summer and a fireplace for winter. An open secret that’s somehow still well-kept, which doubles as a New Wave cocktail destination.
Canal Saint-Martin & République
Playgrounds for carefree youth, now symbolic of life, will, freedom and brotherhood. The Canal still flows gently past apéros-terrasse (al fresco cocktails) and art openings. The 10th and 11th districts, from Charonne to Goncourt and from “Répu” (Place de la République’s nickname) to Gare de l’Est, will always be the epicenter of Parisian cool.
This boutique hotel, designed by Christophe Delcourt, opened in 2010 on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin, and is a true treasure: budget-friendly, design-centric, environmentally aware, with top-quality bedding, bespoke furniture, efficient double glazing, and an unbeatable location in a neighborhood that’s in the midst of a massive — yet friendly — hipster revolution.
Ispirato ai classici boutique hotel di New York, il Fabric a Oberkampf è un’eccezione alla regola per quanto riguarda gli hotel parigini: niente grande facciata stile Haussmann, nessuna rivisitazione del patrimonio industriale del quartiere. L’hotel è l’originale conversione di una fabbrica tessile e mantiene i mattoni rossi indossati come punti d’onore.
And what about the Left Bank? It’s waking up too, slowly but surely. Whether in the heart of the Quartier Latin or in more peripheral districts, boutique hotels are taking advantage of new developments in both commerce and leisure, from Porte de Versailles to the new ZAC Paris Rive Gauche, a brand-new business district in the 13th.
This brand new 50-room boutique hotel opened near the Place d’Italie, in a neighborhood that’s full of promise, and has seduced us with its super-fresh look – courtesy of designers Delphine Sauvaget and Pauline d’Hoop, from l’Agence Favorite – and by its vision of Bed & Breakfast chic, ultra-cozy and perfectly dreamy for winter nights.
In the mostly residential 15th, a tiny, adorable, perfectly charming boutique hotel, which plays on the strigine theme implied by its name — for “chouette” means both “great” and “owl.” A true design nest, in an eminently reasonable price range.
This boutique hotel opposite the Panthéon – which, remember, honors only men – is dedicated to free and independent women, from Edith Piaf to Marguerite Duras to the famous “Cocottes,” courtesans and demi-mondaines of the 19th century. A laudable political gesture, and a perfectly charming one at that.