It is a well known fact that Paris offers visitors, whether travelling for business or pleasure, a bewildering choice of hotels and places to eat.
From the opulent to the quaint; from the functional to the anodyne; from the historical to the ramshackle, there is no shortage of accommodation for all budgets and tastes.
If you have a taste for authentic Parisian chic, understated luxury with a touch of the theatrical, oodles of character and above all, truly phenomenal service, you should consider a trio of hotels owned by the same family and reviewed below.
Each of the three has its own distinct character and would appeal for different reasons.
We started with the 5 starred Pavillon de la Reine, so named after Queen Anne of Austria who once stayed in one of the wings.
Built in 1612 by King Henry IV of France and situated in the trendy Marais area of Paris, the hotel is discretely tucked in a stone courtyard, in the heart of the Place des Vosges, a colourful square, home to the Victor Hugo museum and countless art galleries.
We stayed in a junior suite which was stylish and comfortable without being ostentatious. Rooms at all three hotels are decorated in a contemporary rather than “faded grandeur” style as is often the case in Parisian establishments of some standing.
Pavillon de la Reine has its own fitness centre and the Codage spa where visitors are able to shed the stress of the big city. The sitting areas on each side of the entrance hall double as breakfast room in the morning and an “honesty bar” in the evening.
Now the “honesty bar” is quite a feature in all three sister hotels. From a vast selection of spirits to wine and Champagne, most alcoholic beverages are supplied on the basis that people volunteer to sign their consumption on a pad.
It makes for a convivial atmosphere during the cocktail hour, although I saw people partaking at any time of day and night.
The hotel has its own restaurant but such is the abundance of eating places in the immediate vicinity, and so attractive the hustle and bustle of the Place des Vosges area, that we took a walk and pot luck for dinner.
Pavillon de la Reine has its own parking, which is a huge bonus in central Paris, and we were able to leave our car there when we moved on to hotel number 2: Hôtel du Petit Moulin, situated some 800 meters away.
Hôtel du Petit Moulin’s entrance could be mistaken for a boulangerie – precisely because it incorporates the oldest Parisian bread shop whose sign the owners have left on as the unique feature that it is.
The 4 star hotel is smaller, with an abundance of trompe oiel murals and red drapes that give one the sense of having walked into a private boudoir of sorts.
The “honesty bar” doubling up as a breakfast room in the morning is there also but the entire place is much smaller in scale than Pavillon de la Reine.
It is intimate and the rooms are a delight: each with its own character likened to a dolls house by the master couturier Christian Lacroix himself.
“It brings to mind a dolls house, or those cross sections of buildings you might see in 20th-century encyclopedias, with very different atmospheres from one floor to the next.”
Victor Hugo, the most famous inhabitant of the Place des Vosges, and to whom much is dedicated in the vicinity, is said to have bought his baguette from the very boulangerie that is now Hôtel du Petit Moulin.
For quirkiness and authenticity, this discreet address cannot be beaten.
Once again, staff were incredibly solicitous, delighting us with the fruitiest breakfast, also incorporating, quite fittingly, a basket of various breads, freshly baked and utterly delicious.
Our last night in Paris was spent at Hôtel Le Pavillon des Lettres , at rue des Saussaies, right by the Presidential Palace.
As the name suggests, this establishment has literary aspirations, with each room being dedicated to a different famous author, many of their writings replicated on walls.
The wrap-round, walk-through lounge with part “honesty bar”- cum-breakfast room area was perhaps our favourite on this trip. It allows the visitor to have a drink and watch le tout monde walk by, while sipping a glass of wine or Champagne and sampling the mouth-watering selection of spice-coated almonds and cashews.
Early evening, the “honesty bar” incorporates a charcuterie and cheese selection as well, and is a great prelude to the culinary delights that are at your doorstep, this being another ultra smart part of town.
A walk around the area is a must, in fact – bars bustling with life, restaurants full of well-heeled diners, pretty boutiques and of course, the Presidential Palace itself.
We feel compelled to wrap this review much the way we started it: for a taste of unadulterated Parisian chic, quirkiness and authenticity, in some of the best areas of the French capital, this group of hotels can hardly be beaten. Even if you are partial to the splendour of some of the grander hotels (and Paris has a bigger share of those than any city), you’d be seduced by the very personalised, top of the range service that awaits you at the above three.
In a city where the occasional condescension for “tourists” is par for the course, this is an extremely refreshing attitude.