Paris: a gold-medal minibreak

As the Olympic Games descend on the French capital this July, the contest that really matters for this sports-shy travel writer is where to stay

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As the Olympic Games descend on the French capital this July, the contest that really matters for this sports-shy travel writer is where to stay. From historic heavyweights to new contenders, these Parisian properties stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Best for wellness: Shangri-La Paris

The cool marble interiors of Shangri-La’s Parisian outpost feel a world away from the tumult of the Champs-Élysées (in fact, it’s only a fifteen-minute walk). If the Grecian frescoes, silk wallpaper and sweeping, gilded staircase all seem distinctly regal that’s because the nineteenth-century building was originally the pied-à-terre of Prince Roland…

As the Olympic Games descend on the French capital this July, the contest that really matters for this sports-shy travel writer is where to stay. From historic heavyweights to new contenders, these Parisian properties stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Best for wellness: Shangri-La Paris

The cool marble interiors of Shangri-La’s Parisian outpost feel a world away from the tumult of the Champs-Élysées (in fact, it’s only a fifteen-minute walk). If the Grecian frescoes, silk wallpaper and sweeping, gilded staircase all seem distinctly regal that’s because the nineteenth-century building was originally the pied-à-terre of Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s great-nephew. Serenity and gentility still reign throughout the hotel’s communal spaces: beneath the glass-domed ceiling of seafood restaurant La Bauhinia, around the drawing room’s ornate mahogany fireplace and in the rose garden, from which you can see the Eiffel Tower peeping above the 16th-arrondissement rooftops.

Things get even more Zen in Chi, the Spa (non-guests can buy passes from $174). Begin with a dip in the fifty-foot indoor pool or steam in the hammam before an eastern-inspired treatment — signatures include the energy-boosting Tui Na massage or a Tibetan singing bowl session — using her- baceous essential oils inspired by Prince Roland’s passion for botany. A cup of herbal tea on the spa’s leafy terrace rounds off the experience. No matter how frenetic the city might get during the Games, Shangri-La’s palatial rooms will offer a welcome respite. Rooms from $1,856, shangri-la.com

Best for design: Le Grand Mazarin

Eclectic yet elegant, the latest opening from French boutique hoteliers Maisons Pariente is right at home in the trendy, artsy Marais. For starters, take the color palette, which is as mouthwatering as a box of Ladurée macarons — shades of pistachio, rose and lemon. Interior designer Martin Brudnizki’s Rococo salon-meets-modernism aesthetic sees scallop shells swirling over rugs, tapestries draped above velvet headboards and room service arriving on rose-patterned dishes. Sinuous, sensuous and feminine, Le Grand Mazarin brings a welcome burst of joie de vivre to the Parisian hotel scene.

Even its functional fixtures are prettified, from the swan-shaped taps in the restaurant washrooms to froufrou adorning chairs in the Winter Garden. Surfaces are covered in delicate hand-painted murals — there’s a hint of Matisse about Jacques Merle’s showstopping ceilings in the subterranean swimming pool — or boldly patterned wallpapers. The most flamboyant of these can be found in Boubalé, a Russian doll of a restaurant, where dishes traverse the Levant and Eastern Europe, not only nodding to chef Assaf Granit’s own Polish and Israeli roots but also the Marais’ longstanding Jewish community, dating back to the thirteenth century. The delectable result is warm, fluffy challah with sumac cream and tomato, chilled borscht, potato pierogi and falafel with pickled shifka peppers. Bon appétit. Rooms from $652, legrandmazarin. com

Best for affordability: Touriste Hotels

With seven addresses citywide and counting, Parisian entrepreneur Adrien Gloaguen is onto a winning combination with his fledgling micro-chain: embed stylish yet reasonably priced accommodation (including single rooms for solo travelers) in cool neighborhoods. Sounds simple, but such stays are a surprisingly rare breed in the world’s most visited city. Touriste deploys quality touches where it counts, like full-size Diptyque toiletries and high-quality breakfast buffets. And forget stereotypes of aloof Parisians sneering at your high school French; front-desk staff are genuinely warm and welcoming.

The brand’s petite properties all look strikingly different — each platforms a different up-and-coming designer. Vibrant color-blocking and clashing pattern your thing? Opt for Luke Edward Hall’s Hôtel Les Deux Gares. Prefer pastel-hued, art deco elegance among the Grands Boulevards’ storied concert halls and passageways? That’d be Hotel Panache by Dorothée Meilichzon. Or savor the Seventies flair of Hôtel Château d’Eau in lively, multicultural Saint Martin, decked in op art prints, shaggy carpets and lashings of leopard print. There’s a Touriste for every taste, essentially. Rooms from $175, touriste.com

Best for art: Le Royal Monceau — Raffles Paris

Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel and Winston Churchill are among the luminaries to have stepped beneath the ruby-red art nouveau awnings and through the revolving glass doors of Le Royal Monceau since its opening in 1928. Perhaps this grande dame should get a gold medal for gastronomy, given the presence of Michelin-starred Italian restaurant (Il Carpaccio), Nobu’s first Parisian outpost (Matsuhisa) and decadent, dainty pâtisserie (La Cuisine). But even more, it’s the cultural offerings that win plaudits here. No other hotel in town can boast a dedicated art concierge, who’ll curate personalized itineraries of auctions, ateliers and museums upon request, as well as a movie theater for private film screenings, a bookstore stocking 700-plus titles and an in-house gallery.

Brought bang up to date by Philippe Starck, the light, airy suites are meant to evoke an artist’s studio — though evidently not a struggling one, given the goose-down bedding, walk-in closet and a veritable mirror ball of a bathroom complete with a deep freestanding bathtub and high-tech Japanese loo. Sketches, paintings and framed letters from the hotel’s private collection adorn the walls, along with a guitar for musically inclined guests to strum. Rooms from $1,398 per night, leroyalmonceau.com

Best newcomer: Hôtel des Grands Voyageurs

Ever wondered what it was like to set sail on a 1920s ocean liner (first class, naturally)? Well, this November-launched Left Bank bolthole gives a hint, with its “golden age of travel” theme. The fullest expression is found in the corridors, lined with nautical-style rope handles and star-spangled carpet, or in mirrored, mahogany-paneled cocktail bar Poppy, a clandestine space made for date nights and dry martinis. Guest rooms subtly continue the art deco homage — bas-relief sculptures by François Gilles are an elegant touch — while suites also provide a throwback soundtrack in the form of vinyl record players and jazz tracks to spin.

Sinking into the lobby’s low-slung velvet armchairs, admiring lithographs by Klimt and Chagall in the amber glow of vintage wall sconces, it’s hard to believe this atmospheric spot was formerly a Holiday Inn. Beyond the sleek reception desk of polished wood and marble, the restaurant serves a “transatlantic” menu — uncomplicated, crowd-pleasing plates such as lobster rolls, wagyu steak frites and salted caramel cheesecake, making American visitors feel right at home. Happily, Hôtel des Grands Voyageurs has “dropped anchor” in Saint-Germain-des-Prés; unlike over-touristed arrondissements across the river, independent boutiques, boulangeries and antiques dealers outnumber chains in this neighborhood, and the Luxembourg Gardens are your local park. Rooms from $328 per night. The Rive Gauche Summer Package, available June 20 to Septem- ber 22, 2024, offers two nights for $489, including breakfast, gift and map of local insider tips, hoteldesgrandsvoyageurs.com

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s July 2024 World edition.