Boutique hotels and grand palaces are raising the luxury level in the French capital.
Paris has paraded more looks than a model at an haute couture show. In the first century BC, the Romans established a garrison town on the Île de la Cité, overthrowing the Celtic settlement on the Seine. In the Middle Ages, the walled city gave birth to Gothic architecture and its masterpiece, Louis IX’s Sainte-Chapelle. In the 19th century, Napoleon III’s city planner, Baron Haussmann, tore through the medieval slums to create the boulevards, parks and limestone façades that now characterise what is arguably the world’s most beautiful city.
And the French capital – the gold standard in luxury, gastronomy and tourism – is still evolving. The Grand Paris project will see an estimated €28 billion (about $39 billion) invested up to 2030 to create a more innovative, sustainable, competitive city, expanding the transport network and connecting world-class hubs of finance, aeronautics, design, events and R&D. Île-de-France, the region that includes Paris, is already Europe’s leading economic area and home to 29 of the world’s 500 largest companies. The city hosts about 1000 conferences and 400 trade fairs each year, including June’s International Paris Air Show, and 40 per cent of its 46 million annual visitors come for business.
A surprisingly compact city, Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements that spiral clockwise from the first, north of Île de la Cité, outwards to the Périphérique ring road. Major tourist sites, shopping and business are concentrated in the centre. As befits a metropolis of nearly seven million, it’s layered with contrasts, heritage, diversity and culture and it continues to change. Vive l’évolution.
Sitting shoulder to shoulder with rue Saint-Honoré’s luxury boutiques, the Mandarin Oriental clearly takes the fashion credentials of its neighbourhood seriously. It’s modern, cool and understated in a restrained palette of white, gold and plum. The Art Deco-inspired décor extends from the soaring marble lobby to the 98 rooms and 40 suites (which, from 39 square metres, are among the city’s most generous). Book now
Business facilities: The reception on the first floor has two computers, a printer and a scanner for guest use. There are four fully equipped meeting rooms, three of which can be reconfigured to accommodate up to 120 people.
Wi-fi: High-speed internet connection for up to six devices is complimentary.
Food and wine: Both flagship restaurant Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx and the all-day Camélia seamlessly blend French and Asian influences. Make time for coffee and a Saint-Honoré from the cake shop or a cocktail from Bar 8.
Fitness and wellbeing: There is a 24-hour fitness centre and the two-level spa includes a heated 14-metre lap pool. For tailor-made relaxation, book a two- or three-hour-plus Time Rituals treatment.
Run route: Turn right into rue Saint-Honoré then left towards Place Vendôme and on to Place de l’Opéra (pause to admire Palais Garnier, home of Paris opera and ballet). Head east down rue du 4 Septembre and turn right, across from Palais Brongniart, into rue de la Banque. Go right at rue des Petits-Champs then left at rue Vivienne and into the Jardin du Palais-Royal. Cross rue de Rivoli and enter the Place du Carrousel of the Louvre, turning right for a lap of Jardin des Tuileries. Exit the park at rue de Castiglione to complete a five-kilometre loop.
251 rue Saint-Honoré, 1st arrondissement
La Réserve Hotel and Spa
Before La Réserve became a five-star boutique hotel, the 160-year-old building housed private apartments and this warmth is still very much in evidence. There’s no check-in desk; guests are greeted individually and each of the richly appointed 26 suites and 14 rooms has a dedicated butler. Opened in 2015, the hotel retains its 19th-century refinement with original marble fireplaces, period furniture and silk-clad walls. And its location – opposite the Élysée gardens, minutes from the Place de la Concorde – adds to the tranquillity.
Business facilities: There’s no business centre here but the concierge can provide copying and scanning services. The library is a calm workspace.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: The hotel has two restaurants: spice-themed brasserie La Pagode de Cos, which is perfect for breakfast meetings, and two-star French Le Gabriel. Try the Macau artichoke heart with sakura leaves and coriander.
Fitness and wellbeing: The sleek basement-level spa has a fitness room with free weights and cardio machines (outdoor personal training is also an option), a hammam and a 16-metre pool. Indulge in a Be Relax treatment (for her) or Le Gentleman de La Réserve (for him).
Run route: Turn left into avenue Gabriel then right at avenue de Marigny. Continue over the Champs-Élysées, past the Grand Palais, and cross the river at Pont Alexandre III, turning right to run beside the Seine.
At the Eiffel Tower, cross back over the river at Pont d’Iéna and head right, up avenue de New York. At the Flamme de la Liberté, veer right, up avenue Montaigne, then turn right into Gabriel for a circuit of five kilometres.
42 avenue Gabriel, 8th arrondissement
Four Seasons Hotel George V
From its Golden Triangle location two blocks from the Champs-Élysées to the spectacular floral arrangements (12,000 blooms are delivered weekly) and the king beds and marble bathrooms, the George V is pure Paris palace luxury. Many of the 244 rooms (including 59 suites) have terraces from which to gaze over those famous rooftops. Wine aficionados can arrange to visit La Cave du Cinq, 14 metres below the hotel, which cellars more than 50,000 bottles – including a 1792 Madeira.
Business facilities: Seven salons accommodate meetings and events for up to 450 people, while the 24-hour business centre has workstations, printers and a scanner. State-of-the-art AV equipment, in-room laptops plus booking and translation services are available.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: In February, George V became the first palace hotel in Europe with three Michelin-anointed restaurants: Mediterranean-inspired Le
George, light-filled L’Orangerie overlooking the marble courtyard and the three-star Le Cinq, which puts a modern twist on flawless French technique.
Fitness and wellbeing: The fully equipped fitness centre offers yoga classes and personal training, while in the Pop Up Spa, the Promenade à Versailles treatment promises Marie Antoinette’s beauty secrets in the form of a scrub, massage and facial. (The pool, sauna and hammam are closed for renovation until June 2018.)
Run route: Led by hotel staff every Tuesday morning, Run My City offers a nine-kilometre route that takes in many of the city’s most famous sights and monuments.
31 avenue George V, 8th arrondissement
L’Hotel du Collectionneur
Taking its style from the great cruise liners of the 1930s and its name from the collectors, artists and patrons who once peopled this serene quarter in the 8th arrondissement, L’Hotel du Collectionneur feels like a journey back in time. And yet modern convenience is never far away – in each room is a smartphone offering 4G internet, international calls and a city guide. The central Patio Andalou, conceived by landscape designer Olivier Riols, who worked on the Palais-Royal gardens, is a year-round verdant oasis perfect for breakfast or a quiet moment to regroup. Book now
Business facilities: As well as a business centre and dedicated events team, the hotel has 1700 square metres of event space.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Both Le Safran, with its focus on regional, seasonal French cuisine, and the retro-elegant Purple Bar serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Fitness and wellbeing: Beautiful Le Spa Mosaïc has 10 treatment rooms, a Jacuzzi, sauna and hammam. The fitness centre, with cardio- and strength-training equipment, is open 7am to 11pm.
Run route: Head left into rue de Courcelles, cross the road and enter Parc Monceau (a favourite of Marcel Proust) through the impressive black-and-gold gates. Join the locals for a couple of rounds of the one-kilometre circuit. The park is open 7am to 8pm (10pm in summer).
51-57 rue de Courcelles, 8th arrondissement
Main image: Four Seasons Hotel George V