The Paris collection
Photography: William Meppem
AMARANTH AND WINDOWS ON PARIS
If, like us, you swoon over the chic Parisian apartments so often featured in glossy interiors magazines, the opportunity to be surrounded by said chic-ness is not to be missed. Guest Apartment Services specialises in letting high-end apartments on Île Saint-Louis and in Le Marais district, renowned for boutique shopping and atmospheric streetscapes.
Amaranth, in the buzzing Marais, is a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern convenience, with elegant proportions (soaring ceilings, tall shuttered windows, generously sized reception rooms) and luxe comfort (feather-topped beds, five-star hotel-quality bed linen and towels, and high-pressure showers).
A well-equipped kitchen and the apartment's proximity to produce markets mean you can shop and cook, and there's a plethora of impressive dining options nearby.
On weekends the area is a pedestrian-only zone; step out the front door and you're in the thick of it. With quirky boutiques and elegant cafés drawing the crowds (tea aficionados will be delighted to know there's a Mariage Frères salon just a couple of minutes stroll up the block), it feels like a street festival every weekend.
If it's breathtaking views you're after, opt for the three-bedroom grandeur of Windows on Paris perched by the Seine in a magnificent Haussmann-era building. The 360-degree views take in landmarks such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Sacré Coeur.
Being serviced apartments, there's help and advice on hand and nothing is too much trouble for the accommodating staff. We highly recommend the limousine pick-up from the airport - a most civilised entrée to Paris.
We love The charming personal service, especially from the owner, Christophe Chastel, who ensures all is right with your stay without intruding on your privacy.
Two-bedroom Amaranth costs $6000 per week, minimum seven-night stay. Rue du Bourg Tibourg. Windows on Paris costs $6620 per week, minimum seven-night stay. Quai Voltaire, Saint Germain des Prés, +33 1 44 07 06 20, guestapartment.com. EMMA KNOWLES
HÔTEL RELAIS SAINT GERMAIN
The location of this hotel is first rate: an amble from the Seine; a short stroll from the Jardins des Luxembourg; around the corner from rue de Grenelle, the increasingly fashion-rich strip threading through Saint Germain before winding up at the grand Paris department store Le Bon Marché. But the most compelling reason to check into Hôtel Relais Saint Germain, owned by French MasterChef judge Yves Camdeborde and his wife Claudine, is the food.
Most of the 22 rooms at this Left Bank four-star overlook the spires and rooftops of Saint Germain and the crowds queuing for a table at Camdeborde's Le Comptoir bistro below. Hotel guests are guaranteed a reservation at this most stylish of Parisian bistros and the special privilege of breakfast: baguettes from Eric Kayser; featherlight croissants from pâtissier Gérard Mulot; hard-boiled eggs; Comté cheese and ham sliced straight from the leg on the counter; oranges in orange-flower water; yoghurt from the Breton dairy of fromagerie Bordier. Sharing the 20-seat bistro with just a handful of fellow guests each morning is akin to being given the password to an exclusive club; tourists and wannabe diners shoot envious gazes as they walk by. The privileges don't stop there. While there's grander accommodation to be found in Paris, the Relais' intimate scale and warmth elevate its rooms from merely comfortable to perfect, and access to Le Comptoir's room-service menu seals the deal.
We love Camdeborde's smoked salmon croque-monsieur may very well be the ultimate in-room dining pleasure.
Rooms from $320 per night. 9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, + 33 1 44 27 07 97, hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com. FRANCES HIBBARD
This is one of the most exciting hotels to open in the French capital in the past few years. This former bank headquarters in the lively Opéra district has been transformed into a luxury four-star hotel, and it's like nothing else in Paris - an explosion of vibrant colour one might expect to see in a Pedro Almodóvar film. It's part of the Derby Hotels Collection founded by Spanish businessman Jordi Clos, who has combined his love of art with hospitality in properties in Barcelona, Madrid, London and Paris.
The scene is set with Banke's dramatic octagon-shaped lobby, painted in rich cranberry with splashes of gold. The bars and restaurants are just as bold, and the corridors on every floor are filled with Egyptian, Roman and African art treasures, and stunning ethnic jewellery. The hotel's 94 rooms are generally more subdued, dressed in subtle beige and chocolate with parquet floors and pieces by Philippe Starck. Leather rugs and bedheads add a Spanish twist and the bathrooms are spacious.
Head chef Cyril Chevalier is the creative force at the hotel's Josefin restaurant and, in a city of culinary heavyweights, he's making his mark with an innovative style that sweeps across the Mediterranean. Settle into a golden banquette and savour paper-thin lobster carpaccio, wagyu beef or monkfish medallions with piquillo peppers while tasting French and Spanish wines from a carefully curated list.
We love Subtle personal touches, such as Champagne on arrival and hydromassage tubs in some rooms, soften the hotel's air of brash opulence.
Rooms from $315 per night. 20 rue La Fayette, +33 1 55 33 22 22, hotelbanke.com. JOSEPHINE McKENNA
After establishing a successful niche in Australia's boutique hotel market, 8Hotels expanded to the French capital, offering a range of rental apartments from small but perfectly formed studios to three-bedroom apartments in locations from leafy Montmartre to the vibrant Latin Quarter.
8Hotels chief executive Paul Fischmann says the group aims to build on its reputation by offering "value-driven accommodation" in superb locations.
"To live like a Parisian in Paris is the ultimate experience for a traveller," he says. "For me, the city gets better each time I go."
The group's pièce de résistance is the Louvre Deluxe, an elegant one-bedroom apartment only metres from the Musée de Louvre and Tuileries Garden, and just off rue Saint-Honoré, home to the eclectic concept store Colette and biggest names in fashion including Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Hermès.
Louvre Deluxe is even more charming than its name suggests. Housed in an 18th-century building above a quaint courtyard, it's surprisingly tranquil for the fashion-central location and proximity to reasonably priced eateries. It has original parquet floors and features a simple drawing room with Edwardian furnishings separated from the bedroom by a wrought-iron screen. The fully equipped bathroom and kitchen have been recently refurbished and the apartment has an espresso machine, free WiFi, iPod dock and cable television. Free international telephone calls are a further bonus.
We love A personal concierge service can arrange airport transfers, sightseeing tours and restaurant reservations, plus maps and city guides.
From $240 per night. 4 place du Marché Saint-Honoré, +33 7 60 09 56 29, (02) 9611 8888, eighthotels.com. JOSEPHINE McKENNA
For a slice of life on the vibrant Left Bank, it's hard to go past Relais Christine. It's a gem of a hotel set behind a manicured courtyard in a 16th-century mansion that's built on the remains of an even older monastery. And it's just a short walk from the Musée d'Orsay and Notre Dame Cathedral.
This four-star hotel has a warm and convivial atmosphere enhanced by a cosy lounge with a bar and huge fireplace just beyond the front doors.
Its 51 rooms and suites are refurbished regularly. Some rooms include mezzanine accommodation ideal for families; others have private terraces.
The décor ranges from classic to contemporary, and the bathrooms are modern and spacious.
Plus there's free parking. Breakfast is a treat served in the beautiful vaulted cellar once used as a kitchen by friars in the 13th century.
It's the perfect spot to evoke medieval daydreams over fresh croissants.
We love A glass of Champagne on arrival while the valet parks your car. And the range of spa treatments is impressive, including a rejuvenating facial or relaxing hot-stone massage in the vaults where abbots once prayed.
Rooms from $465 per night. 3 rue Christine, +33 1 40 51 60 80, relais-christine.com. JOSEPHINE McKENNA
LE STUDIO 22
Though the Marais can be overrun with tourists, some of its treasures are familiar only to locals.
Le Studio 22 is one of them. Marie Thevenin rents three small apartments next to her own in a quiet residential street off rue de Bretagne, and offers art lovers and collectors a personal guide to the district's arts scene.
Thevenin's decorative flair can be seen in the fusion of classic and quirky design in Le Studio 22. Colourful chandeliers hang above Art Deco lampshades; the stark black kitchen is funky and fully equipped. There are welcome surprises such as Mariage Frères tea in the pantry and Aesop products in the bathroom. But it's Thevenin's knowledge of the local art scene that's invaluable to travellers.
"I started [the tours] because I love art," she says. "People don't have a lot of time so I create a schedule to see galleries and buy art. We can do a lot on foot."
As Thevenin zigzags through the web of lanes in Le Marais, she ticks off her favourite galleries and recommends selected brasseries, boutiques and gourmet takeaways. Famished by the end, we order couscous and spicy Cajun chicken at a bargain price inside the fabulous Marché des Enfants Rouges in rue de Bretagne.
We love Sprinting after Thevenin as she enthuses about her favourite neighbourhood haunts and just-opened hotspots.
From $280 per night. 22 rue de Picardie, +33 6 60 13 98 20, lestudio22.com. JOSEPHINE McKENNA
HÔTEL PARTICULIER MONTMARTE
Once home to the Hermès family, this 18th-century mansion and garden in historic Montmartre has been transformed into a fabulous five-suite design hotel. It's so discreet that there's no sign outside the secret passage that leads off cobblestoned Avenue Junot. We arrive with a sense of achievement and anticipation to find cocktails being mixed for guests and their friends, and couples playing backgammon beside an open fire near a lobby hung with bold contemporary art and retro light fittings.
The hotel is the brainchild of Morgane Rousseau, an innovative interior designer who wanted to create comfortable living spaces within a showcase for her art and collectables.
Rousseau's finest suite is at the top of a private spiral staircase - an 85-square metre room with panoramic views of the city. Dressed in earthy browns with a black and gold striped carpet, this loft space features heavily laden bookshelves, cashmere drapes and plenty of lounging space. There's whimsy in children's toys placed here and there, while two giant photographic portraits of a woman peering through a veil of hair stare across the room, giving you the sense that you're never really alone. The bathroom is generously proportioned with two showers, but I prefer to fill the claw-foot antique bathtub that sits to one side of the main space.
It's easy to see why this hotel has become a popular haunt for the fashion crowd and A-listers, but Parisians also come here for weekend escapes. It's the home we all wish we had.
We love Sinking into a bubble bath in the loft's tub beneath a skylight and a starry night.
Suites from $570 per night. 23 avenue Junot, Pavillion D, +33 1 53 41 81 40, hotel-particulier-montmartre.com. JOSEPHINE McKENNA
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