Thanks to the rise of money-saving apps like Booking.com and share services like Airbnb, hotels have become a bit of an afterthought. The wisdom goes that you won’t spend much time in your room. When people do choose to stay in a hotel proper, they often care more about the location and price of accommodations than what sort of experience they actually offer.
For those who can afford a night or two in a nice room, I think this new attitude is rather unfortunate. An excellent hotel, filled with history or quirky art or drool-worthy restaurants, can add something really special to a trip. More than that, a great hotel can become a second home.
For design junkies, hotels can offer unique – sometimes even museum worthy – experiences the public doesn’t typically get to see. Here are some of the best looking places to crash I came across on my Paris travels (plus a few that top my wish list for next time).
Shangri-La Paris: For the historical design buff
How this place isn’t actually a museum, I don’t know. The ridiculously opulent palace-turned-hotel is a the former home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte. Many of the original trimmings have been preserved, which means there’s enough gold hanging around to make Donald Trump blush.
Particularly stunning is Bonaparte’s private bedroom suite that twists and turns like a maze, seeming to go on forever (I suggest winning the lottery, then booking this way in advance). This pad is the physical manifestation of splendor itself and has been perfectly polished and preserved by the Shangri-La. It has also been designated a French Heritage site.
Ironically, Bonaparte didn’t favour the hotel’s grand views of the Eiffel Tower (it was considered a temporary eyesore at the time), but this location boasts some of the best in town if you can nab a suite with a spacious outdoor terrace.
Tip: Look for bee symbolism throughout the hotel. The bee was a political emblem for the First and Second Empire, and appears in intricate murals on walls, ceilings and in the name of the Shangri-la’s excellent Michelin-starred restaurant L’Abeille.
Seven Hotel Paris: For the eccentric
A boutique hotel should be so much more than just “small in size.” It should offer a unique experience that larger, corporate hotels simply can’t replicate. Seven Hotel Paris does just that with its bizarre, but wonderful one-of-a-kind rooms.
Take, for example, the Levitation room, which boasts a levitating bed, transparent shower and other worldly fiber optics. Or try the 007 suite, which blends futuristic and vintage design elements like an endless mirror and golden toilets to create a room worthy of the British spy himself.
Can’t decide? Book the On/Off suite, which features two interior wall designs you can switch with the flick of a button.
Hilton Paris Opera: For the kid at heart
The Hilton Paris Opera doesn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd with its exterior, but the inside is really quite beautiful. The property just undertook a $50 million refurbishment and still has further redesign plans over the next year.
When you think of Hilton, you think of serious business travelers, executive lounges and swanky suites with really big TVs. This location boasts all that, but it also offers up something extra special for summer travelers until September 6, via a unique artistic partnership with LEGO.
You’ve never seen LEGO like this before. In addition to a replica of the hotel in the main lobby, works of plastic art that portray famous landmarks and personalities can be found throughout the hotel’s restaurants and event spaces. The magic mind behind these is Dirk Denoyelle, one of 12 LEGO Certified Professionals in the entire world.
Fashion fanatic? The best department stores in Paris are an easy five minute walk away, and the stained glass dome at The Galeries Lafayette is something no design lover should miss.
Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris: For the flowers freak
This luxury hotel practically overflows with 12,000 fresh blooms that are meticulously maintained, and replaced if necessary, on a daily basis. Their scent greets you as soon as your enter the hotel, but doesn’t overpower.
The floral displays are the work of artistic director Jeff Leatham, who introduces a new theme every three weeks and imports the flowers from Amsterdam. As you may guess, the Four Seasons’ flower budget tops well over $1 million annually– the sort of extravagance only the French can justify.
In addition to the main lobby and halls, flowers also adorn the balconies of guests’ rooms and tables and desks throughout the property. If you’re lucky enough to visit in the summer, don’t miss dining in The Marble Courtyard, for which Leatham creates a luscious installation of floating Vanda orchids.
The Buddha-Bar Hotel Paris: For the escapist
Combining classic French architecture with a visual buffet of East Asian décor, this is a unique spot for those who desire a side of fantasy with their foie gras. The building is a restored 18th century mansion made to look like a temple guarded by a dragon who reappears throughout as a central theme in the hotel’s décor.
Silk lanterns and a grand ceremonial staircase set the tone as you enter this artsy mash up of East meets West.
A sizable collection of 18th century painting and sculptures, left behind by the former owner, is scattered throughout the hotel. However, many of the best works now appear on the walls of the Louvre and other museums.
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