Paris may be timeless, but it’s certainly not stuck in a rut. From the Autolib’ electric-car sharing program to the new Islamic Art Wing for the Louvre (the world’s most visited museum), the French capital continually inspires other cities with its innovative offerings. Voici, some tips for your next trip.
W’s “World of Wow”
W arrived in Paris on February 29—strutting its stuff in a kick-start to Fashion Week. A classic, Haussmann-era building near the Opera was converted into a hip destination for the W crowd. Like the flagship Apple Store next door, a temple to technology inside an old bank, W Paris-Opera is sleek and contemporary, yet grounded in its architectural heritage.
Luxury Travel Advisor was there when the W opened its doors, and we found it to be full of personality and undeniable sex appeal. The first W groupies had already flown in from the U.S. to test-drive the new digs. Lounge music filled the bar, where apples were balanced on overturned wine glasses, and the black counter was offset by the red-edged bar stools. Here, even breakfast can be a scene.
The design by the Rockwell Group Europe represents the collision of the City of Light’s “spark” with W’s New York-style “energy.” Hence, the light theme plays a big role in the aesthetic. Walls of LED lights are found throughout the hotel, from the backlit bar to individual guest rooms. The “Living Room” shows off the mélange of New and Old worlds: W’s playful vibe is found in the cartoon etchings on the mirrors, while walls of windows frame the neighborhood’s stately architecture. The W lexicon continues to the top (fifth) floor of the hotel, where “SWEAT”—the small workout room—has views over the rooftops.
Michelin-starred Chef Sergi Arola, trained by Ferran Adrià, brings his inventive Spanish cuisine to France with the hotel’s Arola restaurant. At this trendy hangout, guests can taste shared platters of seasonal haute cuisine—a tapas-like concept the chef calls “Pica Pica.”
Yet to be seen: whether W’s 24/7 personality—best epitomized by its signature Whatever/Whenever service—will fly in Paris, a city that cherishes its beauty sleep… like the post-lunch sieste and quiet (no-stores-open) Sundays.
Each of the rooms and suites comes with Bliss bath amenities, an inventive “munchie box” (think mojito cocktails in pouches and hangover remedies), a cocktail set for in-room libations, and a copy of Vahram Muratyan’s talked-about design book Paris versus New York. Full of natural light, the rooms are sprinkled with contemporary décor, and they flaunt historical touches. For example, the Extreme Wow Suite (of which there are two) No. 112 (Presidential Suite, in W lingo) has a marble fireplace and ornate decorative molding on the walls. Under a soaring ceiling, a huge circular bed is smack in the center of the room. We also love suite No. 501 because of the gorgeous views of the Opera Garnier. From the free-standing tub you can stare at the landmark—made famous in The Phantom of the Opera—through skylight windows under the eaves. In total, the hotel has 49 rooms overlooking the Opera.
If you’re not content just to gawk at it, Whatever/Whenever Manager Wim de Preter ([email protected]; 011-33-0-1-77-48-94-94) can arrange for you to get up close and personal with the Opera on a private tour. (Make sure to check out the ceiling painting by Marc Chagall.)
General Manager Olivier Servat was tapped from Le Méridien Etoile, where he had helmed the largest hotel in Paris with 1,025 rooms. W Paris-Opera also recruited a W Insider to connect guests with what’s new in the local scene. Cécile Rummler ([email protected]; 011-33-0-1-77-48-94-94) has arranged access to Fashion Week runway shows, Colette’s 15th anniversary carnival, and exclusive night clubs like Le Baron and David Lynch’s Silencio. Cécile told Luxury Travel Advisor, “My favorite new restaurant is Septime, and I love the secret bar at Candelaria in the Marais quarter.”
W couldn’t have picked a better time to land in Paris. The cocktail phenomenon—relatively new to Paris—has caught on in full force. Night owls used to sampling artisanal elixirs at L’Experimental Cocktail Club will be at home in the W Lounge. Joseph Boroski, global director of cocktail culture for W Hotels, created a signature drink called “The Spark”—made with vodka, champagne, orange, raspberry and a touch of saffron and honey.
L’Experimental has been such a smashing success that the owners—Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon and Pierre-Charles Cros—have opened outposts in London and New York. Back in Paris, the nightlife triumvirate continues to shake up the scene with a mini-empire of speakeasy-style bars: Prescription Cocktail Club in Saint Germain; the taxidermied animals-filled Curio Parlor in the Latin Quarter; natural wine bar Compagnie des vins Surnaturels in Saint Germain; and the just-opened Beef Club Ballroom.
Another new and noteworthy bar is La Vue (lafayette.concorde-hotels.fr/fr/bar-panoramique/la-vue.aspx), perched atop the 34th floor of Hotel Concorde La Fayette. After a dramatic redesign, the venue opened with knockout views of Paris, a postcard-perfect panorama at night.
|Opera Arol a Restaurant serves Spanish flavors, courtesy of Ferran Adrià protégé, Sergi Arola.|
Nightlife aficionados also flock to Le Carmen to rub elbows with the literary cool crowd. The sumptuous setting inside French composer Bizet’s former mansion is almost a distraction from the delicious drinks. Gape at the neoclassic columns, gilded mirrors and frescoed ceilings, then take a seat inside the giant bird cage. The monthly book club is a rock ‘n’ roll affair that’s even caught the eye of The New York Times.
During the day, the W crowd will want to swagger over to the Louis Vuitton-Marc Jacobs exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, running until September 16. The talk of the town since it opened in March, the exhibit examines the careers of both fashion stars, and Jacob’s electrifying influence on the iconic Louis Vuitton brand. Given the exhibit’s popularity, it’s best to reserve tickets online at www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr, or schedule a guided tour ([email protected]; 011-33-0-1-44-55-59-26).
For a dizzying encounter with contemporary art, head to the Palais de Tokyo. Originally built in 2002 in a minimalist, open-plan space, the museum closed in January this year for a four-month renovation, expanding all the way to the river Seine. Almost triple in size, the Palais de Tokyo has become the largest contemporary art center in Europe. Four floors of vastly different exhibit space—from the light-filled upper gallery to the four cinemas—showcase daring creative expression in the visual arts, design, music and fashion. Live concerts and events take place at night.
|Great Views: The W has 49 rooms that overlook the Opera.|
Another Mecca for contemporary art is the Fondation Cartier, built by Pritzker prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. Not far from Denfert-Rochereau (and the entrance to the Paris catacombs) in the 14th arrondissement, Fondation is a glass and steel structure covered with a hanging garden. Novel art installations have the city’s culturati talking.
Also off-the-beaten path: The Musée Marmottan Monet is an unsung treasure full of Impressionist art, including Claude Monet’s water lily paintings. Private tours can be arranged after-hours: 8:30-10 a.m. and 6:30-9 p.m. (Contact [email protected]; 011-33-0-1-44-96-50-33.) The entire museum—an old hunting lodge decorated with Empire furniture—can be rented out for receptions.
In the heart of Marais, the Musée Carnavalet occupies two hôtel particuliers (nobleman’s townhouses) facing a courtyard garden. Marked by five centuries of architectural history, this museum tells the story of Paris through the millennia. Like the Marmottan, this extraordinary setting can play host to breakfast events and cocktail parties. Talk about the ultimate garden party! For more information, contact Marie-Alix de Lestang ([email protected]; 011-33-0-1-44-59-58-35).