Seven Substitutes for Tourist Trap Hotels: The Messy Nessy Chic Paris Hotel Guide

In I spied... on February 2, 2011 at 9:20 am

Old friend HandbagAddict (previously ShoeAddict) came to visit me in Paris last weekend with her boyfriend, who without much thought, booked them a room at the Four Seasons hotel, George V. This got on my nuts (can girls use that expression?). I could understand if you might be traveling to a third world country where the only hotel that isn’t likely to be harboring cockroaches is the Four Seasons– fine. But in Paris? How unfortunate to be missing out on all the charming boutique hotels of the city, especially with a budget like that. The concierge at the big luxury hotels can’t be trusted either, recommending over-priced restaurants and designer-only shopping streets with no character to complete an overall non-Parisian experience. This prompted me to embark on a hotel trail and wander the cobbled streets of the city in search of alluring homes away from home with a taste of real Paris. I suppose this little guide might also come in handy from now on when I’m asked, “Can you suggest a charming and inexpensive hotel in Paris?”. For budgets of all kinds, this is what MessyNessy found…


Hotel L’Amour****

Rates: Doubles start at 150 euros (reservations best done over the phone to choose a room theme)


  • An untouristed 20-room theme hotel hiding in an undistinguished lane near the red-light district of Pigalle that was once a serviceable, pay-by-the hour establishment.
  • Rooms adorned with romance novels, erotic art and old photo magazines.
  • A good-looking hipster crowd and the surrounding charm of 9th arrondissement. Owned partly by the proprietors of the nightclub Le Baron (not that it should matter), the place has become a darling of the international fashion and rock ’n’ roll set.

Do NOT Expect:

  • Phones, televisions or Internet access in the rooms (said to be too distracting for lovers. But there are an iPod connection in every room and wireless Internet service in the public spaces).
  • Groveling servants
  • To feel like a tourist, 8 Rue Navarin, 9 eme arrondissement

A Travel Back in Time … (French time that is)

Caron de Beaumarchais***

Rates: Double bed overlooking the courtyard, 145 Euros, frontside larger rooms, 185 Euros


  • To feel like you might have interrupted Beaumarchais as he is finishing his final act of “The Marriage of Figaro”. A rare piano forte of 1792, a card table that appears to have been abandoned mid play, a fireplace, music stand, candles and chandeliers recreate the atmosphere of a private townhouse in the time of Beaumarchais and Mozart.
  • Something totally French. All 19 rooms reflect the taste of the art of living invented in Paris in the 18th century.
  • One of the most central locations. If you like the trendy Marais, this is the place to stay (and you’re just minutes from the best Falafel in the world from the old Jewish quarter).

Do NOT Expect:

  • Breakfast to be included. But it is served until midday (quite rare with hotels) and costs 13 Euros extra.
  • To find the rooms particularly large, the smallest rooms overlook the courtyard, and the top-floor rooms are very small, but have panoramic balcony views across the Right Bank.
  • To find this hotel anything but charming.

Luxury Beyond the Four Seasons Hotel Chain (that’s far less boring)

L’Hotel ****

Rates: Last minute offers for a “petite mignon” room from 250 Euros and a “chic’ room from 510 Euros.


  • To feel like you’ve walked into one of the best kept secrets in Paris. Once Oscar Wilde’s hangout who lived there until his death, as well as being a hideaway to Salvador Dali, Princess Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor.
  • To be able to swim in a private pool, a favourite of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis who come to rent out the hammam pool beneath the underground vaulted arches.
  • To want to discover every room.
  • To be located right smack in the centre of a very sophisticated part Saint-Germain-des-Pres, surrounded by some of the city’s most interesting little art galleries.

Do NOT Expect:

  • Very large rooms. The hotel is intimate and lavishly decorated but does not boast massive space for cartwheels in the bedrooms.
  • Noise. This is certainly not the place you’ll find screaming babies in the lobby or overly boisterous fellow guests., 13 Rue des Beaux Arts, 6eme Arrondissement

Quiet & Cosy

Hotel Verneuil***

Rates: If you have 136 euros to spend and don’t mind a cosy room, then ask for one of the five small doubles at the Hôtel Verneuil, James Baldwin’s old hangout. (Larger rooms start at 163 euros.)


  • The oozing of elegance and romance on a quiet little backstreet.
  • Very tasteful decoration. The owner has splashed the public spaces with color, adorning them with wonderful prints and eye-popping textiles. Many of the rooms have original wood beams, and all the baths are done in tawny marble.
  • A stroll down the Seine just two blocks away
  • Cocktails in the afternoon
  • To be close to the Louvre museum (very central)
  • To be on the doorstep of Serge Gainsbourg’s former residence, untouched since his death.

Do NOT Expect

  • Large rooms. As I said, it’s perfect for quiet and cosy. Cuddle time. , 8 Rue de Verneuil, 7eme Arrondissement

Bohemian Chic at Student Rates

Hotel El Dorado * (Only one star but so much more)

Rates: Double rooms are 70 to 75 Euros


  • One of the best cheap hotels in Paris with press recommendations from Elle and Marie Claire.
  • A cheerful, hipster and quirky atmosphere, great for meeting other young and fearless travelers passing through.
  • Shabby chic al Fresco dining. Half of the rooms overlook the hotel’s small bamboo garden and wine bistro.
  • Inspiring decor. With furnishing and art from the flea markets and the streets of India, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa, the rooms and public spaces have a ‘we-are-the-world’ feel.

Do NOT Expect:

  • To have the Eiffel Tower on your doorstep. The hotel is located in the 17th arrondissement, north west of the central sites of Paris. You are however, a ten minutes walk from Monmartre (you know that charming hilltop area where the cult French film Amelie was filmed). The Champs Elysee is 20 minutes on the subway and a metro stop is just a minute walk from the hotel.
  • The amenities of a four star hotel. This is truly a bohemian traveler’s hotel. There are no telephones or televisions in the rooms, no elevator, no air-conditioning, and 10 of the 33 rooms share toilets (if that freaks you out, just ask for an en suite room– prices will still be a bargain).

An Affordable Girls Weekend

Hotel Taylor***

Rates: From 86 Euros for a standard double


  • Complimentary champagne
  • Perfect location in between the trendy Marais for shopping and the lively Republique for nightlife.
  • Girly baroque decor mixed with plenty of nods to female icons from the 60s (Elizabeth Taylor Hotel).

Do NOT Expect

  • To open your toiletry bag. All the beauty and grooming products you need are available if you forget something.
  • Your boyfriend to appreciate it as much you., 6 Rue Taylor, 10eme Arrondissement


Hotel du Petit Moulin****

Rates: Standard double, 190 Euros and a superior for 250 Euros


  • To find everything your favourite blogger, MessyNessy would want to blog about! It’s nostalgic, bohemian, unique, modern and eclectic.
  • More than just an old bread shop. The hotel is built on the site of a former boulangerie dating back to 1900 and before that, a seventeenth century mill. The facade as well as the shop sign of the boulangerie have been preserved, making this hotel front extremely unique and picturesque.
  • To feel like your hotel has been designed by a haute couture designer. Because it has. Christian Lacroix designed the seventeen room boutique hotel which he describes as a dollhouse of “seventeen ambiences that correspond to the seventeen ways of enjoying the Marais”.
  • To be in the hippest area of Paris of course, Le Marais.
  • Room massages on request.

Do NOT Expect:

  • A full restaurant, although breakfast is available in a charming little bar room.
  • To know what kind of room you will end up with. But do expect it to be exotic, unexpected and delicious. , 29/31 rue du Poitou, 3eme Arrondissement


An Affordable Secret Getaway

Hotel des Grandes Ecoles***

Rates: 118- 145 euros for two people.


  • To feel like you are miles away from a city, in the midst of the countryside
  • To in fact be on the doorstep of Ernest Hemingway’s old apartment in Paris, minutes from the Latin quarters, les Jardins Luxembourg and the Pantheon.
  • To be feet away one of the most charming street markets in Paris, Rue Mouffetard.
  • To be surrounded by adorable, quintessentially French restaurants (try L’Ecurie).
  • To eat breakfast in a gorgeous courtyard.
  • To find this hotel romantic, beautiful and homely.
Do NOT Expect
  • Extreme luxury. Think more charming countryside bed & breakfast (in the heart of Paris).
  • A particularly strong WIFI connection – you’ll probably have to sit in the courtyard to get on the net with your laptop… how torturous!
  • A television (do you really need one in Paris?)


75, rue Cardinal Lemoine 75005 Paris • France

Tél. : +33(0)1 43 26 79 23 • Fax : +33(0)1 43 25 28 15


George V

Plaza Athenee

Hotel Le Bristol

InterContinental Le Grand Hotel

The Ritz

Any of the Hyatts

Hotel de Crillon

Hotel Le Meurice


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