Sleep with an artist in the avant-garde hotels of Paris

by Natasha.Edwards

Paris has always inspired artists and attracted art-lovers with its museums and galleries. Now, a new generation of themed hotels gives guests the chance to live and sleep among the artworks

You can come to Paris for its museums, see the streets and skylines beloved by Impressionists and Surrealists, frequent their old haunts and studios, mingle with artists at private views – and, if you wish, get even closer to art in some of the city's most exciting themed hotels. At some, the hotel itself is like a conceptual artwork; in others, it becomes an intimate gallery.

Hôtel Amour

8 rue Navarin, 75009 Paris. Double from €120

Art cred: Think arty brothel-chic at this once-seedy Pigalle hotel, transformed into one of the city's trendiest addresses. Several rooms have been decorated by different artists, featuring the romantic sweet nothings doodled on the walls by Pierre le Tan; 1950s schoolgirl retro from Sophie Calle; mind-boggling glow-in-the-dark murals by graphic designers M/M (Paris); and a concoction of customised robots, smiley cushions and Terry Richardson photos belonging to André – graffiti artist, nightclub entrepreneur and co-owner of Hôtel Amour. Other rooms feature unsigned but equally arty combinations of flea-market furniture, graphic print fabrics and glamour mags. Staying here feels like being part of a louche artwork or a sleazy movie, accentuated by the pink neon hotel sign and naked lightbulbs in the corridors – yet it is refreshingly unpretentious. The staff are friendly and there's a bistro where you can dine in a 1970s Formica interior or outdoors in the candlelit courtyard. The building itself is artistically simple, with no air conditioning or double glazing.

The area: Fast-rising SoPi (south Pigalle) is a fascinating mix of raunchy old cabarets and sex shops, fine buildings reflecting its illustrious past as the "Nouvelle Athènes" populated by writers and artists, and new bobo residents who flock to the foodie shops of adjacent rue des Martyrs.

Hôtel Le 'A'

4 rue d'Artois, 75008 Paris. Double €365-€660

Art cred: At this boutique hotel near the Champs-Elysées, A could stand for "art" or it could be for "alphabet" and the 26 bedrooms, each with an original canvas by Fabrice Hyber, who collaborated with decorator Frédéric Méchiche on the design. Given the area, the feeling behind the Haussmannian façade is more of cosseted good taste than radical art shock, but Hyber is an interesting artist whose paintings often resemble a rhizome-like network of doodles and annotated musings. There's a large painting by Hyber in the light-filled, glazed atrium lounge bar and a library with an open fire and armchairs. Bedrooms are sleek exercises in seagrass and black-and-white, with walk-in showers and mosaic stripes, with a romantic two-room suite at the top.

The area: Located between smart Faubourg St-Honoré and the Champs-Elysées, the hotel is a 10-minute walk from the Grand Palais, venue for blockbuster exhibitions and the FIAC art fair. The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and adjacent Palais de Tokyo art space are two métro stops away.

Hôtel Particulier Montmartre 

23 avenue Junot, 75018 Paris. Double €390-€590

Art cred: Five high-profile artists each conceived a bedroom in this white stucco period townhouse, hidden behind a fence in its own artfully overgrown gardens. Though vaguely themed on voyages, the results are so varied it's hard to choose between them. In Martine Aballea's room, walls covered in her photos of sun-dappled foliage seem to bring the garden right into the house; former Prix Marcel Duchamp winner Philippe Mayaux left behind a cabinet of kinkily surreal objects, and strange eyes gaze down on you amid the giant photos and clawfoot bathtub in the attic suite by Natacha Lesueur. With an open-plan lounge furnished with modern design classics, a library awash with art books and catalogues to browse, and artists' videos to borrow, it all feels like you are hanging out amid your own private collection. A cook can be booked to provide dinner and you can rent the entire house, should you wish.

The area: On Montmartre hill, located by the witch's stone on a secret footpath between prestigious avenue Junot and boho rue Lépic, the Hôtel Particulier keeps up the art factor of an area that once attracted Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Utrillo and Modigliani.

Hôtel des Académies et des Arts

15 rue de la Grande Chaumière, 75006 Paris. Double €189-€294

Art cred: Murals by graffiti artist Jerome Mesnager, whose skeleton-like white figures climb athletically up the wall of the courtyard, dance behind the fireplace in the lounge and sprawl across bedroom walls, inject a touch of urban mischief into this recently refurbished hotel, along with spindly sculptures by Sophie de Watrigant. The 20 rooms, some in warm colours, others in more muted black-and-white tones in hommage to surrealist photographer Man Ray, are comfortable with lavish fabrics and daylit bathrooms. The downstairs tea room Chez Charlotte, serving Pierre Hermé's cult macaroons, doubles as a video viewing lounge.

The area: Montparnasse was a famous artists' district in the early 20th century and the Grande Chaumière art school across the street still dispenses drawing lessons today; the Zadkine museum, in the sculptor's former home-cum-studio, is just round the corner. There are plenty of brasseries and Breton crêperies for eating out, cinemas and the Jardins du Luxembourg nearby.

Artus Hôtel

34 rue de Buci, 75006 Paris. Double €225-€390

Art cred: Though it is very much part of the current design brigade, with its acid pop colours, dark wood, minimalist duplexes and a blown-up Delacroix painting climbing the stairs, the Artus is less artist-designed hotel than hotel as art gallery. Exhibitions – usually of work by young artists – change every three months, taking over not just the lobby and corridors but also displaying the bedrooms, with the opportunity to buy.

The area: This is prime St-Germain, with its food shops, art and design galleries, France's leading art school just up the street and its classic cafés, just made for basking on the pavement terraces. 


I am a regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveller, the Daily Telegraph and Elle Decoration. As well as several guidebooks to Paris, I have also written guides to Provence, the Côte d'Azur, Lille, Biarritz and the Pays Basque, Bordeaux, Reims and French food for, among others, Time Out, Berlitz, Insight Guides, Dorling Kindersley and Thomas Cook.

I came to Paris over 15 years ago for all the wrong reasons (love!) and have lived here ever since. I still adore exploring the city and today write about art, design, food, travel and French culture in general.

My Paris

Where I always grab a coffee: Le Rostand café on place Edmond-Rostand: it's my unofficial second office, right opposite the Luxembourg Gardens.

My favourite stroll: Although I think I know the city pretty well, there are always places to discover or rediscover. The district I always come back to, however, is St-Germain for its mix of history, small streets, cafés, shopping, people watching, the local and the cosmopolitan... in short, Paris.

Fiction for inspiration: Georges Perec's Life: A User’s Manual: a mind-boggling, jigsaw puzzle of life in a Parisian apartment building. For an insight into French character, the Asterix comic strips are pretty accurate, too!

Where to be seen this summer: Café terraces all around town. If your style is St-Germain, then it's between hip Bar du Marché and newcomer Germain on rue de Buci, if you are more Canal St-Martin, then the waterside Point Ephémère. Gourmets are going to be sniffing out the restaurant at Le Crillon, which has just appointed a new, young chef.

The most breathtaking view: The view of the city that gradually unfolds as you rise up the escalators at the Centre Pompidou.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: The Jardin des Plantes for its combination of botanical garden, scientific institution and local park (perhaps not so quiet). The 19th-century greenhouses are reopening this summer, and it's surely the only place in Paris where you see ostriches when you drive past.

Shopaholics beware!: Artfully distressed concept store Merci, for its totally desirable mix of up-to-the minute and second-hand fashion, housewares, oddities and cult design items.

City on screen: Parisians adore cinema and there's something cinematic about the whole city. I love Jean-Pierre Melville's film noir Le Samourai, for its vision of Paris low life, nightclubs and the metro, with Alain Delon as the cool, lean, beautiful hitman, and, for something completely different, brilliant animation film Ratatouille, for its witty, sentimental, tongue-in-cheek evocation of Paris and its restaurant culture.

Don’t leave without...Visiting a Paris food market – one of them, all of them, preferably on Sunday morning, the best time for catching up on gossip as well as gourmandises.