Secret Hotels of Paris
In a city known more for romance than thrift, there are still hotels that combine the best of both. Here are six blessedly under-the-radar options—spread across some of the city's most charming arrondissements—all for well under $200 a night.
Hôtel de la Bretonnerie
A touch of history in the heart of the city
A few things might come to mind when you imagine a typical Parisian hotel: elaborate, old-world decor; a picturesque setting on a narrow, café-lined street; and, perhaps, a generous helping of haughty Gallic attitude. Fortunately, the Hôtel de la Bretonnerie delivers on all but the latter. The late-17th-century building in the art-focused Marais is rife with period details like floral-patterned wall coverings, antique engravings, and exposed beams—so much so that it's become a popular backdrop for photo shoots by Japanese and French fashion magazines. No two of the 29 guest rooms are alike: Some have high ceilings, some low; there are duplexes and singles, and even a pair of rooms with double sinks and vanities, perfect for groups of girlfriends traveling together. In spite of all that quirky aesthetic appeal, the hotel's savvy, solicitous staff is truly its most valuable asset. After directing each guest to the ideal room—an essential service, since they vary so widely—the staff sets about tailoring advice to each visitor's needs. The hotel's four front-desk agents, who speak a combined total of seven languages, regularly scour their corner of Paris for new restaurants, shops, and arts spaces worthy of endorsement. Each agent has his or her specialty: Ask Olga for opera and classical-music performances, Ludivine for food and local history, Patrick for theater and cinema, and Karen for jazz clubs, bars, and vintage clothing and design boutiques, many of which are within a short walk of the hotel's front door. 4th arrondissement, 22 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, bretonnerie.com, free Wi-Fi, from $182, breakfast $13.
A nouveau bohemian haunt
In a neighborhood that's been wholly transformed over the past two decades—from a ramshackle cluster of artists' studios and blue-collar businesses to a bona fide boho paradise—Hélène and Jean-Louis Bignon are a constant. When they first moved to Montmartre in 1974, "it was more or less the 19th century here," Jean-Louis says. Their street, which was once home to a veterinary hospital and a mechanic's garage, now houses an advertising firm, a graffiti-splashed record store, an outlet shop for French clothing brand A.P.C., and Chéri Bibi, a casually hip restaurant that fills with a boisterous, under-40 crowd most nights. Carved out of the Bignons' own three-story home, Paris-Oasis—which includes three detached, converted units, plus two upper-floor apartments in the main building—can accommodate up to 15 people. The rooms are designed to sleep one to five guests, and each unit has a private bath and a kitchenette stocked with water, juice, soda, coffee, and beer. Although there's no breakfast service, in-room Nespresso machines dispense both American and European-style coffee, and it's only about 15 paces from the front door to the nearest bakery. Of the five room options, the Iris is the most secluded: It's hidden in the greenery of the back garden—beyond the solarium and Paris-Oasis's heated swimming pool—and it has its own dining terrace surrounded by rose bushes and a birdbath. A more spacious choice is the Liette suite, a proper one-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, reached by an elevator furnished with an antique theater chair upholstered in faux leopard print. Nearly every nook of Paris-Oasis acts as an exhibition space for pieces from the Bignons' eclectic art collection. A pair of 19th-century Longwy tile murals bought in an antiques shop in the south of France hang at opposite ends of the pool room, and a goatskin miniskirt from a Himba settlement in Namibia occupies a prominent living room shelf. Some of the most original pieces of all are where you'll least expect them: Look closely and you'll spot a black-velvet painting of a tiger tucked away in the stairwell. 18th arrondissement, 14 rue André del Sarte, paris-oasis.com, free Wi-Fi, from $163, three-night min., breakfast not included.
A Room in Paris
A B&B with gourmet appeal
Of the approximately 500 registered chambres d'hôtes (bed-and-breakfasts) in Paris, the majority are run by empty nesters looking to make the most of a spare room without committing to a life of full-time service. Peet Verrest is not one of those people. At his recently expanded, five-room B&B, simply called A Room in Paris, Verrest takes his job seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he put his hospitality to the test last summer in a competitive dinner-party-hosting reality-TV show, Un Dîner Presque Parfait (An Almost Perfect Dinner). "I considered it a kind of French exam," the Dutch-born Verrest explains. Given that he went home the winner, we'll say he passed. All that effort works out very well for guests: Each morning, Verrest lays out a spread made up of meats and cheeses, his own bread and preserves (rhubarb, apricot, plum), and homemade treats like a clafoutis de Limoges tart. The meal is served at a communal table set with mismatched plates in the living room, which is decorated with oil paintings by contemporary artists. The B&B's location, a two-minute walk from the Gare du Nord, has its ups and downs: While it's the first stop on the express train from the Charles de Gaulle airport, it's also a 20-minute bus or 10-minute Métro ride from top attractions (Notre-Dame, the Louvre). But the slightly out-of-the-way location buys plenty of luxuries—11-foot ceilings with ornamental moldings dating to the late 1800s, original herringbone-wood floors, and rooms as large as 300 square feet. Other details are no less grand. Marble fireplaces serve as displays for stylized animal figurines and carefully chosen antiques, the result of a collaboration between Verrest—a former export manager for an architectural supply company—and his partner, Thierry Taillez. "We only have a little taste in common," Verrest explains. "But when it works, it's good." 10th arrondissement, 130 rue LaFayette, aroominparis.com, free Wi-Fi, from $95, breakfast included.