Every lover of Paris will have their own corner that they love above all others. For some, it is the Latin Quarter, where students jostle through the narrow streets and stretch out in the Luxembourg Gardens when the sun shines. For others, it is the Champs-Elysées and the view of the Eiffel Tower. I have always loved the area in the first arrondissement around the Louvre, the rue de Saint-Honoré and the Jardins des Palais-Royal. But it is always nice to have an excuse to visit a part of Paris that you may not know so well, and although the Opéra is not geographically far from my spiritual home, it has a different feel altogether. Rather more edgy, a bit grungy, even a bit dirty, the Opéra may never become my favourite part of Paris, but it’s close to some of the city’s most well-stocked shopping areas.
Whisper it to your husband or loved one, but this area really is shopping heaven… really couldn’t ask for more. Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, two of the greatest department stores in the world are just a two-minute walk. The streets leading to these two shopping havens are lined with everything you could want from Uniqlo, Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti to with small boutiques that sell everything from tea to fancy-coloured shoe laces.
The location is one of the hotel’s greatest assets. It is within 15 minutes from anywhere you want to see such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, with St Germain de Prèt just minutes away.
If you are looking for a superb location, with a feel of the real, working Paris and slightly less twee (no little bookshops or kiosks selling over-priced notebooks,) then the Hilton Paris Opéra is the place for you.
Hilton Paris Opéra is housed in a 125 year old building that was originally built as a hotel to service the passengers of the Gare Staint-Lazare, which is just next door. New owners redid the place to the tune of $50m, creating new rooms and one of my favourite spaces in the city, ‘le grand salon’. It boasts crystal chandeliers, bronze statues, marble columns and artwork by Charles Joseph Lameire, but is even better than it sounds. This is like a great drawing room, that changes its personality as the day develops. In the morning you can take your breakfast there. At lunchtime and in the afternoon, people are meeting to discuss business, then to drink tea. There is a marble bar where you can plug in your laptop if it gets tired. And finally, as dusk falls on the city, it gets interesting: husbands and wives argue over shopping bags, lone travellers sit people watching, lovers meet for cocktails.
There are 268 guest rooms and suites. Our room had a high ceiling, a classic Parisian feel to it, but was finished in a minimalistic way, all taupe and beige with a splash of yellow that echoed other splashes of yellow throughout the hotel. Two large windows overlooked the busy streets below. The bed was very comfortable, the television incomprehensible. The bathroom had a lovely heated floor and a proper shower, a world away from those little minis baths that were the only washing facilities in the Latin Quarter back in the 1990s!
What To Do
At the hotel: There isn’t much to be honest; no spa, sauna or outside space. There is a gym of sorts. Few people would want to go to Paris to visit a gym, which is just as well because the gym at the Hilton is less inspiring than most. It is like an afterthought, a janitor’s cupboard filled with a few instruments of torture, altogether most off-putting. There are 12 meeting rooms, so plenty of scope for work. And rather than going to the gym, if you’re after a bit of exercise you can leap up and down the rather grand staircase leading from the lobby to the rooms.
If your budget allows, then stay in the 900 square-foot Maria Callas suite, which had two bedrooms and glorious high ceilings.
Out and about: If you like shopping this is the perfect hotel for you. But you literally will do nothing but sleep there as you’ll be too busy discovering the joys of Paris boutiques and department stores.
Don’t Miss: Tea in Le Grand Salon, which happens between 2pm and 6pm.
Scene stealer: Le Grand Salon, even if you don’t stay at the hotel, be sure to visit it next time you go to Paris.
Best Time To Go: Paris is fabulous any time, take your pick.
How To Get There: Etihad and Emirates both have daily direct flights to Paris. The hotel arranged for a driver to meet us, which was a brilliant idea. In fact, the driver, called Ragavan, was an absolute star and looked after us throughout our stay. Even accompanying us to the TGV we were catching to the south of France after our stay. Or maybe he was just glad to see the back of us?!