Paris, as Audrey Hepburn once mused, is always a good idea – especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner. The city practically invented romance, after all. But who better to give us the (high) lowdown on the French capital’s singular shops, stylish brasseries and, yes, chic hotels, too, than our girl-on-the-ground Pandora Sykes…
If you’ve been to Paris recently you’ll be au fait with the shifts in the city’s hotel scene. The age-old grandes dames are still there, of course, for people who crave that old-world grandeur. But a new breed of design-led dens is also emerging in alternative arrondissements, such as the Marais and Pigalle. Enter, Hotel des Grands Boulevards, from the pioneering Experimental Cocktail Club, of which Pandora loved: ‘The combination of pink and green in the interiors, the high ceilings matched with long curtains…. The location, too, and the food was amazing: the charcuterie board was the most bountiful and tasty I’ve had.’
Which brings us nicely to another Paris preoccupation: where to eat. ‘I love Chez Janou for Sunday lunch,’ says Pandora, ‘I always order the scallop-and-spelt risotto and the chocolate mousse is legendary. Also Café Angelina is good for a touristy-but-pretty tea. And I love Grand Amour for dinner – the food is brilliant’.
But where there’s fine dining, there must always be suitably enjoyable imbibing. Pandora’s establishments of choice? ‘You can’t beat Hôtel Costes for cocktails and people-watching. If you’re looking for something super snazzy, Kong bar in the Pompidou Center is pretty spectacular.’
Naturally, the ever-stylish Sykes is a savvy shopper. ‘In the Marais, I love the Merci concept store for homewares, which is housed in a 19th-century fabric factory, and Kiliwatch for vintage – I bought a zebra faux-fur coat for €70 on my last trip, which is proving the perfect foil for winter. My husband [ad director, Ollie Tritton] and I always have a good root around the unisex French brand, Ami, too.’
In between all that, you may want to squeeze in some sightseeing. Or, having been to Paris before, you may not. But if you do manage to tear yourselves away from the bedroom, bars and brasseries, Pandora’s tip is the Palais de Tokyo, which has a brilliant wall-sized magazine collection. ‘And pottering around Montmartre and the Marais is always a joy, too,’ she adds. All you need now is the hotel. Luckily, we’ve got plenty…
Browse and book our full collection of romantic hotels in Paris at Mr & Mrs Smith.