The City of Light: a guide to seeing the best of high-end Paris

Think Paris is old-hat or just a self-booking destination? Think again, says Francophile Hollie-Rae Brader

It’s arguably the most glamourous city in the world, synonymous with fashion and passion. Paris has it all: an outstanding luxury offering, a beaucoup of culture and heritage, and countless extra commissionable opportunities. Now, with a bounty of luxury hotel openings, it is more desirable than ever. While mainstream holidaymakers might opt to self-book a weekend getaway to the French capital, the high-end nature of this romantic city plays perfectly into the hands of agents with affluent customers – those who simply want the troubles of booking a city break taken out of their hands. Here’s Aspire’s guide to the City of Light.

WHY SELL IT

Paris is special – and I’m not biased simply because I once lived there and spent nine joyous months pretending to speak French, feigning to like coffee and truly enjoying too many pains au chocolat. It’s one of the most romantic places on Earth and it’s just a short train or plane journey away – and with so many new openings, it shouldn’t be hard for an agent to surprise and delight even the most demanding of clients.

WHAT’S NEW

It would be easier to say what isn’t new when it comes to this evolving city. Whether it’s your client’s first or 10th visit to Paris, there is always something new to fall in love with.

On the hotel front, there’s plenty to shout about. Hot on the heels of the refurbished Ritz Paris, which reopened in 2016 having been closed for four years for a £160 million transformation, countless brands are establishing themselves. Rosewood’s Hotel de Crillon, which also underwent a lengthy restoration, has reopened its doors in its prime spot on Place de la Concorde. Marriott’s Luxury Collection brand was due to open Hotel De Berri in the fashionable 8th arrondissement this month. And the Bvlgari Hotel brand recently announced plans to open a 76-room property on the desirable Avenue George V, a stone’s throw from the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel George V. There’s an abundance of new attractions too. High on the list should be a visit to Teatre La Scala, a French music hall which first opened in 1874 and reopened in March following a lengthy renovation. When it comes to dining, iconic Le Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees has reopened following a six-month refurbishment. Its walls are adorned with the stars who have dined there, including singing legend Edith Piaf.

WHEN TO GO

There’s nothing like a summer’s day in Paris, but this architecturally stunning city shines year-round.

WHERE TO STAY

If it was good enough for Coco Chanel, it’s good enough for us! The designer stayed at the Ritz Paris for more than 30 years, and during an extensive refit the property dedicated a suite to her. The Coco Chanel Suite leads in at €18,000 a night.

For super-lux living, book one of two Les Grands Appartements at Rosewood’s Hotel de Crillon. Designed by Chanel’s very own Karl Lagerfeld, you’ll feel like an utter superstar (rates from €30,000). Another gem with a hefty price tag is the Katara Suite at The Peninsula Paris which boasts a huge roof terrace and private garden (from €22,509). The winner of best Eiffel Tower view goes to La Suite Shangri-La at Shangri‐La Paris which has a 100sq m terrace looking out on the monument (from €15,000).

If high-end boutique is more up your customer’s street, contact Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which pays commission to agents booking properties within the group.

If your client is super-private and would prefer to rent a private home, try onefinestay or Luxury Retreats, both of which offer agent commission and have stunning properties dotted through central arrondissements. Airbnb-owned Luxury Retreats features many with spectacular Eiffel Tower views, leading in at around the $2,000 a night mark.

WHAT TO DO

It would be remiss to send a client to Paris and not recommend a trip up the Eiffel Tower; even repeat visitors squeal with excitement when its point comes into view.

But there’s plenty more to see than this wrought-iron icon. Recommend your client climbs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe as the sun is setting. As well as a perfect dusk view of Paris, they’ll be able to take the best pictures of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkles after dark on the hour, every hour.

For more iconic views head to Sacre Coeur, the church that sits proudly on the summit of the highest point in

the city. While in the area pay a visit to the arty district of Montmartre – but be warned, it can heave with tourists. Much quieter and just as bohemian is Canal Saint- Martin. The stretch of water between here and Le Marais (known as Old Paris) is super-trendy, full of contemporary art galleries, cafes and cocktail bars. Attraction World offers a tour which combines numerous city sites – an Eiffel Tower dinner, a river cruise and a show at the Moulin Rouge with champagne (there must always be champagne, right?) – for £305 per person.

But a word to the wise: river cruises on the Seine aren’t always as glam as they may sound. In my opinion it’s more romantic to take a stroll along the river banks instead.

If museums get your clients going, they’ll be in cultural heaven in Paris. Recommend they stroll from Place de la Concorde, through the picturesque Tuileries Gardens (my favourite spot in Paris), to the Louvre, where the famed Mona Lisa smirks ambiguously. The walk alone is worthwhile. But if modern art is more their thing, the Pompidou Centre, with its exposed pipes and primary colours, is sure to suit.

Operators including Abercrombie & Kent offer packages to cater to first-timers, with a half-day guided tour, a Paris Museum Pass (which grants access to more than 50 museums and monuments) and a Metro Carnet ticket (10 rides) included in the price.

Paris’s lack of green spaces is a bugbear for Parisians; however, the ones it does have are well worth a visit. So once your client has exhausted the countless museums and galleries, recommend a wander around the beautiful Jardins du Luxembourg. At Bois du Boulogne, head out on the boating lake before watching local gentlemen play boules. 

WHERE TO DINE

Paris isn’t short of good restaurants. One of my favourites for lunch is the trendy Georges at the top of the Pompidou Centre – the chocolate flour-free soft cake is divine! Le Jules Verne, owned by the Alain Ducasse group, boasts an unrivalled view, set as it is 122 metres up the Eiffel Tower. For a less glamorous but extremely delicious option, try homely restaurant Sacre Fleur. Located a stone’s through from the Sacre Coeur, this tiny restaurant serves up exceptional steaks and is so popular it has to be booked weeks in advance. I return every time I visit.

PAIR IT WITH

For those who have limited time, recommend a visit to the vast baroque beauty that is the Palace of Versailles, some 12 miles from the centre of Paris. The time-rich, on the other hand, can continue the glamour by doing as the locals do and heading south to the Provence region of southern France, where the rosé is perfection and the sunshine is almost guaranteed. We love Hotel Crillon le Brave, which lies 90 minutes’ drive northeast of Marseille. Another option is a river cruise, with several lines, including Uniworld and Avalon Waterways, itineraries start in Paris.

BOOK IT: Cox & Kings offers two nights at the Four Seasons Hotel George V from £1,460 per person including international flights or Eurostar, private car transfers and breakfast daily.

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