reviewer anastasia miari
Located just a short walk from the fashionable Marais district, this former bathhouse—built in 1885—has long been known for its celebrity clientele and links with Paris’ rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Exclusivity came in the 1980s, when the grand bathhouse building turned into a club for Paris’ elite, including Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and a visiting Andy Warhol. Since then, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Mick Jagger and David Bowie have partied here. It seems fair then, that Bacchus—god of revelry, raucous pleasure and epicurean delight—is used as a symbol of the hotel’s riotous past.
Now, Les Bains operates both as a hotel and a club, borrowing from its past to reinvent its future relevance on the Parisian culture scene. The façade of the hotel has remained untouched, preserving Les Bains’ heritage. From the outside, the hotel melds seamlessly into a typical Parisian side street. Step inside for the combined creative vision of RDAI (Vincent Bastie, Tristan Auer and Denis Montel) designs; a slick and ultra-refined blending of old and new. Natural light streams in to the bar and restaurant area through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Philippe Starck’s 1970s iconic black and white dance floor remains untouched, countered by textured felt walls and a burgundy-gloss ceiling that resembles an amplifier close-up. The whole place shines. A lux sheen coats every surface and a rich perfume pervades every corridor. If we wanted to do Paris in style, we’ve come to the right place…
hotel name & website: Les Bains, Paris
who: A friend and I
why: A spontaneous decision to hit-up Paris because our last encounter with the city was during our first childhood encounter with Euro Disney in the late nineties.
when: September 2015
stay: Les Bains is a melange of the Parisian cultural scene. Hostesses are clad in a uniform of black leggings and floral kimonos, while the attractive host that flashes a perfectly white smile at the door and takes our bags dons white Stan Smiths and a wool-weave tie. An air of glamorous insouciance pervades the whole place. Luxury is balanced out with unique quirks. Old-school stained glass windows face contemporary art composed of matted hay and clay. Les Bains is something of a melting pot for a youthful crowd that appreciates refinement alongside individuality.
location: Le Marais is a silver of a charming Paris with narrow winding streets. It’s here that you’ll find streets and houses intact from before the revolution. Grand buildings still stand tall, with many of their exteriors left untouched—or only just. Rickety balconies and random turrets add to the area’s charm. It’s here that the wealthy resided pre-revolution, and where the Bohemians moved in, post.
We spend days roaming the streets of the Marais, popping in and out of boutiques and vintage stores full of treasures waiting to be tried-on. Isabel Marant and Chanel await any forager on a mission. We come up for air—and coffee—only when our stomachs growl and let us know it’s time for a feeding. Here Le Marais wins too. Le Marché des Enfants Rouges is just a short walk away from Les Bains. It’s here that you will find my favorite Moroccan lamb tagine in Paris.
Stepping out after dark, we hit up director David Lynch’s exclusive private member’s club, Silencio, which again, is within walking distance of Les Bains. Cue long limbed swan-types, expert dancers and cocktail-sippers with rock-sized engagement rings weighing down their dainty hands. The DJ expertly mixes old-school hip-hop with contemporary favourites and those that hit the dance have got the moves down.
rooms: Guests can choose between 39 rooms at Les Bains. The classic suite is equipped with multilingual novels by the canonists of French literature, heated floors, a walk in shower and a Marshall speaker—which plays music from your phone INTO THE BATHROOM AS YOU SHOWER (if you want it to…)
White marble and precious woods make up the interiors of the rooms. The bed—covered in satin damask sheets—is a soft haven of relaxation and the burnt orange Warhol-inspired sofa was just the spot to pop the cork on our bottle of champagne (locally sourced, of course.) Again, Bacchus looks on from every corner of the room. He adorns our plush bath robes, the writing paper by the bed and the retro corded telephone, ensuring we get to the bottom of that bottle before dinner.
pool/gym/beach status: Surprisingly lacking considering the hotel’s former bathhouse history. In the late 1800s, Les Bains Douches was the Parisian go-to for a steam, massage and swim. Novelist Marcel Proust was a regular at the baths and the workers at the local Les Halles food market used the baths as a place to wash after a long day’s work. Little remains of its rich heritage where bathing is concerned.
There’s a small pool in the basement, which is good for a restorative plunge post-hangover, but not quite big enough to swim in—two breaststrokes and I’m already on the other side of the pool. Perhaps a hot-tub would be a better option for such a small space. There are renovations taking place across the road from the hotel and a spa promised for 2016. I would certainly come back for this.
food situation (mini bar, breakfast, restaurant): Indeed, the mini bar is well stocked and we’re told that breakfast is served until 3 PM. We indulge in baskets of freshly baked pastries from the boulangerie and the prettiest plate of fruit we will probably ever have the pleasure of consuming. Also on offer at breakfast are cheeses and a charcuterie plate, but we opt for sweet over savoury. The restaurant at the hotel also offers expertly composed lunch and dinner menus for those wishing to dine in.
bar: We’re spoiled for choice here. Upon entry to the hotel, we’re guided to the ‘honesty bar’ in which we can pour our own tipple then confess ourselves just how much we’ve downed in the book provided. Lounge and consume guilt-free. Alternatively, the hotel bar starts to warm up crowd-wise in the late afternoon. The bartender Julien is at hand to offer his suggestions and he shakes up a mean cocktail. This is just the place for a pre-drink before hitting the basement club.
data (wifi?): Yes—crisp connection throughout the hotel.
vibes: Insouciant luxury: a rock-star hangout on an off-duty day.
kiddie agreeable: This place is too cool for kids. We didn’t see any around and the club in the basement—open until 5 AM every night—will probably put discerning parents off.
specialty: This should be the fact that the hotel is a former bath-house, but the pool currently leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps more important, Les Bains facilitates a stress-free Parisian experience. Relax, dine, drink and party here. At Les Bains, you experience an authentic slice of the city. A stylish Parisian crowd hangs here and the location is far from the tourist-trap that is Montmartre. You’re free to dine, shop and lounge at your leisure: the true Bacchanalian way.
price scale: It is pricey but for the off-chance of bumping into Kate Moss, probably worth the pretty penny you will spend here.