One of the distinct features of Paris is the arrondissement system that divides up the city. Spiraling out from the center like a snail’s shell, each district has a character that sets it apart from its neighbors. The third & fourth arrondissements of Paris house most of Le Marais (though it spills slightly into the first, as if reflecting the sideward-stumble on the way home from a pleasant evening of wine consumption).
As one of the oldest areas of Paris, the Marais’ streets are narrow and flanked by an eclectic mix of buildings. My base for the weekend was the boutique property, Hotel Jules & Jim. The unassuming cavernous grey entrance of the hotel on Rue des Gravilliers is lit with two beacons that guard a silently sliding glass door.
Upon entering the hotel, as one would expect in this art-rich part of Paris, it feels more like walking into an art gallery rather than a hotel. Hotel Jules & Jim is a hub for photographic art, with regular exhibitions and constant displays of artists’ work hanging in the bar and event space.
This beautiful setting is also where guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast, relax with a coffee or a cocktail, or simply admire the art. You can even buy the artwork, providing that you are faster than the other guests. Perhaps this is the necessary incentive to prize yourself from the luxurious beds in the mornings to see what new art might be presented that day.
Hotel Jules & Jim does not serve evening meals, though this is an excellent excuse to try the Marais’ plethora of restaurants. For traditional French cuisine, try the well-renowned Les Philosophes Restaurant on Rue Vieille du Temple. This is my favorite place for a steak tartare. Restaurants Comptoir Gourmet on Rue de Temple and Nolita on Rue Rambuteau serve formidable Italian cuisine. The Marias also is the epicenter of Paris’ LGBT scene so rainbow flags fly from many of the establishments.
You may well want to return to Hotel Jules & Jim’s bar for a cocktail in the evenings. Though most of the hotel guests are from abroad, the majority of the bar’s clientele are local Parisians. The co-owner and manager, Geoffroy Sciard, says that it is this trend that gives the hotel a real mix that reflects Paris’ internationalism.
Ovular white backlit walls cocoon the rooms. Though they are petite, the usability of the rooms highlights the flawless design of the space. Bedroom, bathroom and balcony are contained in one area; but entirely separable by partitions, glass doors and wall-length electric blinds.
As a small hotel with only 23 rooms, it feels like you are staying in the home of a friend (albeit one with a impeccable eye for interior design). When I proposed this notion to Geoffroy, he agreed, and added that the staff contributes to such a feel. He encourages them to be themselves, to serve as they see fit — as one would with guests in their own home.
What would be the one thing Geoffroy would like his guests to say about his Hotel? “I want them to consider Hotel Jules & Jim to be timeless, in that they can come back again and again and they will feel at home,” said Geoffroy. “The timelessness is also important so that the hotel can frame whatever art is displayed here.”
There isn’t a pool or gym, but walking around Paris will give you enough exercise to work off your breakfast. “We don’t promise the moon. But what we do offer, we do very well,” added Geoffroy. “I suppose above all, I don’t want them to say ‘this hotel is the place to be,’ because in five minutes, these fashionable places are inevitably no longer the place to be!”
Hotel Jules & Jim is really an ideal place to set oneself up for a glorious Parisian weekend. The Musée Picasso and Centre Pompidou are two respective stone’s throws away. Haute Couture shops and department stores are close by, and in bountiful supply. The best coffee in Paris is just round the corner at Café Loustic, operated by British coffee connoisseur Channa Galhenage.
One, of course, should venture out into the rest of Paris; I need not begin to reel off the endless list of wonders it encompasses. At the end of a day’s exploring though, returning to the picturesque Marais and then to Hotel Jules & Jim embellished my weekend with culture, comfort and a great deal of contentedness.