Making a statement

Paris is no stranger to bold designs, and the Saint-James Paris hotel echoes this spirit by combining stately grandeur with outlandish decor to provide luxury with the wow factor.

43 Avenue Bugeaud

75116 Paris

Tel: (Fr) 1 44 05 81 81

www.saint-james-paris.comDoubles from €360, breakfast from €29

One of the most exclusive addresses in the 16th arrondissement, the hotel occupies a neo-classical mansion built in 1892 on the site of the Montgolfier brothers’ pioneering hot-air balloon flights. After serving as a residence for gifted students and as a gentlemen’s club, the building became Paris’s only château-hotel in 1991. Its colourful history inspired the Franco-American designer Bambi Sloan, whose imagination has run wild across the sumptuous interior.

Presiding over a leafy courtyard, the hotel’s austere façade betrays little hint of what is inside. Coming into the foyer, I was bowled over by a riot of colour and patterns. Soaring columns reach up to the high ceiling, which is dominated by a chandelier dangling crystals over the period upholstery, rich in red velvet and leopard print.

The grand staircase leads to wrap-around balconies and the 48 bedrooms, individually decorated in everything from tribal motifs to Scottish tartan. I loved my suite’s old-world opulence; its wood panelled salon mixing heavy crimson curtains, oil paintings and baroque furniture. In the bedroom, a gilded headboard framed an enormous bed, tucked with plush linens. Resisting the urge to dive in, I opted for a pre-dinner soak in the roll-top bath.

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More surprises were found out in the stairwell, where the wallpaper depicts hot¬air balloons that seem to float down the spiral steps. The bar pays homage to the building’s scholarly heritage; in a low-lit library guests sip cocktails surrounded by wood-panelled shelves containing 12,000 leather-bound books. The gourmet restaurant is equally atmospheric, with dark walls, candelabras and velvet seating. All this could be slightly intimidating if it weren’t for the warmth and hospitality of the staff. Anyone still overwhelmed by all the flamboyance can find soothing tones and tranquillity in the cellar-level spa and fitness room.

IN THE AREA

Green spaces

Fifteen minutes walk away is the northern part of the Bois de Boulogne – the second largest park in Paris once used by Emperor Napoleon as a hunting ground. The closest part offers the zoo and amusement park at the Jardin d’Acclimation and the larger area buzzes with walkers, picnickers and well as canoers of the various lakes and ponds.

Hilltop view

Crowning the Chaillot hill, the immense neo-classical Palais de Chaillot (also known as the Trocadéro) was erected for the World Fair of 1937 and boasts a famous view towards the Tour Eiffel. It is home to a number of museums including the Marine Museum and the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine as well as the National Théâtre.