Set in a Belle Époque-style bank building dating from the early 20th century, this vivid hotel in the teeming Opéra district reaches for a sort of nouveau opulence, sporting lots of theatrical red and gold and the kind of design-conscious details that hover a bit too close to kitsch. The Spanish-owned hotel doubles as a gallery, with the owner's impressive ethnic jewelry collection on display in vitrines on each floor.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Though discretely scented air is not unusual in luxury hotels, the fragrance here is intense enough to tweak sensitive noses.
Rooms are a sort of eclectic mashup of the elegant (burnished parquet floors and wood panelling, marble fireplaces, graceful gilt mirrors) and the strange (blank picture frames, leather-weave headboards, twisted driftwood sculptures). Only the lower category rooms can be considered small, particularly for a 5-star, most of the higher category rooms are fairly generous.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Views veer wildly from an ugly building across the street to glorious vistas of Paris and the Sacré Coeur. If you have a preference, be firm about it.
Handsome marble and green mosaic tiles give a luxury look to the baths, which offer all the amenities, some with both bath and shower.
The vast domed lobby is stupendous by any standard, but could do with some cozy nooks rather than the fanciful red leather design sofas and banquettes that seem incongruous with the building's elegant lines. Though you will find a more intimate human scale in the restaurants and tapas bar on either side of the lobby.
There is no spa, but guests are free to use a small steam room.
The minuscule gym consists of a treadmill, a stairmaster, bicycles, and some weights.
The hotel's two restaurants each possess its own studied ambiance and menu: Glitzy Josefin bistro serves upscale Mediterranean fare, and the more refined Banke serves a more gastronomic menu geared toward the business crowd. Breakfast has plenty of healthful options both à la carte and buffet, but it is on the expensive side.
Just off the lobby, Lolabar is on a bit of a gilt trip—even the ersatz trophy heads are in gold. A tempting list of signature cocktails are designed to complement small Spanish tapas plates, which could substitute for dinner. Expect expense account pricing.
The rue des Martyrs, a short walk from the hotel, is one of the city’s most colorful market streets, loaded with cafés, chic boutiques, vintage shops and pastry and gourmet food stores. Chocolate lovers don’t miss A La Mère de Famille, Paris’s oldest candy shop, a few minutes from the hotel (35 rue du Faubourg Montmartre).
On and off Rue des Martyrs you'll find tons of great pastry and baked goods for an out-of-hotel breakfast.
The hotel is a few-minutes walk from Chausée-d'Antin metro station and the Auber RER station.
Set in the busy Opéra neighborhood, the hotel is minutes from Paris's grands magasins (Galeries Lafayette and Printemps), not to mention H&M and scores of other chains. Head down the Boulevard Haussmann in the other direction and you'll come upon three of Paris's historic covered passages—Panoramas, Jouffroy, and Verdeau—19th-century precursors to the shopping mall. Passage Panoramas's charming atmosphere and a tempting array of restaurants, bistros, cafés, patisseries, and bars are ripe for exploration. You're also close to Drouot auction house, a landmark in Paris, and the Rue des Martyrs, a 5-minute walk away, is one of the best and oldest market streets in Paris.
Le Richer (2 rue Richer) is a popular little corner bistro favored by foodies for its creative, market-driven fare at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Around the corner, Office gastro-bistro gets consistent rave reviews for an inventive and well-priced menu, especially at lunch. For a more budget meal, nearby rue Sainte-Anne, and neighboring streets, host scores of Japanese restaurants and Asian grocers, from fast-food noodle joints to fresh, authentic cuisine paired with artisanal sake.
There are plenty of bars and cafés near the hotel, but for something a bit more special Harry's New York Bar (10-minute walk) is a sophisticated Paris institution, said to be the birthplace of the Bloody Mary, and modeled after a swank club. At the historic Café de la Paix, facing the opera house, you can sit out on the sprawling terrace and people watch or sit inside the fabulous Belle Epoque bar, once a favorite watering hole of Zola, Maupassant, and the Prince of Wales.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Convenient to Opéra, Boulevard Haussmann, and the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Banke seems to cater to a more corporate clientele, and the ambiance, though glamorous and imaginative, lacks the kind of warmth we like in a hotel.