The Hotel Banke, owned by the Barcelona-based Clos family, opened last year in a former HSBC bank. With decor you might call eclectic modern meets boudoir, the lobby is smashing, if a bit audacious, with a massive golden sofa and a hipper-than-thou bar. When I visited, in the early afternoon, the bar hadn’t heated up yet, but I was quite impressed with the rooms and the reasonable prices (beginning in the low 200 euros range). They have a small spa and exercise room and are walking distance to the Opéra and the grands magasins (Galeries Lafayette and Printemps). The unique thing about this hotel is the art collection displayed on most floors. The collection belongs to the Clos family, who also own the Egyptian Museum in Barcelona, one of the largest privately owned museums in Spain.
Without blushing, if you are visiting the 9th Arrondissement, I’d advise you to take a do-it-yourself Girls’ Guide trip of the 9th and 18th quartiers, Pigalle and Montmartre. (OK, clearly we are biased.) Wander into the Musée de la Vie Romantique and imagine what life was like during the 1800s in Paris, the age of the Romantic movement and George Sand (the female writer who had to use a male name to get published). She often stayed at this home, which is now the museum. During the summer their garden café is an oasis.
Musée Gustave Moreau profiles the painter from the same era. This museum, located in Moreau’s former home and studio, is also a stop of interest. The Théâtre Saint-Georges offers comedies and dramas (in French).
Of course, triping the great Opéra national de Paris, built by Charles Garnier and Napoleon III, is a treat. Seeing a performance there, be it ballet or opera, is the experience of a lifetime.
You’ve got fabulous and growing choices in the 9th Arrondissement. For homemade bistro cuisine, Casa Olympe is a find near St. Georges; Madame Olympe Versini is one of the better female chefs in town. The atmosphere is homey and welcoming. Fuxia, on rue des Martyrs, is an Italian eatery perfect for an antipasto lunch; you’ll find several locations around town. Of course, Rose Bakery has been on rue des Martyrs for years and is THE place to see and be seen while munching on the best brunch in town. Rose is the English chef who melted Parisians’ hearts with her homemade scones.
Naturally, shopping is an important part of the 9th (you are in Paris, after all), especially if you are a department store kind of gal. Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Sephora and a gorgeous new Apple Store dot the streetscape alongside smaller boutiques. This is a good spot during the annual sales in January and July, but be sure to hit these stores early, as they get crowded at the holidays and the sales. Lunch at the Brasserie Printemps for a view of the spectacular cupola.