Paris ranks right up there in terms of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. It holds a special place in my heart as it was the first holiday I went on with my husband back in 2008. I love the food, the architecture, the style, the Parisian charm that you feel whilst strolling through the streets – it all makes Paris so special. Since then I have visited more times than I can count, either for business or pleasure. So after travelling there on so many occasions, I wanted to do something different on this overnight stay. I wanted to experience more than the standard chain hotel and to stay outside my comfort zone in the easy Opera Garnier area.
It occurred to me that in all of my stays, I had never been inclined to stay in the artsy and seductive area of Montmartre, famous for its artists, sins and secrets. In fact, it had been over ten years since I visited the area at all. I started doing some digging and came across the most opulent hotel I think I have ever seen. La Maison Souquet. A charming, alluring hotel located just opposite the Moulin Rouge with a fascinating history. Read on for my experience….
“Montmartre was home to every kind of artist”
Situated just north of Paris’s city centre, Montmartre was initially a rural village surrounded by vineyards and countryside. It’s location at the top of a hill made the area popular amongst local artists at the time. As Paris’s city limits expanded, Montmarte became an inexpensive area for the working class to reside in the second half of the nineteenth century.
It became renowned for its underground culture and liberalism, encouraging bohemian writers, poets, artists and musicians to flock to the area in the early 1880s. The area soon became populated with its famous cabarets, cafes and dancing halls, all surrounded by a hazy atmosphere of Parisians searching for entertainment, escape and pleasure.
La Maison Souquet embodies this all. Situated on Rue de Bruxelles, just opposite the famous Moulin Rouge, La Maison Souquet is an opulent yet discreet boutique hotel perfect for the curious traveller. What makes this beautiful hotel even more alluring was that this very house was previously a pleasure house during the Belle Epoque era, with each of its 20 rooms being named after a famous courtesan.
Other than its two red lanterns outside, you could never tell that this facade was the entrance to a mysterious and secretive hotel, with so many pleasures to unfold once you walk through the door.
As soon as you walk through the doors, you are submersed into this opulent, elaborate and very seductive lobby. The hotel is scented with its own blend of rose, jasmine and tobacco, and you can smell this throughout the building. The friendly staff were kind enough to give a tour of the hotel, explaining the purpose of each room back when it was initially built in around 1905 to 1907.
The sumptuous lobby leads you to the bar area, decorated in the style of a reading room. Reading, however, was not the primary objective – we are in the red light district after all. This very room was in fact the waiting area, where Paris’s pleasure-seekers waited for the courtesans to escort them to the upper floors. Look closely, and you might notice the faces of 82 men carved into the furniture throughout the room, with ten courtesans overlooking on the grand chandelier. Between the opulence, the scent and the delicious cocktails offered at the bar, you could soon forget which century you are in.
Each of the 20 rooms have their own theme and decor. Each room is dark and mysterious – so mysterious that you might have to look for your bathroom, which may be hidden in the wall. Complete with Hermes amenities, the hotel definitely lives up to its five stars.
But if you thought that was all, the cherry on this exuberant cake is the secret spa and swimming pool located below ground, only available to hotel guests. The spa is so secluded, that only one room can access the spa at any given time, and the hotel was kind enough to open up at 7am so that I could start my day with a steam and swim.
And so if you do find yourself in Paris for a quick trip, try something different. Have a wander around the streets of Montmartre and all the entertainment it has to offer. Stay at La Maison Souquet and enjoy it’s newfound pleasures of luxury and intrigue. It won’t disappoint.