For most travelers, a trip to Paris conjures up images of charming cafes, cobblestone streets and open-air markets (background accordion music optional). But those who come to the city on business know that there’s more to Paris than just the Champs-Elysées and la belle Tour Eiffel. Just west of the city limits and a short metro ride into town is a bustling business district known as La Défense, populated with towering skyscrapers and an abundance of concrete, glass and chrome largely incongruous with the gay Par-ee of our collective imagination.
Business folk (and savvy tourists looking for cheaper room rates) often choose to stay at La Défense for its convenient proximity to the multitude of French multinationals based there. It’s these travelers that Dutch hotel group citizenM (short for “Mobile Citizen of the World”) is hoping to attract with their first Paris hotel, located in the heart of a redevelopment project that is bringing more green space, bars and restaurant terraces to the mostly concrete neighborhood.
citizenM invited HiP Paris to come experience the latest addition to its boutique chain of “smart hotels” first hand, which is how I ended up standing in front of the citizenM La Défense one weekend, my bag packed for a staycation, with boyfriend in tow.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the hotel was the absence of a traditional reception desk. In its place, a ring of touch screens allows guests to check in, choose their room and activate a key card, all by themselves (though staff is hovering nearby, ready to help). Multiple screens means nobody has to wait in line. Smart indeed.
The second thing that struck me was the decor. Bright, contemporary and unlike other hotels of its kind, it’s a breath of fresh air compared to many of the nondescript business hotel chains I’ve stayed in. Floor to ceiling shelves display an eclectic mix of artwork, books and colorful objets. The space is tastefully decorated with designer furniture from Vitra; and a floor-to-ceiling mural by Paris- and New York-based artist collective AVAF, which spans two floors.
The common areas in citizenM hotels are designed to feel like your living room, one staff member explained to me. They’re meant to be inviting spaces that make you want to spend time socializing outside of your room, hanging out in front of the fireplace, working at one of the computer stations, sipping coffee and surfing the web, or meeting friends for drinks on the patio.
My hotel room reminded me vaguely of a spaceship pod—sleek, shiny and streamlined. Modern white on white décor punctuated by tasteful splashes of pop art keep the compact-but-efficient quarters feeling spacious rather than confined. As I inspected the premises further, I half expected to hear the voice of HAL 9000 reminding me to turn off the bathroom light.
The luxurious rain shower and comfortable King-size bed got an immediate thumbs-up from my 6’4” boyfriend, who judges all accommodations on how “tall-friendly” they are, while I am instantly drawn to the custom shower gels for “AM and PM” (I’m a sucker for bath products).
We had fun playing with the room’s “MoodPad”, a tablet that controls everything from the blinds, temperature and lighting, to the list of free movies available for viewing on the big-screen TV. As we cycled through the different “mood” settings, we couldn’t help but giggle at the less-than-amorous “romance” setting, with its dim red lights and slightly sketchy music. We eventually settled on “party”; its colorful strobe lighting and techno beat put us in the mood for a drink and we headed downstairs to the CanteenM bar for a cocktail, then outside to enjoy the sunset view of La Défense’s famous Grande Arche from the couches on the terrace.
For early risers, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes a satisfying variety of sweet and savory options, plus healthy extras like detox juice and homemade granola. On the ground floor, we discovered coffeeM, a bright, airy coffee bar that earns bonus design points for its ceiling fresco of Andy Warhol photo-booth selfies. The friendly on-duty barista told us that hotel guests are not their only clientele; walk-in customers who work in the area also like to stop in for pastries and citizenM’s freshly-brewed signature coffee.
Check-out, like check-in, is self-serve, quick and painless. On a staff member’s advice, we hung on to our key cards, which double as luggage tags, and can be reused for future visits. Environmentally-friendly, well-designed and no-muss, no-fuss- that’s how I like to travel.
- Spending your business trip in the eighth? Read about the food and culture in Paris’ chic business district.
- Check out our list of Paris’ best hotel bars.
- Looking for some more space than what you get in a hotel? Have a look at our Paris apartment rentals.