Not so long ago Pigalle was considered the seedier side of Paris, a magnet for sex shops and low-rent hostelries, thanks to the topless cabarets which made it the apotheosis of city nightlife more than a century ago.
But now the area is regentrifying and has been rechristened SoPi(south of Pigalle). So, thanks also to the eclectic shops on the nearby rue des Martyrs, the neighbourhood south of the world-famous Moulin Rouge has metamorphosed into grunge-chic, and the uber-trendy Le Pigalle, a member of Design Hotels, is at the heart of the transformation.
This is an authentic and surprisingly elegant 19th-century hotel whose open plan ground floor lobby-lounge still reverberates with all the buzz of the Toulouse-Lautrec era which was the neighbourhood’s first heyday. Fighting my way in through what appeared to be a giant Saturday night party, it was a relief to be cordially escorted by a receptionist by no means too cool for school to the surprisingly spacious and tranquil sleeping quarters upstairs.
Creative architects behind the hotel’s redesign have managed to evoke the nostalgia of fin de siecle Paris while installing all mod cons, albeit with a retro vibe. Larger rooms like mine are set out as a typically Parisian studio with open plan bathroom/dressing rooms and are nearly twice the size of the dormitory-style twin rooms with bunk beds offering more affordable access to this palace of eclectic style.
The 20th century has been as great an inspiration for room decor as the 19th for the public spaces. Art Deco-style bathroom fittings and the in-room cocktail cabinets installed in premium rooms salute the roaring twenties, while turntables and vinyl selections, another accoutrement of higher room categories, pay homage to the birth of rock’n’roll. “More akin to a friend’s bedroom than a cookie-cutter hotel room” is the design statement for all room types, and the cosy clutter of books, souvenirs and vintage furniture pleasingly achieves that aim.
Breakfast is about much more than the croissants brought in fresh from a boulangerie around the corner; while you can get a boiled egg, there are much more exotic offerings, like a mango, avocado and fresh ginger salad, and the fresh-pressed juice normally only offered in five-star hotels. Locals are lured in with the offer of a one-euro espresso to lend authenticity to the experience.
While the sex shops continue to dominate Clichy, the boulevard leading to the Moulin Rouge, whose shows remain an unmissable once in a lifetime experience, there are bookstores, vintage boutiques and galleries to be explored in the streets beyond, and the hotel is an easy and fast bus ride from Eurostar and the Gare du Nord.
Tell me more about Hotel Le Pigalle
9 rue Frochot
Tel: +33 1 48 78 37 14
Rooms from €119
How do I get to Paris?
Eurostar serves Paris from London and Kent from £69 return.