Many years ago, when I was a student of French literature at university, I studied the works of Honore de Balzac, one of the greatest 19th century French novelists ever. His heart-stirring novels transported me to Paris and the French countryside and explained the nuances of French society back in the day.
Imagine my surprise when recently, on a work trip to Paris, I opted to stay at a hotel named after the famous novelist. However, as I discovered, the name of the hotel is not completely random. There is a strong literary connection to this hotel, and references to Balzac’s works are visible, as a design leitmotif throughout the hotel.
For starters, the hotel is located on Rue Balzac, in a tiny lane just off the Champs Elysees. The location really works in favour of the hotel as it is literally a few seconds away from all the action on the Champs Elyesees. At the same time, it is tucked away in this quiet lane, which is relatively less crowded. So if you’re a visitor to Paris, and want to be within walking distance from all the action, you couldn’t ask for a better location. It is situated at the heart of the 8th arrondissement, which is a stone’s throw away from the luxurious shopping streets, Avenue Montaigne and Avenue George V. The Arc de Triomphe and Publicis Drugstore (my favourite café in Paris) are a short walk away.
Balzac in the House
The hotel is as historic as its name. I got chatting with the friendly concierge and he told me that the building was originally constructed for the director of the Paris Opera in the 19th century. Interestingly enough, the hotel has changed hands many times, from private residence to champagne salon and now finally this luxury hotel, as we know it today, with 13 suites and 56 rooms. It was towards the end of Balzac’s life and career that he became fascinated with this building. In 1846, he acquired the property to give to Countess Ewelina Hanska, who he married in May 1850. He spent his last days in the house and died without ever having paid the purchase price.
Now for the most important part – the rooms. As I stepped into my room on the 5th floor, I was delighted to discover that it was plush and luxurious, in classic French style. No contemporary minimalism here. The décor in my room was a gorgeous blend of neo-classical style, blending rich colours and using rich fabrics and antique-style furniture.
The bed is grand and pompous, almost like at Versailles with a gorgeous canopy over it. I absolutely loved the feeling of sinking into it at the end of a tiring day walking around Paris from meeting to meeting.
Literary references were present in my room (and in all rooms) in the form of framed excerpts from Balzac’s novels. I absolutely loved this little touch.
But the biggest surprise revealed itself to me when I drew open the curtains. As I drew open the blinds, I found out that I had indeed booked myself into the room with the best view in Paris. A sweeping, majestic view of the rooftops of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, right there before my eyes, towering over everything. It was absolutely magical.
Best Room With A View in Paris
Later that evening, I decided to pop open a bottle of champagne and chill in my room, watching the sun set over Paris. Every hour, on the hour, I would watch the famous twinkling of the Eiffel Tower from my lofty vantage point. Every minute, needless to say, was photo worthy. That said, if you are looking for a room with a view, you must ask for a room on one of the upper floors of Hotel Balzac Paris. It sure gets my vote for best room view in the city.
In case you didn’t know, the hotel has housed the restaurant of legendary French chef, Pierre Gagnaire, for the past fifteen years. His three-Michelin star restaurant is packed to the rafters every evening so make sure you book your table well in advance.
I had a very pleasant stay at Hotel Balzac Paris. The staff is polite, the rooms are stunning and the location, of course, couldn’t be better. If you’re a literature buff and like to have a dose of history when you travel, this is the place for you. Also, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys a room with a view, where you can just chill, you couldn’t have come to a better place.
Hotel Balzac. Doubles starting from INR 18,000/night.