Slightly outside the centre, Hotel Pullman Paris La Défense is still a good option, especially for those who find it useful to be located in the business district.
Standing proudly like a cruise liner among the jostling flotilla of tower blocks by the Grande Arche at the heart of La Defénse, The Pullman is emphatically at home among the gleaming, glazed and geometric modernist monoliths that are the hallmark of Paris’s prestigious business district. La Defénse is, however, a good deal closer to the centre than London’s Docklands; the commuter line, the RER, will drop you here in just five minutes from the Champs Elysées.
As a rule, in central Paris you won’t find anything taller than the iconic six-storey Haussmann townhouses (the exceptions that prove the rule are, of course, les tours Montparnasse and Eiffel, and the Notre-Dame cathedral) thanks to stricter planning rules than in London.
Consequently, just as London has relocated much of its financial centre to the Docklands, the Parisian corporate world has congregated in what has become, in the past 30 years, Europe’s largest business district.
Stepping into the lobby, a short walk from La Defénse Métro and RER station, a sense of space and calm welcomes the visitor to the newly refurbished hotel. Intelligent use of pared down colour suggests an international sophistication befitting of a world-class destination. The work of Argentinian Marcelo Joulia creates a harmonious, warm and inviting business destination space. The theme is connectivity, dynamism and modernity.
Being at the heart of the business district suggests the location is perfect for conferences, business travellers and larger groups. Yet there are excellent transport links providing fast access to the city centre, meaning the most seasoned traveller who prefers an international standard hotel with decent sized rooms and peaceful noise levels should feel at home, whether on business or pleasure.
The 382 rooms (Classic, Superior and Deluxe) and suites of up to 100m², offer a good level of modern luxury and comfort, including Nespresso® machines for coffee lovers and huge LED TV screens, which cleverly rotate from bed to office area in the deluxe room and suites. Fussy sleepers will appreciate extra mattress toppers, while the rainshower is a thoughtful – and invigorating – touch. As befits a business travel hotel, there is free fibre-optic wi-fi throughout, and docking stations are available for your tunes to help turn room time to relaxation.
Flashes of vibrant accent colour break up the gentler palettes of grey and wooden hues, which give a serenely calm and natural feel to an otherwise modernist architectural area. Clean lines are softened by clever use of fabrics, shielding the windows from the concrete exteriors.
Food and drink
The restaurant indulges international tastes by offering a choice of cooking styles including a tandoori oven. The guest is invited to choose from up to five ways of cooking the same main ingredient. If this sounds complicated, relax – the waiting staff are well used to explaining the nuances. All dinners start with an immaculately conceived trio of tapas – on the night we visited this comprised a gazpacho with tricolour croutons, alongside sardines with fennel and mango, and a bellini-style goat’s cheese disc showered with pistachio shavings. Highly flavoursome, and aesthetically pleasing to boot, all natural shades of green, peach and cream. The international flavour theme continued with a selection of olive oils hailing from Andalucía or the Greek isles, to dip with breads of diverse flavour such as curry, tomato, caraway seed and even a green-hued mint version.
Starters and mains are a selection of innovative French classics with a modern humorous twist – such as popcorn with foie gras, and a scallop soup – the liquid arriving separately to be poured on to a bed of crispy noodles. This is food to make you smile and to create talking points. Our mains were decent but not unmanageably-sized portions of veal steak and chicken, both with thoughtful and well-dressed salad combinations. Spicy vegetable accompaniments continued the world theme with judiciously chosen herbs and oils.
Intelligently selected wines target the discerning palate, although the steep jump in prices beyond the 30 euro mark would appear to suggest a nod to the liberal expense accounts of a bygone era.
As one would expect of a business hotel of international standard, all the usual benefits are here, from wi-fi to a business centre. Staff are, of course, multi-lingual, and the hotel even offers a complimentary translating and interpreting service. What might surprise you, though, are the children’s services, complete with babysitting, and the fact that pets are welcome throughout. There is a fully-equipped gym with a wet room sauna.
On the doorstep is one of Europe’s largest shopping centres, Les Quatre Temps, with 250 boutique shops, a 14-screen mulitplex showing most films in the original language with French subtitles, and a wide range of international snacking options.
There are also well-laid-out gardens stretching down towards the river along the Esplanade de la Defénse towards the Pont de Neuilly, as pretty in spring as any other part of vieux Paris. For those who like to recharge by way of a nature excursion, the huge Bois de Boulogne sprawls just south over the river, best accessed via Porte Maillot Métro.
But a few minutes by Métro and Paris proper is there to be explored, starting at the top of one of the most famous avenues in the world – so much to see and explore, history, old world charm, stunningly uniform Haussman architecture. Café culture, elegant boutiques, churches, parks, gardens… Paris unfolds its charms before you like the slowly opening petals of an exotic bloom in spring.
Insider’s tip: For a panoramic view of le tout Paris, head for the roof of the surprisingly square-shaped Grande Arche. The view is better, and you’ll avoid the crush of the crowds of l’Arc de Triomphe dwarfed by this, its more imposing modern rival.
Classic rooms from €151 per night.
Value for money
Excellent; you pay little more than you might for a budget option in London for an upmarket and well-thought-out hotel.
Yes – and it’s both fast and free.
La Défense is well-sited as a business district, being a lot closer to the centre of town than, say, London’s Docklands; a short Métro ride of around five minutes will drop you at the Arc de Triomphe and the 1st and 8th arrondiessements that are the heart of chic Paris, with their upmarket boutiques and restaurants. The overland RER line from La Défense also ensures good – and quick – transport links to central Paris. The centre is also easily reached in ten or 15 minutes by taxi, plentiful from the Pullman and booked as usual by the concierge desk.
5.3 miles from Gare du Nord, Eurostar Station
16.5 miles from Orly Airport
21.4 miles from Charles de Gaulle Airport