To stay at this three-story courtyard hotel in historical heart of the Latin Quarter is to be surrounded by intellectual giants: the ghosts of figures such as René Descartes or James Joyce, who each lived nearby, and by present-day students and teachers at the most elite universities and high schools of Paris. The youngsters’ extracurriculars—café lounging, bar hopping, and vintage record, book, and clothes shopping—give the quarter a unique mix of history and life.
Hotel des Grandes Ecoles occupies three 19th-century houses along a private cobbled passageway leading to a courtyard garden. Old-fashioned in the best sense, one of the charms of the place is that the compound feels like an escape to a French granny’s country cottage. Small by American standards, rooms done in toile or floral fabrics exude classic Gallic charm; French cotton lace and matelasse drapes the sitting tables and beds. Bathrooms are immaculate but simple, with either shower or bathtub and toilet.