Not one for hostels, I recently found myself seeking accommodation for one night in Paris. My friend was going for work reasons, with a hotel room provided for her second night. Meanwhile, I had a Eurostar voucher that needed using. My initial instinct was to turn to my beloved Hotel Amour, that charming boutique hotel that I reviewed after my trip last Easter, having just written about the best hostels in the world. But my inner travel writer got the better of me.
I have always said it is my duty as a travel writer to test things out and report back; after all, why should everyone else have to make the same silly mistakes I do? And that’s how I came to find myself checking in to Les Piaules on a Friday afternoon.
You may recall Les Piaules was named the best hostel in France in HostelWorld’s 15th annual HOSCAR (hilarious, I know) awards. Recently opened by three young Parisian travellers, the hostel was commended for its fully renovated art deco building, featuring a rooftop terrace with fantastic views, free wifi, late checkout, custom bunk beds, breakfast included and the coolest bar in town. The pictures were certainly impressive enough, too.
So how did it fare in real life?
Given that my friend and I draw the line at shared bathrooms, we opted for a private room with an ensuite, so sadly (or not so sadly in my view) I can’t comment on the ‘custom bunk beds’. What I can say is that we were pleasantly surprised when we opened the door to find a room that would rival any three-star hotel. Spotlessly clean, there was a very generous double bed, a large bathroom featuring a shower with impressive water pressure, towels, tea and coffee-making facilities, including a Nespresso machine, sound system dock and double glazed windows – a welcome surprise given the bustling main road below.
One of the better night’s sleep I’ve had, the hostel was incredibly soundproof given its heaving bar below, which was in full swing when we returned from dinner. Located on the ground floor, the space is maximised, acting as a breakfast room and café during the day with DJs turning it into a convivial bar in the evenings. With long communal tables, couches, arcade games and even a photo booth, the hostel also provides a free welcome beer on arrival.
Free wifi was a welcome addition – proving that high-end hotels that still charge should really stop being so mean-spirited and get with the times. Located over six floors, we ventured up to look at the rooftop in the morning which, while featuring views over Paris, including the Sacré Coeur, is somewhat marred by the fact there are bedrooms taking up most of it. Still, it’s a welcome bonus given rooftops in Paris are few and far between, and there are seats up there to make the most of the sun should you so desire.
Breakfast was not included, although it was a decent spread for the very small setback of a few Euros. We were rushing off to a free walking tour – listed on a noticeboard behind reception – so we didn’t need late checkout, another generous inclusion. Be warned, however, this does mean that check-in isn’t until 3pm, a fact that found us in the basement paying for locker hire to store our bags. On that note, the locker room isn’t somewhere you’d want to find yourself alone – a strange man was suspiciously lurking there when we walked in to retrieve our bags.
All in all, it was enough to completely change any preconceptions about hostels. With friendly staff who couldn’t help enough and who prided themselves on customer satisfaction, the whole place had a communal, welcoming and energetic atmosphere – enough to reinvigorate any tired travellers, sending them out the door again with a smile and a spring in their step.
And, on checking into our three-star hotel the next day, we were greeted with a very similar standard of room, minus the rooftop and happening neighbour bar!
Les Piaules is located in the up and coming Belleville area, adjacent to the 11th arrondissement. Rooms start at €28 per night for a shared dorm or €80 for a private room.