Cultural Immersion in the Heart of the Latin Quarter at French Theory

One of my favorite things about Paris is that there’s a place for every taste—you just have to find it. My preferred neighborhood is Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the Left Bank, partially because of its creative, bohemian history (and really good shopping) but mostly because of how central it is to the places and people I usually visit. On this particular trip, I couldn't seem to find a room there, and then discovered French Theory in the adjacent neighborhood, the famous Latin Quarter (home to the Sorbonne and a number of other higher education institutions). Founded by Aurelien Armagnac, this purposefully curated hotel is forging a strong connection with the neighborhood's intellectual and artistic community thanks to a steady stream of tourists—and locals, too.

First Impressions

My taxi dropped me off just in front of a gated portion of Rue Cujas, and I rolled my suitcase behind me down the sidewalk just a few yards to the lobby entrance. The French Theory hotel is located on a pedestrian-only section of a side street just behind the Place de Sorbonne, a busy square featuring a few restaurants where university students and people who live or work in the neighborhood tend to gather. The signage is small and you might mistake the parklet-style terrace out front for a regular coffee shop.

Stepping into the lobby, there is no giant reception desk—just a small stand and a single attendant ready to check you in. (The morning I arrived, I needed to drop off my bags and get to a midday meeting across the Seine, and they made it really easy for me to do so.) The modest hotel lobby is centered on a single elevator and a spiral staircase that leads to the rooms. To the left, there’s an entrance to the hotel’s cafe, and to the right, an entrance to a concept store (more on that later).

The uber chill lobby sets the tone for the entire hotel  // Photo courtesy of French Theory

More Than Meets the Eye

While the hotel lobby feels quite tiny, beyond the elevator doors, the building houses 48 rooms. My hip “Professor” room included a very comfortable queen-sized bed, plenty of space to store my suitcases and hang clothing, a bathroom with a full tub and shower, and nice touches like a high-end hair dryer, kettle, and air-conditioning—something that is pretty rare in small Parisian hotels. This room also had an assortment of vinyl and a record player, Google Chromecast, WiFi, and even a selection of books to keep me entertained.  I can’t imagine a family with kids necessarily staying at this hotel, but as a solo business traveler and a creative, I felt right at home.

My room was the epitome of cool // Photo courtesy of French Theory

The hotel’s room offerings range from single rooms to suites, but the most unique accommodation it has is the “Classmate Quadruple” room, a 17-square meter space with two sets of bunk beds. According to Armagnac, this was designed with the cost conscious traveler in mind who wants something better than a hostel experience, or perhaps aspiring musicians traveling together, or friends who are simply in town for a good time.

The botanical room pays homage to the Jardin du Luxembourg  // Photo courtesy of French Theory

Communauté, Culture, et Café

Behind the lobby is a large common room called The Salon des Hydropathes, available for guests to work or study, or reserve for meetings and private events. Sometimes the hotel will host community events in the space, like a writer’s workshop or illustrator exhibition. Tucked away on the side is the botanical room, a corridor lined with tables and plants inspired by the greenery of the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is just a five minute walk away. One space you don’t want to miss is the Audio Lab, located on the subterranean floor, equipped with several vinyl listening stations as well as a real music studio. (Because of French Theory’s proximity to publishers like Universal Music, Capitol, and Def Jam as well as its location in a wellspring of creativity, the recording studio is regularly booked for new and established artists to lay down tracks.)

The walls throughout the entire building are lined with art from local artists that change every few months. Some previously hung works are for sale in the hotel’s concept store, whose inventory is composed of stylish coffee table books and cool accessories.

The pièce de résistance is arguably French Theory’s coffee shop, which wholly embraces an Australian-style coffee culture, complete with a roster of impeccably-crafted espresso drinks made with beans from Coutume Café. A selection of natural and biodynamic wines is also available, supplemented by baked goods and a light brunch menu. During my short stay, the cafe stayed busy with hotel guests, parents of kids who attend the nearby day school, and local university students looking for a caffeine boost in the mid afternoon or a pre-dinner glass of wine.

The audio cave  // Photo courtesy of French Theory

If you’re someone who appreciates an environment that attracts lovers of art, music, and culture, you’re going to enjoy French Theory. As a writer, I found the quiet spaces great for brainstorming and clearing my head, and also felt like the hotel’s location in the intellectual mecca of the Quartier Latin helped to jumpstart my creativity. The vibe is cool without being exclusionary, and perhaps because of that, you tend to run into some pretty interesting folks: DJs, writers, musicians (on my last morning, I had a long chat with my German barista who also happens to be an amazing fashion stylist). I honestly can’t wait to come back here in any capacity—even if I’m not a hotel guest, I’ll stop in simply just to get my hands on one of its delicious flat whites.

Best coffee in the neighborhood  // Photo courtesy of French Theory

5 more things to know:

  • You’re just a 15 minute walk from Rue Mouffetard, one of the best restaurant-lined streets in Paris.
  • The Museé d’Orsay, the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Louvre are about a 20-minute walk away.
  • If you’ve forgotten to pack something, there’s a giant Monoprix (the French equivalent of Target) two blocks from the hotel.
  • For tips on where to eat, drink, wander, and shop, French Theory has a printed map of recommendations.
  • To take French Theory’s vibe on the road with you, head over to its curated Spotify playlists.

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