Paris Right Banke: A Review of the Hotel Banke, Autograph Collection
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To The Point
Formerly a beautiful Belle Époque bank in Paris’s tony Opéra district, the 91-room Hotel Banke joined Marriott’s Autograph Collection earlier this year. Pros: Unique décor, friendly service, moderate room rates. Cons: Small rooms, noisy construction, slow Wi-Fi.
Thanks to the Marriott-Starwood merger, Paris is practically swamped with Marriott properties — over 30 in all. For travelers, that means everything from standard Marriott and Renaissance hotels to trendy Design Hotels and millennial-focused Moxys. There are also a number of boutique properties, including the Hotel Banke.
The Hotel Banke is actually part of a small Spanish hotel group called Derby Hotels, and it opened in 2009. It became an Autograph Collection property in March and is a solid if not extraordinary choice. It’s in the former Crédit Commercial de France bank building, which was constructed in the early 20th century by French architects Paul Friesé and Joseph Cassien-Bernard. The building itself is quite striking, and the unique hotel it now houses provides a convenient launching pad to explore the city.
Rates at the Hotel Banke tend to range from around £150 to £560, depending on dates and the room type you book. Instead of a starter room, dubbed a “Single, Smaller Guest Room,” I opted for one in the next category level, a “Superior Double,” which tends to be 20 euro (£20) more per night. If you want a room with a queen bed, expect to pay about £45 more. This is a Marriott Category 6 hotel, where award nights cost 50,000 points and, so far, are readily available.
The hotel is in Paris’s Ninth Arrondissement, on the corner of Rue Lafayette and Rue Pillet. It’s just a few blocks to the Opéra Garnier, the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. It’s also easily walkable to the Louvre. However, the hotel is also close to several Metro stations, including Richelieu-Drouot, Opéra and Chaussée d’Antin.
Because my departure flight was extremely early in the morning, I took an Uber to the airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), and it cost 50 euros (£45), while taxis would have cost 57 euros (about £51).
Just note that there was a lot of construction going on around the hotel during my stay. There were temporary walls along the Rue Lafayette side, though there was no construction while I was walking by it on the one day of my visit. However, across Rue Pillet, there was a fully active (and loud!) construction site that you could definitely hear from my room. So if you plan to stay here soon, ask for a room away from that side of the building.
I arrived at the hotel around 8:30pm in a taxi. While I was paying, the doorman took my suitcase out of the trunk and waited to show me inside.
We climbed a small flight of stairs through the entry vestibule.
Then we walked out into the lobby, which was resplendent. It resembled something out of “Caligula,” with bright red walls, gold accents and crown molding and an intricately tiled mosaic floor.
Overhead was an enormous glass cupola.
To either side were the hotel’s bar and restaurant, each also with gold furnishings and accent pieces in reference to the building’s past as a bank.
The reception desk was on the far side of the lobby near the elevators and had more muted gold siding. At one end of it were large jars of candies to which you could help yourself, and the receptionist asked if I wanted a glass of water or juice while I checked in.
I declined, and he pulled up my reservation, noting that I would be there for two nights and that I had booked a superior double. He thanked me for my Gold status but did not offer me an upgrade. He did hand me a certificate for a complimentary glass of cava in the bar, though.
After telling me about the restaurants and amenities, he handed me off to another bellman, who took my suitcase to the elevator and showed me to my room on the third floor.
As we walked down the hallway, I noticed the fire doors were closed, and he explained that it was because there was loud construction going on outside. Unfortunately, my room was on the far side of the doors, meaning they provided no protection from the noise for me.
I was intrigued by a display case in the hall outside my room that contained jewelry from Papua New Guinea. The bellman told me it was from the hotel owner’s art collection and that there were other cases on the other guest floors.
My room was toward the front corner of the building on the side that ran along Rue Lafayette. The hotel site listed these rooms as ranging from 17 to 22 square meters (183 to 237 square feet), and mine felt on the larger side of that.
The entrance consisted of a foyer with a connecting door to the adjacent room and a small placard closet at the end. A sort of half wall formed a partition from the main space of the room.
A built-in cabinet held the minibar, including water, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, beers, spirits and Champagne.
The closet was tiny, with limited space for hanging clothes, a safe and a luggage rack that was didn’t work for my carry-on bag.
On the other side of the partition, I found the bed, which looked and felt larger than a double. It was dressed in crisp, white linens with a “B” embroidered on the pillowcases.
The room looked fine, but the furnishings and lighting fixtures had become drab, and I suspected it’d been many years since this hotel was refurbished. Everything was in good working order, though.
One nightstand held a landline phone, while the other had a vase with a rose and a Handy mobile you could borrow while out and about in the city.
There were only European outlets and no USB ports that I could see.
The windows were large, and one of them opened for fresh air. My view was directly over Rue Lafayette, but there wasn’t too much traffic noise when the windows were closed.
Across from the bed, there was a little niche for the shallow desk, along with a wooden chair and a wall-mounted LCD television.
On the one hand, I think it was a decent use of space. On the other, there just wasn’t that much of an area to work in comfortably, and nowhere to put the hotel materials stacked on the desk if you wanted to place your computer there.
The bathroom was sizable, but not laid out very well, since the toilet was jammed into the corner and right up against the sink.
There was a single sink with a green marble countertop.
It had a narrow shower-tub combo.
One pleasant surprise: The toiletries were fancy The White Company products from the jasmine, rose and neroli line.
As for the Wi-Fi, I just used the regular version, and it was free but painfully slow.
Overall, I thought my room was a good size and nicely appointed, but it was probably time for a redecoration. That said, I thought it was a bargain for around $230 per night in Paris in May.
Food and Beverage
In addition to 24-hour room service, the hotel had two restaurants and a bar. I decided not to try any of them for a few reasons. First, Paris is such a food lover’s destination that staying in to eat seemed like a lost opportunity in a city of great restaurants.
Second, I left at 4am my second morning to catch a flight, so there was no opportunity to eat breakfast at the hotel. I did, however, pop down to the basement level on the first morning of my stay to check out the breakfast room.
I thought it was beautifully appointed, and bright for being subterranean.
The buffet spread was well done, with pastries, fresh fruits, cold cuts, yogurt and a variety of beverages.
However, breakfast cost 30 euros ($35), and considering I could get a crepe and a café au lait down the block for 7 euros ($8), I decided to save my money.
The hotel’s other main restaurant was Josefin and was up on the lobby level. It was open for lunch and dinner daily. The cuisine was Asian-French fusion, with dishes like sea bream carpaccio with mango and cucumber, and beef filet with peas and tarragon in a sweet-and-sour girolle mushroom sauce. The prices ranged from around 14 to 40 euros ($15 to $45).
The bar was across the lobby and partially glassed in. There were high chairs around the bar itself, low-slung seating areas, and a gold banquette with golden bulls’ busts above it, all in reference to the building’s banking past.
Although I had my cava certificate, I ended up not using it, since the bar was empty every time I passed by and I did not want to hang out alone sipping on my bubbles.
Aside from the restaurants, the hotel had a small gym up on the first floor — the one above the lobby. And I mean small.
The space was pretty odd, with three showers (one of which must have been used just prior to my visit).
There were just two spinning bikes, a treadmill, an elliptical and a limited set of weights jammed into the corner with a stretching mat.
There was also a sauna off to the other side.
If you’re a real gym rat, I would be prepared to use another facility or plan out your activities in the city to include a lot of walking or other exercise to keep up your fitness routine.
Although I did not get to see it, there was also a meeting space down in the basement housed in the former vault.
As for service, everyone from the housekeeper to the reception agents and the hostess at the breakfast restaurant was delightful, as were the various bellmen I interacted with. The hospitality at many Parisian hotels can be spotty, but not at Hotel Banke. The people here were among the warmest and friendliest I have encountered on many, many visits to the city.
While I’m not in a hurry to get back to the Hotel Banke, it was a good fit for my particular needs. The location was central and convenient both for walking and public transportation. The facilities and rooms were well-maintained, if not recently decorated. Plus, the room rates were hard to beat for the dates of my visit. Overall, I was glad of the chance to check out the hotel now that it is part of Autograph Collection, and this it makes a good backup addition to Marriott’s portfolio in the City of Light.
All photos by the author.
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