Le Petit Hotel
Once the pinnacle of the hotel experience, boutique and design hotels have become as hackneyed and generic as your average Holiday Inn. With countless properties branding themselves as design orientated with little more than a few clumsily placed Philippe Starck knockoffs in the lobby, we’ve become extremely weary of the term. Which is why Le Petit Hotel in Montreal is such a revelation. Though billed as a boutique design hotel, Le Petit Hotel lacks the pretension and banality rampant in this breed of accommodation and proves that it remains possible to find small properties with uniquely designed spaces and a relaxed, inviting atmosphere.
Located in the heart of Old Montreal, steps away from the vibrant bar and restaurant scene, Le Petit Hotel is in the perfect spot; when visiting Montreal we find it infinitely more appealing to stay just outside of the main downtown drag, which becomes less attractive each time we return. Le Petit Hotel’s signature is its lobby, or rather its lack therof. Upon entering the minimally branded stone building, all of the signifiers of a conventional hotel lobby – large couches, a reception desk, a bellhop or two – are absent and instead you encounter a café or lounge depending on the time of your arrival. In lieu of this traditional area, Le Petit Hotel has created a hybrid public space that serves a myriad of functions — the person who checks you in is the same person who expertly prepares your latte — and while it has become de rigueur to minimize the reception area in contemporary hotel foyers, we’ve never encountered a hotel before that has an entrance serving an entirely different function. This is not a café in a lobby, the café is the lobby. While we witnessed many befuddled tourists unsure if they were in the right place upon entering the hotel, we quite enjoyed this new concept and found that it created a convivial atmosphere that feels more like a hip apartment building than an impersonal, transitory hotel.
This feeling of intimacy continues as you ascend the stairs in search of your room. With only 24 rooms over four floors divided into four categories – S, M, L, XL – Le Petit Hotel is a true boutique hotel both in size and spirit. Our M-sized room was spacious and airy with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and hardwood floors, our latest must-have hotel amenity. The décor is simple, modern and almost colourless with the exception of a few well-placed accent items in the hotel’s signature bright orange hue. The bathrooms are sparse and contemporary and are outfitted with a multi-jet shower system so remarkable that we wanted to take it home with us, as well as the requisite Aveda bath products. The overall effect feels more like being hosted at a friend’s chic loft rather than a hotel, and while your stay is may be fleeting, the room doesn’t have that cold and impersonal feeling permeating so many hotels.
Le Petit Hotel has a European sensibility that is not often found in North American boutique properties. Located in one of the beautiful old stone buildings on Rue Saint-Paul that are reminiscent of Europe of another era, Le Petit Hotel does an admirable job at combining 19th century charm with contemporary aesthetics and amenities. It is chic without trying too hard, inviting and comfortable with no pretense. It’s the sort of hotel that makes you feel more like a local than a tourist, which is exactly what we’re looking for when visiting a new city.