Le Meurice is arguably the finest hotel in Paris and therefore one of the finest in the world. Everyone has stayed here over the past 200 years; Picasso got married in the ballroom, Salvador Dali had a suite upstairs. (Still available to guests.) The place is basically an art gallery with rooms: whether enjoying dinner at Restaurant Le Dalí or a nightcap in Bar 228, you permanently wallow in splendour. (Especially if you stay in the penthouse suite: you can see 18 landmarks from its roof!)

If you want a full rundown of Le Meurice’s magnificence, allow me to direct you to this recent review. Here we will focus on one of the signature experiences offered by the hotel: the Revolutionary Brushstrokes art tour, two hours in which guests are guided through the city and the works of Claude Monet. (It’s a sign of the hotel’s heritage that Le Meurice opened in 1835, five years before Monet was even born.)

I can’t recommend the experience enough. Strolling the streets of one of the world’s most beautiful cities on a sunny afternoon while hearing stories about one of history’s greatest artists? Don’t mind if I do. It helped that the tour guide Marta is brilliantly informed and wonderful company; if she’d taught me art in school I’d probably be outside with an easel right now.

Our tour started with Marta whipping out an iPad to display Monet’s 1876 painting The View of the Tuileries Gardens, depicting the same lakes, trees and buildings that surround us. A few more people perhaps – and considerably more outdoor chairs – but the landscape is essentially unchanged. Monet likely painted it on a rooftop a couple of doors down from the hotel.

(A word on the outdoor chairs, essentially green metal sun loungers. What a concept! Completely free to use, allowing visitors and locals to take time out, catch up, enjoy the gardens and the day. In London, they’d charge you £5 a pop. In London, no chairs would exist for fear of theft or people bashing each other round the head with them.)

Le Meurice

As we walk, Marta shows me the work of Eugène Boudin, Monet’s friend and mentor. Rather than Gods, heroes or epic battles, Boudin painted normal people going about a normal day, finding the extraordinary in the mundane. Because there’s nothing mundane about strolling through the Tuileries Gardens on a sunny afternoon – as Boudin and Monet understood.

Genius doesn’t emerge from a void. As well as Boudin, Monet owed a debt of gratitude to a man he never met, an American named John Rand who helpfully invented paint tubes in 1841, thus enabling artists to paint outdoors. (Pre-tube paint dried out too quickly.) Closer to home in every sense, Monet’s older brother Leon was a chemist who specialised in synthetic pigments, the type commonly used in paint. Marta tells me all this as we stroll through the gardens towards the Louvre.

Although we don’t enter the Louvre, Marta mentions a secluded entrance with zero queues because very few tourists know it exists. The next day I follow her directions and take less than two minutes to get inside, as though I’m entering an office building rather than the world’s most visited museums. She forbade its inclusion in the article but she’ll tell you on the tour.

A blissful hour is spent following Monet around the 1st Arrondissement. We stand outside St Germain L'Auxerrois and compare the church to its painting. “It’s painted like a photograph,” says Marta. “There's nothing happening but we see the light, the lengthening shadows of the crowd, the densening greens of the leaves” She points out the tiny brush strokes used by Monet to make his art “vibrate with life”. (Wish I could take credit for that phrase.)

We head to the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, and Marta brings up a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Monet’s friend and fellow Impressionist. Renoir could have laid down his brush a few days ago, so little has changed: the Pantheon, statue of Henry IV, even the buildings are recognisable. In Paris, notes Marta, the construction of tall buildings is banned – 12 storeys is the limit.

Le Meurice

Funnily enough, says Marta as we pass the Musée d'Orsay, impressionism never actually existed as a movement. A group of artists were linked by the 1874 Paris exhibition whose 150th anniversary the Musée d'Orsay is celebrating in a special exhibition. (See below.) These artists, including Monet and Renoir, wanted to break free of the restrictive Academy of Fine Arts and encourage a more democratic, innovative artistic scene. (Inevitably, once these artists found fame and fortune, they started gatekeeping the art scene themselves. So it goes.)

Our tour ends at the Musée de l’Orangerie to experience Monet’s famous water lily panels. Marta tells me that the light in the Water Lilies room is exactly the same as the light in Monet’s studio in Givienney. At half past four in the afternoon it's soft, warm, natural. It's the light you see when standing by water on a clear evening.

“So amazing, so beautiful,” says Marta with genuine reverence. She must have seen these paintings a thousand times. Does she never tire of them? “No!” She sounds shocked at the thought. “Never!” How could she? Even when sharing the experience with dozens of other visitors, the paintings have a beauty, a grandeur that captures you and holds you still.

I mentioned the Musée d’Orsay: the museum is currently running a special exhibition, ‘Paris, 1874. Inventing Impressionism’ until July 14 2024. You’ll be able to see 130 works including those of Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley, some of which were already in the groundbreaking 1874 exhibition. Go get your art on. 

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Classic Single Room from €1720, including American breakfast, a two-hour expert guided tour and two entry tickets to Musée de l’Orangerie.