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Europe, to outsiders, might often seem old and established, like a fantastic museum—something to be admired for its historical magnificence, but not necessarily something still evolving. Such preconceptions will immediately evaporate upon setting foot in any one of the Design Hotel destinations which evoke vibrant innovation across the old world continent. Though you can find them literally all across the globe, there is something especially exciting about witnessing their brilliant, forward-thinking design amidst the classic relics of European architecture. And when the excitement of the hotels’ structure ebbs, the realization that their take on modernity involves an unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability might blow your mind all over again.

Of all European countries, France evokes the strong idea of tradition – all the more reason we were especially thrilled to stumble upon two ground breaking Design Hotels, who were taking the age-old luxury destinations of Paris and Nice on the Cote d’Azure section of the French Riviera, and reinventing them with their own brand of playful sophistication.

HI-Matic Paris

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When New Yorkers dream of Paris, it is awash in the romantic atmosphere of a bygone era: women in silk stockings who sit at cafes for ponderous hours, while their little dogs keep watch from under the tables; and men in tailored trousers who clutch baguettes, smoke endlessly, and recite poetry.  These nostalgic images, complete with an Edith Piaff soundtrack, play perfectly across the stunning architecture that begins with the ancient Romanesque and flows elaborately through time. Enchanting, undoubtedly, but truly only half the picture.

Paris is also a cutting-edge modern city—vibrant, youthful and teeming with life.  On the path to discovering this side of Paris, we recommend you start at the HI-Matic hotel, located in the heart of the famously hip Bastille district. A smartly designed, staunchly green hotel, the HI-Matic playfully takes on the idea of the retro auto-mat, with a lobby and café outfitted with snacks and other essentials in appropriately designed, automated vending machines. Expanding on this modular aesthetic, the rooms are highly efficient while maintaining comfort and style.

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New Yorkers won’t balk at the relatively small quarters, but will appreciate the clean lines of design and the masterful use of space.  Likewise, New Yorkers will enjoy the Parisian take on an organic (or “biologic” as they say in France) breakfast that is served every morning in the cheerful canteen, complete with an automated “bottomless” café au lait machine.  Terrifically affordable, well located and full of eco integrity, HI-Matic Hotel makes a great start to your modern Parisian adventures.

HI Hotel Nice

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From the balconies at HI Hotel in Nice, you can see all the reasons that brought you to this particular sunny destination on the breathtaking Cote d’Azure stretch of the Riviera.  Here the iridescent Mediterranean sweeps out with its own distinct flourish, skirting the famous pebbled beaches and so many perfect, bronze bodies in their most natural form. Between you and the beach rise the intricate rooftops of world famous, grandiose hotels that line Esplanad D’Anglais, the regal boulevard that hugs the coastline with coquettish aloofness.

To your left, the historic center of the city twists its way through endless hidden treasures of architecture, delightful Nicoise restaurants, and quaint markets tucked into cobble stone squares.  To your right, just within sight, the Cote d’Azure airport, and one of the reasons arriving was so wonderfully easy—you can disembark the plane, check in, and be on the beach in less than 30 minutes, without rushing.  And finally, behind you, the clean, modern lines of your room at the HI Hotel embrace you with a cheerful invitation to soak in the luxurious atmosphere with pure abandon.

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Staying at the HI Hotel Nice gives a special charm, like a breath of fresh air, to the experience of visiting the French Riviera.  In a city steeped with tradition, it’s fabulously refreshing to experience the modern and eco-friendly world that HI Hotel Nice creates.  Start your day with a bountiful European organic breakfast—deliciously healthy, but in the ambiance of the gorgeous courtyard, it still feels decadent. Or do it even better and walk down to the HI-Beach (the hotel’s exclusive beach club) and have your breakfast brought to you in the shade of a beach umbrella, as you dry off from your morning dip in the Mediterranean.

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Besides the design and location of the hotel itself, the HI-Beach club alone is reason enough to stay here.  As with the hotel, the beach club is designed with modern sensibilities and an intuitive sense of accommodation. Identifying the various moods of beach goers, different beachfront areas are designated for every whim. From energized with a DJ-infused afternoon in the sand to mellow and relaxing, to even family friendly—it’s all been anticipated and appropriately decked out.

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Languidly wind your way back to your room to ease into the evening with a drink on your balcony, or poolside on the rooftop. Watch the daylight slip behind the sea and relish the fact that the only decision you have to make is which restaurant to enjoy the multitude of Nicoise specialties.

- Ava Fedorov

Photographs by Jeffery Owens for Socially Superlative