Paris is a gorgeous monster of a city which always makes it quite a challenge to figure out where to stay. Which is the cool part? Which parts are too far? Is this too expensive? Is this too touristy? Is it not touristy enough? Can I walk to the Louvre? What’s the metro station like? Is this a ‘dodgy’ bit? How much should I spend?
All of these questions, and more, are questions I’ve asked myself when looking for hotels in Paris. There are so many options that it can be a little overwhelming, as can be the price of the accommodation itself. When I first decided to visit, I had no point of reference. I just looked at a list of hotels and picked one based on what I thought was reasonable criteria.
I’ve been asked a few times since then where I would recommend staying. Now that I feel that Paris and I are getting along quite swimmingly, I thought I’d run through the pros and cons of some of the different areas.
Staying in Châtelet, 1ere Arrondissement
On my first real trip to Paris I had no clue about what to see. I had a guide book and I knew I needed to be somewhere central to be able to walk myself to as many of the places in that book that book that I could. The inexperienced traveller that I was, I picked a hotel which was as central as it could be; pricey (at €146 per night), but cute: the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne. It was near enough to the beautiful Hôtel de Ville and the Marais shopping area, was a hop and a skip away from the river and a short walk over the bridge to Notre Dame. It allowed me to walk everywhere and really explore Paris for the first time.
My only downside about the area is that Châtelet Metro, despite having excellent connections, is one of the mos unpleasant metro stations in Paris. It’s dirty and often home to quite a few slightly disturbing characters and I’ve gone out of my way to avoid it many times since.
Gare du Nord / Porte Saint-Denis
When coming from London via Eurostar it’s tempting to plonk yourself somewhere near Gare du Nord, which is what we did on our first trip over from London last year. Coming out of the tube in the 10eme Arrondissement – in our case from Chateau d’Eau – you quickly realise that this area is not the Paris you dreamed of. On the plus side, the Rue de Fauberg St Denis and Cour des Petits Ecuries (where we stayed) have some very cool (and reasonably priced!) bars as well as some great restaurants. It is also in a lot of ways more ‘real’ than the touristy areas near the Louvre but, since it’s not actually a huge amount cheaper to stay round here, I would probably head further in to one of the next places on the list.
Gare de Lyon / Bastille
This is a great place to stay. It’s safe, pleasant, has excellent connections from Gare de Lyon, which is itself a lovely station with a restaurant in it that looks like it belongs in a palace rather than a station (I haven’t been there yet. It still lives on my to do list). From here it’s a bit of a longer walk into The Marais or Notre Dame but it’s close to The Bastille and plenty of museums plus, it’s a great place to start walking along the river into town. Plus, if you have a 7am train to the south of France, like we did, the next day from Gare de Lyon, it’s perfect. Here we stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel which, if you’re in a group of a few people works out well for a stay in Paris over a hotel. We paid €400 for three nights between three.
Montparnasse and the Latin Quarter
I wanted to stay near the Latin Quarter and couldn’t find anything that took our fancy (for a reasonable price) and Montparnasse seemed like a good bet. It’s close enough to the Latin Quarter to have a good look around there but also, another quite a different part of Paris in itself. I felt completely safe here, went to restaurants and cafes that were much more local and therefore far less touristy in terms of price and general ambiance. Plus, we got to rock up quite early to the Catacombs (which is essential if you want to get in before the ridiculous queues). It’s also a good starting point for walking up to the Jardins de Luxembourg and St Germain de Pres, two great areas for people watching and meandering.
The bohemian suburb is one of my favourite parts of Paris. With wonderful cafes and boutique shops, windy roads, artists and markets on the street, the Sacre-Coeur looking over the whole of the city and of course the famous Moulin Rouge, Montmartre is charming and is where the cool kids hang out. But it also has it’s shadier parts, one of which is around the Moulin Rouge at night, so it’s hard to know exactly where to stay. So far I’ve never stayed in this area, preferring to be closer to the centre, and popping up to Montmartre by tube, but I’m planning to on my next trip.
Wherever we ended up staying the underground is so well connected that it’s hard not to be in a good location, but I’ve found that where I stay really changes how I feel about Paris every time I go.
I’ve never paid as much as I did that first time but it’s still expensive and you do have to be cautious when you find a deal that looks a bit too good to be true. There’s plenty more research to be done and I’ll keep this post updated when I go next with further recommendations.
Until then, where’s your favourite place to stay in Paris?