I have been getting lots of questions from friends about what to do, where, to stay, where to eat, etc about Paris. And, now that I’ve been to the city of lights my fair share I can say that I really do have lots of advice and good ideas to share. So, I’ve decided to start a mini-series about Paris to share with all of you, starting today with where to stay.
So, where in Paris? With 18 arrondisments (neighborhoods/boroughs), if you’ve never been to Paris, finding a place to stay it can be really daunting. There are a few good neighborhood guides out there, but my favorite guide written by folks who live in each arrondisment is over at Pret-a-Voyager. Look for the number you want (2eme, 14eme, etc) and voilà, a description of the neighborhood, a list of great places to eat and drink, and any other details that are good to know. But, for my take, here are a few of my favorite neighborhoods.
1. Le Marias-(2eme, centre ville!) Usually uber expensive, if you look for an apartment rental ahead of time you can get a good deal. The space will probably be small, but located in the 2eme arrondisment you’ll be next to everything. Great restaurants, nightlife, energy. I think one of my favorite parts of this neighborhood was that we could walk to the Seine for a picnic lunch anytime.
2. Bastille / Oberkamp (12eme & 11eme, east side) – We would never have gone to these neighborhoods were it not for the great hotel deal we got here. A truly local part of the city, it’s not as walkable to the major tourist sights, but it feels like you are where the Parisians hang. More diverse than downtown, there are great restaurants, nightlife, and it’s easy to park if you have your car. We were so happy to have stumbled upon this calm, historic neighborhood.
3. Montparnasse (14eme, west side)- I’ve stayed here twice. First in the cheapy cheap hostel, and second in the most expensive hotel I’ve stayed in Paris. A more modern feeling neighborhood, that is also a little farther from the big sights. Compared to Bastille, it’s really residential, lacks some of the energy and movement, but you’ll definitely have a step into Parisian life and a great view of Lady Eiffel from here.
4. Montmartre (18eme, north)- I’ve never actually stayed here, but whenever I look for a budget hotel or apartment this is the place with the most hits. Again, a little on the outskirts of the city, but filled with so much charm, young, energetic, hip. My favorite happy hours are here, and getting lost on the curvy hilly cobblestone streets will fill you with more je ne sais quoi than the Champs Elysses itself.
From youth hostels (that kick you out all day and have push button showers, but also have views of the Eiffel tower!), to (teeny tiny) apartment rentals, to (terrific and terrible) hotels, what you choose really depends on what you can find at the moment you’re searching (be sure that the moment is a few months ahead. Prices for last-minute reservations in any accommodation really skyrocket). Also have in mind what kind of vacation you want to have. Where you stay can really change the way you feel about a city. If you can’t sleep or are uncomfortable you’ll carry that feeling with you all day. So here’s the lowdown on the accomodations. Depending on budget, comfort and location, you can find the perfect fit for your visit.
A youth hostel (YH) is a good choice if you’re looking for the backpack, low budget visit. Youth hostels are also a great way to meet new people and really get out and see the city – many have closed doors during the day, forcing you out for the day. A YH usually offers a cheap breakfast and a kitchen, a plus if you want to save some money or cook. Bedrooms are usually shared with a few other bunks, so it’s a great way to make some new friends- but if you’re looking for a good nights sleep it might not be the right choice with people coming and going all night. If you’re going for a romantic getaway, or even just a relaxing trip, a YH is definitely not the right choice, and be careful with age limits- if you’re over 30 it might be time to look somewhere else.
Next up, budget wise. is an apartment rental. You can find some gems for a good price, and apartments offer more savings as they can accomate a group. Apartments also give you the freedom to cook in if you’re tired of eating out or simply on a budget. Cooking on Vacation is actually a great excuse to get out to a market for some real face à face contact with the locals while you pick up the ingredients for dinner. Renting an apartment gives you the feeling of being a local. You’ll find the local baker, cafe, and newstand, but sometimes a rental can be a bit short on space or a bit far from the main sights so choose carefully and look for nearby metro stations before you reserve. Prices can be nightly or weekly, and usually have a minimum number of nights to stay (3 or 4) and look for extra fees for cleaning or sheets. Again, for a really romantic getaway an apartment rental may not the best choice unless you are not looking to stay on a budget. I’ve used Air B&B for an inexpensive rental in the Marias (we paid 45 each a night), but for a luxury stay (forget the budget) check out Haven in Paris rentals, the apartments are droolworthy.
Hostels and apartment rentals are really a bit more straightforward than a hotel in Paris if you are looking for a budget. If you have no budget, go crazy and get a spectacular hotel next to everything, and please order at least one room service breakfast to really live it up. But, if you’re like me and on a budget, be careful with what you reserve. Don’t even bother looking at hotels with less than two stars or who are offering a price for less than 35 euros per person per night. This is Paris, and if you want a comfortable sleep you’re going to have to pay for it, so check and double-check the website for reviews, photos, and location. Don’t trust that a franchise hotel will be up to the standards you are used too. I’ve made the mistake of going to a super cheap hotel with a name I recognized, only to find the heat wasn’t working, the bed sunk in the middle, and we were nearly outside the city (we paid 50 a night for two…never again.) It really put a damper on the visit. But that was only once. Other than that, I’ve always found hotels, with a private bathroom (yes, be careful, many times for a budget price they offer a shared bathroom), clean, and not so teeny tiny. They may not be downtown, but they offer a really comfortable place to stay, and a chance to see a new part of the city. I use Booking.com with great results. Use the above neighborhood list as a guide. When reserving a hotel, I only reserve if I have the certainty of being able to cancel with a full refund and I keep looking in case I find a better deal until a few weeks before we go. If you do use Booking, sign up for their emails deals. They are non-refundable, but I’ve got a reservation at a 4 star hotel in Paris for 80 euros a night (for two!). It was definitely worth it.
Budget in Paris is possible! Reserve early, think about what kind of trip you want, be ready to explore new neighborhoods and get to know the Paris of the Parisians. That’s what we all what any way, right?
Be sure to leave a comment or send me a message if you have more questions!