Where to Stay in Paris — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation
Where’s the best place to stay in Paris? For most people, going to Paris is the trip of a lifetime — so it’s all the more important to carefully choose where you stay.
Paris was the first city I ever fell in love with, and after thirteen years, it’s still my favorite city in the world. On my first visit, I skipped away from my school group to climb the towers of Notre-Dame; on my most recent visit, during my 30th birthday, I finally went shopping at Chanel.
I’ve now visited Paris eight times and usually stay in two or three different places on each visit. At this point, I’ve gotten to know lots of different neighborhoods, I’ve learned the benefits of staying in different places, and I know the kinds of experiences that make a trip to Paris special.
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris
Everyone wants something different on their trip to Paris, but I think most people like being in a quintessential Paris neighborhood — a place where you can buy fresh baguettes and marvel at the wrought-iron balconies.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods) and they are numbered in a spiral, the center being Ile de la Cité, the island in the Seine home to Notre-Dame. Neighborhoods with lower numbers are closer to the center; the 12th-20th arrondissements are the outer edge. Parisians refer to the neighborhoods by their number.
Best Overall: The Marais (3rd/4th)
The Marais, in my opinion, is easily the best neighborhood to stay in on your trip to Paris. It’s central. It’s got several attractions, like the Centre Pompidou and the Hotel de Ville. There are lots of wonderful restaurants and cafes, the architecture is magnificent, and the shopping is superb. In fact, I think the Marais is the best shopping neighborhood in the city — there are tons of independently owned boutiques as well as luxury shops and wonderful markets.
The Marais was historically home to marginalized communities in Paris, including the LGBT community and the Jewish community, and as a result it’s got a nice cultural mix to this day.
St. Germain (6th)
If you’re looking for Left Bank Paris, the neighborhood of Hemingway and Camus and Sartre, St. Germain is a nice option and my other favorite neighborhood in which to stay. While it definitely has its share of tourists, you’ll find wonderful (and longtime famous) cafes, interesting little shops, and streets full of life. The Jardin du Luxembourg is nearby, and it’s close to Notre Dame and the Musée d’Orsay as well.
Why does Montmartre have an asterisk? It can be wonderful, but you need to do a little extra research to make sure you’re in the good part. While much of Montmartre is the village-like urban neighborhood depicted in Amélie, some parts are seedy, especially around the Pigalle area. Rue Lepic (pictured above) and its side streets are lovely; Boulevard Clichy near Pigalle and further east is full of sex shops.
The best way to know if you’re in a good part of Montmartre? Google Streetview. Take a look at the neighborhood before you book accommodation.
The 9th arrondissement won’t be on a lot of lists — it isn’t big on attractions, and while it’s very Parisian, it’s not as famously charming as other neighborhoods. I didn’t give it a second thought until I stayed at my friend Marie-Claire’s apartment in the 9th and saw what a great base it made for exploring Paris.
The 9th is a residential zone with the Opera and the Galeries-Lafayette department store on one end and the edge of Montmartre on the other end. As a result, there aren’t a lot of tourists here (a rarity in central Paris!). There are lots of restaurants, bars and cafes, and there’s lots of life without a single establishment pandering to tourists.
Ile Saint-Louis (4th)
If you want to be in the dead center of Paris, yet a place that doesn’t feel like Parisian Disneyland, Ile Saint-Louis is a great choice. It has a wonderful feel — almost like its own small town — and even though it’s next door to Ile de la Cité and the massive crowds of tourists visiting Notre-Dame, Ile Saint-Louis is almost a world away. The shops aren’t bad, either.
Image: João Dias
Looking for hipster Paris, the Williamsburg of Paris, the Paris of tomorrow? Head to Belleville. Belleville is a historically working class neighborhood home to many different ethnic communities. Like many big cities in the world, Paris is gentrifying rapidly, and Belleville has become the zone for artists and entrepreneurs to set up shop. Here you’ll find slightly lower prices, lots of interesting small businesses, and a fabulous selection of ethnic food.
Where to Avoid
Don’t stay outside the main 20 arrondissements. You’ll be far from the center and while many of Paris’s surrounding suburbs are lovely, some of them are the most dangerous areas in Paris. Whenever you hear about riots and violence in Paris, it’s usually in these rough suburbs.
Don’t plan your stay around being close to a certain attraction. Paris’s metro is easy and efficient enough to navigate your way anywhere — you don’t need to stay within walking distance from the Louvre in order to visit the Louvre.
“Near the Eiffel Tower” actually isn’t that great. The neighborhoods near the Eiffel Tower are upscale residential areas. They’re fine, but they’re expensive and a bit boring, in my opinion. Besides, you can see the tower from all over the city.
“Near the Champs-Elysees” is worse. Definitely go to the Champs-Elysees at least once, but it’s filled with shops you can find anywhere and it’s absolutely swarming with tourists. It’s Paris’s Times Square.
Don’t stay in a hotel near the airport. Unless it’s for one night only and your flight leaves at 6:00 AM the next day. Paris’s two airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, are both far outside the city.
Where to Stay in Paris: Hotels, Apartments, Hostels
Should you stay in a hotel, hostel, or rental? In a city as popular as Paris, you’ve got plenty of options.
Apartment rentals are my favorite because they make you feel like a member of the community. And in Paris, isn’t daydreaming that you live there half the fun of visiting? I also love that apartments often give you access to a kitchen, laundry, or other amenities that make you feel at home.
Hotels afford you a few perks you don’t get in apartment rentals, like maid service, 24/7 reception, customer service (though formal, unfriendly French customer service is often a shock to North Americans) and relative anonymity.
If you’re on a budget, hostel dorms are the cheapest accommodation in Paris. Some hostels have private rooms, with or without bath.
Best Overall: Cobblestone Paris Rentals
I hadn’t heard of Cobblestone Paris Rentals until I met the owners, Jennifer and Ryan, a Canadian-American couple who went from buying an apartment in Paris for themselves to owning a Paris rental company! They’ve since become wonderful friends of mine and they kindly offered me a complimentary three-night stay for my 30th birthday. I fell in love with it immediately.
This wasn’t just a Paris apartment rental — this was a THIS-IS-THE-MOST-PARISIAN-APARTMENT-EVER rental.
Crystal chandeliers. Thick brocade curtains. Victorian chairs, a fireplace, a bedroom decorated in purple and gold.
Yet while it was brimming with charm, it also had the convenience factor tough to find in actual Paris apartments. Washer and dryer? Yes. Flatscreen TV? That’s so nice. Electric kettle? After living in England, I can’t go without one! All the cooking supplies you could want. And wifi, of course. (Did you think I’d ever stay somewhere without wifi?)
Best of all, it was filled with special little touches — a bottle of red wine, a bar of dark chocolate, a selection of Paris guidebooks sandwiched between antique-style jars, and a DVD basket filled with movies that take place in Paris. I love being delighted in my accommodation, and I was delighted over and over.
I was ready to move in that day. Seriously.
My apartment was the La Royale du Marché property, a one-bedroom property in the 1st arrondissement (so central!), just outside the Étienne Marcel metro stop and a short walk from the Marais.
If you’re looking for a truly special place to stay on your trip to Paris, Cobblestone Paris is it. I cannot wait to stay in one of their properties again.
Special offer for AK readers: Book through Cobblestone Paris Rentals, mention Adventurous Kate, and receive a free scenic cruise on the Seine!
Best Luxury Hotel: Hotel Villa d’Estrées
I’ve stayed in a few luxury hotels in Paris and my favorite is Hotel Villa d’Estrées. I stayed here on my December 2012 visit to Paris and I relaxed the moment I stepped in. It was elegant, streamlined, and old-fashioned but not cliche. The bathroom had a beautiful vanity and the windows had a view over St. Germain.
While Paris hotels are usually known for being cramped and tiny, my room at the Villa d’Estrées was spacious and actually had room for a couch.
And the location? Magnifique. St. Germain, a 30-second (!) walk from the St. Michel metro stop and just steps from the shops and galleries of St. Germain. Even though an Irish pub is next door, you don’t hear the noise of it at all.
Best Hostel: St. Christopher’s Hostel — The Canal
As hostels continue to innovate and turn into modern budget getaways for travelers of all ages, exceptional properties are popping up all over Europe. That said, unlike Lisbon or Berlin, Paris doesn’t have any game-changing hostels.
However, there is one nice Paris hostel that I do recommend: St. Christopher’s Hostel on the canal. It’s a new hostel, built in 2008, and it’s airy and vibrant with impeccably clean dorms, large bathrooms, key card security, and a wild bar downstairs to meet fellow travelers.
St. Christopher’s is part of the Europe’s Famous Hostels chain, and I’ve found all their hostels to be well maintained with a great social environment.
The location on Canal St. Martin is offbeat and fairly out of the way, but there are plenty of nice cafes, a grocery store, some Vietnamese restaurants, and three metro stops within a ten-minute walk.
Don’t Visit Paris Without Travel Insurance
A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense — I couldn’t disagree more. Travel insurance is vital. It’s saved me hundreds of dollars and for one of my friends, who slipped and broke his back while traveling, his travel insurance saved him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you get pickpocketed on the metro, travel insurance will refund you what you lost.
If you slip on the stairs at Notre-Dame and break your ankle, travel insurance will refund your medical costs and will get you home for free.
If you get appendicitis while in Paris, travel insurance will cover your medical costs.
If an immediate family member dies while you’re halfway across the world, travel insurance will help you get home immediately.
These are unpleasant things to think about, but it’s so important to be prepared for the worst.
I use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance. They’re a great fit for almost every traveler. Take a look at their policies before you buy to make sure they’re right for you.
My #1 Paris Tip
Make sure your accommodation is within a short walk of a metro stop, or, ideally, a few metro stops on a few different lines. You’ll be riding the metro a lot, so being close will make your time in Paris so much easier.
In the past, I’ve stayed in places that were a long walk (around 12 minutes) from the metro in areas that weren’t well traversed. This made me uncomfortable walking home alone at night, and while I stuck it out at the time, I wouldn’t stay that far away again.
Any trip to Paris should be the trip of a lifetime. I hope this guide brings you close to making your Paris dream come true.
Essential Info: Rates for La Royale du Marché at Cobblestone Paris Rentals start at 169 EUR ($216 USD) per night plus taxes and cleaning fee. It sleeps up to four people if you fold out the couch. Children under 12 are not allowed.
Book through Cobblestone Paris Rentals, mention Adventurous Kate, and receive a free scenic cruise on the Seine!
Rates at Hotel Villa d’Estrées start at 194 EUR ($248 USD) per night including taxes and fees. It sleeps two.
Many thanks to Cobblestone Paris Rentals for hosting me for three nights in Paris this summer, and to Hotel Villa d’Estrées for hosting me for two nights two years ago. All opinions, as always, are my own.