Where should I stay in Paris? It's a question that I've been asked many, many times over the years, especially during my time as a travel consultant, and whilst there is no right or wrong answer, there are some things you should take into consideration before booking your hotel or apartment. These include your budget and accessibility to what you plan to see and do during your stay in Paris.
Paris is divided into 20 'arrondissements', or districts (see the map below). Each arrondissement is numbered, starting with 1 in the Louvre/Palais Royal district and the numbers then spiral around the rest of the city. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the Seine and central Paris (ie around the Louvre and Notre Dame), the more expensive your accommodation will be.
On my last three visits to Paris I have stayed in a different arrondissement each time and I'll give you my thoughts on each location below. What prompted me to write this post, though, was an excellent article by my blogging friend, Rosemary Kneipp of Aussie in France. Rosemary has lived in Paris for many years and provided her thoughts on the best areas to stay when visiting the City of Light. Read Rosemary's article here.
You'll often hear people refer to the Right Bank and the Left Bank when talking about Paris. The Left Bank is the area on the southern side of the River Seine and the Right Bank is on the northern side.
11th arrondissement (Right Bank)
On our first visit to Paris in over twenty years we chose an Australian-owned apartment in the 11th arrondissement on the Right Bank. Our budget was fairly tight as Paris was our first stop on an 8 week itinerary, and even though we had pre-paid for the accommodation before leaving home, we didn't want to splurge from day one, hence our decision to stay a bit further from the centre of Paris.
Access to the main tourist attractions was no problem, though. The 11th arr. is serviced by a number of Metro stations and is also close to the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf (to name just a couple) are buried. Our closest Metro stations were Philippe Auguste, Voltaire and Charonne but we prefer to walk whenever possible and often found ourselves walking along Rue de la Roquette to the Place de la Bastille. One day we even walked as far as the Hotel de Ville (Paris' Town Hall, right opposite Notre Dame Cathedral).
Bastille (in the 4th arr.) is the location of the famous storming of the prison which stood on this site on 14 July, 1789, starting the French Revolution. The Bastille Metro station services three different lines so we could travel just about anywhere we wanted to go from here. Close to Bastille is the Marche (market) Bastille, a great cafe scene, Place des Vosges and the Marais district.
Rating: Whilst it's a little further from the centre than where I would choose to stay today, the 11th arrondissement is definitely a good location if you prefer to spend less on accommodation and more on other holiday costs. Access to all parts of Paris is easy by Metro.
6th arrondissement (Left Bank)
The next time I visited Paris I stayed in an apartment in Saint Germain, the 6th arrondissement. This was a fabulous location and one I would definitely return to. Our apartment was located opposite St. Sulpice Church (The Da Vinci Code fans will know of it), the Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Gardens and the famous shopping street of Boulevard St. Germain.
Again, Metro stations were plentiful nearby but each day we walked to St. Michel Metro station (which is a leisurely five minute walk from Notre Dame) to catch the Metro for our day's sightseeing.
From St. Michel it is just one stop to the Orsay Museum and four stops to the Champs de Mars/Eiffel Tower. A short walk across the Seine (via Ile de la Cite) brings you to Les Halles and Hotel de Ville stations which gives quick access to the Louvre, Tuileries gardens and Champs Elysees. Being so close to the Seine in the 6th, we could easily catch the Batobus (Hop On Hop Off sightseeing boat), too, as there's a stop located along Blvd. St. Germain, as well as one at Notre Dame.
There's an abundance of boulangeries and excellent cafes and restaurants around St. Germain including the famous Les Deux Magots, Cafe de Flor and Brasserie Lipp - although these three won't fit in everyone's budget.
Rating: A fantastic location offering easy access to all of Paris's major sightseeing attractions. The 5th and 6th arr. are fairly touristy but it is possible to have a real 'live like a Parisian' experience whilst staying here. The 6th arrondissement is probably my preferred area to stay in Paris.
1st arrondissement (Right Bank)
On my most recent visit to Paris my husband and I were travelling with my parents so my choice of accommodation location was based on having easy access to the Hop On Hop Off bus. It was my parents first visit to Paris and we'd decided the Hop On Hop Off bus was the best way to sightsee as Mum has had two knee replacements and can't walk long distances.
The Palais Royal apartment we booked in the 1st arr. was perfect as it was a leisurely 10 minute stroll to Avenue de l'Opera where we could catch the sightseeing bus. Pyramides was our closest metro station and the area had plenty of supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. For those happy to walk, the Louvre, Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde and the Palais Royal can all be easily reached by foot.
Rating: Excellent location. Accommodation prices are higher but if your budget stretches to allow for it, the 1st is a great district to stay in. This is the closest of the three to the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe (if you're up for it, you could walk), and is a lively, central area to stay in. I'd be happy to stay in the 1st arrondissement again.
17th arrondissement (Right Bank)
Towards the end of our 2014 European holiday, we visited Paris whilst my husband attended a conference. The hotel the conference organisers had booked us into was the Le Meridien Etoile in the 17th arrondissement. Perhaps a little less touristy than the 1st and 6th arrondissements, the 17th was still a good location.
It was a 15 minute ride from the nearest Metro station, Porte Maillot, to Hotel de Ville and a 30 minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe. With the Paris Convention Centre and Palais Congress shopping centre located in the 17th, there were plenty of supermarket and restaurant options.
The 17th is located on the north west side of Paris which meant getting out of the city to drive to Normandy was a breeze!
Rating: The 17th is a good location if you do plan on heading to the north of France after your stay in Paris. It’s not as central as arrondissements 1 to 8 but the Metro makes it easy to reach all parts of Paris.
Each time I've visited Paris and walked or bussed down Avenue Kleber from the Arc de Triomphe towards Trocadero, a certain hotel has caught my eye. The Baltimore Hotel Paris fits my description of a true Parisian hotel to perfection so who knows, next time I head to Paris I might just find myself spending a night or two there. Update: In July 2014 I finally did stay at the Baltimore Hotel. You can read my review here >>
If you'd like to know which hotels and apartments I have stayed at and recommend in Paris, you can read my review here >>
Over to you - where do you choose to stay when visiting Paris?
This week I'm linking up with Chasing the Donkey for #Sunday Traveler. Check out Chasing the Donkey's article on the Highlights of Zagreb.