Updated: January 17, 2017
Where Should I Stay in Paris?
Paris is one of the easiest cities to get around, even for first timers. Visitors love the fact that most of the city is walkable or easily connected by a comprehensive and reliable metro system. Taxis are readily available and there is even a vast network of public bikes you can use.
Paris is divided broadly as the Right Bank and Left Bank (north of the River Seine and south of the river, respectively) and further subdivided into 20 districts or arrondisements. Districts are given numbers and, starting from just north of the Seine, swirl out clockwise. This means that the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondisements are the most central with the higher numbers being further out and typically more residential. When navigating, most people will refer to the arrondisement and/or more specifically the closest metro stop. Street names are almost irrelevant as the majority of them are only a few blocks long or, most confusingly, will change names once you cross into another district.
Most activity and tourist sights are in the center, which are highly safe and walkable neighborhoods that include the most notable restaurants, shopping, and landmarks. Probably the most popular neighborhoods are the Marais on the right bank (in the 4th) and Saint-Germain on the left bank (in the 6th). Generally speaking most people associate the Left Bank with classic architecture and Hemingway haunts while the Right Bank tends to be hip and trendy.
Paris areas not reachable by foot can easily be accessed by metro. Each metro ride requires one ticket (regardless of distance) that costs €1.80 and you can purchase them from machines found in every station. The machines take either cash or a chipped credit card, have an English language function and give you the option to buy a book of 10 tickets for €14.10 (called a carnet) which gives you a small discount and useful if you plan on taking the metro often. The metro trains are extremely reliable and every station even has a real time display telling you how many minutes until the next one arrives. The 16 Paris metro lines cover all parts of the city and is usually the fastest way to get around to avoid traffic.
The Best Places to Stay in Paris
- Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: 11th Arrondisement
The best neighborhood for foodies is the 11th. Located just outside the central arrondisements and with cheaper rents, many of the city’s up and coming chefs have set up shop in this area. Generally catering to a local crowd, prices are relatively more affordable in the 11th where the focus is on relaxed eateries with excellent food vs. stuffy haute cuisine. You’ll find everything here from newly minted Michelin star establishments to the most trend setting chefs to hip natural wine bars.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood: Montmartre
Up in the hills of Montmartre, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. This neighborhood offers breathtaking views while retaining a quaint, village like charm. Wander around cobble stone streets or climb up its many picturesque hills and staircases in an area far from the tourist throng. Stroll past ivy-covered townhouses or the vines of Paris’ only winery. Have a picnic on the steps of the Sacre Couer and you’re in for one of the most magical views in Paris.
- Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Marais
Paris has lots of options for nightlife, it’s just a matter of what you’re in the mood for. For great bar-hopping, head over to the Marais. Here you’ll find a diverse mix of everything from secret speakeasies to chic cocktail lounges filled with trendy Parisians. For something a little more lively, the area around Pigalle offers cabarets shows like the Moulin Rouge, concert halls with bands every night and neighborhood dive bars that bring in a roster of DJs. If you’re willing to trek out to the 13th you’ll have the most unique array of options. From the massive complex that houses Nuba and Wanderlust to the small docked boats that have been transformed into intimate concert and dance spaces, you’ll find only locals frequenting these riverside hangouts.
- Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: 1st Arrondisement
For people who plan to do a lot of sightseeing, stay in the 1st. Many of Paris’s most famous landmarks are in this distric and you’ll be well positioned to see many others. In the 1st arrondisement alone you can visit the Louvre, the beautiful stained glasswork of Sainte-Chapelle, stroll through the Tuileries Garden, or a glass of wine at one of the quaint cafes lining the garden of the Palais Royale. The Place Vendome, the beautiful plaza where Coco Chanel used to live, is also home to the newly renovated Ritz Carlton where you can have a drink at the Hemmingway Bar. You’re also within easy walking distance of Notre Dame Cathedral, the Centre Pompidou, Champs Elysees, and just across the river from the Musee D’Orsay and Saint Germain. You will have to take the metro to the Eiffel Tower, but the 1st is well connected by metro and the station Chatelet is one of the biggest hubs, serving 5 different metro lines and the train that goes out to Disneyland.
- Best Neighborhood for a Local Vibe: 11th Arrondisement
The 11th arrondisement captures the spirit of how most Parisians really live. Away from the more glamorous neighborhoods like Saint Germain and the Marais, you’ll find informal bistros, fashionable cafes, hip boutiques and galleries, and lots of local nightlife. The 11th is a blend of younger Parisians near Oberkampf, artists in Belleville, families on the eastern outskirts, as well as an amalgam of the Vietnamese, North African, and Middle Eastern diaspora that calls Paris home.
- Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timer: 7th Arrondisement
The 7th arrondisement is the perfect place to stay for first time visitors. Home to the Eiffel Tower, notable museums like the Musée d’Orsay, world class restaurants, some of the most beautiful architecture in the city and the charming market street Rue Cler, you’ll experience what most people think of when they envision Paris. You’ll also have the benefit of being away from some of the hustle and bustle in neighboring Saint Germain while being close enough to take advantage of its wine bars and jazz clubs.
- Best for Families: Saint Germain
Most districts in Paris are great for families but a few stand out. Depending on the age of your children, Saint Germain near the Luxembourg Gardens, the Marais near Places des Vosges, and the 1st near the Tuilleries are all highly central with great playgrounds. All are walkable with access to shops, sites, and restaurants. The 5th, though not as connected by metro but still very central might be another district to consider. You’ll still have access to all the amenities, plus a quieter, village like feel. Family friendly highlights include the Natural History Museum and the botanical garden known as Jardin des Plantes. If your kids are a little older, then you’ll definitely want to stay in the Marais. With all the trendy boutiques, galleries, and cafés, it’s great for young adults but still offers lots of cultural activities like the Centre Pompidou.
- Best Neighborhood for Shopping: Marais
There is something for everyone in the Marais. From chic boutiques filled with local Parisian designers, French chains like APC, international brands like American Apparel, or more upscale shopping, the Marais caters to both men and women at almost every price point. While most tourists head to the Galeries Lafayette, stylish Parisians prefer to shop at BHV (short for Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville). You can find nearly everything under one roof – from tools in their hardware department to the latest Marc Jacobs to an outpost of the Alain Ducasse cooking school. Tourists also get an immediate 10% off when you show a foreign passport.
- Unsafe Areas of Paris
Paris is quite safe and generally speaking the majority of crime that happens is of the pickpocketing variety. There are a few areas that might appear unsafe, especially late at night, and are worth mentioning if you’re not familiar with the city. Certain neighborhoods like Goutte D’or or the areas around the metro stops Barbes Rouchechouart and Chateau Rouge can be unwelcoming at night. Same for the area around Gare du Nord train station – though bustling during the day it can attract an unsavory element after hours. In recent years, there are a few areas of Paris that have become makeshift refugee camps. Though not unsafe, it may appear so and give some people pause. Several sites have sprung up around the city, but a few larger encampments are around the metro Stalingrad, a section near the Colonel Fabian metro station and the Halle Pujol market area in the 18th.
The Best Neighborhoods in Paris for Tourists
Saint Germain retains the timeless charm of the Left Bank while buzzing with a lively array of galleries, restaurants and jazz clubs. From the upscale shops that dot the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain to the aristocratic calm of the Jardin du Luxembourg, this quartier is popular with locals and tourists alike. This neighborhood typically attracts a well-heeled crowd who come seeking only the biggest names in food and fashion. Though at times the area may feel overrun with tourists, the biggest advantage is that you’ll find many shops and restaurants open while other areas of the city lay quiet.
One of the trendiest neighborhoods in Paris, the Marais is defined by the hip Parisians who come to eat, drink, and shop in this uber cool quartier. Though the tone of the neighborhood slants towards a younger set, the Marais’s diversity offers something for everyone – from its famed Jewish quarter to the historic Place des Vosges – for visitors who’ve checked off their sightseeing list, the Marais is the perfect place to understand Paris outside of the guidebooks.
The Latin Quarter is great for those who want a central location with classic Parisian charm while seeking something a little quieter. Find somewhere away from the student hangouts for which the area is typically associated with and you’ll find yourself strolling down cobblestone streets, through leafy squares, and taking in some of the most diverse architecture in the city which includes Roman ruins, gothic spires and the innovative Institut du Monde Arabe. Great restaurants and wine bars abound in this part of the city as well as the lively market street Rue Mouffetard.
The 7th has everything you think of when you think of Paris – the Eifel Tower, the Seine, excellent museums, breathtaking architecture, charming markets, high-end shopping, and world class restaurants. Its diversity and versatility make it a popular choice for everyone, whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation. Visit the family friendly Berges de Seines and you’ll have a riverfront play area that stretches from the Musee D’Orsay to the Pont D’Alma. Or at night, take a romantic stroll near the Pont Alexander III bridge, one of the most beautiful Beaux-Arts bridges in Paris where you’ll also have a view of the Grand Palais just on the other side of the Seine. Be sure to stay near the street Rue Cler, a charming market street that has a village like feel and gives you a small slice of Parisian life.
Tourist who want a more local vibe should visit South Pigalle. Just south of the former red light district, the city’s most up-and-coming destination offers quiet tree-lined streets dotted with fashionable boutiques, cafes, and a thriving restaurant and bar scene. A few tucked away boutique hotels have popped up in recent years, allowing tourists to take advantage of its proximity to the hills of Montmartre and nearby Sacre Coeur.
Montmartre’s village like charm and breathtaking views are the biggest reasons to stay in this part of Paris. Though it’s a bit far from the other main attractions, you can easily reach the rest of the city by metro or explore this neighborhood’s unique history. Away from the touristy spots such as the Sacre Couer, Moulin Rouge, and Place du Tertre, you’ll find quiet cobblestone streets to wander with Avenue Junot having some of the most beautiful houses in Paris or Rue des Saules which climbs past the Vigne de Montmartre (Paris’s only vineyard). The street also connects the Montmartre hilltop with the Lamarck-Caulaincourt neighborhood with several stretches of stairs and its beauty was immortalized by artists such as Cezanne and Van Gogh.
The 1st arrondisement is a great base of exploration during any stay in Paris. You’re in the heart of Paris with many of the city’s sights within walking distance such as the Louvre, Tuileries Garden and Notre Dame Cathedral while the Musee D’Orsay and Saint Germain are just across the river. Combined with a fantastic dining scene including some of Paris’s best restaurants like Spring and Verjus, visitors have an abundance of activities to choose from both day and night.