Paris, the city of light and the land of love, is beyond magnificent. Staying in Paris is an excellent choice. If you haven’t been to Paris before and are thinking of traveling to France, know that it is a must-see. (At least once!) The city life isn’t for everyone, but there is absolutely plenty to amaze you for at least a week. When I mention city life what I’m saying is please keep in mind that Paris is a MAJOR CITY where 2.2 million people live and work so don’t take the movie/fairytale version to literally. When I first stepped out of the airport at CDG and the air pollution and honking of cars filled my senses I remember being so shocked, like, where was my horse and golden carriage filled with éclairs? Where are the mimes and musicians and pink clouds? Of course, I was quickly impressed once I got into the heart of the city.
Into the city: Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements (districts) and 6,000 streets! You will most likely do all your navigation by foot, metro, and train easily traveling between arrondissements and walking many of these streets. The 1st is at the heart of the city and the rest spiral out in a clockwise pattern. Staying in the right districts will make all the difference in your trip! I always stay in two neighborhoods during my trips to Paris to really explore the area. NEVER stay outside of these districts, the hotels may be cheaper but you will be far from everything and will make up for it in transportation costs and the suburbs can be very dangerous. Each district has it’s own personality and they differ in cost, crowds, and things to see. Let’s go over each district and touch on the best ones to stay in.
1st: The 1st is a dream for luxury hotels and homes and contains the Musée du Louvre, Tuileries, Pont des Art, Place de Vendôme, and the Rue de Rivoli. I think that it is lovely to walk through when visiting these places, but it’s not a neighborhood I would pick to stay in mainly for it’s price.
2nd: This is the smallest district and has many cafes and shops to offer. The Place des Victoires is located here which is a circular plaza featuring a statue of King Louis XIV and 17th century architecture. It is one of the oldest royal squares in the city. Again, a lovely neighborhood but I wouldn’t stay here either as it is a textile industry district and the workers are up and working EARLY.
3rd/4th: This district is known as the Marais District and is one of my FAVORITES! There are so many fun and quirky shops and many of them stay open on Sundays when shops in other districts are closed. The LGBT community is prominent here as well as the Jewish community (hello amazing bagels!) You can find attractions like the Centre Pompidou, Hotel de Ville, and Musée Picasso. You’ll get good hotel prices staying near République and Place de La Bastille.
Hotel I stayed in: Hotel Original
Hotel Original This hotel was amazing and the perfect place to rest my tired self on the last two days of my trip. If you’re going to splurge, always do it at the end of your trip after you’ve walked countless miles every day. The first night you will be so exhausted from travel and time change that you’ll pass out anywhere. I stayed in the Gold Room which had cool jelly fish lighting and a balcony (as well as AC, robes, closet space, a tub, a separate room for the toilet, tv, free wifi, an Honesty bar, room service, and more). I know they have other cool rooms as well as an Alice in Wonderland themed room. I got a rate of just $117 US a night and was more than happy there.
Places I ate:
Il Seguito– (Italian) I had the Pasta Al Pesto which was good but I suggest their Affogato de Limoncello for desert.
Café Hugo on Place des Vosges, this is a nice little café that pays homage to the author of Les Miserables. Here, I sat outside and had their breakfast that consisted of a hot drink, choice of bakery, and fresh squeezed orange juice for about €7.50
Suzy Crepes Café
Suzy’s has the most extravagant crepe menu I have ever seen. My boyfriend and I got the Iceberg and the Pomme. They were amazing!!
- Metro Breguet-Sabin will take you to RER B for the CDG airport! (Read the airlines list on the RER to see if you are stop CDG 1 or CDG 2)
- Metro Bastille is a 3 min ride to Gare d’Austerlitz RER which will bring you to Versailles
- Easy walking distance or metro to the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, etc
5th- This district is known as The Latin Quarter and is home to universities and prestigious schools as well as the Pantheon and Jardin des Plantes.
6th- The Saint-Germain district. It is close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre Dame, and the Musée d’Orsay. I think it is an interesting and great neighborhood to both visit and stay in and not far from anything you want to see.
Where I’ve Stayed: Best Western Villa Des Artists. Clean and comfortable, would stay here again.
7th- Where you’ll find the Eiffel Tower. Gorgeous and luxurious of course, but do not stay in this district just to see the Eiffel Tower! You can see it anywhere from the city. This is mostly a residential area (Karl Lagerfeld lives here!) Read Eiffel tower tips HERE
8th- Champs-Elysees, where the picture perfect Parisian comes from! This is a super expensive area where you can find Chanel and Louis Vuitton. This is a really touristy area and great to stroll through but I wouldn’t stay here, it’s like the Times Square of Paris.
9th & 10th- The 9th is home to the Opera and the Galeries Lafayette department store while the 10th has Gare du Nord (a useful and attractive train station). These are larger districts that are spread out north of the 2nd and 3rd and can be hit or miss. I suggest staying where you know at night because there are definitely some sketchy areas to be wary of.
Where I’ve Stayed: A La Villa Saint-Martin (close to Gare du Nord/no complaints)
11th Oberkampf- I would describe this area as trendy, but it’s a little removed and not the best for first-timers unless you’re bordering the 3rd. However, this is the place to be if you love the night life as there are many cool bars and clubs here. Be sure to have a moment for all the lives lost during the terrorist attacks of November 2015 as they happened in this district at the Bataclan, the Carillon bar, and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant.
12th Bastille- This is a very affordable neighborhood to stay in and has many metros to get to all the destinations on your list. This is a good area for hostels if that’s your preferred accommodation.
13th, 14th, 15th- These districts span the whole southern stretch of the 20 districts from one side of the Siene to the other. The 13th is home to Chinatown (the largest in Europe). In the 14th you can visit the ever creepy Catacombs where 6 million Parisians are buried under the streets of Paris. The Montparnasse Tower is in the 15th is directly south of the Eiffel Tower, this is where you’ll want to go to get a spectacular view of Paris because duh, the Eiffel Tower will be in it! I really like staying in the 15th where it borders the 7th.
Where I’ve Stayed: Hotel Arcadie: (Right by Gare Montparnasse) I liked this area just fine but I did NOT like this hotel. They have been under construction for some time with all windows leading to the center of the building where construction is taking place. It is noisy, smells horribly of paint made only worse if you open the window, and there is no AC or ventilation. I luckily only stayed here the first night of my trip otherwise I would have had to make other arrangements.
Where I ate: Indiana Café Montparnasse– I got the Italian Burger here while my boyfriend got chicken curry. It was good but not somewhere I would go back to again and again.
16th, 17th, 18th- I’ll make this easy: 16th SAFE, 17th NEUTRAL, 18th (Montmarte) BE VERY CAREFUL. There are some streets in Montmarte that are great but the rest are full of sex shops, prostitutes, and stranger danger. I got lost here after midnight during my first trip to Paris and it is an experience I will never forget! I avoid this area all together now but by all means, google map the good parts in advance and head over during the day.
19th & 20th (Belleville)- This is where you want to go for some amazing ethnic food. Don’t limit yourself to only the French food during your trip. Paris has some of the most amazing ethnic food you will ever have! There aren’t as many sites here and it is quite the distance from the Eiffel Tower but it’s absolutely worth a visit if you are re-visiting Paris.
- Try not to come June-August. It will be too hot to walk around anyways, trust me. I have gone in early May, early September, and late September with no complaints.
- Check French holidays and school vacations! I recently went for the first week in May and ran into 3 holidays and a school vacation. Tourism is sadly down from the recent attacks, but if it was a year ago, I’m sure all the lines and planning would have been horrendous!
- ALWAYS use your manners. This is huge. The French have this reputation for being rude and I honestly can’t see why. I can only imagine it happens when people act ignorant to them and don’t get the treatment they feel entitled to. Remember, these people are trying to live, work, be with their families, go for a run, DON’T jump out at them asking for a picture or anything else ignorant. ALWAYS attempt to speak even a little French. It is easy to say Bonjour Madame/Bonjour Monsieur and then with a smile say Pardon, Je ne parle pas le français if you have to. If you’re in a store and they run off a fast sentence in French after saying hello, that’s good! You blend in! A simple smile and saying “I’m just looking!” is something they understand. (They are asking if you need help/are you shopping for something in particular).You want to make sure to say please and thank you (merci/si vous plait) and au revoir when you exit.
- ALWAYS use your common sense. You’re vacationing in the most magical and romantic place in the world but you are still a visitor in a foreign country in a major city! Read important safety tips here.
- Don’t plan your stay around any monuments. You will easily be able to get around the city to see whatever you like. Never stay by the airport for the sake of being close to the airport, it is far removed from where you want to be and the cost getting back and forth on the RER will outweigh what you’re saving for the room rate.
- If you plan on visiting many museums, buy a museum pass.
- Buy Metro tickets in books of 10, if you are staying in Paris for two days or longer, you will definitely use them.
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