There are over 1500 hotels in Paris from budget dives to luxury palaces. So how do you choose? There are four main considerations when choosing a hotel in Paris: location, price, comfort, and style.
- How central do you need to be?
Anything within the city limits is accessible by Métro, tramway, and bus, so you should be able to get anywhere in Paris in 30-40 minutes under regular conditions.
But if you don’t like to take public transportation, or plan on returning often to the hotel throughout the day, it’s best to remain within the center: you can’t go wrong with the 1st to 4th arrondissement on the Right Bank and Islands, or the upper end of the 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondissements on the Left Bank. The 8th arrondissement is best if you’re close to line 1 metro (or plan on taking taxis everywhere). But don’t choose by district number alone. You can often find hotels on the edges of the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th arrondissements that are still accessible to the major sights on foot.
The further you are from the exact center (which is Ile de la Cité), the less expensive and less touristy your neighborhood will be (Montmartre in the 18th being the exception). There are many excellent hotels in interesting residential neighborhoods in the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th arrondissement. In this case, it’s important to know exactly how close the nearest Métro station is (less than two blocks is ideal), and whether it’s on one of the main lines like 1, 4, 7, or 14 (to avoid multiple changes to get to the center).
I usually don’t recommend staying in Montmartre unless you’re such a fan you plan on spending most of your time there. Most of its sights can be visited in one day, so it’s easier to visit it from the center than to use it as a base to get to the rest of Paris (there’s only one metro station on the Butte Montmartre, and it’s a steep walk late at night after a bottle of red if you’re staying right next to it).
As a rule, the shorter your stay, the less time you’ll want to spend getting to and from your hotel (or rented apartment), so stay more central. For longer stays, save money and get to know the real Parisian atmosphere by staying outside the hyper-center.
- What about the suburbs?
If you’re coming to Paris to visit Paris, then stay in Paris. Or at least close enough to Paris that you can still take the metro (which has been creeping further out into the suburbs each year). Otherwise, with the possible exception of late-July/early-August when many Parisians go on vacation, if you’re thinking of taking the RER into Paris each day you’d be traveling with over a million (rather grumpy) commuters who are in no mood to translate the message that just came over the loudspeaker announcing a(nother) service interruption that could last for hours. If you’re going to spend more than one day at Disneyland, or exploring Versailles, Giverny and Normandy, or heading out to the Loire Valley, or the Champagne region, then it could be a great idea to book a night or more outside Paris, where the prices are much lower.
- What style of neighborhood do you prefer?
Winding medieval streets and bustling markets? Wide, tree-lined boulevards and towering monuments? Elegant residential districts and fashionable art galleries?
Each neighborhood has its own style and atmosphere. Some people like to visit the Latin Quarter, but prefer to sleep somewhere a bit quieter. You might prefer to be on a busy market street with noisy stall vendors and street musicians, or in a grand hotel where you can see the Eiffel Tower or Opéra Garnier from your window.
Do you prefer to be closer to major monuments, parks with play areas for kids, or the banks of the Seine where you can go running each morning? Do you need your hotel to be on a market street with lots of cafés, bakeries, food shops, and laundromats? Do you imagine cobblestones, narrow Medieval streets, and exposed wooden beams on your hotel ceiling? Or do you see haute couture boutiques, Art Deco apartment buildings, and Parisians who look like they just walked out of the pages of Vogue?
As a rule, the west side of Paris — on both sides of the Seine — is where you’ll find affluent residential neighborhoods, high-end shops, foreign embassies, large museums, majestic monuments, Michelin-starred restaurants with valet parking, government ministry buildings, lots of green spaces, office buildings, and wide tree-lined streets where parking is easier. You’ll find a few notable exceptions (like Rue Cler in the 7th, the bulk of the 15th arrondissement, Rue de Passy or Rue d’Auteuil in the 16th, or the Ternes or Batignolles districts of the 17th) where there’s enough of a residential community to support a lively market street. With Google Maps “street view” you can easily look at what’s on the streets around any given hotel. If there are only residential buildings or offices with no or few shops or cafés, then it will be quiet, but may also feel “too quiet” if everything shuts down by 7pm or the nearest bakery is three blocks away. This part of Paris is the part of the city that “evacuates” for the summer, from mid-July through mid-August. Of course, if you’re staying in a palace hotel with a bar, restaurant, and all of the amenities and services you need on-site, then that might not be an issue.
The east side of Paris tends to be more affordable, and therefore the last bastion of students, artists, and recent immigrants within the city limits. This includes parts of the Latin Quarter and the 13th on the Left Bank, the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th arrondissements on the Right Bank. You’ll find the student dive bars, the quirky boutiques, old bookstores, lots of affordable food options, cool street art, and more casually dressed Parisians and bobos (hipsters). Not much closes here in the summer, as this is also where most of the service industry workers live, the people who keep the hotels, museums, restaurants, public transport, and larger shops open for the tourists while everyone else in Paris is on vacation.
In the center — especially St-Germain-des-Prés and Le Marais, but also Montmartre — you get the mix of the two: authentic Parisian history with cobblestones and casual cafés, but also luxury boutiques and exhorbitant prices. If you score a budget hotel room in these districts count yourself lucky, since almost all of the ones that were still around in 2010 have been renovated and tripled their prices.
If you plan on going out every night past the closing of the Métro (12:45am, or 1:45 on Friday and Saturday), then you may want to choose a hotel close to your preferred nightlife area (ie Champs-Elysées, Marais, Grands Boulevards, Oberkampf).
Accommodation is usually the biggest expense when traveling to Paris, but there are still a few hotels, hostels, and even B&Bs for every budget. If you’re really tight on cash, try home exchange or couch surfing through specialized websites (although there isn’t a huge demand for house-sitters or pet-sitters outside of expat communities in Paris).
- (Very) General price guidelines for Paris
No matter what price you pay, everyone wants to know they’re getting the most for their money. Based on my own research over the years, this is my rough estimate of what gets what in a particular price range (in an “average” neighborhood):
€25-45 can get you a bed in a youth hostel with a shared bathroom.
€55-75 can get you a private room with a bed and a sink, and shared bathrooms in the hall.
€75-150 can get you a double room with a private bathroom (usually with a shower), TV, Wifi, and a safe. In the center, it will be a bit of a dive with outdated decor and zero services. In the outer arrondissements, it could be a more stylish budget hotel.
€150-250 can get you a double room with bathroom (shower or bathtub), TV with international channels, WiFi, nicer decor, coofee/tea maker, safe, and a decent breakfast buffet and comfortable public spaces with business or fitness room. You can often find “family rooms” in budget hotels in this range that sleep three or four adults. This is the trickiest price range, where you may or may not have A/C, elevator, coffee/tea maker in your room. A lot of “budget boutique” hotels are in this price range and could be stylish but small, or minimalist but trendy (ie: no TVs in the room, but a rooftop bar). This is also where you’ll find a lot of the chain hotels like Ibis and Novotel are priced.
€250-400 is the range where you can start finding some of the nicest boutique hotel rooms, and even some luxury hotel rooms off-season. You’ll have more space and amenities in the room (A/C, bathrobes and slippers, room service, movies-on-demand), as well as public spaces like a fitness center, business center, possibly a restaurant, concierge services, and little extras like a garden courtyard, rental bikes, or hotel boutique.
€400-800 is the “average luxury hotel” standard in Paris as of 2021; it will get you the best rooms and suites in smaller boutique hotels and the smallest room off-season in 5-star hotels. At this price range you can really shop around for the neighborhood and style and amenities you want, whether it’s a swimming pool, king-sized bed, a trendy restaurant, personal concierge services, or the best private balcony views over Paris…although you probably won’t get all of the above at this price level in the center of Paris.
€800-1200 You can pretty much get it all at this price level: space, service, luxury, and style. Of course, if you have this much to spend, you’re probably not on this website looking for tips (although maybe your personal assistant is). If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime splurge with an unexpected windfall, this price range should tick all of the boxes. You’ll be able to get a decent room in one of the city’s palace hotels, for sure, or maybe just rent out an entire floor with connecting rooms for your family in your favorite boutique hotel.
€1200+ Why yes, there’s more! There’s always more. There are “penthouse suites” in some of Paris’s palace hotels that go for €25,000 per night (with their own dining room, kitchen, and separate entrance for the staff, etc). These aren’t the kinds of rooms listed on booking websites; you’re more likely to see them featured in glossy lifestyle magazines or TV shows (remember Carrie’s room at the Plaza Athénée in the Sex and the City episodes in Paris?) If you’re staying in one of the “regular” rooms in a palace hotel, don’t be shy about asking for a tour of their luxury suites if they’re unoccupied. 😉
Obviously there are huge exceptions, but I hope these guidelines will keep you from overpaying for a mediocre hotel (happens a lot to first-time visitors) or from expecting too much for what you’ve paid.
- Aim high and look for discounts
Aim a bit higher than you can pay when looking for hotels. There’s almost always a good promotional offer on the hotel’s own web site or on various discount booking sites.
For example, the best room in a comfortable hotel may cost the same as the smallest room at a palace hotel (and trust me, if you booked a cheap room at a pricey palace, they’ll put you in the broom closet — albeit a broom closet with Louis XV doorknobs). Up to you to decide if you’re more interested in the room itself or the grandeur of the hotel. See more about getting the best price in the Booking and Reservations article.
- Extras that aren’t included in the room rate
Breakfast, parking, and extra/fold-out beds usually cost extra in French hotels. Airport shuttles always cost extra because hotels don’t have their own shuttles. Most hotels include access to the fitness center and Wifi in their price, but charge for pool use or business center access. Always check before splurging. And — most people already know this by now — the minibar is never free unless there’s a sign expressly saying it is!
One person’s “quaint and charming” is another person’s “old and shabby”. Can you stand “busy” wallpaper? Do you like contemporary minimalism? Do you prefer hotels where every room is the same? Do you hate carpet, modern art, or anything gilded? Is it more important to have an authentic Parisian feel or modern comforts? Do you want a big conference hotel with a huge staff, or a tiny boutique or family-run hotel with fewer than 25 rooms? Do you want a dedicated concierge and staff available to answer questions or bring you extra pillows? Or is it okay if there’s only one person on staff after 7pm for the entire hotel?
Knowing what floats your boat will help you choose the type of hotel that fits your style. And there’s something for everyone in this city, even American-style chain hotels like Hilton and Sofitel.
First time in Paris? Read Heather’s articles: