Renting a furnished apartment has become a popular alternative to staying in Parisian hotels.
The two obvious benefits are cost and space – a typical furnished apartment that sleeps four is often less than half the price of its hotel equivalent. And Paris might offer some of the best dining options in the western world, but visitors staying for more than a few days will appreciate having a fully-equipped kitchen to prepare and eat all of those delectable fresh food market purchases. For families, it’s a great way to accommodate finicky toddler taste buds and the need to heat or refrigerate baby formula.
Another benefit is that visitors get to find out what it feels like to live like a Parisian. You’ll start referring to “your” local butcher, café and florist. After a week in the same apartment, you may even get a kind “bonjour” from your French neighbors. Or they might ignore you, which would be a more authentic Parisian experience. 😉
There are no shortage of agencies and individuals offering furnished rentals. The best ones have websites with photos and detailed descriptions of the properties and their amenities. If you’re planning on doing some serious cooking, you may prefer a kitchen with a full-sized fridge, gas burners and an oven, while others may be content with the (more typical) electric burner and mini-fridge kitchenette.
Anyone over six feet tall may also want to ask about the exact size of the beds and the shower. Location is a tricky topic. The 1st through 8th arrondissements are considered “central” Paris, but it’s more important to be near a good metro line. Try and find out the exact distance to the nearest station, or use an online map service such as http://www.mappy.fr to see for yourself.
Agencies have a larger selection of properties, more flexibility, and may offer extra services such as babysitting, airport pick-up, and cell phone rental. Avoid agencies charging hidden costs such as reservation or membership fees and penalties for weekend check-ins. The majority of reputable agencies include the linens, towels, electricity and water in the price of the rental (international telephone calls are often included because many Parisians are using web-based phone lines now). Also find out in advance if you have to go pick up the keys and drop them off at the agency or if will someone meet you at the apartment.
Renting directly through the owner of a furnished apartment can be more risky (read here about avoiding vacation rental scams), but this is usually compensated by the lower prices. Take the minimal cautions of asking for proof of ownership (such as a recent bill) and photo ID before handing over your deposit or cash payment (using a bank transfer or PayPal payment is easier to trace than agencies like Western Union).
Finally, whether you choose an agency or book directly with the owner, be sure to find out in advance if there’s a 24-hour emergency number or a local contact person you can call in the case of a plumbing problem or a lost key. This is especially important if you’re renting from an owner who’s going on vacation during your stay. Parisian homes usually have their own little European idiosyncrasies that you’d never find in a hotel, so it also helps to get a full tour when checking in unless you want to spend the first hour trying to figure out how to unlock the door!
Where to Find a Furnished Rental
To find furnished rentals advertised directly by the owners look on AngloInfo Paris and in the FUSAC. Expatriates.com has ads in its Housing section that are usually from the owners (also exchanges and sublets). The website of the Paris Tourism Office lists a few dozen reputable agencies specializing in furnished rentals searchable by location, size, or budget.
ParisSharing is an agency that specializes in placing visitors with locals in Bed & Breakfasts or furnished rental accommodations. There are many agencies in Paris that do this, but I really liked the community focus of ParisSharing. And now all Secrets of Paris tour clients get a special discount and welcome gifts when booking with ParisSharing. Read more about it at the end of my interview with the company’s founder, the American expat Carsten Sprotte.
For those of you who want to feel like a local, I also highly recommend the award-winning Responsible Travel company, Untours (Tel +1 888-868-6871) which arranges flights and two-week stays in Parisian apartments.
Feels Like Home in Paris (www.feelslikehomeinparis.com) is an agency I can personally vouch for. In addition to a number of high-quality and luxury furnished apartments in Paris (€550-€2000/week), they also offer travel services such as guided tours, cooking classes, and and wine tasting.
RothRay (www.rothray.com) has been around for awhile; they own and exclusively manage ten quality properties in central Paris, mostmy the Marais, with a minimum 7-night stay.
Paristay (www.paristay.com) is one of the sites that I’ve personally used for short-term, furnished rentals in Paris. It’s pretty clear what you’re getting, with less of the “fluff” you see on sites aimed at tourists.
Rendez-vous à Paris (www.rendez-vousaparis.com) has a handful of carefully-chosen properties in prime central Parisian locations at €100-€400 per night).
Ah! Paris (www.ahparis.com) lists a large selection of rentals with reasonable all-inclusive per night rates (€80-€280 per night) without additional commissions or fees.
Haven in Paris (www.haveninparis.com) has furnished luxury vacation rentals or corporate apartment and villa rentals in Paris, Provence & Tuscany.
Paris Perfect (www.parisperfect.com) offers luxury Paris apartment rentals with central locations, Eiffel Tower views, balconies, etc. for up to 8 guests.