Where to Stay in Paris - Local Guide to Paris Neighbourhoods
By Parisian resident Marie Vendroux, a student of tourism who loves nothing more than the joy of new friends, places to discover, flavours and adventures to be had! Edited by Jessica Wright
It’s been 10 years since I moved to Paris from where I was born and raised near Versailles, and in all that time in this dynamic and cosmopolitan city I’ve never been bored. When selecting where to stay in Paris there are so many enticing options, all with something special to offer. It helps a great deal that the city is so incredibly easy to traverse, being as it is so wonderfully walkable with a simple, user friendly metro system as well as readily available (and trustworthy) taxis and a paid bike system. All of Paris and the little suburbs within it have a special charm to them, so selecting a home base really comes down to budget and particular taste. I’ve distilled all my favourite areas into this comprehensive Paris neighborhoods guide in which I detail all the very best areas to stay in Paris and what visitors can expect from them.
Trendy, authentic and vibrant, with great shopping choices – particularly along rue de Charonne – Bastille offers a cheaper alternative to the coveted area of Marais. If you are wondering where to stay in Paris and are specifically seeking somewhere with lots of things to do at night this area is chock full of eateries, cafeś and bars. By day you can spend a few hours browsing the chic boutiques of rue de Charonne or take some peaceful time out in the green spaces of Coulée Verte and a stroll along the Promenade Plantée, while by night you explore the myriad quaint restaurants and bars. For a classy night out be sure to visit the Opéra Bastille where you will almost certainly be rewarded with a favoured classic. Of course the area gained its name from the fortress, whose attack by Parisian rioters arguably sparked the French Revolution of the late 1700s, so it goes without saying that history buffs will find themselves quite at home here.
Le Marais is a must on any Paris neighborhoods guide and one of the best areas to stay in Paris especially for those with sightseeing on the agenda, or visitors seeking the Parisian romance of leafy suburbs and old mansions. On the right bank of the Seine across from the Notre Dame Cathedral Le Marais is ideally situated. In fact of all the Paris neighborhoods to stay in, the Marais is probably the most central of all, with several famous attractions such as the Centre Pompidou, Place des Vosges and the Picasso National Museum in its midst, as well as the hip suburb of Bastille to the right and a wealth of art history to the left. With stunningly pretty architecture housing some wonderful little bistros and cafeś, the suburb also offers shopping which can only be described as superbe. Between independently owned boutiques oozing french chic you will find luxury labels and little markets. The area has a wonderfully diverse cultural mix so that anyone will feel right at home.
If your Parisian travel dream involves less crowds and more French authenticity, Montparnasse might be a good fit for you. About 25 minutes by public transport out of the central bustle, in this suburb you will find only locals; locals shops, locally patronised restaurants and some beautiful parks such as Montsouris which is not in the least bit touristy and happens to be an excellent spot for a summer picnic. Of course I might be biased because this suburb happens to be my home, but I find Montparnasse to be the quintessential experience of Paris living – without any of the over-publicised Parisian experiences. The neighbourhood offers a few quirky and unusual things to do such as ice-skating atop the Montparnasse tower with a beautiful view of a wintery Paris scene below and the food market on Sunday at Pernety metro station, where you simply must not skip the crêpe libanese! While the suburb might be underrated in travel guides, the area’s more famous residents – Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Modigliani being just a few – might convince you of its strong cultural appeal.
It really doesn’t get more French than Montmartre, or “Old Paris”; all the charm of a small village, but with the added grit of the seedier areas around Pigalle. If your Parisian imaginings look like something out of Amélie, this is the right place for you because it happens to be where the movie was shot. The streets of Montmartre offer a slightly offbeat experience, with tiny retro stores nestled between apartment buildings covered in ivy and multi-coloured houses. The hilly terrain of the area lends a charming feel to the place, with an exceptional view from the highest point; the Sacré-Cœur Basilica which perches atop the highest hill and offers a breathtaking view of the city. Shopping opportunities include some interesting textile shops, as well as a few touristy spots near the Basilica and of course the sex shops of the red-light district. That’s right, if the enchantment of the hilly, village-like suburb wears off and begins to feel a bit vanilla for you, there are always the streets near Pigalle to keep you on edge. Perhaps a bit rough around the edges, here you can hope to experience authentic French cabaret at Au Lapin Agile where, unlike the Moulin Rouge with its touristy can-can dancers, you are more likely to be graced by folk music and poetry.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés (St. Germain)
One of the best places to stay in Paris, close to everything and offering everything you might want from a Parisian suburb like trendy eateries, modern art galleries and quaint shopping experiences, St. Germain is also a lovely option for where to stay in Paris with kids. Among the neat and picturesque green spaces like the gorgeous Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes there are also a number of fun activities that appeal to kids of all ages like the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (the French National Museum of Natural History). Not only are all these attractions within walking distance of each other and other iconic attractions like Notre Dame they are exciting not only for the tinier components of the family but adults as well. Both the museum and the botanical gardens feature in this detailed day-long Parisian itinerary, great for a compact visit to the city, that begins right in the suburb of St. Germain. Being such a convenient point of departure for sightseeing this is a great option for where to stay in Paris for the first time as well as one of the best neighbourhoods in Paris for travellers with children. If this happens to be you, here’s a list of exciting kid-friendly activities in Paris.
Charming with its little cafeś and cobbled streets, rich historical and cultural diversity, the city of love is simply swoon-worthy to the romantics of the world, but along with this depth of old-world magic the city is also in possession of a distinctly trendy and cosmopolitan edge. In the neighbourhood of Canal Saint-Martin this cosmopolitan flair is vibrantly discernable. With a hipster, artsy vibe the area is appealing for a slightly younger, more hip crowd wanting to stay somewhere where there are lots of things to do at night. From République up to Stalingrad the neighbourhood of Canal Saint-Martin is a foodie jackpot with wine and cheese stores, cafeś toting craft coffee and a plethora of little eateries offering both French and global cuisine. A neo-bohemian dream, the canal itself provides an attraction by day and night, with many of these eateries along its length as well as a few options for a summery beer that can easily take you well into the evening. For some delightful evening exploits here’s a guide to the nightlife revelry Paris has to offer.