Whether it’s your first trip or your seventh, the question of where to stay in Paris will be one of your most important ones. When you’re thinking about it, consider the nightlife, great shopping streets and accessibility – each neighbourhood is unique. To help you in your choice, we’ve compiled a guide for each cool area. From where to eat and what to see, here’s our rundown of the best places to stay in Paris.
Paris: where to stay
Manicured squares, leafy parks with bubbling fountains and traditional restaurants, if you’re after this kind of Parisian romance, you’re in the right place. Its name ironically translates as ‘the swamp’, and its colourful history resonates in an eclectic mix of independent art galleries, strong LGBT community, cool boutiques and aristocratic mansions. While the newest bars and clubs are opening towards the east (more space, cheaper) the Marais will always be high on the list of where to stay in Paris. Its vintage boulangeries and spectacular hôtels particuliers (grand townhouses) are the embodiment of Paris. Plus, its location is ideal. Comprising the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, the Marais sits across from Notre Dame, on the right bank of the Seine. You’ve got Hôtel de Ville, the Louvre and the Tuileries to your left; Bastille and its cool bars to the right. And if you don’t want to move around that much, there’s the new Musée Picasso, the splendid Place des Vosges and the Pompidou Centre not far away. Foodwise, head to crêpe and galette heaven Breizh Café, and revisited French cuisine in a lavish baroque flat at Derrière.
Nicknamed ‘So-Pi’, South Pigalle is to Paris what Peckham is to London: très, très trendy. Situated below the Moulin Rouge and sex shops of Pigalle, and around Saint-Georges, So-Pi is where you’ll find the latest thing. Be that concept hotels (Le Pigalle), fusion bistros (Buvette), or discreet cocktail bars (Lulu White’s). One of the few free museums in Paris, the Musée de la Vie Romantique is well worth a visit for its garden and rural charm. Rue des Martyrs is foodie paradise with chocolateries, boulangeries and countless cafés serving brunch. Get there early on Saturday or Sunday and dig in. So-Pi is known for its nightlife, and there are countless options for fun, from upmarket club Le Carmen, chic dive bar Le Glass and Dirty Dick – a tiki-themed rum paradise. Attractions are plain cool rather than historic, like Pigalle Duperré – a neon-coloured basketball court slotted in between two apartment buildings. With regular takeovers by brands like Nike, it’s the ultimate place to shoot hoops.
The pearly domes of the Sacré-Cœur, retro cafés with the menu du jour written on mirrors, apartment blocks smothered in ivy, artists painting in the street: Montmartre is possibly every first-timer’s idea of Paris. Its multicoloured houses, steep hills and old-school shops give it a village vibe which is enchanting. For sightseeing, you’ve got enough to fill several weekends. A walk around Montmartre Cemetery to see the resting places of luminaries including Degas and Zola; a trip to the secret(ish) vineyard; Musée de Montmartre, a seventeenth-century building with rose-laden gardens; and spot the locations from ‘Amelié’. For eats, shun the tourist traps and head to some of these: Coq Rico, Il Brigante and Soul Kitchen. For drinks, go chic at Bar le Très Particulier; Bar à Bulles has an intimate garden on top of the Moulin Rouge, and the Terras Hotel rooftop offers amazing views.
If a five-star experience is what you’re after, it has to be Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The hood where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir rubbed shoulders with Godard and Giacometti, this area was where important cultural movements thrived – from existentialism to jazz. The remnants of the Golden Age exist in Café de Flore (a fashion set favourite), independent bookshops and underground bars. Nightlife is concentrated on the Quartier Latin around the Sorbonne, with its student-filled bars, pubs and clubs. The Jardin du Luxembourg has palm trees and lakes, and is an ideal afternoon recuperation spot. Shops are designer here: everyone from Cartier to Sonia Rykiel has a base in Saint-Germain. Restaurants can be hit and miss, so seek out the institutions. Exquisite seafood at Fish La Boissonnerie, or Le Procope – Paris’s oldest restaurant. For authentic café culture and great people watching, not many areas beat Saint-Germain.
Winding up from République up to Stalingrad before it becomes the basin of La Villette, Canal Saint-Martin has gone from under-the-radar spot to Paris must-visit. From original restaurants and canteens serving world cuisine, to organic wine and cheese bars and craft coffee shops – it’s not hard to see why the canal is a hit with foodies. With quaint cobbled streets, and bicycle-friendly, this pocket of Paris is 100 percent suited to a slow pace of life. Whether you choose a canalside restaurant or buy a picnic to snack on by the water – eating, strolling and eating some more are perfectly reasonable pastimes here. You’re not far from Buttes-Chaumont, a lesser-known park with waterfalls, grottos and an Italian-style temple with great views. Citizen Hotel, Hotel du Nord, Ten Belles coffee shops, Bob’s Bake Shop, Chez Prune, Centre Commercial and Holybely are just some of unique things to do around Canal Saint-Martin. You can also rent a Vélib bike and cycle all the way up to La Villette and beyond.
With the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais and the city’s most famous shopping street, the Champs-Elysées might not make some people’s list of places to stay in Paris. However, it is certainly an iconic area. and a great base from which to explore loads of Paris on foot or by bike. Art fans have plenty to see with the Petit Palais, Musée Galleria and Palais de Tokyo in the vicinity. Experience Seine life in a number of ways – ride the Bateaux-Mouches, take in the view from the bridges, stroll along the quais filled with pop-up bars and games spaces. The Marché Président Wilson is a must-visit market for fresh flowers and tasty organic produce. There’s also Parc Monceau, to the north of the 8th arrondissement – with statues, a rotonde and classical columns, it’s one of the smaller but prettier Parisian parks. Those with a sweet tooth will find super-sized versions of Pierre Hermé and Ladurée which stay open later here than anywhere else in Paris. Stay clear of the tourist traps on the Champs itself (with the exceptions of Le Drugstore and Restaurant Copenhague) and head for the side streets instead.
Oberkampf is great if you want vibrant nightlife. Above Bastille and below République, bar after bar lines Rue Oberkampf – from basement dives to eclectic cocktail joints. Day and night, this area is great for strolling, before turning on to Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and walking up it until the canal appears. For eats, try Aux Deux Amis for retro bistro decoration and modern French tapas, insider-favourite Clown Bar, and Ober Mamma for authentic and inexpensive Italian fodder. After dark, you’re sure to find something to dance to at Le Bataclan – Paris’s acclaimed music venue featuring international and national artists.
Once you get off the busy roundabout, Bastille offers some great locations for eating and drinking. For fine dining which doesn’t cost the earth, try and get a spot at Septime. Bookings open every three months and go very quickly! Go comfort with a wow factor at Muscovado’s cute brunch spot, or have a feline hug with your cappuccino at Paris’s cat café. Opera Bastille has a solid line-up of events every season so check in advance. Rue de Charonne has some great boutiques if you want to exude some French girl chic. For a breath of fresh air, head up to the converted train tracks of the Coulée Verte. This rose-filled corridor runs from Bastille to Bois de Vincennes. Bastille is also a great option owing to its proximity to the Marais: it’s cheaper to stay here, and you can just take a short walk to sightsee.
The hubbub of Chinatown with its tiny canteens and graffiti-daubed streets, can be a bit of a shock at first but this area has it going on. Hike up to Parc de Belleville, whose summit offers one of the least-known but best views across Paris. Walk through the independent food shops and bars local to the Pyrénées area – its village-y charm will win you over. At dinner time, Asian food fans have all the choice on Rue de Belleville. Tuck into large sharing plates at Le Grand Bain and eat the best grilled dumplings you’ll find in Paris at Ravioli Chinois Nord Est, a two-minute walk from the busy crossroads at Belleville metro. South near Ménilmontant, there’s wine and small plates bar Le Lapin Blanc and all-day playground La Bellevilloise. You’re not far from Buttes-Chaumont and the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, as well as celeb graveyard Père-Lachaise to the south.