However many times you’ve been, choosing where to stay in Paris is always difficult. There’s so much choice. And every option seems like a good one. That’s probably true – you’ll still be in Paris, ffs – but some neighbourhoods are better than others when it comes to restaurants, and others for bars, nightlife and shopping. Every area in Paris has a different vibe that’ll shape your stay, so from Belleville to Bastille, Montmartre to the Marais, here’s our run-down of the best places to stay in Paris.
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Where to stay in Paris
Beautifully kept squares, lush parks with hidden fountains, traditional bistros and dinky fashion boutiques – if you’re looking for this kind of Parisian romance, the Marais is for you. This area is known for being home to a large LGBTQ+ community and hosting a diverse mix of independent art galleries and specialist stores nestled between aristocratic mansions. Sure, the more affordable, more spacious east of Paris might be where most new bars and clubs are opening, but the Marais will always be one of the best places to stay in Paris. It’s fabulously grand hôtels particuliers and old-fashioned boulangeries feel like the very embodiment of Paris. Location wise, it’s very central. Spread across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, the Marais sits on the right bank of the Seine across from Notre Dame. To your west, you’ll find the Louvre, the Tuileries and the Hôtel de Ville; to the east the buzzing bars of Bastille. And not far away there’s the Centre Pompidou. The Marais itslef boasts the magnificent Place des Vosges and the refurbished Musée Picasso. When you’re hungry, make for Breizh Café for heavenly crêpes and galettes, or the wonderfully eccentric Derrière for a modern twist on French cuisine served in a lavish flat.
Streets lined with retro cafés, ivy-clad apartment buildings and the dazzling white domes of the Sacré-Cœur: Montmartre is most people’s idea of what Paris is really like. So why not indulge in the dream? This northern neighbourhood has retained its enchanting village feel thanks to its steep hills, charming multi-coloured houses and tiny old-world shops. Wander around spotting locations from ‘Amélie’, visit the final resting places of Degas and Zola in the Cimetière Montmartre, and take in the dreamy rose gardens of the 17th-century Musée de Montmartre. There are plenty of places to eat vying for your euros, but skip the tourist traps and check out Il Brigante, Soul Kitchen or Le Coq Rico. For drinks, head up to the rooftop bar of the Terrass Hotel, the intimate Bar à Bulles on top of the Moulin Rouge, or go seriously chic at Le Très Particulier.
Known locally as ‘So-Pi’, South Pigalle is what Dalston or Peckham are to London: très, très trendy. Just beneath the Moulin Rouge and sex shops of Pigalle, this is the place to sample the very latest going-out trends, whether that’s fusion bistros (Buvette), concept hotels (Le Pigalle) or clandestine cocktail bars (Lulu White’s). The Rue des Martyrs is a foodie heaven with dozens of boulangeries, chocolateries and chic cafés perfect for brunch and people-watching on a weekend morning. Follow that up with a stroll round the gorgeous gardens of the Musée de la Vie Romantique, one of Paris’s few free-entry museums, and then stop by the eponymous Pigalle streetwear store. So-Pi is particularly famed for its nightlife, with all sorts of options for letting loose after dark. Dirty Dick is the place for rum in a tiki-themed setting, Le Glass brings dingy dive bar vibes, while upmarket Le Carmen serves cocktails in an opulent, distinctly Parisian setting. Attractions here are hip rather than historic – if basketball’s your thing, stop by Pigalle Duperré, a neon-coloured court sandwiched between two towering apartment blocks.
For the five-star Parisian experience, it has to be Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From existentialism to jazz, this is where Paris’s key 20th-century cultural movements thrived, where Godard and Giacometti shared cafés and bookshops with Sartre and de Beauvoir. That golden age lives on in the many independent stores and boutiques, and for authentic café culture, Saint-Germain takes some beating. By day, chill out around the lakes and palm trees of the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg and when night falls, the Latin Quarter around the Sorbonne is where you’ll find buzzing, student-packed pubs, bars and clubs. Shopping is high end, with designers from Cartier to Sonia Rykiel based in Saint-Germain. Restaurants can be hit and miss, so go with storied institutions such as Paris’s oldest restaurant Le Procope, or Fish La Boissonnerie for exquisite seafood.
This quaint, cobbled corner of town winding from République up to Stalingrad has transformed from under-the-radar spot to must-visit destination in recent years. Boasting a notably slower pace of life than elsewhere in Paris, the bike-friendly Canal Saint-Martin has become a foodie hit thanks to its numerous organic wine and cheese stores, craft coffee shops and canal-side restaurants serving globally inspired cuisine. If you like to eat, this is the neighbourhood for you. But it’s not all just food, food, food – the nearby Parc des Buttes-Chaumont with its waterfalls, grottoes and Italian-style Temple de la Sybille is a great place to take a stroll and burn off some of those calories. If you’re feeling particularly active, you can rent a Vélib bike and cycle all the way up to La Villette and beyond. Ten Belles, Bob’s Bake Shop, Chez Prune, Centre Commercial and Holybelly are must-visits.
If you’re looking for some of Paris’s best nightlife, head to the area between Bastille and République, where dozens of bars line the Rue Oberkampf. Here, you’ll encounter everything from fancy cocktail joints to basement dives to sleek wine bars. This is Paris’s most vibrant nightlife destination, and you’re bound to find a drinking den to suit you. The area’s also great for a stroll whatever time of day, but it’s after dark that Oberkampf really lights up, with bars like the brilliantly kitsch Ave Maria and beautifully restored Café Charbon well worth dropping into, before heading to acclaimed music venue Le Bataclan for top-drawer local and international live acts. And if all that drinking makes you hungry, we recommend the modern French tapas at Aux Deux Amis or Ober Mamma’s inexpensive pasta and pizza.
Near the Marais, but much cheaper, Bastille is well worth considering as your base in Paris. To start with, the area has some excellent eating and drinking destinations. For fine dining that won’t break the bank, try to reserve a spot at Septime. Be warned: bookings only open every three months and go very fast. Paris’s Café des Chats is the place to go for a coffee and cuddle, while the charming Muscovado is where to head for brunch. The Rue de Charonne is home to some fantastic boutiques for those looking to acquire some French chic, and Opéra Bastille has a strong line-up of events every season, so make sure to check what’s on well in advance. For a breath of fresh air come late afternoon, wander along the converted train tracks of the Coulée Verte.
Most closely associated with the Grand Palais, Arc de Triomphe and – oh yeah – France’s most famous shopping street, the glittering area around the Champs-Elysées may not be your first port of call when planning a hotel location. However, this upscale neighbourhood is a brilliant base from which to explore the city on foot or by bike. First off, there’s loads for art fans to see – the Musée Galliera, Palais de Tokyo and Petit Palais are all nearby. The Marché Président Wilson is a must-visit market that’s packed with fresh flowers and organic produce, while those with a sweeter tooth can find late-opening branches of Pierre Hermé and Ladurée. North of the 8th arrondissement you’ll find Parc Monceau, one of Paris’s smaller but prettier parks that’s filled with statues and neoclassical follies. Stroll along the banks of the Seine and stop by one of many pop-up bars, or take a ride in the Bateaux-Mouches to see Paris from the water. Swerve the tourist traps of the Champs itself (with the exceptions of Le Drugstore and Restaurant Copenhague) and dive down a side street for an authentic taste of Paris at its poshest.
The bustle of Chinatown with its graffiti-splashed streets and tiny canteens can be a bit of a shock to the system after a days spent exploring Paris’s more glamorous neighbourhoods. But this area has it going on. Browse its plentiful independent food shops and bars and soak up the village-y charm before spoiling yourself with first-rate Chinese food on the Rue de Belleville. Le Grand Bain does large sharing plates that are perfect for groups while the grilled dumplings at Ravioli Chinois Nord-Est (a two-minute walk from the busy Belleville metro crossroads) are the best you’ll find in Paris. To the south, near Ménilmontant, there’s all-day playground La Bellevilloise and wine bar Le Lapin Blanc. The Buttes-Chaumont and the banks of Canal Saint-Martin aren’t far away, and famed celeb graveyard Père-Lachaise is just to the south.