Where to stay in Paris — the city’s best areas

All the clichés about Paris are true – stylish, romantic, glamorous and utterly compelling. Yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the most seasoned visitors. The landscape of the city changes as you cross from quartier to quartier . From historic St-Germain to the vibrant Marais, Paris abuzz with bars and cafés. But where should you base yourself when you visit? Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, this guide will help you pick where to stay in Paris.

Quartier Latin – a budget-friendly stay in Paris
The Quartier Latin has been associated with students ever since the Sorbonne was established in the thirteenth century. Many colleges remain in the area to this day, along with some fascinating vestiges of the medieval city. Some of the quarter’s student chic may have worn thin in recent years as rents have risen, but this is still one of the most relaxed areas of Paris.

Just off “La Mouff” — the city’s famed rue Mouffetard market has now mostly given over to classy food shops. This authentic market is set around the pretty Monge fountain and sells fabulous, pricey produce. Organic stalls on Sundays.

Sorbonne University is a public research university located in Paris. The institution’s legacy reaches back to 1257 when Sorbonne College was established as one of the first universities in Europe. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities has its sites in the heart of the Latin Quarter and in the north of the city.

There are plenty of things to do in Paris for free. Check our list of the best free things to do in Paris.

Where to stay in Quartier Latin:
Best for traditional and homely vibes:Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles. A cobbled private lane leads through to a big surprise: a large and peaceful garden, right in the heart of the Quartier Latin, with the feel of a country house. Hotel des Grandes Ecoles is set in Paris, in the 5th arr. District. Located around 900 m from Notre Dame Cathedral, the hotel is also 1.6 km away from Opéra Bastille.
Best for the cash-strapped: Hôtel Marignan. Ideally situated in the historical Latin Quarter in central Paris, the Marignan is just 600 m from Luxembourg Gardens. It offers budget accommodation with free high-speed fibre optic connection. This welcoming budget hotel, in the same family for three generations, is totally sympathetic to the needs of rucksack-toting foreigners.

St-Germain – for a bohemian atmosphere
St-Germain, the westernmost section of Paris’s Left Bank, has long been famous as the haunt of bohemians and intellectuals. A few famous cafés preserve a strong flavour of the old times, but the dominant spirit these days is elegant, relaxed and seriously upmarket.

Fronting onto rue de Vaugirard, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the chief green space of the Left Bank. Its atmosphere is a beguiling mixture of the formal and the relaxed. At the centre, the round pond and immaculate floral parterres are overlooked by the haughty Palais du Luxembourg, the seat of the French Senate.

Students sprawl on the garden’s famous metal chairs. Children sail toy yachts, watch the puppets at the Guignol, or run about in the playgrounds. Old men play boules or chess. The southwest corner is dotted with the works of famous sculptors.

The shady Fontaine de Médicis, in the northeast corner, is a pleasant place to sit, and there’s a delightful café nearby the central pond. The pond is overlooked by the Palais du Luxembourg, seat of the French Senate.

The western side of the park is the more active area, with tennis courts and a puppet theatre that has been in the same family for the best part of a century, and still puts on enthralling shows. The quieter, wooded southeast corner ends in a miniature orchard of elaborately espaliered pear trees.

Montmartre – where to stay in Paris for couples
One of Paris’s most romantic quarters, Montmartre is famed for its association with artists like Renoir, Degas, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec. It long existed as a hilltop village outside the city walls, and today the steep streets around the Butte Montmartre, Paris’s highest point, preserve an attractively village-like atmosphere.

Though The Moulin Rouge’s environs have lost the glamour they once had, you can’t help but be drawn towards the tatty red windmill. Its windows are filled with photos of beaming showgirls. When Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized the Moulin Rouge in his paintings, it was one of many such bawdy, populist cabarets in the area. Nowadays, it survives on its reputation, offering expensive Vegas-style dinner-and-show deals.

Canal St-Martin and La Villette – for a mix of romantic and hipster vibe
La Villette and the Canal St-Martin, in the northeast of the city, were for generations the centre of a densely populated working-class district. Since then, they have undergone extensive renovation. Today the quais have been made more appealing to cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians and the area is peppered with trendy cafés and bars. For those who like an up and coming vibe, this a where to stay in Paris.

Le Louvre – for a luxurious experience
The Louvre is one of the world’s truly great museums. Opened in 1793, during the Revolution, it soon acquired the largest art collection on earth, thanks to Napoleon’s conquests. Today, it houses paintings, sculptures and precious art objects, from Ancient Egyptian jewellery to the beginnings of Impressionism. Separate from the Louvre proper, but within the palace, is the museum Les Arts Décoratifs.

The largest of the museum’s collections is its paintings. The early Italians are perhaps the most interesting, among them Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. If you want to get near her, go during one of the evening openings, or first thing in the day. Other highlights of the Italian collection include two Botticelli frescoes and Fra Angelico’s Coronation of the Virgin.

South Pigalle – best area for a local Paris vibe
The southern slopes of Montmartre are bordered by the boulevards de Clichy and Rochechouart. At the Barbès end of bd Rochechouart crowds teem around the cheap Tati department stores. African street vendors hawk textiles, watches and trinkets. The area where the two roads meet, around place Pigalle, has long been associated with sleaze, sex shops and shows.

The area is changing, however: the streets just south of place Pigalle have been rebranded SoPi (“South Pigalle”) and are now some of the city’s hippest. Most of the sleazy bars have closed and been replaced by trendy cocktail bars, bistros and organic grocers. Rues de Douai, Victor-Massé and Houdon sport a large number of electric guitar and hi-fi shops. Rue des Martyrs is one of Paris’s most enjoyable gastro-streets.

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