How to Choose a Paris Hotel
There are three main considerations when choosing a hotel in Paris:
location, price, and style.
- How central do you need to be?
Anything within the city limits is accessible by Métro and bus, so you should be able to get anywhere in Paris in 30-40 minutes under regular conditions.
But if you don't like to take public transportation, or plan on returning often to hotel throughout the day, it's best to remain within the 1st, 4th, and the northern ends of the 5th and 6th closest to the Seine. Some hotels in the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th are also relatively close to the center.
The further you are from the exact center (which is Ile de la Cité), the less expensive and less touristy your neighborhood will be (Montmartre being the exception). In this case it's important to know exactly how close the nearest Métro station is (less than two blocks is ideal), and whether it's on one of the main lines like 1, 4, 7 or 8 (to avoid multiple changes to get to the center).
As a rule, the shorter your stay, the less time you'll want to spend getting to and from your hotel (or rented apartment), so stay more central. For longer stays, save money and get to know the real Parisian atmosphere by staying outside the center.
- What style of neighborhood do you prefer?
Winding medieval streets and bustling markets? Wide, tree-lined boulevards and towering monuments? Elegant residential districts and fashionable art galleries?
Each neighborhood has its own style and atmosphere. Some people like to visit the Latin Quarter, but prefer to sleep somewhere a bit quieter. You might prefer to be on a busy market street with noisy stall vendors and street musicians, or in a grand hotel where you can see the Eiffel Tower or Opéra Garnier from your window.
If you plan on going out every night past the closing of the Métro (12:45am), then you may want to choose a hotel close to your preferred nightlife area (ie Champs-Elysées, Marais, Grands Boulevards, Oberkampf).
Do you need your hotel to be on a street with cafés, bakeries, food shops, laudromats and close to services like Internet cafés? Do you prefer to be closer to major monuments, gardens, and the Seine?
All of the Paris hotel reviews in this guide describe the location with these issues in mind.
Accommodation can be the hardest area to budget when traveling, but there are hotels, hostels, and even B&Bs for every budget. If you're really tight on cash, try home exchange or "couch surfing" through specialized websites.
- (Very) General price guidelines for Paris
No matter what price you pay, everyone wants to know they're getting the most for their money. Based on my own research over the years, this is my rough estimate of what gets what in a particular price range, no matter the neighborhood:
€25 can get you a bed in a youth hostel with a shared bathroom.
€40 can get you a private room with a bed and a sink, and shared bathrooms in the hall (sometimes on a different floor).
€75 can get you a double room with a private bathroom, possibly a phone and TV.
€100 can get you a double room with bathroom (shower or bathtub with handheld shower), TV, phone, possibly WiFi or a computer station in the lobby, nicer decor, in-room safe, a tiny elevator, and a decent breakfast room.
€175 can get you a double room with private bathroom with bathtub and shower (with an attached shower head), complimentary toiletries, in-room safe, laundry service, TV with international channels (maybe pay movies), WiFi or ADSL connection in the room, nice decor, elevator, air-conditioning (or fans), room service, buffet breakfast room and possibly a restaurant, concierge services, free newspapers/magazines, and no-smoking rooms.
€200 can get you all of the above, definitely A/C with individual climate control, some sort of high-speed Internet access, plus more space, bigger beds, better breakfast service (hot buffet -- usually for an additional fee), a separate concierge desk, possibly a restaurant or bar, and extras like a business center, fitness center, or views of major monuments.
€275 can get you all of the above in a designer boutique hotel or a large, conference hotel; larger rooms with bigger TVs, queen or king-sized beds, maybe DVD player or Web TV, luxurious bathrooms, bathrobes and slippers, 24-hour room service, definitely a restaurant, bar, fitness and/or business center, baggage handler, hotel parking (usually costs extra), meeting rooms, currency exchange, no-smoking floors. This amount can get you the largest room in a moderately-priced hotel, or the smallest/darkest room in a luxury palace hotel. If you need a Texan-sized room and bathroom, this is the base price for "spacious" in Paris, where space is a luxury!
€400 will get you into the best hotels in Paris (not necessarily the best rooms) where you can expect Michelin restaurants and trendy bars, swimming pool and spa services, the best service and the most luxurious or contemporary decor and amenities: underfloor heating in the bathroom, DVD library, children's programs, gift shops, and concierges who never say "not possible".
Obviously there are huge exceptions, but I hope these guidelines will keep you from overpaying for a mediocre hotel (happens a lot to first-time visitors) or from expecting too much for what you've paid.
- Aim high and look for discounts
Aim a bit higher than you can pay when looking for hotels. There's almost always a good promotional offer on the hotel's own web site or on various discount booking sites.
For example, the best room in a comfortable hotel may cost the same as the smallest room at a palace hotel (and trust me, if you booked a cheap room at a pricey palace, they'll put you in the broom closet -- albeit a broom closet with Louis XV doorknobs). Up to you to decide if you're more interested in the room itself or the grandeur of the hotel. See more about getting the best price in the Booking and Reservations article.
- Extras that aren't included in the room rate
Breakfast, WiFi or internet access, parking, and extra/fold-out beds usually cost extra in French hotels. Airport shuttles and local calls always cost extra because hotels don't have their own shuttles, and local calls are not free for anyone in France.
One person's "quaint and charming" is another person's "old and shabby". Can you stand "busy" wallpaper? Do you like contemporary minimalism? Do you prefer hotels where every room is the same? Do you hate carpet, modern art, or anything gilded? Is it more important to have an authentic Parisian feel or modern comforts? Do you want a big conference hotel with a huge staff, or a tiny boutique or family-run hotel with fewer than 25 rooms?
Knowing what floats your boat will help you choose the type of hotel that fits your style. And there's something for everyone in this city, even American-style chain hotels like Hilton and Sofitel.
First time in Paris? Read Heather's articles: