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HotelWhere to Stay in Paris

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Where to Stay in Paris NDfleurs

First-time travelers to Paris will want to know two things right from the start: Parisians are nowhere near as rude as legend makes them out to be; and popular opinion to the contrary, Paris is actually a very affordable city. In fact, if you play your cards right you can stay in a charming—heck, downright enchanting—neighborhood and still have enough euros left to experiment with Paris' renowned cuisine and nightlife.

Before you conclude that you absolutely have to find a hotel by the Eiffel Tower, Tom suggests you read through this short page to get a sense of the different neighborhoods you might find interesting. (Why would you think you need to stay near the Eiffel Tower? You're only going to go there once, after all, and there's not much else interesting in that neighborhood.)

Paris is divided into twenty neighborhoods called arrondissements, and they're arranged in an outward spiral beginning at the city's center. (In the map below, the arrondissements are indicated by a numeral, followed by the suffix -er or -ème and then the abbreviation Arr.) The River Seine divides the city between north and south—the famous rive gauche and rive droite (left bank and right bank) romanticized in so many novels and films. Tradition has it that the left bank is the bohemian heart of the city, while the right bank hosts high-priced sophistication and the world's best shopping. The truth, however, is that you'll find a splendid mix of peculiar charm and posh urbanity pretty much wherever you go.

The Left Bank

The Latin Quarter: Students and Tourists (5th and 6th arrondissements)

It's pretty hard not to associate Paris first and foremost with the Latin Quarter, so named because during the Middle Ages students from around the world actually spoke Latin to one another here as their only common NotreDamelanguage. Scholars have in fact been descending on this part of the city since the thirteenth century. With the Boulevard St. Michel as its north-south axis, the Latin Quarter generally offers inexpensive to moderately priced places to stay. Folks tend to be on the younger side in this part of town, even if many are somewhat past the age of your typical student, and one of the things that draws people here is the neighborhood's reputation for nightlife. Most establishments are open late here, and revelers will spill out of cafés and bars until the wee hours of the morning.

Yet, there are calmer neighborhoods here as well, and one can be centrally located without having to give up a good night's sleep (but the truth is that, except for a few especially bustling areas, Paris is a pretty quiet city at night). In addition to the hectic, densely-packed youthful tourist areas most people associate with the Latin Quarter—centered at the intersection of Saint Michel and Saint Germain and radiating out toward the Seine to both the east and west—there are also the calmer neighborhoods such as those surrounding the Panthéon and those further south and east, in the area around the rue des Ecoles, for example, the smaller streets in the vicinity of the rue Saint Jacques, and the quiet and lovely eastern end of the boulevard Saint Germain.

This is one of the oldest parts of the city (some of the streets here date back to the eleventh century).

A rich variety of restaurants, mostly inexpensive to moderately priced, representing virtually any ethnicity you can think of complements a host of bars and cafés aimed at the hip, the rad, the gullible, or the just plain curious. Shopping is geared for the most part toward the youth market, but what's especially appealing here is that, since this is one of the oldest parts of the city (some of the streets here date back to the eleventh century) there remain a large number of specialty stores and unusual little boutiques, (including a shop totally devoted to umbrellas). You'll find enough bookstores—both general and highly specialized—to please the most discerning bibliophile, and the Latin Quarter even hosts an absolutely Cheese at Maubertterrific open-air food market three days a week at the Place Maubert (the drawback is that there are very few decent supermarkets in this area, but plenty of small Mom and Pop food shops). For a change of pace, check out the Jardin des Plantes (a gigantic horticultural garden), and go to the Mosque right nearby for a cup of tea. The Institut du Monde Arabe is also a must-see. Finally, the Latin Quarter also happens to be about as centrally located as you can be in Paris, and it's a relatively easy walk to the vast majority of tourist destinations from here.

OutMyBedroomSaint-Germain-des-Prés: Trendy and Chic (6th arrondissement)

As you move west in the Latin Quarter along the Seine and down the boulevard Saint Germain, student hip blurs into fashionable chic. Trendy bars, nightclubs, and restaurants dot this part of town, which also hosts a great many of the city's best and most outrageously priced art galleries. Some of the city's best known cafés punctuate the boulevard Saint Germain here, and the smaller streets between this busy thoroughfare and the river harbor some truly exceptional small restaurants and one-of-a-kind jewelry and other specialty shops. You'll likely pay a bit of a premium for staying in this part of town, but there are some bargains to be had as you move away from the river. The gorgeous and expansive Luxembourg Gardens are an easy walk from most any spot in this district of Paris, and Sunday afternoon strolls or launching a sailboat in one of the grounds' pools are longstanding traditions here. The area around Odéon is always hopping, and this area is particularly rich in movie houses. The very picturesque church Saint-Germain-des-Prés, built over uneven cobblestones and offering a kind of fortress-like feeling, towers over the square, which also hosts one of the city's most famous cafés, the Deux Magots, frequented by such literary luminaries as Rimbaud, Verlaine, Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. Also nearby is Saint Sulpice and its lovely square (and one of France's most famous actresses lives here). Plus, if someone's suing you, or if you're going to be in court for some other reason, you're a short hop to the Ile de la Cité.

Old&NewMontparnasse and Alésia: Urban and Urbane (6th and 14th arrondissements)

If you want to be away from the hectic activity of Paris' center, but don't want to be out in the sticks, you might find the 14th arrondissement just your cup of café crème. The boulevard du Montparnasse, on the neighborhood's northern border, is home to some of the best restaurants and cafés of the alas! gone but certainly not forgotten existential and literary set (La Coupole, Le Select, Le Dôme, La Rotonde, La Closerie des Lilas); and the area around Alésia enjoyed quite a popular expansion some years back and now has some excellent hangouts. Even though some consider it a bit off the beaten track, the area surrounding the Porte d'Orléans is quirky and attractive, too. You'll get much better prices on places to stay here, you'll find the pace a little less frantic than in the places described above, but at the same time you'll still feel the throb of the city. This area hosts Paris' only skyscraper, the Tour Montparnasse, which sticks out of the cityscape like some sort of looming, monolithic alien creature (and yes, you can go to the top and look out), and it also contains the Observatoire, which dates back to the time of Louis XIV. If you're a big book and/or CD fan, you can't do better than the giant FNAC, sort of a Borders Book Store, only bigger and much better. Fans of graphic novels might even get their fill here. Some of you might also find the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (Cité Universitaire) interesting—students from more than 130 countries live and study here.

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Tom's Guide to Paris. Copyright 2022 by Thomas DiPiero. All rights reserved.