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, and each area has a distinct style and atmosphere – from historic St-Germain to the vibrant Marais, abuzz with bars and cafés.
But where should you base yourself? Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, this guide will help you pick the best area to stay in Paris.
Best for luxury: around the Champs-Elysées
You’ll find some of the city’s most famous landmarks around the Champs-Elysées, including the place de la Concorde, Tuileries gardens and the Arc de Triomphe. It’s also one of the most exclusive parts of Paris, home to an array of luxury hotels and high-fashion shops. The celebrated avenue itself, however, is now, unfortunately, home to little more than a constant stream of tourists.
Eiffel Tower views: Hôtel de Sers. This chic hotel offers swish rooms with sleek decor and flashes of quirky colour; some top-floor suites have fabulous panoramic terraces.
Feeling flush: Le Bristol. One of the city’s most iconic hotels, Le Bristol opened in 1925 and has maintained its reputation for discreet, warm luxury with superb service.
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Best for atmosphere: the Marais
Full of splendid old mansions, narrow lanes, designer boutiques and buzzing bars and restaurants, the Marais is one of Paris’s more striking quartiers. This chic district also holds a slew of sleek galleries, the the old Jewish quarter centred on rue des Rosiers, and a number of excellent museums, not least the splendidly revamped Musée Picasso.
Medieval meets bordello: Hôtel Bourg Tibourg. This sumptuously designed little hotel has small rooms cosseted with rich velvets, silks and drapes; a hip little romantic hideaway.
Bold fusion: Hôtel du Petit Moulin. Inside a former bakery, this luxurious Christian Lacroix-designed boutique hotel is infused with the designer’s hallmark joie de vivre.
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Best for a laidback stay: The Quartier Latin
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 rents, but this is still one of the most relaxed areas of Paris.
Traditional and homely: 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.
Cash-strapped: Hôtel Marignan. This welcoming budget hotel, in the same family for three generations, is totally sympathetic to the needs of rucksack-toting foreigners, offering things like free laundry and ironing facilities.
Best for history: St-Germain
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.
Quirky boutique: L’Hôtel. This hotel epitomizes louche Left Bank opulence, with twenty sumptuous rooms.
Bohemian character: Hôtel de Nesle. Book for the themed rooms (some decorated with love-‘em-or-hate-‘em cartoon murals) and a charming courtyard garden.
Best for romance: Montmartre
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.
A warm welcome: Hôtel des Arts. This hotel manages that rare combination of homeliness and efficiency, combining courteous staff with quiet and comfortable accommodation.
A treat or retreat: Hôtel Particulier Montmartre. With a secluded location in a garden just back from one of Paris’s most exclusive streets, this discreet boutique hotel is set in an elegant Neoclassical mansion.
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Best for nightlife: Canal St-Martin and La Villette
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 but have undergone extensive renovation over the last few decades. Today the quais have been made more appealing to cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians and the area is peppered with trendy cafés and bars.
The perfect setting: Le Citizen Hotel. An ecofriendly, beautifully designed hotel with just twelve rooms and great views of the canal.
Slick hostel beds: St Christopher’s Canal. This eye-catching, renovated former boat hangar overlooks the Bassin de la Villette offering a lively bar, inexpensive restaurant, waterfront terrace, café, book exchange and dozens of activities.
Best for local life: Belleville and Ménilmontant
The old working-class quarters of Belleville and Ménilmontant in the east of Paris are some of the most cosmopolitan in the city, home to North Africans, Malians, Turks, Chinese and inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia. The area is also favoured by students and artists, who have done a great deal to create a thriving alternative scene and some of the city’s best nightlife.
Contemporary minimalism: Cosmos Hôtel. This budget hotel is excellently located for the bars and cafés of Oberkampf, offering clean, minimalist en-suite rooms.
This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent and taken from The Rough Guide to Paris. Header image via Pixabay/CC0.