Where to stay in Paris when you first visit the French capital? Finding the right accommodation may seem a little overwhelming, considering that Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. The good news is that there is no such thing as just one best neighbourhood for tourists to stay in Paris. It all depends on your needs and wants as a traveller. Paris is a walkable city and you will be able to enjoy the fantastic French atmosphere as you go from landmark to landmark.
Paris is known to be a romantic city but did you know that in 1828, Paris was the first European city to light its boulevard with gas lamps, thus earning the nickname “La Ville–Lumière” or The City of Light. The city started by first lighting the famed the Champs-Elysées. So when taking a picture there, know there is some incredible history about the location. And much of our safety at night in most cities is thanks to the innovative French way of lighting up the streets.
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We first visited the French capital several years back when I organised a romantic weekend in Paris to celebrate a surprise birthday for my husband. Needless to say that we simply loved Paris and we returned on so many occasions since. We liked it because it seemed to be the perfect blend of vibrant, grand, modern and luring. We stayed in various districts or arrondissements and we learnt a thing or two about the most interesting places to stay in Paris for tourists and visitors.
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Where to stay in Paris [2020 Guide For First Time Visitors] - Contents
Where to stay in Paris
Paris has 20 Arrondissements (districts) and each of them has its own virtues. Starting from North of Seine, the arrondissements are distributed clockwise. This in turns means that 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondissements are the most central. These arrondissements are generally safe and walkable and are home to some of the most well-known landmarks. As a tip, we recommend indulging in some of the bistros located a little out of the main touristy areas. You'll find better service and more authentic food.
The first time we visited Paris as a couple we stayed near Palais Garnier in the 9th arrondissement. This is because I booked a surprise weekend for G and wanted to be as close to the opera as possible. The whole reason for the trip was to have a fancy night and go to the opera together to watch a show. Tickets to Palais Garnier can sell out months in advance, so I made sure to plan my trip 6 months in advance. This was really good, as the plane tickets, as well as hotels, were a little cheaper than expected. I managed to keep the surprise going until the very last moment.
We stayed in InterContinental Paris Le Grand which was just minutes away from the opera, the perfect location for our needs. Paris sure is a romantic city, full of love and life. It's very close to our hearts.
During our second, third and fourth trip to Paris, we moved around a little to experience what the city has to offer. We even asked the locals what they think of each district so we can pick the best area to stay in Paris. Here's some of the feedback we gathered.
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Louvre - 1st Arrondissement
Do you want to be close to all the attractions in Paris? Then very likely you will want to stay in the 1st Arrondissement. This is the must-see place in Paris, especially if this is your first-ever visit here. The 1st Arrondissement is known as the district of the Kings of France. It's also one of the most expensive places to stay in Paris, so if you are a budget traveller, then this might not be a good option. When picking your accommodation in the 1st Arrondissement, make sure your room faces an inner courtyard, as the place can get quite loud at times. 1st Arrondissement is also the district of Les Halles which has a huge central market. It's a little less fancy but also more affordable too.
Overall staying in 1st Arrondissement is a great place for tourists and first-time visitors but not so much if you wish to enjoy Paris like a local.
Le Marais - 4th Arrondissement
When we visited the 4th Arrondissement, we thought this is one of the nicest locations in Paris. I know Paris can be subjective, but we loved this part the most because it seemed most in line with what we love in a city: romantic, chic, vibrant and beautiful. It also has that je ne sais quoi which really invited us to walk hand in hand and just admire the sheer beauty of the city. There are lots of things to do in the 4th Arrondissement and it's ideal for tourists and locals alike. Here you can find the beautiful Notre Dame or the Sainte Chapelle. The 4th Arrondissement is also known to be the gay district so if you are looking to party, you will see many rainbow flags in the area. We also recommend the 4th Arrondissement for those who are romantic at heart and want a lovely walk on the banks of the Seine.
Please note that Notre Dame cannot be visited anymore since the tragic fire. You can get close to the location but there are no-entry zones for your own safety. Nevertheless, 4th Arrondissement still is a fantastic place to stay in Paris and one of historical significance.
Latin Quartier - 5th Arrondissement
A fun little fact about the 5th Arrondissement: it's called the Latin Quarter and it is known for its culture and history. This is actually where the Romans settled for the first time and founded the city of Lutetia. It's also the oldest district of Paris and also the district of students. And where there are universities, there is accommodation for decent prices. The 5th Arrondissement is a lively district which offers great accommodation and great nightlife.
The quaint Latin Quarter is known for its student cafes, incredible bookshops and the Shakespeare & Company. Stay here if you are looking for decent prices or need to stay in Paris with your family. There are some family-friendly attractions in the 5th Arrondissement such as the Jardin des Plantes botanical gardens and the National Museum of Natural History.
For history lovers, make sure to add the Panthéon to your list of things to do in the area.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés - 6th Arrondissement
The 6th Arrondissement is where to stay in Paris if you like fancy cafes and beautiful art galleries. We loved the 6th Arrondissement but we also thought it was a little pricey. So if you can afford it, the 6th Arrondissement is an excellent place to stay in Paris during your first or repeat visit to the city.
The 6th Arrondissement is home to luxury boutiques so you can find a great hotel if you want an elegant trip to Paris. You'll find lovely streets and beautiful grand architecture. Even if you don't stay in Paris here, we still recommend that you visit the area, especially for the Luxembourg gardens and the Saint Sulpice Church. The 6th Arrondissement is well known for its Quartier Saint Germain des Prés, where intellectuals and artists used to meet a long time ago. There is something spectacular about seeing a place so rich in history.
Eiffel Tower - 7th Arrondissement
The 7th Arrondissement is the place to stay in Paris if you want to see The Eiffel Tower and the Invalides. It's incredibly beautiful but can also get incredibly busy at times. In Autumn, this is one of my favourite parts of Paris. Loved the haute-couture and those beautiful high-end shops and boutiques.
Now, given this is super touristy as it is the heart of Paris, there is no surprise that it's one of the most expensive parts of the city. If you want to see Paris as it was intended for tourists, then this is a great place. The 7th Arrondissement is elegant, luxurious and gorgeous. Some hotels will have views of the Eiffel Tower right from their window or balcony. It won't be a quiet district but it will sure be vibrant for the vibe seeking visitor.
However, if you like to live like a local and mingle with locals, then the 7th Arrondissement is not the place for you.
Champs-Élysées - 8th Arrondissement
Fashion, luxury and upscale boutiques? This is the place to stay in Paris if you want the luxury and sophisticated Paris with major brand houses and those incredible hotels you see in movies. The 8th Arrondissement is calling all luxury travellers who want to enjoy the famed "Golden Triangle" of Paris: Rue Montaigne – Rue George V – Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
As you can already tell, this is the best place for fashion and lux lovers. The 8th Arrondissement is not suitable for budget travellers as most hotels in this area are pricey. We recommend visiting the 8th Arrondissement as it's one of our favourite places for fashion. The 8th Arrondissement can be a great place to stay in Paris if you are organising a special celebration.
Opéra - 9th Arrondissement
We are a little biased as we really liked the vibe in the 9th Arrondissement so we recommended as a place to stay in Paris for all types of visitors and interests. There aren't many attractions in the 9th Arrondissement but we think a night at the opera is a must when visiting Paris. The lack of major landmarks makes it more affordable.
There are several shops around which made it easier for us to do some shopping. We thought it was more authentic feel to it. It has beautiful architecture, great cafes and it's a lively district.
Here is a cool tip: many pay to have a tour of the Palais Garnier, but if you buy tickets in advance, you can get them for as little as £20 per person and basically get to see the opera house included in the price. You can also take as many pictures as you want.
In terms of the hotel, we are a little biased. We loved our stay at the InterContinental but do note we wanted to enjoy a fancy weekend. There are various hotels in the area suitable for budget-oriented or mid-range travellers as well.
Montmartre - 18th Arrondissement
Ah, Montmartre, the perfect balance in Paris between living like a local and exploring Paris like a trendy traveller. It's one of the most formidable Arrondissements to stay in Paris because it's home to one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in the city, Quartier Montmartre.
Montmartre is like an authentic Paris village in the heart of the city. It is located on a large hill which is 130 m high. It offers stunning views of the city. Stay in the 18th Arrondissement if you are looking for charm. It appealed to many artists during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Montmartre should be high on the list for a stay in Paris thanks to its art, cobbled streets and lovely bistros. It's where you should go for pictures or just to get a glimpse into a more traditional Paris, beyond the fancy boulevards and glamour.