Paris hotels and other accommodations
For years this page simply said, "I don't know much about hotels, since I live here! Sorry!" However, after spending five wonderful years in Paris, I've been living in New York now for the last several years, and visiting Paris a few times a year, and I've finally gotten acquainted with some very cute Parisian boutique hotels. I'm by no means an expert, but I can offer a few good recommendations. Here are four hotels I've actually stayed in in Paris myself. They're all swell.
This place is fantastic — every room in this little hotel is designed with a different artsy theme. A quick Google image search reveals some of their dazzling designs. I happened to book my stay through Expedia, and when I checked in the guy at the desk looked at the computer and told me that as an Expedia Rewards member I was entitled to a free room upgrade and a half-bottle of champagne! Not bad! They put me on the top floor in a room called Foret Enchantée — Enchanted Forest. It was delightful, the room was small but very typical for Paris (more on that below) and I had a tiny balcony with a view of the Bastille. Just exploring the lobby and hallways of this place was fun. The staff here are extremely friendly and speak startlingly perfect English; I was impressed that the guy at the front desk said "awesome!" a few times during our conversation. I really recommend this place.
My wife's work puts her up in this charming old hotel when they send her to Paris a couple times a year, and I tag along whenever I can! I love this place; it's in a beautiful old 17th-century building, and they've done a great job of preserving that old-timey feeling — with rough exposed beams and red velvet bedspreads — but also embracing the modern — the rooms may be a little small, but the bathrooms are suprisingly big! Always a welcome surprise in any Parisian hotel. The staff at this hotel are remarkably friendly and helpful; you'll never meet nicer Parisians. This hotel is also just a short walk from the Luxembourg Gardens and Saint-Sulpice.
I chose this hotel on a visit to Paris simply because it was near my old apartment and I was feeling nostalgic for the old neighborhood. I'm glad I did! The hotel is small and charming and very comfortable. I was lucky enough to be given a room on the top floor with a slanted ceiling and an upper window that I could open up and pop my head out to get a great view of lots of Parisian rooftops. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Bonus: this place is right across from the Musée des Arts et Metiers, and also a café that I really like, called, appropriately enough, the Café des Arts et Métiers.
This hotel is very new and modern and comfortable; otherwise there's nothing terribly interesting about it, but I definitely had a nice stay here. The best part about this hotel, for me, is that it's right next door to the Cimetière de Montmartre, my favorite cemetery in Paris. Oh how I wish I'd thought to ask for a window overlooking the cemetery! I was on the other side of the building. Next time!
This place was pretty standard but I had a nice stay here. My room was comfortable, modern, and quiet (the room was facing an interior courtyard which was absolutely silent; my favorite!). The neighborhood isn't the most exciting, but you're walking distance from the Louvre, the Opera house, the Madeleine, etc, and you're central enough that you have great Métro access to all of Paris.
A couple general tips about Parisian hotels
One piece of useful information I can think of regarding hotels is that, if you're American (and my website traffic reports tell me that the majority of visitors to this site are), you should expect your Parisian hotel room to be quite a bit smaller than what you're used to when staying in a hotel in the States. So don't be shocked or disappointed; you haven't been ripped off and you haven't chosen poorly, that's simply the way it is in Paris, as well as most other big cities in Europe. Particularly, sometimes the bathroom and/or shower stall is unbelievably small, so be prepared to bump your elbows a few times. Even at 150 or 200 Euros a night, you might find that you're staying in a very modern, clean, comfortable sardine can.
Peace and quiet
Choosing a hotel for your trip to Paris when you're sitting back at home in your own country is a bit of a gamble, not so much because you don't get to see the room — you can usually trust the photos on websites, although they tend to make the rooms look a little bigger — but more so because you don't get to see (and more importantly, hear) the street outside. I personally really hate trying to sleep in a noisy environment, and there are some touristy neighborhoods in Paris that are ungodly noisy all night long. If you end up with a hotel on one of these noisy streets (the Boulevard de Clichy in Pigalle comes to mind) you might have a miserable stay, no matter how nice the room is. Of course, if your hotel is in a noisy area you might be lucky and have a room that faces the back of the building, which might not be noisy at all.
If you're booking a room through a website there's no way to inquire about this or guarantee that you'll get a good night's sleep, so if possible you're better off just finding a room in a quieter neighborhood. I wish I had any great advice about how to do this; if you're not already familiar with Paris there's no sure-fire way to find out if a particular street you've never seen before is noisy or not. One thing I recommend is viewing the address of the hotel on Google Maps and view the area with Street View; you drag the little yellow guy onto the location and you can get a 360-degree view of the area. Does it looks residential and calm, or crowded and full of businesses? That's pretty much all you need to know right there, if you value quiet as much as I do. Just make sure when you find a quiet place that it's pretty close to at least one Métro station!
When my friends are searching for hotels before a visit to Paris, I always tell them to mail me a couple addresses and I'll look them up to report back whether they're in nice neighborhoods, on noisy streets, etc; just being familiar with Paris makes this pretty easy. Tell you what, I'd like to extend that same offer to readers of this website, but depending on how overwhelming the response is I might not have time to help everybody! I can handle a few extra e-mails a week, so don't be shy.
Just fyi, a lot of these smaller boutique hotels ask that you hand in your key card at the front desk every time you head out. I mention this only in case there are any language barrier problems, so you'll understand why they're asking for your key back. They know you're not checking out! If your hotel does ask to keep your key card when you're out, make sure to ask them if there's someone at the front desk 24 hours! In my experience there always is, but I've heard of some hotels closing down the reception area late at night. Imagine coming back late and not being able to get into your room! So it couldn't hurt to check.
The hairdryers suck
Hairdryers in hotels in France are often completely useless crap. (And you can't bring your American one; read about that here.) Hairdryers in Parisian hotels are typically a clunky-looking box thing with a flexible tube, installed on the wall in the bathroom; they look like they were designed in the 1960s but they often appear even in completely new, modern luxury hotels. Even at the maximum setting, they feel like someone is just breathing warm air on you; I'm honestly not exaggerating here. The last time I stayed in a hotel in Paris my room had one of these things; it was completely useless, so on my first day I went right out and bought a decent one for 18 euros, and that worked great. You can get one at any big electronics store chain like Darty or Fnac (beware; most Fnacs have tons of different departments covering everything, but some Fnacs are smaller and specialize in only one type of thing, like books). BHV is also a good option but probably more expensive. If you're near a big Monoprix they might have them as well, but like Fnac, some Monoprix stores are smaller or more specialized. Anyway, I bought my hairdryer at Darty in Pigalle. I also got a flat iron for about 20 euros. They'll be useless in the US because of the different plug (again, see my article about electricity in France) but I'll keep them and bring them with me to Europe on all future trips. It's really annoying; I'd rather the hotel just charge an extra 20 euros and have good hairdryers so I don't have to pack one every time.
Shower curtain? What's a shower curtain?
French hotels often don't have shower curtains, even the big luxury ones, because French people don't use shower curtains. I was baffled by this when I first arrived in France! A typical French bathtub (in a hotel or a home) usually has a hand-held shower head and may or may not have a fixture to place the shower head up on the wall; no different than at home. But there's usually no shower rod and no shower curtain. So if you're used to taking American-style showers this means you're going to get water everywhere — you have no idea what a mess this makes until you try it! The reason French people are okay with this setup is that, bizarrely, they take showers crouching in the tub rather than standing. They've practiced the art of showering while crouching, with the shower head in one hand, and somehow they've worked out all the angles so they don't get water everywhere. It's crazy. I've never been able to pull it off.
Maybe you'll be lucky and stay at a hotel that has figured out that a lot of their American guests want (need?) a shower curtain in order to not flood the bathroom. I don't think I've encountered one yet. There's also a very good chance you'll end up with a shower stall rather than a bathtub, and of course that works fine. I always cross my fingers I'll get a shower stall so I can evade the no-shower-curtain problem. However, as I mentioned above, if you're a larger American, you may find that the shower stall is very, very narrow and cramped. Even in a nice hotel. This is just how it is in France. If you have any concerns, I'm sure you can call your hotel ahead of time and inquire!
If you happen to stay in a particularly good/cute/unusual hotel I'd love to hear about it! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy your stay!