A heads-up about Paris hotels: first, even the best Paris hotels have rooms that tend to be small by American standards. Sometimes really small. If you want plenty of space to stretch out, be prepared to pay a huge premium. Second, some of city’s centuries-old buildings often considered some of the best places to stay in Paris may not have elevators. Even if there is an elevator, these can be tiny one-person contraptions, so it may take a couple of trips to get luggage up to your room. And third, not all Paris hotels have air conditioning, or if they do, not necessarily in all rooms, and even fewer have in-room thermostat controls, so check ahead if you're planning a Paris vacation in summer. Also note that breakfast is almost never included in Paris hotel rates and tends to be an expensive add-on, so you're usually better off starting the day at a cafe. Very few Paris hotels have gyms, but concierges can recommend facilities.
There's no need to tip room service, as it's built into the bill, but it's customary to give porters a euro or so for helping with bags (more if they're seriously heavy). By law, Paris hotels are required to ask to see your passport on check-in: we mention this because international visitors sometimes feel offended at having to prove their ID, but just like checking in for a flight, this is standard practice and not personal.
What even the best Paris hotels lack in size they make up for in character. If you prefer more standardized US-style accommodations, check out hotel chains such as those owned by Accor. Or, if you want to live like a local during your Paris vacation, numerous companies offer short-term apartment rental, which can work out cheaper than staying in hotels, even factoring in agency fees. Furnished apartments come with linen, crockery, cutlery and kitchen appliances (and sometimes amenities like free WiFi and washing machines). Outfits include Paris BestLodge, Lodgis and Paris Attitude, but there are dozens more.
And we can't stress enough: no matter where you plan on staying, book ahead.
Fashion designer Christian Lacroix is carving out a niche in hotel design. At this semi-lucid dream on the left bank, Lacroix's inspiration comes from its elegant, artistic surrounds. The hotel’s 34 rooms are loosely themed around 'patchwork' (Arabic and Persian prints), St-Germain (brocades, zebra stripes, faux-gold leafing), Tuileries (trompe l’oeil and palms), Avengers (based on the cult British TV series, with swinging '60s motifs), Mousquetaires (swashbuckling velvet), Jeu de Paume (outsized playing cards), and Quai d'Orsay (the Musée d'Orsay is only a block away). Each of these concepts evokes a slightly surreal, suspended-in-time feel, despite the fact that the hotel opened in 2007, and that rooms come with hi-tech amenities such as iPod docking stations and 200 cable channels. Hotel Le Bellechasse is one of the best Paris hotels if you're looking to splurge on a high-end hotel with modern luxuries.
When you hear that this former private mansion (hence the name) is hidden behind a concealed gate in a cobbled passageway named ‘le passage du rocher de la sorcière’ (the witches' rock passage) you know you're going to find something magical. And it is, so long as you're not looking for standard top-end trappings (there are no mini-bars, no restaurant services, and no room service, for example), or action scenes. Still this is one of the best places to stay in Paris for location as well. Montmartre is on the doorstep, but the quiet, secluded setting and private-home feel is about leaving the madding crowds behind. For a tryst, though, or some artistic inspiration, the individual suites are a bewitching alchemy of edgy graphics and antique furnishings, and the secret garden is straight out of a storybook.
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If you're staying at what many consider to be the Paris hotel (and in this luxurious city, that's really a statement), then chances are money is no object. Even so, watch out for pricey extras that can rapidly ramp up your bill (laundry service, WiFi, and especially room service).
But this 1928-built, 245-room landmark in the Triangle d'Or (golden triangle) just off the Champs-Élysées does have plenty to recommend it. The Four Seasons is known as one of the best Paris hotels for its gorgeous amenities, from its flowing rooms, juliet balconies, 18th-century tapestries and ornate flower arrangements to its frescoed swimming pool and sumptuous spa, and sublime twin Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Cinq.
Fiber optic lighting in the showers, a choice of five different perfumes for your room and rose petals scattered on the bed are some of the reasons to stay at this top Paris hotel that is study in contemporary design. Then there are the L'Occitane bath products and free WiFi.
But be aware that the “standard” rooms are tiny, even by Parisian standards, and bathrooms are positively minute. So if you're going to be out and about (and come on, you're in Paris), it's fine. But if you're planning on spending a lot of time here, you may soon be climbing the art-adorned walls.
If you want space and then some (and are prepared to pay a lot for it), book into the adjacent One by the Five. Run by The Five Hotel (which is where you check in), it consists of one large, ultraluxe private apartment with an incredible suspended bed.
This little find is housed in an ancient building on a narrow street in the most central part of the Latin Quarter just back from the Seine and Notre Dame—which you can see out the window of rooms 47 and 501.
Wood beams, 10 antique-filled rooms hung with original art, free breakfast and staff that treat you like famille make it hard to leave. So does its cozy neighborhood restaurant, crammed with black-and-white prints and bric-a-brac, situated downstairs. Yes, that's downstairs in the literal sense (there is no elevator), but staff are happy to help with your bags. If you want an authentic Parisian experience, this is one of the best places to stay in Paris.
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Not far from Paris’s sleazy-but-safe red light district, Pigalle, this was once a rent-by-the-hour hotel. Parisian hipsters now congregate at Amour's see-and-be-seen restaurant and bar, which opens out to an oasis-like courtyard garden. The 20 artist-designed rooms are a walk on the wild side, and won't be to everyone's taste (some more so than others, including in-your-face photos, and graffiti art walls), but comfy beds come from the company that supplies the Paris Ritz. Hotel Amour is one of the top Paris hotels for visiting hipsters and fashionistas. Post-party breakfast options abound along nearby rue des Martyrs, home to a string of Paris’s best bakeries and food shops.
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On a leafy backstreet in the upper Marais behind its heritage-listed 1900 facade, this 17th-century former bakery is surrounded by some of Paris’s hippest fashion boutiques. So it's fitting that this boutique hotel is the creative work of fashion designer Christian Lacroix.
Within the warren-like building, all 17 rooms are strikingly unique, in line with Lacroix's philosophy of reflecting 17 different ways to enjoy the Marais (historic, kitsch, Zen and so on), without any contrived sense of “theme.” So you might find a dreamy shooting-star mural above the bed, a roll-top bath, a lipstick-red bathroom with a heart-shaped, silver-framed mirror, wallpaper with historic sketches or other Lacroix flourishes.
It's an expensive option if you go for the best rooms in this top Paris hotel, but you can usually get good Internet deals. Our only gripe is paying for WiFi at all.
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If you're lucky, Mama Shelter might actually squeak into the budget category, depending on how the exchange rate's holding up. But in any case, nothing about this ubercool Philippe Starck-designed pad is low end. Monochrome rooms lit by carnival mask lamps come kitted out with soft white-cotton sheets and big pillows, microwaves, mini-bars, iMac entertainment systems, WiFi and free in-room movies all making for a true value experience at one of the best places to stay in Paris.
Fashion designers, artists, musicians and other local creatives hang out with guests at its island bar and its restaurant (which is less of a bargain, but hosts a buzzing Sunday brunch). Other snacking options include a pizzeria, and candy, cookies and chocolate for jetlagged late-night cravings. The home-from-(very hip)-home vibe extends to efficient and friendly staff through to a self-service laundry. You can also rent wheels onsite, including electric scooters.
The catch (because you knew there'd be a catch) is the far-from-central location. On the far side of Père Lachaise cemetery (inside the ring road, though, but not by much), it's 10 minutes' walk from the metro, though buses pass right out front.
Not to be confused with the canal-side restaurant Hôtel du Nord (or several other similarly named places), Hôtel du Nord—Pari Vélo is so-called because, well, it's in the north, on a quiet street close to place de la République. And because it has 10 bikes available free-of-charge for guests (great if your credit card doesn't work with the Vélib' system and/or you want to ride further than just point-to-point).
One of the best budget places to stay in Paris, each of this little gem's two dozen rooms is individually decorated with vintage furniture, old books and window boxes cascading with flowers, with clean and compact bathrooms. Bonuses include an elevator, free WiFi and personalized service that makes it feel more like a B&B. It's also one place in Paris where it's worth paying for breakfast (flaky croissants, fresh baguettes, good coffee), which is served in a little stone-walled 'cave'. (We love the phonetic spelling 'Pari', pronouncing the city's name like a local, too.)
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On balance, this is probably the best place to stay in Paris if you’re a backpacker in search of a hostel. We say 'probably' because the common room is small and overflowing with luggage, the kitchen comprises a toaster and microwave, there are no lockers (though you can leave valuables at reception), you're locked out of the rooms from 11AM to 4PM for cleaning (but you can stay on the premises), and there's no alcohol allowed. And you can't pay by credit card. So if those things are important to you, then it's probably not a good choice.
But upsides include en suite bathrooms in all dorms and private rooms (some have Eiffel Tower views), air conditioning, and funky retro paisley, geometric and faux-fur wall coverings, a raspberry-pink elevator with polka dot mirrors, free breakfast, free computers and WiFi, and cool staff. And it's in a safe, lively location at the far eastern end of the Latin Quarter within a few footsteps of three metro lines.
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