Paris boasts some 2,000 hotels -- with about 80,000 rooms -- spread across its 20 arrondissements. They range from the Ritz and the Crillon to dives so repellent even George Orwell, author of Down and Out in Paris and London, wouldn't have considered checking in. (Of course, you won't find those in this guide!) We've included deluxe places for those who can afford to live like the Sultan of Brunei, as well as a wide range of moderate and inexpensive choices for the rest of us.
Most visitors, at least those from North America, come to Paris in July and August. Many French are on vacation, and trade fairs and conventions come to a halt, so there are usually plenty of rooms, even though these months have traditionally been the peak season for European travel. In most hotels, February is as busy as April or September because of the volume of business travelers and the numbers of tourists taking advantage of off-season discounts.
Because hot weather rarely lasts long in Paris, few hotels, except the deluxe ones, provide air-conditioning. If you're trapped in a garret on a hot summer night, you'll have to sweat it out. You can open your window to get cooler air, but open windows admit noise pollution. To avoid this, request a room in back when reserving.
Reading the Government Ratings
The French government grades hotels with a star system, ranging from one star for a simple inn to four stars for a deluxe hotel. Moderately priced hotels usually get two or three stars. This system is based on a complex formula of room sizes, facilities, plumbing, elevators, dining options, renovations, and so on. In one-star hotels, the bathrooms are often shared, the facilities are extremely limited (such as no elevator), the rooms may not have phones or TVs, and breakfast is often the only meal served. Two- or three-star hotels usually have elevators, and rooms will likely have baths, phones, and TVs. In four-star hotels, you'll get all the amenities plus facilities and services like room service, 24-hour concierges, elevators, and perhaps even health clubs.
However, the system is a bit misleading. For tax reasons, a four-star hotel might elect to have a three-star rating, which, with the hotel's permission, is granted by the government. The government won't add a star where it's not merited but will remove one at the hotel's request.
Which Bank Is For You?
The river dividing Paris geographically and culturally demands you make a choice. Are you more Left Bank, wanting a room in the heart of St-Germain, where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir once spent their nights? Or are you more Right Bank, preferring sumptuous quarters like those at the Crillon, where Tom Cruise once slept? Would you rather look for that special old curio in a dusty shop on the Left Bank's rue Jacob, or inspect the latest Lagerfeld or Dior couture on the Right Bank's avenue Montaigne? Each of Paris's neighborhoods has its own flavor, and your experiences and memories of Paris will likely be formed by where you choose to stay.
If you desire chic surroundings, choose a Right Bank hotel. That puts you near the most elegant shops and within walking distance of major sights like the Arc de Triomphe, place de la Concorde, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Opéra Garnier, and the Louvre. The best Right Bank hotels are near the Arc de Triomphe in the 8th Arrondissement, though many first-class lodgings cluster near the Trocadéro and Bois de Boulogne in the 16th or near the Palais des Congrès in the 17th. If you'd like to be near place Vendôme, try for a hotel in the 1st. Also popular are the increasingly fashionable Marais and Bastille in the 3rd, 4th, and 11th arrondissements, and Les Halles/Beaubourg, home of the Centre Pompidou and Les Halles shopping mall, in the 1st.
If you want less formality and tiny bohemian streets, head for the Left Bank, where prices are traditionally lower. Hotels that cater to students are found in the 5th and 6th arrondissements, the 5th being known as the Latin Quarter. These areas, with their literary overtones, boast the Sorbonne, the Panthéon, the Jardin du Luxembourg, cafe life, bookstores, and publishing houses. The 6th Arrondissement provides a touch of avant-garde St-Germain.
A Room in Paris
If you want to stay somewhere more intimate (and in some cases, more restrictive) than a hotel, consider booking a room within a private home. An agency promoting upmarket B&B accommodations in Paris is Alcove & Agapes, 8 bis rue Coysevox, 75018 Paris (tel. 01-44-85-06-05; fax 01-44-85-06-14; http://www.bed-and-breakfast-in-paris.com/).
This outfit is a bridge between travelers who seek rooms in private homes and Parisians who wish to welcome visitors. Most hosts speak at least some English, range in age from 30 to 75, and have at least some points of view about entertainment and dining options within the neighborhood. Available options include individual bedrooms, usually within large, old-fashioned private apartments, as well as "unhosted" accommodations where the apartment is otherwise empty and without the benefit (or restrictions) of a live-in host.
Rates for occupancy by either one or two persons, with breakfast included, range from 70€ to 160 euros ($91-$208) per unit, depending on the apartment, the neighborhood, the setup, and the plumbing. In cases where a client occupies an unhosted apartment, the refrigerators will be stocked with sufficient breakfast supplies for the number of days you are staying (3-night minimum stay).
Good, Clean Rooms for Around $50 a Night
Largely unnoticed by U.S. visitors -- as yet -- a French Revolution is quietly taking place. Some two dozen modern, amenity-packed hotels have sprouted up in Paris under the Ibis Hotel banner. These cookie-cutter properties have become the McDonald's of French budget lodgings. Operated by Accor Hotels (tel. 800/221-4542), they have attractive but tiny rooms and offer simple but comfortable decors that are cost-efficient, albeit without any particular antique or glamorous trappings. If you stay at Motel 6 and Red Roof Inns in the United States, it's a comparable experience. You can book a room at an Ibis for the price of two martinis at the George V.
Splish, Splash -- Taking a Bath
Throughout the hotels listed, expect the bathrooms in very expensive and expensive hotels to be a bit larger than normal, with fine toiletries, plush towels, and perhaps bathrobes. The bathrooms in moderate and inexpensive hotels tend to be cramped but still acceptable, with towels that are less plush than those at expensive places.
Be aware that some hotels offer tub/shower combinations, some offer shower stalls, and some offer a mix. If something particular is important to you, request your preference when reserving. Almost all hotels, except the inexpensive ones, include hair dryers in the bathrooms.
For more on what to see and do in Paris, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/paris.
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