Choosing Hotels in Paris
Choosing hotels in Paris – what a hardship! Paris is a tremendous international tourist destination for people from all over the world. Everyone wants to visit Paris and they all need a hotel room. As a result, hotels run the gamut from incredibly posh for royalty and heads of state to bare necessities for those determined to visit the City of Light no matter what.
Who doesn’t have dreams of a luxurious Parisian hotel, a butler, breakfast in bed, a car at your disposal to take you any place in the city at anytime? Wouldn’t that be nice?? Okay, so back to reality, a hotel is a personal experience and only you know what you need and want from a hotel.
Expect Small Rooms
Again, expect small rooms. And, really, you do not realize how small the rooms can be until you open the door and wonder where you will put your suitcase, and maybe even wonder how the door can open. The room may have enough space for you to open up your suitcase and walk by to get to the bathroom, or, maybe not. You may have to open it to get your things out for the day and then close it back up again and shove it against the wall. The bathroom, if you have one in your room, may have a combination tub with shower, a sink, the toilet, and only enough room for one person to fit at any one time.
It is all fine – don’t go bonkers when you see your room. Revel in a new/crazy experience. Everyone in the world does not live as large as Americans! On the other hand, from any hotel you should expect a clean room, clean sheets and a clean bathroom.
How do you determine what hotel is right for you? First, research options with what you need. Then, take a look at what you want. Answer these questions honestly:
What Do You Need From a Hotel?
- Refrigerator – for prescription drugs – do you have diabetes?
- Handicap accessible room and hallways
- Close to a Metro for easy access
- Cab to be called
- Air conditioning
- Laundry service
- Breakfast – if so, what kind? Continental or American
- Wifi – check availability and cost
What Do You Want From a Hotel?
- Window on the street
- View of Paris
- Nearby cafés to have a coffee/citron pressé
- Métro stop for easy access
- Doorman who can get a cab right away
- Room service
- Television with American channels
- Your own bathroom – look for en suite
- Modern or traditional furnishings
Size, Price and Ratings
When researching hotels, be aware that the bigger the room, the more you pay. Do you really need a lot of room when you may be able to use the difference in price for a taxi from and to the airport?
Hotel prices may be more economical in the off-season of August, November, beginning of December, January, February, and maybe March depending on when Easter falls.
Don’t be distracted by the French government star rating on the outside of hotels and on their websites. The star system is based on a variety of things including room size, lobby size, number of beds, if they have an elevator, and other mundane factors. These stars do not necessarily reflect quality, but the more stars it has, the more they can charge!
Check out the guidebooks for suggested hotels. You have to research on your own to determine what fits your needs and wants.
French or American Style?
Remember, choosing a hotel goes back to personal preference. Don’t try to do something to try to be “European.” Choose what will make your experience better and more enjoyable.
Be honest, do you want to go all in for a European hotel (read small)? Or, is it really better, and more comfortable, for you to have an American chain hotel that is familiar to you. It is okay either way, only you know what you want when you are tired after a long day of seeing the sights. If you really would prefer fluent English speakers when you go in at night to find your room, do the American thing! You are filling up your days with Paris, spend the night in American comfort if you want to.
Don’t overlook Sofitel if you want a more American-style hotel with European touches. Sofitel serves an international clientele who expect the same service at each of their hotels. It is like Marriott, Hyatt, Westin, etc…. but with big differences in style depending on which hotel you choose.
If a hotel is not in line with what you are wanting, consider hostels, bed and breakfasts or apartment rentals.
Paris hotels seem to always show saggy beds in the photos they post online. The French also seem to be obsessed with jacuzzi tubs and mini-bars as a selling point. Also remember that the photos make the rooms look bigger.
When making a reservation, keep in mind the following:
Make sure to check the cancellation policy for the hotel. Is it pay up front for the cheapest price with no refund? Or can you cancel 48 hours in advance with no penalty. Be sure to read the cancellation policy before booking!
Getting a Great Deal
Visit the hotel’s official site. Many times the easiest way to get the best rate at a hotel is to email the hotel you have chosen, provide your dates of arrival and departure and ask for the best possible rate and any discounts/specials. Make sure to add in your requirements of breakfast, wifi, etc…. You may be surprised by the reply. I have written and received a reply with the same rate as on the site, but with breakfast, wifi, some free Metro tickets and a museum pass! No reduction in the rate, but the extras were terrific.
Reach Out With Questions
Email is a great way to communicate with the hotel to ensure your questions are answered. Obviously, they are in a different time zone, so allow enough time for someone to respond to a request. Generally, it is better to ask one question at a time than to include 5 questions in an email. Hotel representatives may be French, or any other European nationality, so try to use easily understandable words without contractions in your emails.
Ask for Help!
Many times, if you request a queen bed, they put together two twin beds. So, don’t be surprised by a crack in the middle of the bed. You won’t fall through.
The concierge can be an exceptional resource. A concierge can be your best friend while you are in Paris – and before you arrive. The concierge can suggest restaurants near by for dinner (be sure to explain exactly what you want from a restaurant), make dinner reservations, help with museum passes, tickets to night time activities and pretty much anything you want to do in Paris. If the hotel is small (many are), it may not have full time concierges and reception may be the ones who you should ask for help. Either way, I have always found the concierge or reception to be a tremendous help – so do not be afraid to ask.
Spill something on your only blazer? Don’t sweat it. Have the hotel take care of it – yes, it may be expensive, but how many times will you have to spend that much money on cleaning? Just have it done and don’t think about it again. Reception will be able to help you with this.
I don’t mind a small room because I don’t spend too much time in my room. It is a room for me to sleep. It is okay with me to have a small room. I can have a narrow space to walk around the bed, a bathroom that is not too big, and I can have my coffee sitting on the side of the bed.
I’d prefer a small, tiny room, upper floor (remember, nothing in Paris is more than 6 or 7 stories at most) with a view of the street or of rooftops that I can look out of when I wake up and know that I am in Paris. I can forego largesse for that experience. At the same time, price can determine whether I look out over roofs for 10 minutes each day. It is a trade off at reservation time – location, view, breakfast, small or large, more expensive or less expensive. Lots of options!
Generally, I would rather stay in a good location in a decent hotel, but with the less expensive room, that includes a Continental breakfast (have you noticed a recurring theme of pastry on here?). If you do not want breakfast, then don’t pay for it in your stay, have a croissant from a boulangerie down the street and/or walk into a café, stand at the bar and order espresso and a croissant, save money and enjoy the experience.
Personal Experiences at These Paris Hotels
1 – Hôtel des Deux Iles
2 – Hôtel de Lutèce
3 – Hôtel Saint-Louis en l’Isle
All three are on Île Saint-Louis, just down the street from each other. At night it is a quiet neighborhood, but during the day, it has everything you would want for provisions. Really, Île Saint-Louis is an old time neighborhood (maybe that is why it is some of the most expensive real estate in the world?)
These hotels are simple with basic furnishings. You bring in your own bags and take them up to your room after checking in. Down the street, you will find a great cremerie, La Ferme Saint Aubin, multiple boulangeries, a little market for water or soft drinks, Berthillon for ice cream, La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis at the end of the street. It’s an easy walk to see Notre Dame at night or during the day. Although, it is not really close to a Metro stop (Pont Marie is across the river). La Cure Goumande’ – sweets in beautiful gift packages to take back home. Nos Ancetres les Gaulois, boisterous restaurant, not the greatest food, but can be a lot of fun. Ask for a room higher up if you like it a little quieter.
Hôtel Prince de Condé
In the 6th arrondissement – narrow streets, in a neighborhood chock-a-block with hotels, restaurants and shops. Simple rooms that are clean and located near the Seine and the bouquinistes, St. Michel and the student section, near St. Germain des Pres church, two Metro stations depending on where you are going – Mabillon or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This is where we stayed when I took my nieces – they seemed to love it. By American (and maybe even French) standards, the rooms and bathrooms are small – look at the photos, that is actually the distance between the bed and the wall.
A little bit of luxury in the 6th arrondissement. Not that the rooms are bigger, but a bar, a lounge, a reception area for you to review your itinerary, convenient to many of the same places as the Hôtel Prince de Conde – they are in the same neighborhood. A quiet courtyard, some rooms in the oldest part of the building with exposed beams, wonderful concierge and desk staff. If breakfast is your thing, they spread it out. Near St. Sulpice (on The Da Vinci Code tour), Café Flore, Les Deux Magots, Cluny Museum, the Seine, Luxembourg Gardens, Le Bon Marché, rue de Buci flower markets and restaurants.
Hôtel Europe Saint Séverin
In the 5th, a block and a half or two from the Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame Metro and RER station (this means you can get anywhere from here, including the Charles de Gaulle airport in a straight shot), in the middle of everything (read – can be loud), but so close to good street food, Gilbert Jeune is around the corner for gifts, if you request it you may even have a little balcony for coffee. It fills up quickly.
A splurge. In the 1st arrondissement. Across the street from the Louvre, diagonally across the street from the Tuileries. Joan of Arc stands guard in the square outside the front door. The rooms are not large, but if you have a view over the square, you may be able to look out of your window and see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. You may recognize it from the films Nikita or The Bourne Identity. Doorman for taxis.
Also, checkout the guidebook suggestions in the library!
Update: More thoughts on travel planning and weather here: Purchasing a Flight to Paris and Reserving a Hotel – Planning for January.