When going to a foreign city, especially one as big and as dazzling as Paris, it is important to get the right location. Bustling? Peaceful? Hip & happening? There is, of course, everything you can want and more in this city, you just have to know where to look.
Having lived in the 5th arrondissement, I would definitely say it’s my favourite. With Boulevard Saint Germain running through its heart, it’s full of beautiful shops, quaint cafés, cute bars and, of course, has plenty of those trendy little market stalls. To find my accommodation, I used a site recommended by a friend: centralparisrentals. Bills included and a range of rooms/apartments all over Paris, it’s definitely a good place to start when flat-hunting.
One of my friends lived in the 11th, near République. Being a flat owned by his friend’s parents, it was a bit more snazzy than my student accommodation, and was in a more family-orientated area. However, step out into the surrounding area and there are a range of hip bars, especially heading towards Bastille.
If you fancy a quieter place to live, obviously the suburbs are a better bet. This doesn’t necessarily mean venturing outside of the périphérique; the 16th, one of the posher residential areas near the Eiffel Tower, and the 13th, closer to the universities and so more contemporary, both offer a (relatively) more peaceful living environment than the true centre.
To find accommodation, it really is easier to go & stay in the city and look. There’s not only the added advantage of being able to ‘try before you buy‘, but also a smaller chance of being scammed. Being full of flats, Paris has so many great places to stay, so you will no doubt find somewhere.
As for all you tourists who don’t need to go to as much effort finding accommodation, there are of course all the usual hotel chains you find in almost every city. Nothing wrong with them. It is, however, sometimes nice to have a bit of a break from all the normality and routine and stay somewhere a bit different, a bit arty (it is Paris after all!). My favourite hotel has to be Hotel Atmospheres. Always welcoming, immaculately clean, marvellously modern, and with a range of cute French art in each room (best one I’ve seen has been of macaroons – can you be more parisien?!), it’s a cracking place to stay. Situated in the 5th, therefore great for sightseeing as well as being in the midst of some of the best bars, there are some great deals to be had price-wise too.
One final thing: CAF (or Caisse d’Allocation Familiale to use its full title). Similar to our benefit system in the UK, it offers money to a range of people living permanently in Paris, including students. It’s worth having (I received about €115/month), but you have to be proactive. It’s a lot easier to go into the office and speak to someone if you have any issues, and make sure you bring a copy of everything you have (including your birth certificate!) when you move over, as they like their proofs of identity.
Having touched upon a few different quartiers, I feel it is important to discuss all the best bits in Paris I found during my year there – from a whole area itself (the Marais), to specific coffee shops, frozen yoghurt cafés, fruit parlours and cocktail bars, my next few posts will cover each one in detail. Definitely key for anyone in this beautiful city, and usually not flagged up in guide books.
So how about a bar with over 300 different cocktails? Or maybe a nutella, hot milk and Carambar concoction? That’s just a flavour of the things to come…