Over the years, I must have visited nearly 100 hotels in Paris. Here are some of my favourites, hand-picked for people who want somewhere quiet and characterful – but who don't want to spend too much
I was intending to call this guide "Five budget places to stay in Paris". Looking at the typical prices of the places I wanted to recommend, however, I felt they didn't quite fit most people's interpretation of "budget". Hotel rates in the French capital have shot up during the past few years – and lately, the pound has weakened dramatically against the euro. Taking both factors together, British travellers have been badly affected. I calculate that, since 2004, the cost of a room at many Parisian hotels has risen by at least a third. In some instances, it has pretty much doubled.
It's true that you can still get a room in a bog-standard chain hotel for about €70 a night – but where is the enjoyment in that? For most of us, a trip to Paris is supposed to be a treat. The five places I've picked out are full of character – so if you stay in one, it should end up being a memorable part of your trip. And trust me – by Paris's pricey standards, most of them are inexpensive. Unless otherwise stated, rates given are for the cheapest double room. Where breakfast is priced separately, it will be optional – and you'll save at least €5 a head by having a coffee and croissant in a nearby café.
On a steep, quiet, cobbled side street in villagey Montmartre, the Hôtel Arts is something of an artistic showcase for its neighbourhood. Paintings by local artists adorn the lobby (say hello to Caramel, the resident labrador), the little salon, the basement breakfast room, the stairs, the corridors and the bedrooms – and the lift doors on each floor have murals depicting Montmartre scenes. Bedrooms (from €75) are otherwise plain. To avoid the rather gloomy interior-facing ones, consider paying €10 extra for a superior-rated room: it may have an expansive view. Breakfast is an additional €10 a head; you may want to pop down the street instead to Les Deux Moulins, the Art Deco café made famous in the movie Amélie.
Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles
I have visited the family-run Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles, in the Latin Quarter, more than half a dozen times in the past decade – but I am still bowled out by its charms. With its three buildings set around a large, pristine courtyard garden, it is remarkably tranquil. It feels like it is in a small provincial French town, not central Paris. The TV-free bedrooms, with their floral-patterned wallpaper and lacy bedcovers, are pretty in a thoroughly traditional way: the smallest cost €115, larger ones up to €140. Breakfast – €9 extra per person – is delightful and served by ladies in pinafores in a parquet-floored salon (and in the garden in summer). Understandably, the hotel is extremely popular, so book well ahead.
I thought long and hard about mentioning the Hôtel Nicolo, as its prices have climbed inexorably over the past few years. However, I have stayed here three times and can't recommend it too strongly. It occupies an early 20th-century apartment block in the smart and central 16th arrondissement – the Eiffel Tower is within walking distance. Another building separates the hotel from the street, so it's exceptionally peaceful. Bedrooms come with Persian rugs, elaborately carved Indonesian bed heads and eye-catching modern paintings (wildlife features prominently). Catherine, the manager, is efficient and friendly. €140 in 2009, rising to €151 in 2010, including a modest continental breakfast.