Five charming and affordable places to stay in Paris

by Fred.Mawer

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.

Hôtel Arts

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 Chopin

It's a cliché, I know, but the Hôtel Chopin – which dates from the mid-19th century – really is a step back in time. Its location is very unusual: you reach it via a quaint, glass-roofed shopping arcade. From the lobby, with its pot plants and a piano, a warren of corridors lead to old-fashioned bedrooms, some with that fabric-effect wallpaper you only ever see in France. They are simply furnished, but many have interesting roofscape views – and you're well away from the street, so all are very quiet. Skip the cheapest rooms (€92), which can be small and claustrophobic; most are priced at €106. Breakfast, which includes freshly squeezed orange juice, is €7 per person extra. Chartier, one of Paris's classic budget restaurants, is just round the corner on rue du Faubourg Montmartre.

Hôtel Mayet

If you want somewhere rather more cutting-edge than the arts or Chopin, the Hôtel Mayet, in the smart Les Invalides quarter, should fit the bill. Bold graffiti-style murals set the tone in the reception, while the small but striking red-and-grey bedrooms, with filing cabinets as bedside tables and a large clock on the wall, look like something out of an Ikea catalogue. Rooms at the front are preferable to those at the rear, as they are lighter, and those up on the fifth floor have narrow balconies. Simple self-service breakfasts, which are included in the rates, are eaten communally at one long table down in the colourful basement. From €120 b&b.

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.  

Hôtel Nicolo

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.

Fred.Mawer

As a travel journalist with over 20 years of experience, I have written numerous articles on Amsterdam for the travel sections of newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and The Independent. I've also contributed to guidebooks on Amsterdam for the AA and Dorling Kindersley.

For my portfolio of writing, I am proud to say that the Netherlands Board of Tourism has voted me Journalist of the Year 2010.

During my many and frequent visits to the Dutch capital, I've stayed in most of the best hotels (in all price brackets - not just the expensive ones), and visited dozens of others. I've eaten and drunk in more restaurants, cafés and bars than, even sober, I can remember. I've explored the canals by boat and bike and on foot. I've hunted for bargains in the markets. I've admired the art - and worked out how best to avoid the crowds and queues - in the must-see museums. When not in Amsterdam or on my travels elsewhere, I'm at home in Bath.

My Amsterdam

Where I always grab a beer - Café t' Smalle (Egelantiersgracht 12), a cosy, classic "brown café" with its own canalside terrace.

My favourite dining spot - Café de Reiger (Nieuwe Leliestraat 34), an atmospheric eetcafé in the Jordaan that is always packed with locals.

Best for people watching - A window seat in Snackbar Bird (Zeedijk 77), a great little no-frills Thai café on one of the main thoroughfares into the Red Light District.

My favourite stroll - Pick a canal, any canal...but the stretch of the Prinsengracht along the Jordaan district is particularly lovely.

Where to be seen - MiNiBAR (Prinsengracht 478), an unusual, newish bar near the Leidseplein where you get your own minibar (and unlike many of Amsterdam's trendy nightspots, it's easy to get in).

The most breathtaking view - from the top of the tower of the Westerkerk.

The best spot for some peace and quiet - Vondelpark, the city's main park - especially towards its less visited western end.

Shopaholics beware! The gourmet shops, funky art galleries, fashionable clothes boutiques and oddball stores that line the charming Negen Straatjes or Nine Streets quarter.

Best new attraction - Hermitage Amsterdam, which lays on no-expense-spared exhibitions of treasures from St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum.

Don’t leave without...exploring the Eastern Docklands on a bike. The avant-garde modern architecture there is as memorable as the old gabled canal houses in the centre.