Category Archives: Paris, Île-de-France

The Vibe of Paris Neighborhoods, Episode 199

The Vibe of Paris Neighborhoods, Episode 199

Each part of Paris has it own feel and understanding the vibe of Paris neighborhoods is important so you can be in the best position to choose where you stay. The question of where should I stay in Paris comes up a lot especially for first-time visitors.

Those of us who have been to Paris several times have our favorites, but that doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t any good, it just means that you like to stick to what’s comfortable to you!

The neighborhoods we consider today are the Latin Quarter, Saint Germain des Près, Saint Michel, Le Marais, Montmatre, Montparnasse, the Eiffel Tower, La Défense, the Champs Elysées / Arc de Triomphe area.

There are some Annie loves and others she does not. In this episode you hear exactly why with examples of what’s wrong.

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Café de Flore in the Saint Germain neighborhood
Photo Annie Sargent

What You Will Hear About in this Episode with Timestamps

[00:22] What Paris neighborhood is best to stay in?

[01:32] This episode is for people who don’t have a favorite Paris neighborhood yet.

[02:56] Annie recorded this episode behind Notre Dame in Paris, recording in public is a first for this show!

[04:03] Annie just completed the Versailles, Giverny, Paris and Normandy tours, they were great with great customers again.

[04:26] What is the vibe of various Paris neighborhoods and how can knowing about that help you choose the best place for you? Let’s start with four neighborhoods on the left bank: Latin Quarter, Saint Germain des Près and Saint Michel.

The Saint-Michel Neighborhood

[05:06] Saint Michel is great for people who aren’t staying in Paris very long because it’s close to everything first-time visitors should visit, but it’s a loud neighborhood.


[06:35] Saint Germain des Près is a little further, but not by much. It is quieter (fewer sirens) but still busy and very popular with visitors. A great place to rent or apartment or book a hotel, although it’ll be a bit more expensive than Saint Michel.

The Latin Quarter

[07:11] The Latin Quarter is a lot more subdued because it is the home of the Sorbonne which takes up a lot of the space.  It is a wonderful neighborhood but be prepared to walk a little more.

The Luxembourg Garden Area

[08:07] The Luxembourg Gardens are also a lovely area for you to choose as a place to stay, it is usually attractive to repeat visitors who have visited the area before. It is a little further out, but peaceful and upscale.

Le Marais Neighborhood

[08:46] On the right bank (I misspoke and said left bank in the audio) you can stay in Le Marais, a wonderful lively area, especially around the Saint Paul metro station.

Montmartre, Watch Out!

[09:58] Montmatre is a popular area that I don’t recommend. Why not? Because it takes too long to get to and from Montmartre, because it’s hilly, there are lots of stairs to deal with, and the elevator at the Abbesses metro station hardly ever works, it hasn’t gotten any better since the renovation.

Montparnasse, More Genuinely  French

[12:37] For those of you who would like to stay in a neighborhood with more French people than visitors, Montparnasse is highly recommended (I misspoke and said Montmartre several times, but I meant Montparnasse). The area has a lot of offer and is “real”.

La Défense Area

[13:38] Some people stay at La Défense when they get free hotels due to miles. There is nothing wrong with staying at La Défense but be aware that the area is lively during the day (when presumably you’ll be away enjoying Paris) and completely dead at night. I don’t recommend you stay there unless you’re going to Paris for work.

Delacroix painting in the Saint Sulpice church
Photo Annie Sargent

The Eiffel Tower Area

[14:20] The Eiffel Tower neighborhood is wonderful with good hotels, great apartments, a little bit out of the way, but not so much that it would become a problem.

Champs Elysées / Arc de Triomphe

[15:39] The Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe area is nice, but not as well served by public transportation because the people who live there are wealthy and never take the bus. This is a great area for people who take taxis everywhere they go.

Episode Conclusion

[16:24] Recap of what I covered in the episode and the vibe of Paris neighborhoods.

[18:59] Thank you new Patreon supporters!

[20:01] Quick recap of how the tours went, more to come in subsequent episodes.

[21:31] Annie is going back to Paris to spend time with her sister-in-law and her two children and will be trying kid-friendly attraction.

[21:44] Annie is getting a labradoodle puppy!

[22:36] June 2017 was stifling hot and June 2018 has been really wet.

Rant: Do Not Walk on the Road!

[23:05] RANT: do NOT walk off into the road to take a picture of the Arc de Triomphe!

[24:44] You can listen to the show on the Amazon Alexa, on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and any podcast App you may wish to use on your smartphone.

Beautiful building in the Marais neighborhood
Photo Annie Sargent

Saint Germain-des-Prés Neighborhood, Episode 196

Saint Germain-des-Prés Neighborhood

On today’s episode, Annie and Elyse talk about the things they love about the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood in Paris. It’s actually surprising to see how long it took us to devote an entire episode to Saint Germain des Prés, and it only happened because we assumed that we had already done it!

Saint Germain des Prés is the area of Paris where both Annie and Elyse would love to live if they won the lottery. It’s never going to happen, but a girl can dream, right? Come along and dream with us, we tell you tales of the oldest church in Paris, wonderful cafés, great shopping, and the wonderful artists of the 1920s who hung out there.

If you’re interested in Saint Germain des Prés, you should probably also listen to our other episodes about classic Paris neighborhoods: Episode 27 on Le Marais, and Episode 7 on the Latin Quarter.

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Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood in Paris, Saint Sulpice church at night
Photo Annie Sargent

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

  • [03:48] Saint Germain des Prés is beautiful and very expensive part of Paris. The prices went through the roof there 60 or 70 years ago.
  • [06:47] What do we mean when we say Saint Germain des Prés? What are the boundaries? The definition is a bit amorphous and it depends on who you ask, but it includes a lot of the 6th arrondissement.
  • [07:27] The word “prés” means meadow, which it used to be, this is an old area of Paris. The tower of the Church of Saint Germain des Prés was part of the oldest churches in Paris.
  • [09:04] The Merovingian Kings established the Saint Germain des Prés Abbey and it included a lot of land.
  • [10:10] Definition of Early Middle Ages (500 to 1000), High Middle Ages (1000 to 1400), Late Middle Ages (1400 to 1500s), then came the Renaissance.
  • [11:38] Merovingians made Christianity the official religion and funded Abbeys and Monasteries.
  • [11:58] In Roman times, many people were literate, but in this period of the early Middle Ages, few people in France were literate, so it was vital to have Monasteries to keep literacy alive.
  • [13:15] The Saint Germain des Prés Church becomes a Royal Abbey in 558 and the necropole for French French Kings before Saint Denis.
  • [14:04] They built the Saint Germain Church over the top of an old Roman Temple, which is something that happened a lot.
  • [15:03] The Saint Germain des Prés church is set a quarter to half mile away from the river in order to protect it from flooding.
  • [16:10] The vital importance of relics in the Middle Ages, and the worship of relics as a driver of economic growth.
  • [17:23] The Saint Germain area was raided and burned by the Vikings three times: in 845, 856, and 861.
  • [17:50] When they rebuilt the church, they added the Romanesque tower in 990, and that’s still the one we see today. This is also the time when it became a Benedictine Abbey.
  • [18:57] Benedictine Monks were always as the center of intellectual knowledge, and the area has retained its reputation of being the place for intellectuals.
  • [21:05] The Procope, one of the oldest cafés in Paris where people like Diderot and Voltaire used to go argue about ideas. This was the beginning of café culture in Paris and is mostly super touristy at this point.
  • [23:41] We’re not sure if they’d let you sit at a table at the Procope and write all day.
  • [24:21] The Procope is also where the people who fomented the French Revolution sur as Danton and Marat hung out.
  • [24:48] Rue Danton where Danton really lived is two streets away from the Procope. Back then the area was not fashionable or touristy.
  • [25:13] You just have to walk these streets. Most are small narrow streets except for Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés which has Haussmann buildings.
  • [26:48] Worth visiting, the Delacroix Museum where he had his studio.
  • [28:22] The Saint Germain des Prés area is famous for book stores. A couple that are famous today are L’Écume des Pages and La Hune.
  • [29:12] Several of the most prestigious French Publishing houses such as Gallimard and Seuil were also started in this area because it was always the book area.
  • [29:35] Saint Germain des Prés is the area where authors would hang out, lots of the famous ones you’ve heard of such as Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Simone de Beauvoir, etc. It must have been like in Midnight in Paris!
  • [32:05] Jazz clubs opened in Paris in the 20s and were popular with French people.
  • [32:34] The 1920 were paradoxical times: racism and prejudice were pervasive and yet there were vibrant communities of artists in Paris. Many had left their own countries to come to Paris where they could mingle.
  • [35:40] Brasserie Lipp is also an interesting place where filmmakers used to hang out.
  • [36:10] None of that is going on in Saint Germain today because it’s become too expensive. How the gentrification process worked in this neighborhood.
  • [38:25] The Beaux Arts school is on rue Bonaparte and has been there for a long time. It gave a lot of prestige to the area.
  • [41:19] Even rich French people mostly don’t patronize cafés like Deux Magots and Café de Flore because they know the prices are ridiculous. But the area has lots of little wonderful cafés that are more approachable and just as nice.
  • [42:52] Also explore the church of Saint Sulpice, technically in the Odeon neighborhood, but a must-see in this area.
  • [43:03] This is the church with the “gnomon” which can easily be missed if you’re not paying attention.
  • [44:21] Saint Sulpice also has free concerts every Sunday morning.
  • [44:52] Rue de Rennes is a big shopping street in this area, and so it rue Bonaparte.
  • [45:46] The Saint Germain neighborhood is a great place to go buy food for your picnic, then head down towards the river and enjoy it.
  • [48:34] At Saint Sulpice once a day you can go up to see the organ. Check their website to know what time.
  • [50:14] Annie has seen some tour guides come into Saint Sulpice and spend 2 minutes and leave. It’s like speed dating except that it’s speed tourism!
  • [53:42] This is a neighborhood where you will find unique clothes and things you won’t find in the big chain stores.
  • [54:01] Great shopping streets in the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood: rue de Buci, rue de Rennes, rue Saint André des Arts. You could also visit the Bon Marché, the expensive department store.
  • [56:56] Great neighborhood for walking, great neighborhood for looking around.
  • [57:47] Despite what popular guide books recommend, both Annie and Elyse would much rather stay in the Saint Germain des Près or Latin Quarter area.

Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood in Paris, panneau de la rue Bonaparte

Dicey Paris Neighborhoods, Episode 194

Dicey Paris Neighborhoods

On today’s episode, let’s talk about Paris neighborhoods where I would rather NOT stay, or book a hotel, or rent an apartment. There aren’t so many such places, so it’ll be a short episode. I get asked all the time: is this a safe neighborhood? So yeah, let’s talk about it and name the names!

If you’re interested in safety while in France, you should also check out How to Stay Safe in France, Getting Caught in a Terror Attack in France, Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France, How to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets in Paris

Support the show on Patreon.

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smiling and pleasant young woman carrying a clipboard on the courtyard at the Louvre
This pleasant-looking young woman is one of the many scammers who will try to get you to sign bogus petitions in Paris. It’s a pretext to rob you, walk on, do not engage such persons!

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

Beware of Sensational Reporting

[01:57] “No-go zones” in Paris are NOT a thing, but there are places where it is wise not to go.

Fine by Day, Bad Idea at Night

[03:33] Many of the “unsafe” areas listed here are fine during the day, but not so fine at night, which is why you shouldn’t book your hotel there.

It All Depends on What You’re Used to

[05:13] Big city folks are not easily startled by dicey neighborhoods, but country folks will probably freak out more.

Assessing Your Risk Level

[06:16] Men tend to feel safer no matter where they do. It’s another story for women.

Most Dicey Areas Are Outside of the Paris Belt Road

[06:45] It is best to say within the Paris belt road, aka “le périphérique” because that’s where most of the projects are located.

Keep It Simple: Stay Inside the Belt Road

[07:54] Only a few areas outside of the Paris belt road are dicey, but it’s too complicated for visitors to judge where exactly.

The Only Major Tourist Attraction Located Near a Dicey Area in Paris: Saint-Denis

[09:56] The only major tourist attraction located in a “bad” area is the Saint-Denis Basilica. You can still go if you get an Uber ride and go in the day-time.

Avoid the “Portes de…” Areas

[11:39] As a general rule, it is also best to avoid staying in areas called “Porte de…” This is not true for all of them, but most of them are a little rough.

map that shows the ring road around Paris
The Paris ring road or “périph”

What About Dicey Areas in the Center of Paris?

[13:18] There are only a few metro stations in the center of Paris next to which I wouldn’t want to book a hotel or AirB&B.

Paris Metro Stations You Want to Avoid

Most of them are in the northeast quarter of Paris: Stalingrad, Jaurès, Barbès, Place de Clichy, Porte de la Villette, Gare du Nord, République, Goutte d’Or, Danube, Place des Fêtes.  Chatelet-les-Halles and Pigale are not great either, but not as bad.

Broad Rule: Avoid the Northeast Quarter of Paris

[14:56] Broad rules always fail at some point, but it’s worth noting that if you avoid the northeast quarter of Paris, you’ll avoid most of the dicey areas.

What About Taking the Metro Late at Night in Paris?

[15:58] Is it safe to take the Paris metro late at night? Yes, if you follow some rules: enter as close to the driver as you can, don’t be alone in a car, avoid the tunnels.

How to Avoid Cell Phone Theft in the Paris Metro

[16:34] Don’t have your cell phone out when standing near the metro doors. Someone might grab it and run out just as the doors close.

Gun Violence is Rare in France

[17:40] There aren’t a lot of guns in the hands of the general population in France and gun violence is rare.

Biggest Risk: Pickpockets!

[17:53] How to protect yourself from pickpockets in Paris. That’s what you should be thinking about also.

[18:22] Theft statistics vs. murder statistics in France.

Learn What to Do in Case of a Terror Attack

[20:56] Terror attacks are rare, but terrifying. There are some things you should do to mitigate your risk.

Conclusion: Your Homework

[22:13] Tell others where you’ll be staying. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Program. Backup your phone before you leave. Take an older phone with you when traveling. Don’t take so much! If you need to pick a budget hotel, don’t go to the northeast corner of Paris. If you want affordable choices in the center of Paris, check out our hotel selection.

map that shows ZUS aka "Projects" around Paris
List of ZUS around Paris