Guest Notes for Episode 153: Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris

Categories: First Time in Paris, France How To, Paris

Phil’s Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris

These are the notes Phil wrote before our conversation where he gathered his thoughts.


What kind of travel do I like?

My partner Nancy and I started traveling internationally ten years ago (2007) – China for 3 weeks. Since then, we’ve been to 11 other countries on 4 continents. I’m a city boy, I love to visit cities. Nancy’s an “adventure traveler,” loves to explore “wild” places, but she also lived in Europe for three years (a long time ago). So, we’ve had a mix of both types of travel, from Patagonia to the Galapagos Islands, but also Tokyo, Singapore, Rome, Venice, etc. and of course Paris.

We first went to Paris in 2010, then I had an opportunity to return in 2015. All it did was whet my appetite for more, so we’re going again in September – this time for a month (plus a week in Provence).

So, yes, I’m a city boy, and yes, I love museums and monuments, churches and cathedrals. But what I really enjoy are the seemingly ordinary things that make a city what it is – watching the people, studying the architecture, feeling the pulse of the city.

Advantages of an Apartment

  • Gives you a chance to experience local living
    • Know patisseries, boulangeries, cafes, local shops and markets
    • More likely to be in a residential area, rather than a commercial area
    • Much more likely to get out in the morning, not to eat at a café, but to stroll to the local boulangerie for a pain au chocolate, watch the “Men in green” washing the streets and the farmers delivering produce to the outdoor markets.
  • Money saving (to a point – more a case of value than actual $$ saved)
    • Eat in if you want – in reality not so much to save money, but to relax.
    • Long-stay discounts: 1 month = 3 weeks
    • Our upcoming trip (28 nights): $160/nt, equivalent hotels in area average $175-250/nt
  • More amenities
    • Space = comfort (Hotel rooms (especially French hotels) offer no place to relax – one chair, at least in reasonably priced hotels)
    • Kitchen
    • Laundry
  • Quieter, more relaxing (eating in)
  • Great with kids or extended families – 2 or more bedrooms (or the sofa bed)
  • Can use it as a base for exploring other places, even overnight (cost is lower, so you don’t feel so bad leaving it empty for a day or two. We’ll be going to both Antwerp and Reims for 2-day trips – traveling light.
  • Adds to the whole Paris experience.


  • Requires lots of research to find the right one – internet, hard to compare – lots of variables, no “star rating”
  • Rental legitimacy concerns (deal with a reputable agency) – no craigslist
  • Minimum stay length – for practical reasons, less than a week – go to a hotel
  • 2-bedrooms harder to find
  • Apartment will be quirky (or charming, depending on how you look at it)
  • Security deposit (up to the full rental fee)
  • Extra charges (insurance, cleaning) – small
  • Cumbersome check-in process
    • No luggage storage
    • No reception desk/concierge
  • Best for 7 days minimum
  • Book early for best selection – 6 mos minimum


  • Direct rental platforms (websites) vs managed apartments
  • Price, convenience (credit card deposits, etc.)
  • Europe
    • VBRO Vacation Rental by Owner
    • Home Away
    • Airbnb (300+ homes) – outer arrondissements
    • Home to Go
  • Paris-based (these have better detail on Paris-specific matters) – more in inner arrondissements
    • Paris Attitude (500 apartments)
    • alacarte Paris (50)
    • PARIStay (700)
    • All Paris Apartments (3,000)
    • Paris Perfect (200?)
    • Vacation in Paris (100+)
  • Google “Paris vacation apartments”
  • Avoid Craigslist! Agencies offer some level of security


  • Rental fee
    • Paid to agency or owner
    • Credit card or international wire transfer (one or two payments)
    • Cancellation policy
  • Other fees
    • Agency fee – included in weekly rate, separate in monthly ($5-600), paid to agency (by credit card)
    • Insurance – agency will refer you
    • Electricity (monthly)
    • Cleaning
  • Security Deposit
    • Credit card hold
    • Cash – $ or € – negotiable
  • Cancellation policy – varies

 Where to Stay?

  • Location
    • If it’s your first visit, it’s important to learn a bit about the way the city’s laid out – the 20 Arrondissements in a spiral, and gently split by the Seine into the Left and Right Banks. Most things you’ll want to see and do are in the inner arrondissements (1st-7th). The outer arrondissements are fine places to live, but not as much to visit. They’re Metro accessible but it chews up too much time when you need to go everywhere by Metro. The Metro is wonderful, but what you really want is to be able to walk to many places.
    • Areas to consider:
    • Historic core – the Marais (4th and the southern 3rd) on the Right Bank, on Ile St Louis (very quiet) and Ile de la Cite. Mostly late 18th century, residential, trendy.
    • Left Bank: 5th (Latin Quarter), 6th (Saint German) 7th (Eiffel Tower) are largely residential, and artsy.
    • Right Bank: 1st, 2nd and 8th – close in but a bit commercial.
    • You can find apartments in the next tier (8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 18th (Montmartre)), but they’re a little remote (more metro travel)
    • Metro access, RER access
    • Distance from the Seine
    • Local cafes and shops, “tourist sites”
  • Street noise
    • Busy vs quiet street
    • Street side vs rear/courtyard side
    • Nightlife
  • No parking – need to use mysterious underground parking garages
  • Take a walk in the neighborhood!
    • Google Streets
    • Drop the little man on your apartment, see what it looks like from the outside, walk around the neighborhood.

 Decoding the Listings

  • Size (in m2)
    • Very small studios = 15 m2
    • average 1 br – 40-50 m2
  • No of bedrooms (Studio/1-br/2-br)
  • No of occupants (includes sofabeds)
  • Most apartments are non-smoking, no pets
  • Most are not air-conditioned
  • Ask if cribs can be supplied
  • Find apartment on the map
    • Street address – Google streets
    • Nearby shops, supermarket
  • Age/style of building: (Architectural detail – it’s part of the Paris /experience)
    • 18th century buildings
      • Quirky – often dark and small
      • Exposed beams, narrow streets
      • Ile de la Cite, Ile St. Louis, 4th (Marais), 18th (Montmartre) Arr.
    • Late 19th Century
      • The classic “Haussmanian” building – marble fcade, long rows of wrought iron balconies, formal, parquet floors, crown molding, on a major street.
      • 1850’s-1890’s.
      • 1st, 2nd, 5th-7th
    • 20th century infill
      • Functional but boring
      • Could be anywhere, but especially in outer arrondissements.
    • “Real” floor number – 1st French floor starts on “2nd
      • Stairs/elevators
      • May still be stairs even with elevators
      • Not wheelchair friendly
    • Street view vs courtyard
    • Security/locks – passcode 5 -6 digits
    • Check photos of all the rooms
    • Floor plan in some listings
    • Utilities
      • AC – very rare in older buildings
      • WiFi/Phone – WiFi common, phone not so much
    • Owner/occupied vs investment apartment – level of furnishings
      • Furniture quality and comfort
    • Kitchen – list of appliances (oven?)
      • Dishwasher – not so important
      • Washer only or washer-dryer combination – great for more than a week
    • Bedrooms
      • Euro bed sizes:
        • King (rare): 180 cm = 70 in
        • Queen: 160 cm = 62 in
        • Double (most common): 140 cm = 55 in
      • Sofabeds, futons
      • Lofts – beware (weird stairs/ladders)
    • Bathrooms –
      • Separate WC? With/without sink?
      • Shower – handheld vs wall
    • Reviews from past clients – important, just their existence
    • Comes down to a variation on the “fast, good or cheap” paradigm:
      • Most important choices are location, amenities and cost – can have two out of the three:
        • Good location and amenities, but high cost.
        • Good location, low cost, bare bones amenities, etc.
      • You have to decide.

Checking In and Out

  • In
    • Set time (by email) to meet the owner or agent
    • Have passcode to get into the building – owner/agent will hand you the keys
    • Have deposit as arranged.
    • Do a walk through.
    • Look for the house rules and tips
    • Special requests
    • Do not lose the keys! Carry the passcode number and the phone number of the owner or agent.
    • Get used to lobby lights shutting off – motion sensitive
    • Go shopping –
  • Out
    • Set time to leave.
    • Restock supplies, as needed.
    • Minor housekeeping when you leave (per the owner – strip sheets, clean fridge, empty trash).
    • Arrange to get the deposit back!
    • Leave time to get to the airport.

Learn More: First Time in Paris

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Categories: First Time in Paris, France How To, Paris