Discussed in this Episode
- Latin Quarter
- Saint Germain des Près
- Saint Michel
- Le Marais
- the Eiffel Tower
- La Défense
- the Champs Elysées
- Arc de Triomphe area
Annie: [00:00:00] This is Join Us in France episode 199: The vibe of Paris neighborhoods. Bonjour, I’m Annie and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, its many quirks, its language, its history, and of course destinations in France you want to learn about because hopefully you’ll be visiting soon.
Annie: [00:00:22] On today’s episode I’ll respond to a question I often get: What Paris neighborhood is it best to stay in? I can’t answer that question for you because there are too many of you and there isn’t just one answer to that question. It depends on a lot of things! But what I can tell you is that each neighborhood has its own vibe, its own feeling to it. And once you know what that vibe is; maybe that will help you choose which one suits you best.
Annie: [00:00:59] There are about 80 named Paris neighborhoods and there are also 20 arrondissements. The arrondissements are a known quantity. They are precisely defined. We know where they start and we know where they end. Named neighborhoods are a fuzzy concept where people like to argue where it starts where it stops and I won’t be doing that. Instead I’ll tell you the name of Metro stops and/or landmarks that help define those neighborhoods.
Annie: [00:01:32] This episode is going to be particularly helpful for people who have never visited Paris and don’t have a favorite neighborhood yet. If you have a favorite, keep in mind that we’re all partial to what we’re familiar with. That doesn’t mean that the other ones aren’t any good.
Annie: [00:01:49] If you’re interested in finding out about Paris before your first time visit you should also check out Episode 179: Things to Do in Paris for First Time Visitors.
Annie: [00:02:01] Show notes and photos for this episode are on https://joinusinfrance.com/199. The number 1 9 9. If you subscribe to the email list you haven’t heard from me in a while. Fear not. You haven’t been kicked out because of GDPR. It’s just that I’ve been away and wonderfully busy.
Annie: [00:02:27] Join us in France is brought to you by Patreon supporters and Addicted to France. The small group tour company for people who want to enjoy France to the fullest with zero stress. Our next tour coming up in the Dordogne in September is fully booked. I will probably announce a few Tour dates coming in the fall.
Annie: [00:02:51] Do you love this podcast and you want to support it? To see all the ways you can support the show visit https://joinusinfrance.com/support.
Annie: [00:02:56] All right guys this is Annie trying to do something I’ve never done before which is record an episode outside talking into a recorder when there are lots of people around. Hopefully not too many stares. Let’s see.
Annie: [00:03:47] I’m behind Notre Dame, the beautiful cathedral of Notre Dame. It’s a lovely day it’s warm. There are plenty of visitors in Paris. No. No rain today. Just a perfect day to be in Paris and I have a couple of hours to kill before my flight home.
Annie: [00:04:03] I just finished my tour of Paris and Giverny and Versailles and Normandy and so I haven’t been home for a couple of weeks. I must admit I love Paris but I’m looking forward to going home. As most of you do as well when you visit. But it’s been a wonderful enjoyable visit and I have learned a lot that I want to share with you.
[00:04:26] And what I want to talk to you about today is Paris neighborhoods and what they have that you might want to consider when you are looking for a pleasant place to stay while in Paris. I’m going to start with the three neighborhoods that are so close together that it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. They are on the left bank and that’s the Latin Quarter. The Saint Germain des Près neighborhood. So St. Germain of the fields if you wish but I’ll say it in French because it’s easier. And also the Saint Michel neighborhood, Saint Michel neighborhood.
Annie: [00:05:06] They are very very close together, like I said. What I mean is a for Saint Michel. I mean right around the place Saint Michel which is a beautiful plaza not far from Notre Dame at all. It’s right behind the Shakespeare and Company bookstore if you’ve ever been to Paris. And it’s a lovely area but it’s very loud. It’s loud because there is a big police operations, operational center, right across the river. The there are often police cars with sirens going in and out sometimes at night too. And there’s also a public hospital there. You’re in this area and so there are also ambulances bringing people to the hospital.
Annie: [00:05:58] There’s an emergency room at Hôtel Dieu, so yes they have ambulances. And it’s in an area of Paris that I think is most suited for people who are going to be staying here a short time. So if you’re in Paris three days four days. I really think that you should consider staying around the Saint Michel area Saint Michel because it’s so close to everything you’re close to Notre Dame. You’re close to the Conciergerie. You’re close to Sainte Chapelle. You’re close to all these things that you should look at when you when you come and stay.
Annie: [00:06:35] Saint Germain des Près is a little bit further away but not much. Maybe by a kilometer and it’s a very very nice neighborhood. It’s a happening place. It’s very touristy, has lots of hotels, has lots of shops, has lots of grocery shopping. I think some Saint Germain des Près will be a good place to rent an apartment if you if you can. Because you would be able to, you would be tempted to buy your groceries and try some of these French foods that you will see at the stores.
Annie: [00:07:11] Latin Quarter is also right there and the Latin Quarter is a much more subdued area because it has big blocks that are dedicated to the university. La Sorbonne university takes up a lot of space and so depending on exactly where you stay you might have to get to the shops and stuff you might have to walk a block or two to get there and just going along the Sorbonne university.
Annie: [00:07:43] So you know it’s not a problem if you like walking but if you want to minimize walking probably the Latin Quarter unless you very judicious about exactly where, and you do some research about what’s near you. The Latin Quarter in general is a bit more for walkers. Fewer things going on it’s less dense, let’s put it that way.
Annie: [00:08:07] The Luxemburg garden is also right in the middle of all that. It’s absolutely fabulous. It’s more for people who’ve been to Paris before. People who are probably a little bit more upscale can afford to spend, the hotels there are a little bit more expensive. So I think you might enjoy staying there. It’s very quiet at night. It’s got plenty of shops and businesses and things. But it’s… It’s quiet. You know it’s upscale quiet neighborhood probably for people who have been to Paris before. That would be ideal I think.
Annie: [00:08:46] Then let’s go to the left bank. On the left bank. [Addendum: I meant RIGHT bank!] You have the Marais, Le Marais highly recommended by many many people. And I love it too. I’ve never stayed there I think next time I will try to stay there because it looks so appealing. I think the area right around the Saint Paul Church and metro station is fabulous. Again a place where you will want to have your. You might be a place where you might.
Annie: [00:09:20] Sorry there’s kids screaming because a pigeon flew over his head. Dude like pigeons there are pigeons. It’s a city! Anyway.
Annie: [00:09:30] So Le Marais is very nice. The St. Paul area is very nice you’ll want to cook your own food because there are so many places that sell you know there’s cheese shops and roast chicken chops and all sorts of really good stuf.f But you could also of course there are lots of there are lots of hotels there too. And it’s a very enjoyable area that I definitely recommend.
Annie: [00:09:58] Another area that seems to be alluring to a lot of people, which I don’t think is such a good idea, but I’ll tell you why in a second, is Montmartre. Monmartre is where the Sacré Coeur basilica stands so it’s on the hill. It’s far away from the center of Paris. By Far away I mean a good 30 minutes by metro and it’s… You’ll waste a lot of time coming and going because once you’ve seen more Montmartre itself which will take you maybe a day at most. You know, if you take your time one day Montmartre is plenty.
Annie: [00:10:35] So once you’ve seen it, well what’s going to end up happening is you will be stuck going up that hill a lot. There are stairs everywhere. The Abbesses metro station they renovated. OK so that’s the deepest metro station in Paris. And so they have a massive elevator to get people up because otherwise it’s a couple hundred steps I don’t remember exactly how many but it’s a lot of steps. And so, they renovated the elevator and since the renovation I have not seen that elevator work once. It’s always out of service.
Annie: [00:11:14] So be aware that if you’re going to stay at Abbesses, just to go from the Metro to the surface, you will be taking a lot of stairs. And also when you are walking the streets of Montparnasse, Montmartre sorry, you will have to deal with stairs everywhere. Because the little streets… So you have a street and then it stops and it’s steps. And if your hotel is after the steps what are you going to do? You got to haul your stuff.
Annie: [00:11:42] So it’s it’s it’s a place that has, you know, it’s a hill, and I definitely don’t recommend it for people who have any sort of mobility issues or even people who get grumpy when they have to carry stuff uphill. You know it’s just not my kind of fun. So, yes, it’s a good place for young people who are perfectly healthy and don’t care much. But otherwise don’t buy into the lure. You know, I mean there’s plenty of lure and it’s a lovely neighborhood, but caveats.
Annie: [00:12:13] You kno,w the stairs, the hill, the fact that the metro station elevator hardly ever works. And there are lots of pickpockets there too. But I didn’t see as many this time. So maybe that’s getting better. But it’s otherwise a nice neighborhood with great restaurants great shopping lots of history. You know, it’s nice but yeah but the big but.
Annie: [00:12:37] For people who want to stay in are more French neighborhood where the majority of residents are going to be French. Then I recommend you stay near Montmatre [Addendum: I meant Montparnasse here!] So Montmartre [No, Montparnasse!] is that very ugly tower but it’s a very good French neighborhood. You will find lots of little restaurants lots of shopping lots of apartments, a few hotels. No, quite a few hotels because Montmartre, Montparnasse, sorry I always get these two confused. Montparnasse is a big business tower. There’s a lot of French businesses there are established there and so they have lots of hotels for that. Great neighborhood. If you want to see not romanticized French life, but real French life if you go to Saint Germain des Près what you will see is lots of foreigners pretending to be French. If you go Montmatre [No, Montparnasse!] you’ll see lots of French people being French. See there it is. There is a difference there.
Annie: [00:13:38] Another neighborhood like that’s that’s kind of far away. It’s La Défense. I’ve heard of people who get like hotel points and stuff. And so they get they can stay for free in La Défense. Yeah that’s. I mean if you can get the hotel for free I understand why you do it, but it’s otherwise not a very interesting place. Because it’s completely dead at night. It’s just you know it’s just a place where people come during the day. So you’re going to be touring all day and not enjoying the area, and then at night when you go back it’s empty because everybody’s gone home. So yeah not. Not a neighborhood that I recommend particularly but it’s I mean it’s fine you know. There’s nothing wrong with it.
Annie: [00:14:20] Other neighborhoods you could consider is right around the Eiffel Tower it’s very posh, very nice, lots of shopping, lots of beautiful streets. Good hotels, good apartments very nice. It’s a bit out of the way but not so much that it would become a problem. I think again for people who’ve been to Paris before. That’s a really great neighborhood for you to consider. If you’ve never been to Paris before I think it’s best if you stick to either Saint Germain des Près or Le Marais or Saint Michel but if you know, if you know Paris, and if you’re on your tenth visit definitely try the area of the Eiffel Tower.
Annie: [00:15:04] And also the other, another place like that is around the Arc de Triomphe. Arc de Triomphe, so Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, very very nice. Not as well, not as many metro things or bus routes because this is very residential, this is an area of Paris is very posh people have a lot of money. They all have big apartments, and also they don’t go out so much to cafes because they can entertain in their home. They have lots of room.
Annie: [00:15:39] In a place like Le Marais or the Latin Quarter or Saint Germain, well you don’t entertain in your home because you go to cafes. Because your home is so small sometimes that you can have, you know, five friends or so. So the area. Right. Right around the Eiffel Tower, not the Eiffel Tower, so around Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe is very nice but not as much going on. Not as many stores, not as many places to eat, unless you’re willing to spend a fortune. There are exceptions OK there are pockets of streets that are good, but I’m just talking overall here.
Annie: [00:16:24] So that’s I’m going to wrap it right here. Saint Germain des Près… With a recap of course. Saint Germain des Près is lovely a good place to either be in a hotel or rent an apartment. The Latin Quarter is also very nice but be aware that you might have to walk a little more to get to your hotel or apartment. Saint Michel area is fine. That’s where I usually stay but I have to admit, it’s loud. So if that’s something, you know, it’s well situated close to everything but it’s loud. So take that into consideration. The Eiffel tower area is great and a little bit out of the way but not so much that it makes it difficult for you to stay there.
Annie: [00:17:13] Montmartre, yeah. Not in love with that area. Don’t recommend it. And I’m giving good reasons, right? I’m telling you the steps the hill. The fact that the metro station doesn’t doesn’t have an elevator that works properly, and also that it’s highly romanticized and it just bugs me.
Annie: [00:17:34] Montparnasse: great area to stay if you want to be among French people more than among visitors. And a lovely neighborhood.
Annie: [00:17:45] Arc de Triomphe. That’s that’s also a good area but few buses just one or two metro line goes through the area through the area. So these people they all have cars, if not drivers. And so, this is a good place to go if you’re the kind of person who takes taxis. If you can afford to take taxis everywhere you go.
Annie: [00:18:08] And in Paris it’s not that expensive. Paris taxis… This is something I just finished a tour with many people, and one lady from Australia said you know the taxis are really cheap in Paris compared to Sydney. And yes taxis in Paris are cheap compared to many places. So but so if you’re tag the kind of person who takes taxis, then probably the Arc de Triomphe area with Champs Elysées and Avenue Foch all of that would be really good for you.
[00:18:41] And then the last one La Défense, I don’t recommend it. I mean it’s a business place so just don’t know. Yeah not a not a good place to stay if you’re a visitor.
[00:18:51] That’s it for today. Thank you very much for listening to the show. And I’ll talk to you next week. Au revoir!
Annie: [00:18:59] Thank you Juan Ulloa, Richard Platzman Teresa Maxwell, Edie Couvillon and Karen Fuhrman for pledging to support the show on Patreon since the last episode.
Annie: [00:19:13] And my thanks also to all the other patrons who support the show month after month. Thank you for giving back to support the show on Patreon go to https://patreon.com/joinus. And join us is without spaces or dashes. I published a new reward on French Public Holidays on June 9th and I will release more in July.
Annie: [00:19:44] And thank you. Lachlan Cooke. And sorry I say I think I said that wrong. Lachlan Cooke, yeah maybe, apologize. I am French. And David Larson for your one time donation it is much appreciated.
Annie: [00:20:01] I have been away leading tourist the last couple of weeks. It’s been great a little bit tiring as travel is. But wonderful people joined me for those tours again. It has been lovely meeting all of you. I think everyone involved had a great time. I will share the details of what we did and what we learned in upcoming episodes.
Annie: [00:20:23] These tours are a wonderful way for me to help you experience France like a French person. I think that’s what I’m good at, is to bring the culture of France into your vacation. Take you out of your habits and make it so that you are experiencing something completely different.
Annie: [00:20:44] I am typing up these remarks as I wait for my flight to go home to my family. And right now I’m really looking forward to seeing my family again. The little dog Gus too. He’s been a trooper in my absence. My husband took great care of him and he’s not near as nervous and needy as he was when we first adopted him. It’s only been a month or so.
Annie: [00:21:08] I’m also looking forward to going back to Paris with my sister in law and her two boys in a few days. It has been a really busy May and June. And July will be busy too with more travel plans. I’m hoping the month of August is going to be, you know, calmer. I mean I just want a few trips to the beach that’s all.
Annie: [00:21:31] I will do my best to be publishing an episode per week in June and July. But time will tell. I’ll definitely be back to my normal schedule by early August.
Annie: [00:21:44] On June 27 I get to go pick up my new labradoodle puppy from Finland. Well OK. I’m not going to Finland to get her. Opie, that’s her name. And three of her siblings are coming to France. So the breeder is bringing the four of them to the Loire Valley to another labradoodle breeder.
Annie: [00:22:07] Two of these puppies are going to families like mine and the other two are going to be guide dogs for the Blind in northern France. This is a line of dogs that are perfectly suited for service work, but mine is just going to be pet. I will post pictures on the Join Us in France Closed Group on Facebook and send one out on the… In the newsletter as well. An e-mail newsletter as well once I get her. But it’s not yet.
Annie: [00:22:36] June 2017 was stifling hot. So that’s last year and June 2018 has been really wet so far. You never know with weather in France this time of year. But I think that you know wearing a raincoat is less of a problem than having to stay indoors because it’s so hot. So hopefully the weather hasn’t stopped you from doing what you want and enjoying your vacation in France.
Annie: [00:23:05] And allow me a small rant before I end this episode. When you go to the Arc de Triomphe, you know that beautiful monument on top of the Champs Elysées. eople love to photograph, you know, things. And they take ridiculous risks to do that. We all want nice photos and we all want to be, you know, a central point but every time I go by that area there are tourists in the middle of the road and that’s ridiculously dangerous. Please don’t do it.
Annie: [00:23:45] I almost ran over a woman holding a baby in her arms on this trip because I was watching the traffic coming from my right, because that’s how those roundabouts work. And there she was on my left a good 20 yards into the road. She wasn’t the only one, but by the time I saw her she was really close to my car. Please don’t do that. Never do that. No picture is worth that.
Annie: [00:24:12] And especially on that day the sky was gray. It was milky white. It wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t going to be a good photo. Don’t do that. Please don’t do that. Be very afraid of Parisian drivers. Not that they’re all lunatics trying to kill you. But if you’re on the road because of the way those roundabouts work we have to be really careful about the traffic around us and if we’re not expecting pedestrians that could spell disaster. Rant over.
Annie: [00:24:44] Please help other people find the show so too can learn how they can have a great time in France. If you have friends who are going to be visiting France tell them that they can listen to this podcast with their Alexa smart speaker or with their smartphone using Spotify, iTunes Google Play, or any number of podcasts apps. They can even listen on the Join us in France website if they wish. To connect with me, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:25:23] You can also ask to join to Join Us in France Closed Group on Facebook. But when you do please answer the questions so I know you’re not a spammer. Have a great week of trip planning. Have a great time in France and I’ll talk to you soon. Au revoir !
[00:25:40] The Join Us in France travel podcast is written and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2018 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial no derivatives license.