Paris: An Affordable, Spectacular Destination

High on many travelers dream lists as a destination, one of the most popular cities in the world can also be enjoyed surprisingly economically, with a little planning and background knowledge.

Abbatial Saint Germain Offers a Superb Left Bank Location

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on December 18, 2008

The Abbatial Saint Germain Hotel has some small rooms, but they are well-kept. With large windows that open for the ambiance of the city or close tightly to seal out the street noise, it's an excellent choice for those who don't plan to spend a lot of time in the room, but instead choose to actively explore classic Paris. A modest breakfast features plenty of good coffee, tea and orange juice, croissants, fruit, yogurt and scrambled eggs.

The outstanding location on an active street in the heart of the Left Bank puts some of the city's very best attractions within easy walking distance, including the Latin Quarter, Saint Germain des Pres, Notre Dame and the Louvre. In a four-night stay, we never boarded the metro at all, which is unusual -- but that is just how much is available within walking distance of the Abbatial Saint Germain Hotel. Rates are reasonable for the location.
Abbatial Saint Germain
Paris, France, 75005

Paris: An Affordable, Spectacular Destination

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

Some of the best things to do in Paris are cheap or free. Spend a few hours walking through countless miles of historic neighborhoods; enjoy a fresh baguette or crepe; do some people-watching at one of the best locations in the world: the fabulous Champs-Elysees; visit the famous and some not-so-famous monuments -- from the Eiffel Tower to the grave of Doors lead singer Jim Morrisson; climb the steps to Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame and immerse yourself in the awesome architechture and history -- then take a stroll through Montmartre... The list is literally endless and best of all, you don't have to break the bank.${QuickSuggestions} The Paris Metro offers extensive coverage and it's economical. Pair it up with a good guide book that includes a system map and finding your way around is entertainment in itself. While French dining is legendary and its reputation is well-deserved, you can enjoy high-quality cuisine by stopping in at boulangeries, charcuteries, frommageurs and even grocery store to assemble mouth-watering carry-out meals -- not only taking care of your meals, but having fun doing it. Don't know French? Don't worry about it -- you can always point to what you want and prices are clearly displayed.${BestWay} Driving in Paris is best left to professionals. Metro service is reliable and inexpensive to all areas of the city. Airport service is available via bus (Air France has bus service from CDG airport to several central city locations for 12 Euros per person and there are public transportation alternatives, too -- see the entry on "Getting in from the aiport"). We've found that with a group of four, a taxi is not a bad option for the door-to-door service and speed (be forewarned that some taxis will only take three adults, but this is not universal). Finally, take lots of time to walk. It's the best way to truly appreciate this awesome city.

Hotel Campanile - Paris Nation

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

This 34-unit boutique hotel in the 12eme arrondissement is convenient to the Nation metro station and is located in an active neighborhood with many choices for shopping, dining, places to put together a delicious, in-room meal or two. Walking toward the Nation Etoile, you will find convenient cash machines and little bar called the Chatelet where you can grab an expresso or a drink later on, but the businesses on rue du Rendezvous close in early evening and it's not a loud neighbood since you are several blocks off the main traffic area at the Campanile. Rooms are small, but offer private baths and there is a breakfast room available for your use in the morning at 35FF. This is a two-star hotel. We enjoy the streetside rooms more than the courtyard rooms, but either are adequate and secure. This is certainly not the Hilton, but it's also not the hundreds of dollars per night that such accommodations command in Paris. It's clean, it's friendly, it's affordable and its location away from the tourist areas is an asset, since you can always hop on the metro and visit those sites anyway. (Online booking tool for Campanile hotels: This site is in French, but an English version is anticipated in the near future. Pay particular attention to maps as you look for Campanile Hotels in various locales, since some tend to be on the periphery, rather than in downtown locations.
Paris, France, 75012
33-1-43 43 01 52

Grand Hotel du Bel Air

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

Located in a beautiful building a little closer to Place de la Nation, this two-star hotel offers all the advantages of the wonderful neighborhood in which it is located (see Hotel Campanile entry). There is an absolutely wonderful bakery just around the corner and a fruit market with long hours just outside the door. The metro station is little more than a block away and several all-night brasseries are within eyesight. Again, it's not the Hilton -- but plenty adequate and a solid value.
Grand Hotel du Bel Air
102, bd de Picpus
Paris, France, 75012
01 43 45 30 51

Hilton - Charles De Gaulle Aiport

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 5, 2000

Airport hotels can be hard to love, since they are often chosen more for the sake of location and convenience. This often leads to things being allowed to become a little threadbare as properties make a living off a steady supply of one-time visitors.

The Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is a refreshing contrast to the typical airport fare. Inside its functional, soundproof shell is a meticulously maintained luxury property that is all that a Hilton should be. Guest rooms are nicely appointed and immaculate. The fitness center is well-equipped, including a small pool that is kept spotless and at a comfortable water temperature. Guest rooms are very large by European standards and we particularly give the nod to the executive rooms, with crown moldings and well-done bathrooms with separate showers. The Club room offers a nice selection of snacks at cocktail hour, along with continental breakfast and afternoon tea.

Common areas of the hotel are impressive, beginning with the glass atrium. The Aviators restaurant offers a wide-ranging menu, along with delicious buffet offerings. (Let's face it, France is all about good food. While we're not handing out any Michelin stars at the airport Hilton, we know you'll find it as good or better than many typical hotel restaurants.) The staff was friendly and attentive, too.

A nice feature of the hotel is that it is an easy walk across the parking lot to the RER station, which will take you to downtown Paris in about a half an hour for 7.75 euros. We were pleasantly surprised to pick up the Hilton CDG off the Hilton website for 94 euros, including breakfast during our weekend stay, which is an absolute steal for this quality of property. We give it a big thumbs up in every respect. The Hilton CDG is a top-shelf property and a great choice for people who may have a morning flight or a late arrival.
Hilton Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport
(Adjacent to CDG Airport)
Paris, France, 95708

Grand Hotel Francais

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on February 4, 2001

This 3-star hotel several blocks up Boulevard Voltaire from the Place de la Nation circle is clearly the best of the three hotels listed here. It features 40 rooms in a beautifully cared-for historic building. The staff is friendly and extremely helpful. The rooms are typically small, but immaculate and the rate is a bargain. You can book this hotel online by via the website: -- or you may e-mail directly:

There is a Franprix directly across the street (closed Saturdays) to pick up some carryout Bordeaux, along with a selection of restaurants and brasseries in the immediate neighborhood. This is a fun place to walk, and Boulevard Voltaire has very wide sidewalks to make it even more pleasant. Grand Hotel Francais is just a few doors from the Boulets Montreuil Metro Station and only a short walk from the RER at the Nation metro station where four lines converge, including the ever-popular #1 Metro line.

In the past, I've told people "skip the breakfast -- you can do better anywhere." Things have changed in this department, however. Wally has totally re-vamped the breakfast offering into a morning buffet and while Parisian breakfasts are understated as a rule, you'll find it to be worth your while to check it out as a convenient way to start your day. Take some time to get to know him a bit because he is an incredibly helpful host and DO give this hotel a long, hard look for an outstanding value in Paris. The double-glazed, French door-type windows keep it reasonably calm on its active "real" Paris street (frankly, I like to open them when I can). Some of the rooms feature balconies and yes, there is an elevator. (For pictures and the hotel's brochure online, go to: )
Grand Hotel Francais
223 Boulevard Votaire
Paris, France, 75011
33 (0) 143712757

Timhotel Saint-Georges

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on April 3, 2002

Located on the sometimes seamy Boulevard de Clichy near the Pigalle Metro stop, this member of the Timhotel chain is a two-star that ranks no better than "adequate." Its location a couple of blocks from the Moulin Rouge in a neighborhood well-populated with often-tacky cabarets, nightclubs and various sex shops makes it a bad choice for a family stay. That said, it is convenient to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, an extremely popular tourist area with a lot of great streets to walk and plenty of history as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris. The breakfast is decent and is included in your room or is available for 8.5 euros. The rooms are smallish and rather spartan, some facing an interior courtyard and others out the nearly-always-active Boulevard de Clichy. The 74-room hotel was renovated fairly recently, water pressure is good (no guarantee in some two-star properties) and the place seems to be kept up and clean. If you have a reason to want to be in this particular area, you don't need anything special -- but you would like something clean, reliable and not too pricey -- then this hotel is a possibility. Even more importantly, there are 14 other Timhotel locations in different areas -- for example, there is one just a few blocks north in a tres romantique setting of Montmartre. You can check out various offerings and book online at:

In short, this is a reasonably-priced group of hotels that is worth knowing about in Paris.

Timhotel Saint Georges
Paris, France, 75009
331 48 74 01 12

Holiday Inn - Paris Republique

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 2, 2004

The Holiday Inn-Paris Republique offers a complete antithesis for those who might tend to view the chain as a series of cookie-cutter franchise operations. Housed in a stately, historic building facing the bustling Place de la Republique in up-and-coming 11th Arrondissement, it is clearly a Crowne Plaza class property. Guest rooms are relatively large, by Paris standards. Many have balconies and there is large courtyard on the interior. Rooms and bathrooms feature a high level of finish, particularly the executive rooms, which are listed as "Deluxe" in the booking engine. The brasserie noses into the sidewalk with its large, glass front that puts guests into the midst of Paris street life, at a busy crossroads where five metro lines meet.

Like other common areas of the hotel, the hotel's restaurant is well appointed. In addition to full menu, there is a complete breakfast buffet priced at 22 euros for those who like a large meal to begin their days. It's considerably less costly to purchase this breakfast packaged in with your room, and it is well worth doing.

Definitely book in advance or you may be faced with eye-popping 488-euro rack rates for a standard room, if you can get in at all. Anything under 200 euros would be well worth it, and we've even lucked out and gotten in for less than 100 euros per night (but those opportunities are very few and far between). If you are able to book it with Priority Club points, it's a tremendous value. We also noted that PC Gold status produced a fruit plate in our room upon check-in.

In summary, this hotel is a great choice for people who want a higher-end hotel experience as part of their visit to the City of Lights. We give the Holiday Inn-Paris Republique high grades for customer service, level of finish, and overall quality of the property.
Crowne Plaza Paris République
Paris, France, 75011
01 43 14 44 19

Ibis Paris Republique

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 3, 2004

The Ibis Paris Republique is housed in a recently restored 1900 or so building that's less than a block off the very lively and active Republique Square. It fits in well with the character of the neighborhood, which is decent.

Size-wise, the rooms aren't any smaller than what is typical of many two-star properties in Paris and they may even be a touch larger than some. There are triples available. Many rooms have a full bath, though some have showers. The hotel is fully air conditioned and the staff was helpful, friendly and spoke excellent English when we visited.

There is nothing particularly creative about the interior decorating when it comes to the guest rooms -- (they're fond of white paint) -- but there was a large framed print on the wall of the guest room. Furnishings are functional and basic. Use the spiral staircase, if you're on a lower floor but for higher treks, there is an elevator. The Ibis has a 24-hour front desk. Doors are keyed (not card) and the desk operator buzzes people in from the street. There is a small snack/coffee/bar next to the front desk in the small reception area.

A breakfast buffet (six Euros) is served in the lower level. The breakfast rooms are attractive and it's a very good price, when you compare it to the alternative of going out for coffee and something to eat in the morning. It's also convenient and may provide you with the opportunity to meet some of the other guests.

The neighborhood itself has a lot of nearby amenities -- brasseries, boulangeries, etc. There is also some higher end shopping. It's a short walk to Canal St. Martin; there is great metro access from the Republique metro stop; guests are close to the night life of Rue Oberkampf, etc. Overall, we give the Ibis Paris Republique high marks for value in this up-and-coming area of the 10th Arrondissement. It's a great choice for budget travelers.
Ibis Paris Republique Xeme
Paris, France, 75010

Holiday Inn Paris Opera

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 1, 2005

Located in an active neighborhood on the right bank, the Holiday Inn Paris Opera is an attractive boutique hotel set on a quiet street near the les Grands Boulevards area. As we often find with European franchises, you can leave the boiler plate image behind. The Holiday Inn Paris Opera is long on charm and warmth.

The interior decor is rich with wood, stained glass, and a wonderful oval-shaped spiral staircase. (You can also use the small elevator, but don't bring your steamer trunk along. The capacity is three people). The hotel has 92 guest rooms on its six floors. We were very impressed with the level of finish and the overall attractiveness of the facilities from top to bottom. If you can get breakfast included in your rate reasonably, we recommend it. The buffet is decent and the restaurant area in which it is served provides plenty of the “belle époque” ambience that the hotel takes pride in exuding.

If you happen to be a Priority Club member with status, we found the hotel recognizes this with little extras. Housekeeping was excellent, and the overall quality of the property exceeds usual standards in our view. We give this property high marks and will gladly return.

The best bet for failsafe booking is likely to be through the IC Hotels Group website, and you can find the Holiday Inn Paris Opera at

The closest Métro stop is Bonne Nouvelle with lines 8 and 9, within a block or so. Also convenient is the Strasbourg-St. Denis (lines 4, 8, and 9), about a 2-block walk.
Holiday Inn Paris-Opera
Paris, France

Holiday Inn Paris - St. Germain des Pres

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 1, 2005

The Holiday Inn Paris - St. Germain des Pres has an excellent location that puts guests within decent walking distance of the heart of the city's storied Left Bank neighborhoods. This includes the Hemingway haunt that gives the hotel its name, though we would note that it could just as fairly be dubbed the Montparnasse with no real loss of accuracy.

Regardless, the location is this hotel's most important attribute, since we can't give it high marks for its standard rooms or overall ambience. While it may be unique, it has a low to nonexistent charm factor that may leave you wondering whether you might have been better off going with one of the area's many two- or three-star properties that would provide comparable or better accommodations at a lower rate. That said, we've also been able to book it for 90€ on a prepaid rate, and for that rate in this neighborhood, it is well worth the price and a bit more.

On the plus side, the hotel has three good-sized elevators to service its seven floors and 150-plus guest rooms, including 22 suites. The breakfast buffet served in hotel's lower level is decent and well laid out, but the 18€ cost as a separate item is rather pricey. By all means, fold it into your room rate and evaluate the cost that way. We found the staff to be pleasant and helpful. We also felt housekeeping was good. We loved being able to walk to Luxembourg Garden, the Sorbonne, Boulevard St. Michel, Buci market, and all of the rest. There are plenty of convenient places to stop in the neighborhood, such as corner brasseries, boulangeries, small grocery stores, and more. Shoppers will enjoy the neighborhood, too.

Drawbacks include the fact that there are some small rooms in this hotel, and some refurbishing would be welcome. In spite of the hotel's great geographic location, finding a room with a view would be a challenge, too.

Our overall take is that if location is your primary consideration, this place certainly has that quality going for it in spades. It's also easy to book through the ICH group site. Don't pay anything resembling the standard rates or you may be disappointed.

Métro stop: St. Placide, Line 4
Holiday Inn Paris St. Germain des Pres
Paris, France
33 1 49 54 87 00

Hilton Paris Arc De Triomphe

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on January 18, 2006

The Hilton Arc de Triomphe is a relatively new property, but it has been designed to fit well into its Paris neighborhood. It is about a 10-minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe and even a bit shorter to the Champs-Elysees. The common areas and rooms are tastefully furnished with a high level of finish. We especially like the deep bathtub and separate shower stall in the bathroom, with the sink area separated for easy use of facilities by more than one person. The bed was firm and comfortable. The windows can be opened wide for fresh air and the rooms facing the courtyard are especially quiet with a nice view.

The hotel staff from check-in to concierge and the breakfast room were very friendly and accommodating. (We give special acknowledgement to Clarisse, who is a real gem!) The daily internet fee of 22 Euros is a bit steep, but typical of Paris hotels and we were pleased to have the service available in our room. The desk staff provided us with a converter so that our U.S.-type laptop could be recharged during our stay.

The immediate neighborhood is not a terribly active one, although there are some brasseries, etc. within several blocks' walk. In summary, we found the Hilton Arc de Triomphe to be an excellent choice for what is very much a higher end property at comparatively realistic rates in Paris.

Metro Stop: Courcelles
Hotel du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe
51-57 Rue De Courcelles
Paris, France, 75008

Royal Nation

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

Royal Nation is nothing spectacular, but it is representative of casual brasserie-type dining. Since any place where you can escape with a decent lunch and couple of beers in one of a major city's active neighborhoods is worth knowing about, we will advise you that the old reliable croq monsieur sandwiches here are excellent and the ambiance is just fine. An additional recommended menu item: try the shrimp cocktail. It's a deliciously decadent little concoction featuring fresh lettuce, avacado, and a general helping of small, fresh bay shrimp. Wash it down with some nice Bordeaux -- you can get a half-bottle carafe for around $7. (If you want FAST food, try the Quik outlet on the Nation Circle -- it's the French equivalent of McDonald's). By the way, Royal Nation is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Foot traffic is constant, since it is also one of the neighborhood's well-used tabacs.
Royal Nation
7 Place de la Nation
Paris, France

Bateaux Parisiens

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

Okay, so this is NOT a budget travel suggestion. But if you've done well on your airfare, ground transportation, most meals and your hotel room rate, then you deserve to splurge at least one night and this is a way to do it. Bateaux Parisiens are docked in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, just off Pont d'lena on Quai Branley. For roughly $75 per person including wine, you can enjoy a romantic dinner cruise on the Seine, complete with live entertainment, excellent cuisine served elegantly in several courses, wine, dessert and a beautiful view of Paris from the river. Powerful light bars mounted on the boat light up the City of Lights for you, illuminating some of the most beautiful buildings in the most beautiful historic city in the world.

This is more than dinner; it's a full evening's experience and particularly if you've not spent much time in Paris yet, then what could compare to hearing a violinist play Ave Maria as your drift by a brilliantly lit Notre Dame cathedral or having a chanteuse accent your passage along the river's many other fabulous works of architecture? Other options, including simply touring (sans dinner) exist and you can also check out the Bateaux Mouches. For our money, we felt the Bateaux Parisiens experience was well worth its price.

Bateaux Parisiens
Port de la Bourdannais
Paris, France, 75007
01 44 11 33 44

Le Chalet d'Avron

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on January 3, 2002

This small restaurant is just a couple of blocks off the Place de la Nation circle between Boulevard de Charonne and Avenue Philippe Auguste. It specializes in fondue and raclette dining, with heating elements for this purpose built right into the tables -- so it is a very different type of dining experience. There are various menu options as to what you will be preparing for your dinner. Most people understand fondue as molten cheese or hot oil in which morsels of foods are dipped or cooked in a fondue pot. A raclette involves using a small pan in which cheese can melted or meats cooked with a heating element. For example, you may choose charcuterie from the menu. When the meal is served, you are issued a supply of boiled, thin-skin potatoes -- (given to my own devices, I wouldn't bother to peel them myself, but the French see fit to do that) -- and a cutting board stocked with cheese slices and various different types of meat. You cut up a potato and place it on your plate as a base, while melting cheese in your little pan to top it, along with whatever meat you will be adding. It's a very social thing, since you are preparing your food in small increments while conversing with your dining partners, having wine, etc. It can easily take a couple of hours to enjoy your meal this way and it is really an outstanding choice if you want to do something very casual and social. Likewise, putzing with a fondue pot offers the very same ambiance and that is another option at Le Chalet d'Avron. The friendly staff will keep you stocked up with things to cook and drinks as you move along. I would not necessarily recommend it for very young children who can't actually participate in safely preparing their own food, since that will be a lot of work for a parent. But for kids who can -- perhaps age six and up? -- it is fun and it's easy -- just like it is for adults. It is no more complicated than roasting marshmallows over an open fire and has some of that quality to it.

Raclette cooking is something that comes from the mountain country of France and after enjoying this with the French, we ended up eventually finding a table-top raclette for home use because it is just a lot of fun to do with family and friends. It allows each diner to add his or her own signature to the meal and it is very entertaining. (Note: check cooking catalogues or specialty shops for raclette units back home, if you are interested. You want something that is compatible with your electricty supply at home and so one designed for use in France will not do the job in North America. We have seen both 6-place and 8-place units.)

We give it high marks.

Le Chalet d'Avron
108 rue de Montreuil
Paris, France
01 43 71 18 62

La Taverne du Sergent Recruteur

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 5, 2003

Located in the middle of Isle St. Louis, which is immediately east of Isle de la Cite (home to Notre Dame), La Taverne du Sergent Recruteur offers an interesting evening meal experience in the heart of Paris at a cost that won't break the bank -- about 30 euros for what is a brief, fixed price menu. You won't go away hungry.

It's partly self-service dinner, although you will have plenty of raw vegetables and bread delivered to your table in large baskets. When it is time, your server will also take your order for your choice of grilled meat: a large leg of lamb steak, kabobs of beef, salmon or perhaps another special of the day. Along with your raw veggies and bread, there are a number of buffets featuring a wide variety of sausages, terrine de campagne, and other pre-dinner salad-type offerings. After the main course, the traditional cheese board will be brought to your table and there is a choice of desserts that includes chocolate mousse, creme caramel, ice cream-sorbet or fruit.

What to wash all of that down with? It's not a problem, because the first item you are issued at your table is a clay pitcher which you can refill to your heart's content from a barrel of red wine and considering what that can mean for la maison, the wine tastes very decent. You will likely have a strolling entertainer pass through your dining room, so prepare yourself with a euro or two as a gratuity.

The restaurant itself is a rustic affair with plenty of exposed stone and timbers; narrow and deeper than you might expect when you see the narrow street frontage that it occupies. It is open seven nights a week from 7pm until 2am, with the exception of Sundays, when La Taverne du Sergent Recruteur opens at noon and it is open continuously until 2am.

The name of the establishment stems from the tale that in years gone by, young men would be taken to the taverne for a big night out with plenty to drink and perhaps the favors of a lady of the evening upstairs -- and then awaken the next day to find themselves signed up for the French Foreign Legion. Today, it is just a festive and laid-back place to spend an evening with plenty to eat, drink, and enjoy in its historic atmosphere.

For something that is somewhat similar, take a peek next door at 39 rue St. Louis en l'Isle, where Nos Ancestres les Gaulois offers a slightly different format for a similar experience (Telephone: This is not fine dining by any stretch, but it is good, filling, and a lot of fun. It's also a pretty good value, all things considered.
La Taverne du Sergent Recruteur
41 Rue Saint-louis-en-l'ile
Paris, France

Bistro Mazarin

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 5, 2003

St. Germain des Pres has more than its share of storied brasseries, bistros, restaurants and watering holes. If you'd like something smaller, more romantic and tucked away, (with outstanding food, by the way), then you'll be pleased with Bistro Mazarin. Intimately sized with the requisite terrace tables on a quiet corner of the street, you have now left the bright lights of a block or two away and traded them for a world of clinking silverware, French chatter, friendly laughter and everything else that makes for a fabulous, lingering Paris evening dinner.

Perhaps open with a glass of champagne; their house choice is dry and fine.

Meals are hearty and well prepared. Start out with oysters that you'll see being opened on the corner of the terrace as you walk in -- or a wonderful soup of the day or steak tartare. I highly recommend the salade gourmand, which includes such highlights as foie gras, duck confit and smoked duck; it is nothing short of marvelous! (Like all great Paris eating establishments, the best dishes can be seasonal so check the chalkboard for the day's features and you can't go wrong.)

For a main course, the cote du boeuf is generous and succulent -- or have leg of lamb, roasted chicken or a catch of the day. You may not have room for dessert, but you'll find some brief selections if you do. (I can't help you with that; my eyes stop looking whenever they see creme brulee on a menu and I never remember anything else...)

Bottom line: leave some of the well-traveled corners and their sometimes over-loved, well-known names behind you for an evening and you may discover a true treasure like Le Bistro Mazarin.


Bistro Mazarin
42 rue Mazarine
Paris, France
01 43 29 99 03

L'Atlas Brasserie

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 5, 2003

L'Atlas Brasserie is easy to find, just a block off Boulevard St. Germain on the corner of rue Buci and rue de Seine. They have a full menu with plenty of outdoor tables (heaters are turned on in cooler weather) and, of course, indoor seating, too.

I would love to be able to tell you about all of the wonderful menu offerings, but the fact of the matter is that I stopped for one thing and one thing only: les moules (mussels). I love them and this is the place to get them. L'Atlas offers a couple of options -- a light, traditional creme sauce and a bleu cheese sauce (also light; not overpowering by any means). Both of them are outstanding; you can't possibly lose. A bucket of them will run you about 14 Euros. Sure, it might seem a little weird to just do the one-course thing, but if you go in the middle of the afternoon, you won't be taking up more than your share of space and you can people watch, sip your white wine and satiate yourself with those fabulous mussels and baguettes to your heart's content. They'll give you a bucket to put the empty shells in and for the pile of les moules that you will receive, it will still be empty all too soon. (Check out the other fresh seafood on the iced bar that is streetside; they pride themselves in having it fresh and doing it right.)
L'Atlas Brasserie
11 rue de Buci
Paris, France
01 40 51 26 30

Le Dalou

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

Le Dalou looks like many brasseries in France, but once inside, you will notice the contrast with lesser, more casual places. White linen, a more extensive wine list, more lavish desserts and an overall higher service standard prevails, as compared to the previously mentioned Paris Nation brasserie. This is a place to take your time and enjoy a moderately priced French dining experience with people who know what they're doing -- not simply a one-hour lunch. We found the servers to be very friendly and helpful. The seafood is fresh and excellent. There is a restaurant area in the back, along with a bistro-type seating area out front. If you like oysters on the half-shell or escargot; foie gras on toast points or rack of lamb, these are all great choices here, among many others. The creme brulee is as rich and delicious as any I've had. For $35 per person or less, Le Dalou is a very good value. C'est si bon!
Le Dalou
30 Place de la Nation
Paris, France
01 43 43 41 38

Le Grenier de Notre-Dame (vegetarian restaurant)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on December 8, 2004

For those seeking a vegetarian experience in Paris, Le Grenier de Notre-Dame offers a well-prepared, flavorful menu filled with great choices and a selection of decently-priced wines that compliment the food nicely (may we recommend a bottle of the Chateau Chaurignac red Bordeaux 2003, which we found to be an excellent choice with nice body, in spite of its relative youth and low price).

We enjoyed a full meal from appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and main courses, and desserts that included everything from chickpeas and endives to pasta, potatoes, and apple pie. We couldn't find anything that wasn't surprisingly good. To enjoy it all in an intimate upstairs dining room, just across the bridge from Isle de la Cite and Notre Dame, it's 100 euros for three people, including wine, which just makes it all the more exciting a find. There are even a few computers you can use to check your e-mail; this is a different kind of a place that seems to cater to a relatively young crowd.

Since it's a small place, you'll likely be sitting close to people, and you may find yourself getting to know them a little before dinner is over. All the better. You can check out the menu at:

Bon Appetit!
Le Grenier de Notre-Dame
18 rue de la Bucherie
Paris, France
01 43 29 98 29

Thalys Train to Brussels

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on February 4, 2001

If you'd like to quickly and easily add something different to your trip to Paris, consider a day trip to Brussels via the high speed Thalys train. There are many different destinations for the Thalys train and some would argue that Brussels should not be your first choice, but rather the popular city of Bruges in Belgium. I offer Brussels because it is a straight, one hour and 25 minutes shot from Paris, making it convenient for a day trip. Once you begin adding stops and transfers, travel may begin to eat up too much time to make it a practical one-day experience.

To get a look at the Thalys itself, go to: You can view fares and itineraries for the Thalys and other European rail itineraries at:, where you can also purchase tickets online.

It's true that you can get certain fares more cheaply in Europe, but you will be risking whether or not you can get the exact itinerary you want if you wait -- so that's the trade-off. Off-season specials in 2001 included a February special allowing two people to make the round-trip to Brussels for under $80 through late February. (There was also a one-day $79 ticket on the Eurostar to London, but again, it's a longer trip and maybe too much rail time for the time you'll spend at your destination).

The Thalys will take to you to Gare du Midi and you can catch the Brussels metro system right from the station. A one-day pass will cost you less than $4 and you can purchase the tickets from machines. Don't fool around in the Midi station neighborhood; it's a little on the seedy side and pickpocketing/purse-snatching incidents are not uncommon.

To get to the Grand Place (regarded by some as the most beautiful city square in the world and justifiably so), grab a metro map and take the Number 1 line (Direction Simonis) out of the Midi station, making a tranfer to the Number 1B line (Direction Bizet) at Arts-Loi Kunst-Wet. Getting off at De Brobskere will leave you in the general neighborhood of the bourse. Once there, you can walk the picturesque cobblestone streets to your heart's desire and you will never run out of restaurants, stores and boutiques to check out. Belgian chocolate and pralines are the things to get, along with great draught beers.

Look for the tower the church that forms one side of the town square. That line of tourists heading down the little side street will take you right to the extremely famous -- (and who knows why?) -- statue of the little boy relieving himself. The neighborhood in the Louise metro stop area (just three stops up from Midi Station on the Number 2 line) is also interesting, although much different than the main, old city centre. Brussels is definitely NOT Paris, but it is an interesting, beautiful city in its own right.
Thalys high-speed train
Gare Du Nord
Paris, France


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

UPDATE, June 2005: The Samaritaine department store has been closed indefinitely as part of a project to update the buildings after safety concerns emerged. Re-Opening plans are uncertain and the work could take years. Word was that the store would eventually return to the Paris scene, rather than having the buildings/site converted to other uses.

The largest department store in Paris, the Samaritaine is actually located in three buildings: the Magasin Pricipal, or main store, a men's store and sports store. It's easy to find on the Louvre side near the Pont Neuf and across the street from La Seine river (the mens and sports stores have entrances on Rue de Rivoli, as well). Thanks to an excellent exchange rate during our first visit several years ago, we found the prices very reasonable and noticably less than what one would expect to find in a similar venue in the U.S.

The store has everything you'd expect to find from apparel to shoes, appliances and even a restaurant or two. It's a tourist magnet, of course, and you should pick up a map to find your way around(available in French or English). Good metro stops would be Pont-Neuf or Louvre-Rivoli. Don't expect the help to be very fast or helpful, if our experience is any indication -- we went through three sales clerks and about an hour trying to purchase two pair of shoes that were on display -- but if shopping is part of your Paris adventure, then this is probably a mandatory stop in terms of pure selection and value. This is not a discount-type store, but there are plenty of sales, the store is attractively laid out, the merchandise is solid and the selection is great. (Before you buy anything that needs to be plugged in, do keep in mind that electrical appliances are generally not compatible with U.S. or Canadian power and the videos won't work either). This is also a place to look for unique gifts. The topping on the cake? Look for the coffee shop/cafe area upstairs with an outdoor deck that will give you wonderful (and photography platform) for some of the most famous sites of Paris.

Here's hoping the store returns even better than what it was during its storied past as a Paris institution for many years.
19, Rue De La Monnaie
Paris, France, 75001
+33 1 40 41 20 20

Sacre Coeur - Montmartre

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

Located on a steep hill overlooking the city, the white basilica of Sacre Coeur is nearly as much a symbol of Paris as the Eiffel Tower and it is just about as easy to find from any location in Paris -- perhaps even easier. It's a steep uphill climb up a long series of steps to the front door of the church, but the interior is awe-inspiring and really a must-see. You will also have a sweeping view of Paris. If you don't care to do all the climbing, you can part with a metro ticket and take the Funiculaire de Montmartre, which is located at the base of the hill on your left as you face Sacre Coeur from the front. Bring your camera -- not just for the church and the views, but for the picturesque Montmartre neighborhood that you can enter on a narrow street just outside the entrance to the crypt below Sacre Coeur. Here you will find shops, restaurants and water holes, along with the Place du Tertre -- a public square that is jam-packed with artists selling their work in a bustling street market. Street performers and dozens of portrait artists ply their trade among the crowds of visitors. A word to the wise: this not an unsafe place to visit, but the nature of the activity, crowds and constant diversions of your attention would probably make it a great place to have your pockets picked. Don't use the currency exchange you'll see on your right-hand side on the way from the Anvers metro stop -- the attractive posted rate is far outstripped by the grotesque fees that won't be disclosed until you get your receipt. (We advise using machines and doing that elsewhere). This is a great neighborhood to walk, but stay where the action is. Clearly a tourist center, that doesn't diminish the fact that Montmartre and Sacre Coeur are well worth the time to visit, enjoy and photograph on your trip to Paris. Don't miss it.
Basilica du Sacre Coeur
35, Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-barre Rue De La Bonne
Paris, France, 75018
+33 (1) 53 41 89 00

Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

If you like historic cemeteries, you will LOVE Pere Lachaise -- easily one of the most prestigious final resting places in Paris. Famous names and historic markers are laid out along pleasant pathways in this crowded burial ground, making it a great and stimulating stroll. Probably the most visited gravesite is that of Doors lead singer Jim Morrisson, whose place is inauspiciously tucked off what would otherwise be a relatively little-used path, wedged between two small family mausaleums. (Maps are available). Shops and bars cater to the constant flow of Morrisson's inexhaustible supply of fans and groupies making pilgrimages to the inconspicuous grave. His 1971 death in Paris remains a mystery today. But that is only a small part of the ambiance of Pere Lachaise cemetary. This is a very interesting ambiance and well worth experiencing. On weekends and in busy seasons, you'll find a rather impromptu-looking street market set up on the wide median featuring various objets de art, limited food and other curious items -- many of them imported. A word about the neighborhood: this is not where to look for a great lunch spot or wander too far off the beaten path, in our humble opinion. It is certainly not a dangerous place to go for a morning or afternoon visit, but our take is that it's a little on the seedy side too -- based exclusively on our 'feel' for the street, our unscientific grafitti index, etc. Stay with the flow, go early and then move on to more reliable and pleasant environs. Outside of the cemetary walls, we don't see this as a great area to spend time.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
16, Rue Du Repos
Paris, France, 75020
33 1 55 25 82 10


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

We love stopping in at various shops for fantastic bakery, cheeses, meats and fruits. It's great fun and it's quality food -- and there is no shortage of these places along rue du Rendez-vous. But if you've stuck with us this long and you're considering the Nation neighborhood, we wanted to remind you to bring a corkscrew and stop by this little grocery store a few doors down from the Hotel Campanile. (Another is located directly across the street from the Grand Hotel Francais on Boulevard Voltaire. It is closed Saturdays). Here, you will find an excellent selection of wines for the equivalent of $3-$9 -- St. Emilion, Bordeaux, rose, you-name-it. Cognac and champagne are kept under lock and key. You can also pick up snack-type items and if you choose, some packaged fois gras to stash in your suitcase on your return. When we travel, we always stop in everyday-type grocery stores in all sorts of locations -- not just those charming, made-to-photograph street markets that we all love so well. The selection, prices, sales circulars and interaction with locals will give you a picture of day-to-day life in the place you are visiting -- one that you simply can't get in a guidebook or visiting a popular tourist attraction.
62 rue du Rendez-vous
Paris, France

Champs Elysees

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

If it is not the most famous street in the world, it certainly ranks near the top and for good reason. Like Picadilly in London, Paris's Champs Elysees is a safe, reliable and active place for diversions well into the night -- and that may well be the best time of all to enjoy it. Crowned by the Arc de Triomphe on one end and Place de la Concorde at the other, the history of this street dates back to the 1600s.

The Champs Elysees today is lined with cafes, brasseries, movie theatres, high-end retailers and fashionable boutiques -- along with a couple of palaces and impressive monuments thrown in for good measure. If there is a better place to grab a bench and just sit and watch people, I can't imagine where it is. The sidewalks are incredibly wide and lavish, leaving plenty of room for a wide array of sidewalk cafes, beverage and dining options running the full range from McDonald's to posh and pricey French restaurants. Expect to pay at least $4 for a beer or $9 for a mixed drink in even the most modest sidewalk cafes -- well worth the price for a table with a view of the activity on the Champs or a place in an active, animated brasserie.

There is rarely a lack of activity on the Champs Elysees once the day is underway and the bright lights and action continue until late into the night. It would be difficult to truly say you've visited Paris without spending at least a little time here. For a quick sampling, take Metro Line 1 to the George V stop and you will be right in the heart of the Avenue when you emerge. Walk in up to the Arche de Triomphe and drink in the ambiance; stop for an espresso, visit some stores. It's sounds simple and it is, but it is simply exhilerating. Night time is the best, but a daytime visit is no less worthwhile. (And if you are heading back to the Place de la Nation neighborhood that I've been touting in this journal, you can take the metro home from the Charles de Gaulle etoile stop via the "long way" on metro line 9, getting somewhat of a tour of the left bank since a good portion of the run is above ground.) Would you like to see what's happening there right now? Go to:

Avenue des Champs-Elysées
Avenue Des Champs-elysées
Paris, France, 75008

La Derniere Goutte

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 5, 2003

If you're looking for something unique and perhaps a bit more counsel to go along with your purchases than you will find at larger stores, you owe yourself a visit to La Derniere Goutte wine shop (literally: "The Last Taste"). Located in the heart of St. Germain des Pres near rues Bucci and Mazarin, you would have one of the most pleasant neighborhood walks in Paris to your credit even if you arrived and found the place closed. The wine shop itself has a wonderful selection and you can spend whatever you want, from less than 10 Euros to 500 or more per bottle. That said, I was impressed with the good selection in what I would consider the "very affordable" range of 10-25 Euros. There is a wine tasting each Saturday afternoon that is worth taking in and if you are lucky, you can enjoy some of the leftovers on Sunday, too.

The shop is owned by a Miami native who was adopted by this Paris neighborhood and when he began to renovate the interior, he discovered rustic walls beneath the layers of covering that he left in place. You will honestly feel like you are in a wonderful wine cave and essentially, you are.

Wine is obviously a big part of the French culture, but you may well find that it is only one dimension of what you could experience at La Derniere. During my visit, I was fortunate to find Patty Lurie running the shop and she happens to be the author of a wonderful book "Guide to Impressionist Paris". Richly illustrated with examples of impressionist works and modern day photos of the same scenes, it provides a wonderful excuse to take some walks into classic Paris and it is available in both French and English versions. In addition to the wine I enjoyed, the gracious conversation and lengthy autograph provided a treasured souvenir of a visit to what is truly a little treasure in lovely setting that you will remember long after the corks on your purchases have been pulled. (Telephone:
La Derniere Goutte
6 rue de Bourbon Le Chateau
Paris, France


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on March 3, 2005

In 1239, King Louis IX began to deal with the Emperor of Constantinople to secure what could only be seen as some of the most prized relics in all of Christendom, including the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the wood from the Cross of Christ and nails from the crucifixion. For around a third of the cost paid for the historic artifacts, Louis (who eventually became known as St. Louis) commissioned the construction of Sainte-Chapelle to house them.

Divided into an upper and a lower chapel, Sainte Chapelle is home to one of the most fantastic displays of stained glass anywhere, with 15 large windows taking up most of the wall space in the upper sanctuary telling the story of the Passion and also focusing on various books of the Old Testament. A large rose window depicts the Apocalypse.

Admission is 6.10€ for a standard ticket, or it can be purchased in conjunction with admission to the nearby conciergerie, but visitors can save standing in the ticket line if they have a museum pass since Sainte-Chapelle is included.

Metro stop: Cite

Open daily 9:30am to 6:30pm April to September and 10am to 5pm October to March

4 boulevard du Palais
Paris, France, 75001
+33 (1) 5340 6080

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on January 19, 2006

With its prominent location on an island in the midst of the city, a history dating back to the 12th century, its impressive Gothic architecture, and the immortal story of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris is one of the top attractions in the city. A stop at Notre Dame should be on any visitor’s short list and it is easily accessible by the Metro. (The Cite stop is closest, but St. Michel or Les Halles, on either side of the Seine, are short walks.) The cathedral is open from 8am until 6:45pm daily, and admission is free, though a climb up the bell tower to get a look at the famous gargoyles will cost a few Euros and perhaps some tight hamstrings if you rush the ascent too much. By far the most impressive time to visit is during Mass. The great organ, the choir, and the rich French voice of the priest saying mass echoing through the cavernous Gothic sanctuary is a truly moving experience. Hundreds of votive candles will greet you as you enter (for 2 Euros each, you can add your own.) Incense hangs in the air and the ambiance of the whole scene is nearly surreal. The best times on Sundays for Mass are 10am (Gregorian chants); 11:30am (with the choir); 12:45am (chanter), and 6:30 pm (choir). You can also catch an organ recital on Sundays and church holidays at 5:15pm. Notre Dame is an experience that is not to be missed!
Cathédrale Notre-Dame
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France, 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10

Off-Season Paris is Right on for Value

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on November 4, 2000

For the past several years, we've abandoned the traditional warm-weather spring break destinations in favor of European vacations. Paris heads the list as a great place to go. Off-season prices, outstanding food, low airfares (with thousands more frequent flyer miles) and the sheer cultural weight of it all make the choice an easy one. It's 'cheap' as these things go, educational, stimulating and fun.

We've left out the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe -- you can read about them in any guide book (we can comfortably recommend Eyewitness Travel Guide from DK Publishing,, but there is certainly no shortage of excellent options). Instead, we offer a strategy for enjoying Paris on your own terms by selecting an attractive neighborhood with lower tourist density (and lower prices). You can hop the metro and see all the famous sites and then leave the masses behind to experience a living, breathing Paris neighborhood where you may not hear any English -- but it will be easy enough for you to get along. (You didn't really think that all the French were blowing $100 per head every night for dinner and staying in $300 hotel rooms, did you?)

The neighborhoods we've selected as our own include active crossroads near Place de la Nation and Place de la Republique. You can choose your own, but the point is that you can spend time in Paris for less than many people probably believe and it's more economical than many traditional family trips that nobody seems to bat an eye at. Give it a look. Make it your own.

Changing & Handling Money in Europe

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on February 5, 2001

The coming of the Euro is good news for travelers who have been forced to contend with a myriad of currencies and conversion rates up until now. The Euro is now in street circulation, but the pitfalls of gaping spreads, commissions and fees that have made currency exchange the racket that it is today are probably still around for the time being. Making its debut in 12 countries with the beginning of 2002, it is probably only a matter of time before Great Britain and Switzerland get on board, too. Euros can be spent throughout the participating countries, regardless of origin. You will see when you look at the money that each nation has retained a bit of identity, since Euros have a "common" side that is the same for all and then the reverse features engraving by the country in which that particular coin or bill originated.

If you'd like some "walking around money" before you arrive at the continent, a very convenient site to obtain it is: . For an $8 delivery fee plus a bit of a beating on the exchange rate, you can have foreign currency delivered to your door in the U.S. within a couple of days via Federal Express. I don't recommend trading large amounts this way since it's not a swell deal. On the other hand, it can look like a bargain compared to some of the outrageous poundings you will take at those international airport currency exchange booths and even rates that look good on the street signs often feature commissions and fees that turn fair-looking deals into a rip-off by the time you have your money in hand.

The very best way to secure foreign currency on the ground in France is with a Cirrus network bank card. I've yet to have a machine fail to accept my card and the exchange rate is the best you'll receive. Be sure you have a 4-digit PIN. There has been much ado lately about many cards tacking on a 2% fee for this service. While that's not great news, it is small potatoes. Moreover, you will enjoy the same great exchange rate on purchases and credit cards are the way to go. For everyday use, hotels, etc., my choice is American Express. They have local offices on hand and I regard them as the very best when it comes to international travel support.

I've used foreign-demoninated travelers checks and while they offer a measure of safety, they are also a bit of a pain. If you're planning to obtain currency with them, it will not be free of fees, so use them to pay directly for things if you have them. Don't purchase them with the intention of trading for cash unless you are just absolutely paranoid about carrying U.S. cash. Exception: you can generally trade American Express Travelers checks for foreign currency sans fees at an American Express office. You will find these in many large European cities.

A word to the wise: don't spend a lot of time around ATMs in busy areas; don't flash and count wads of cash -- and try to look like you know what you're doing when you make transactions. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. Dress low-key. Be aware of your surroundings. If you are being distracted, jostled, you see a disturbance, you have a lot of kids close by you -- then it's time to WATCH OUT. Thieves often work in teams. I would never encourage anyone to spend an inordinate amount of energy worrying about being robbed, but the fact of the matter is that swindles, pickpocketing and theft are very common in Europe -- more so than here in the States, in my view. It's a hassle you can do without. (There is a reason all those cars have alarms and the shutters aren't decorative -- they REALLY close and lock.)

In the same vein, don't keep valuables in your room; use the safe. Obtain a good money belt to keep your passport, cards and most of your cash safely stashed beneath your clothing (just carry enough in your pocket or purse to cover the immediate expenses you know about). A zippered interior pocket in your jacket is a nice feature. And rather than wear one of those bright fanny packs in front of you where you can keep an eye on your most important items, consider simply wearing a sign that says: "I am a tourist. Please rob me." Okay, sorry for the cynicism, but you get the point. Be safe, be smart and enjoy your trip!

Getting into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jim Rosenberg on February 4, 2001

Taxis are convenient and not OVERLY expensive if you have several people and baggage to deal with. Expect to pay anywhere from 30-45 Euros to get from the airport to your Paris hotel, depending on traffic, destination and other variables. There are also some shuttle services, but I've never understood the affinity some people seem to have for them. The savings over a taxi aren't all that substantial and it creates the need to touch base with a specific driver at a specific time and place, leading to the possibility of delays.

Several lower cost alternatives exist, but you should be thinking about them when you pack.

For 12 Euros, the Air France bus will take to you to any of several points in downtown Paris where you can pick up a taxi, the metro (or if you're lucky, nothing but your feet) to get to your final destination. You can pick up this bus right outside the terminal at the first door, as you exit customs.

A very low cost, efficient alternative is to take the RER Line B3, for 7.85 Euros. You can grab the free ADP shuttle from the lower level of Terminal 1, get over to Terminal 2, where the RER station is located. The RER doesn't get stuck in traffic and conveniently links right into the Paris Metro system. That said, remember not to bring along things that will kill you on the stairs if this is to be your choice. You simply don't want more than you can conveniently and securely control.

A final, very inexpensive option to the airport from the Nation metro/RER station is the 351 bus, which stops right out in front of the Quick restaurant on the Nation circle, just a door or two down from Le Dalou brasserie. This works well from the Nation-area hotels I've suggested in this journal and buses depart 3-4 times per hour. Be sure to allow extra time to get to the airport, since check-ins tend to be rather arduous affairs. I generally arrive 3 hours before flight time and some airlines now require 2-1/2. Best Terminal 1 place to eat: Les Palmes, downstairs -- but they don't open for breakfast.

© LP 2000-2009