Top Tips for Choosing a Hotel in France
I have wonderful memories of my French holidays. When I was young, my family would take the ferry from Portsmouth in England and wake up in France. I still have scrapbooks of holiday clippings, sugar cube wrappers and random acorns I collected.
I’ve since spent time in hotels for both leisure and business and although I have also tried camping, serviced apartments and country holiday homes, I have to say there is something nice about room service and having fresh sheets magically appear each day!
No matter where you travel, you’ll find different styles and comfort levels of hotels to choose from, making it a daunting task. I’ve put together some helpful things to consider when choosing your holiday accommodation, along with my top tips for picking the right hotel in France.
Location, Location, Location!
In some places, you might not have much choice of where to stay, especially if it’s rural France, but if you’re in a big city, you’ll have numerous hotels to choose from. If you have a car, a hotel outside of the city centre is viable and affords bigger rooms, better rates and a quieter environment.
However, staying in the city centre can help with logistics and give you a more “local” experience. Personally, I love being able to stroll out of a hotel into the heart of a place to smell freshly baked bread from a local boulangerie, pop into a cafe and walk back to my room afterwards without having to worry about parking and time limits. Staying in a central location enables you to come and go as you please.
In Paris for example, if you want to visit the Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter on foot, you might want to check out Hotel Europe Saint Severin, which has great reviews. You can stroll to various neighbourhoods in Paris from this hotel, including Ile de la Cité, and you would be well located for dining options.
In the residential 18th arrondissement near the Montmartre village there is Best Western Prince Montmartre. This hotel offers nice rooms, daily breakfast and an ideal location to access the Montmartre area, where you’ll find plenty of dining options and a metro station for accessing the rest of Paris.
Try nearby Café Pimpin for great coffee made with Lomi’s beans and an array of healthy juice and food options. It’s one of the few places that serves coffee at 8.30am in the otherwise quiet streets. Also worth noting is the Boulangerie Mauvieux restaurant, which won “Meilleure Baguette de Tradition” in 2012 and serves some of the best baguettes in the city just near the hotel.
Enough about coffee and bread, back to hotels. Think about what’s important to you and what type of attractions you want to be near. If you’re staying in Paris, check which metro line the hotel is on and how easy it will be to get to where you want to go. In the Paris area, you might like to stay in a hotel a bit further out and use the RER to get in and out of the city. Check for summer track work, as in August they tend to shut down some of the main lines to do necessary work while commuters are on holiday. Click here to find out more about travelling around Paris and any line closures.
Like hotels everywhere, the price of accommodations varies immensely. Travelling out of season, such as late Spring and Autumn in France, can ensure some nice weather and better room rates. As mentioned above, hotels outside the city centre are usually a little cheaper, but can mean longer and more expensive commutes. If you want to travel out of season, avoid school holidays. You can find the French school holidays for this year here. If you choose a hotel that caters to business travelers, weekends may be cheaper, offering a well-located hotel with a good rate.
Do a Virtual Visit
This might sound like a funny suggestion, but it has paid off time after time for me. Put the address in Google Earth and go to street view. Have a little look down the street and see what else is around the hotel you’re interested in. You don’t want to find yourself next to a nightclub or a noisy cafe if you want a quiet stay. Most hotels have double glazing in France, but if it’s hot you will want to open the windows if you don’t have air conditioning.
Type of Hotel
Choosing the type of hotel you want is very personal. You might just want a bed for the night and don’t want to worry too much about style or comfort. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people (life would be so much easier if I was!) and I do care about the feel of the hotel, including the decoration and authenticity of a place.
I personally prefer either a well-established corporate hotel where you know exactly what you’re getting and can have confidence booking the same hotel brand in many different cities or a boutique hotel with lots of character. Sometimes you can find a basic hotel with an amazing on-site restaurant or one that’s near lots of eating options. This is where research pays off.
The star rating of a hotel can tell you a lot about what facilities are on offer, but only you know the level of service you want. You might find a brilliant 3-star hotel that’s more suited to your taste than an average 4-star hotel. Although stars are useful in indicating comfort and what facilities are available, make sure to check out exactly what is on offer and read the reviews. If you’re driving, also check for parking options.
Wi-Fi is usually always included in hotels in France, but double check to avoid a holiday headache. Not all hotels have lifts or concierge services to carry up heavy suitcases and hotel rooms in Paris are generally a lot smaller, because floor space is a premium. In more expensive hotels you can expect a better-sized room. A double bed in France is often 1.4 metres wide, which is classed as a small double in other countries, so check this when booking.
Does it Have a Restaurant?
Hotels with good restaurants in France are often part of the Logis de France group. They give separate ratings for the restaurant and hotel, which makes it easy to find a unique gastronomic experience. Some of my most memorable hotel restaurant meals have been in Logis de France hotels.
Travelling to France at the Christmas Season
If you dream of spending Christmas in France, book well in advance. Especially if you want to stay in one of the Alsace villages, which are popular for their Christmas markets. Kaysersberg is one of my firm favourites. It’s home to a luxury hotel called Le Chambard with an exceptional on-site restaurant where I had the pleasure of eating. Paris is also beautiful at Christmas with the Champs-Elysées all lit up and a bustling Christmas market. There are a number of luxury hotels just off the Champs-Elysées or you can stay in a quieter part of Paris and use the metro to do your Christmas shopping.
Travelling on a Budget
Lastly, how easy is it to travel on a budget but still stay in a hotel?
Here are some ideas to save money:
Be Mindful of the Season
Before you book your flight tickets, be sure to weigh your options and decide what season suits your budget and travel style best. Paris is popular in spring and summer for its colourful blooms and laid-back atmosphere, while autumn and winter have their own special charm with seasonal events and festive window displays. To ensure you have a stress-free holiday, make sure to book your hotel at least a month before your trip, even earlier if you’re visiting during the peak season.
Master the Picnic
Buy or bring a knife in your checked baggage, so you can cut up cheese, fruit etc.
You can buy bottled water cheaply to wash fruit and to drink, while fresh produce, cured meats and terrines by the slice, olives and cornichons are also budget-friendly.
Have a Big Breakfast
If your hotel provides a daily breakfast with eggs and cooked items, you might find you can have a big brunch and then snack throughout the day and have dinner in the evening somewhere reasonable. Don’t get caught out trying to do a late lunch though, as most restaurants in France stop their lunch service around 2pm.
Eat Out at a Restaurant for Lunch Instead of Dinner
You can often find the same menu much cheaper at lunch time. Some restaurants offer a “plat du jour” at lunch time or a couple of courses for less than the price of dinner. Try and avoid tourist traps and look for smaller menus with more authentic cuisine.
Save Money on Travel
Opt for a hotel where you can explore on foot to save money on transport.
I hope your next French hotel experience is amazing. Even if you’re not collecting sugar cube wrappers or acorns as I did as a child, make sure you collect lots of wonderful French holiday memories.
This article was written by Rachel Guernier from French Moments.