Updated: May 21, 2015
Guide to Finding Vacation Rental Apartments in Paris:My wife has been planning a trip to Paris, France with a friend and they are looking for a rental apartment for the week they are there. It's amazing how hard it can be to find a place to stay in Paris unless you know the exact places to search. Hotels are good, but given they are staying for 7 nights, I thought a rental vacation apartment would be the best solution. That way they can come back to a kitchen and living room when not out seeing the city and relax with a glass of wine and some cheese. I stepped in to help my wife since I have more experience booking vacation rentals through the Internet. Paris is a big city, so start by looking at a map of Paris and see the 20 arrondissements (we have a map below to help).
As you can see by the Paris map, there are plenty of arrondissements that are perfectly fine to stay in. Depending on what landmark or area you want to be near, you are sure to find a rental apartment that works. St. Germain and the Latin Quarter are in arrondissement 6 which is a favorite spot for tourists. Arrondissement 3 and 4 has Notre Dame, Le Marais, and Pompidou. The Louvre is in 1 and 2 areas, the Eiffel Tower is in #7, and Montmartre and Sacre Coeur are in #18. Some areas provide more rentals than others, but get organized early and get your apartment rental booked well in advance.
Sources for Finding an a place to rent while on vacation in Paris, France:The Internet has solved so many issues when it comes to traveling and certainly being able to locate and find vacation rentals is much easier than even a few years ago. Now you have dozens of online websites with apartment rental listings where you can see pictures, get pricing, availability, location, maps, and much more. I turn to 3 sources when looking for a vacation rental while in other parts of the world. See them listed below with advantages and disadvantages for each.
VRBO.com - Perhaps the largest and best resource for finding a vacation rental in any part of the world. I use it regularly and the website has only improved in recent times. Now you can search by date and specific locations within a city. When looking for an apartment to rent in Paris, I went to the main Paris city rental page and then dug down to the 6th Arrondissement and then typed in the dates my wife needed. A list of about 30 places popped up with those dates available. The site features pictures, availability calendars for most properties, descriptions, and pricing. Some owners are reluctant to show availability, but you can still email them through the VRBO website and get that information. I also ask for more photos if there are not enough to show me all parts of the rental. Make sure you get an exact address of the rental so you can Google map it and see where it's is in vicinity to what you want. The site is free to use and I've rented dozens of rentals using it.
Craigslist.org - Craigslist has been in the news over the years, often for issues related to certain parts of their website services. The vacation rental listings for each city are usually loaded with plenty of properties to view. It's not as well organized as VRBO and you can't search by date range which is what most of us want when looking for a place to stay while on vacation. Craigslist does allow you to email the owner and get more details when needed. Often the apartment rentals will have a few photos, but always request more to get an idea of what the interior looks like. Again, ask for the address so you can map it. Craigslist is free to use, so give it a try and be wary of anyone needing you to wire transfer them money. Look for places that accept VISA/MC or even personal check. Scams exist online so buyer beware.
Google Search - I always try to find agencies that rent out apartments in various cities. They tend to have their websites listed very high on the results when seraching for terms like "paris vacation apartment rentals". In our search efforts we came across Parisattitude.com and Paristay.com. Both websites were setup nicely and we were able to search their databases of rentals and find places to inquire about. The response time was adequate although many of the apartments said they had available dates and we came to find out they were already booked. It would be nice if the website were updated with availability more often. I also found that when I did a search on Tripadvisor for "paris apartment rentals" that several of the booking agencies showed up with reviews from people who had used them.
What to Look for in a Short Term Vacation Rental in Paris:It might seem obvious as to what you should be looking for when renting a vacation apartment in a foreign city. Coming from America we are always surprised and somewhat astonished as to how other people live around the world with less amenities and in tighter spaces. My experience has shown that apartment layouts and the use of space varies dramatically when traveling to Europe versus what we see here in the United States. Expect small rooms, washing machines in the kitchen area, and tiny bathrooms with miniature showers. Of course you can find bigger places, but prices go up quite a bit for the luxury apartments in good locations.
Location - Perhaps the most important aspect of any place is where it is actually located within the city. Paris is huge and having to take a subway or taxi to your favorite area everyday can become tedious. Try finding a place in the arrondissement that you expect to spend the most time in. This will save you valuable travel time throughout the day. Also, make sure you are near a subway/metro stop. Having access to the Paris metro is a huge bonus. Try to be off the main streets as noise at night can be an issue if you are staying right above the main traffic areas. Look for apartments that have rooms facing interior courtyards - not the street. Safety is a concern in some areas, so do your research and find a place you feel comfortable with.
Price - Once you have a location picked, then you can start looking at prices for rental apartments. The cost will vary from arrondissement to arrondissement and on how large the apartment is. We found most places (2 bedrooms) were asking between $1000 to $2000 Euros a week during October (which is considered a high season). If you can rent a Paris apartment from the actual owner and avoid third party rental agencies you can save up to 30% of the cost. Many owners are willing to rent their apartments for less than $130 EUROS a night. Some are negotiable too - if you are looking for last minute deals you can really score sometimes.
Apartment Layouts - This is perhaps the biggest area that we found confusing when looking for a rental. Europeans in general will describe an apartment as being 2 bedrooms when in fact it's 1 bedroom with another room that has a bed or trundle in it and they consider that a room. We are used to bedrooms as being rooms closed off from the rest of the apartment with a door for privacy. Many of the so called "2 bedroom apartments" were in actuality just 1 bedroom units with a side room and a sofa or daybed that was called the 2nd bedroom. If that is an issue, then make sure you clarify that before agreeing to anything. Ask for photos of each room and perhaps even get a diagram of the apartment layout (we saw several online). Bathrooms are small in Paris (anywhere in Europe for that matter) so don't expect too much. Make sure they have a shower and tub. Some places have no shower or the shower is open and not enclosed like we are used to. Kitchens are compact and for the most part functional.
What floor in the building is it on? - This is a deal breaker for many from America. The problem that arises is that many of the apartment buildings in Paris are very old and elevators were not originally installed to help the people get to the 6th floor. You may be walking up 3 or more flights of stairs each day just to get to your rental apartment. ASK the owner or rental agency if you are concerned. I've seen many that say the apartment manager will help you get your bags up to the apartment, but the rest of the week you are on your own getting up and down the stairs. From my experience most apartments have no elevator. Therefore, look for places on the 3rd floor or lower. Ground floor apartments get a lot of foot traffic going by, so avoid those if possible.
Apartment Reviews - Whenever possible it's always nice to read 3rd party reviews of any place you want to stay. VRBO does a good job of this on their website. Tripadvisor has some postings that are helpful. We found a few apartments on Craigslist that are listed as beautiful and clean and then found independent reviews for the same place that said they were "dirty" and "needed a good cleaning".