Somewhere north of a backpacker's baguette-and-Brie and south of a rock star's suite at the Ritz, there's a way to see Paris that neither deprives the visitor of the other food groups nor denies him the pleasur es of a five-day Métro pass. Here, our Paris primer for travelers in search of the next great deal.
Hotels under $150 per night (or thereabouts) aren't hard to come by; the trick is finding the charming ones. One flower among the weeds is the Hôtel Rivoli Notre-Dame (19 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/42-78-47-39, fax 33-1/40-29-07-00; doubles from $103) in the Marais neighborhood. The lobby is done in an attractive motif the hotel calls neo-Gothic, while the 31 guest rooms are decidedly French, with vichy (gingham) fabrics and silk wall coverings. Another plus: the Mariage-Frères tea shop (33-1/42-72-28-11; lunch for two $35), a tea lover's essential address and a great stop for an inexpensive lunch, is just a few doors away at No. 30-32. Even as the Marais becomes more commercial and its resident-artist base slips away to more untamed neighborhoods, its cool shops and poseur cafés are still style central. Plus, it's home to two great museums: the Grand Carnavalet (whose objects and art depict Parisian life from the Bronze Age to the present day) and the Musée Picasso.
For that Parisian experience ne plus ultra, stay at Hôtel Le Ste.-Beuve (9 Rue Ste.-Beuve, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-20-07, fax 33-1/45-48-67-52; doubles from $115), with its David Hicks-designed rooms, great service, fruit-packed raspberry and apricot breakfast jams, and proximity—a five-minute walk—to the Luxembourg Gardens.
If the Ste.-Beuve is full—and it's likely to be unless you reserve well ahead of time—the nearby Hôtel Le St.-Grégoire (43 Rue de l'Abbé-Grégoire, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-23-23, fax 33-1/45-48-33-95; doubles from $160) is just as satisfying. Also designed by Hicks, the St.-Grégoire is set in an 18th-century building; two of its 20 rooms even have terraces.
Across town, steps from the Madeleine, the Hôtel Bedford (17 Rue de l'Arcade, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/44-94-77-77, fax 33-1/44-94-77-97; doubles from $145) caters to businesspeople but is ideal for anyone who appreciates a uniformed staff, soundproof rooms, and an elegant—if slightly staid—restaurant. The formal dining room is still topped by its original 19th-century stained-glass dome. There's also a modern bar with a lounge. Owner Gérard Berrut collects modern art and has turned the hotel's walls into his gallery. The Hôtel de l'Arcade, down the street at No. 9 (33-1/53-30-60-00, fax 33-1/40-07-03-07; doubles from $150), has the same owner and comme il faut demeanor.
It's easy to take advantage of Paris's food markets and prepare a few meals yourself in one of Citadines' 18 apartment hotels (800/755-8266; www.apartmenthotels.com; from $75 for two in a studio). Though slightly sterile, the properties are all in surprisingly prime locations—across from the Louvre near the Palais Royal, next to the Eiffel Tower, down the road from the Opéra and the Place Vendôme. The newest opens this month in a seven-story building overlooking the Seine near Boulevard St.-Germain (53B Quai des Grands-Augustins; 33-1/41-05-79-05, fax 33-1/41-05-78-83).
Al Diwan 30 Ave. George V, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/47-23-45-45; lunch for two $10. Stand at the zinc counter for a lunch or afternoon snack of addictive Lebanese sandwiches (chicken and hummus; falafel and tahini; grilled lamb); for dessert, have the dripping, flaky baklava.
Florence Finkelsztajn 19 Rue des Rosiers, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/48-87-92-85; snacks $2-$8. This is the best Jewish deli for an afternoon pick-me-up of chopped liver, blini, apple strudel, or a brick of cheesecake.
Lina's Sandwiches Locations throughout the city, including 50 Rue étienne-Marcel in the Second Arr., 22 Rue des Saints-Pères in the Seventh, and the newest, at 47 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the Third; lunch for two $15. Look for a Lina's when you're in the mood for a sandwich (smoked salmon and cucumber; cheese, shrimp, and avocado; taramasalata on toast), a good salad (mozzarella and tomato), and a heavy—as it should be—fudge brownie.
Café Véry Tuileries garden; 33-1/47-03-94-84; lunch for two $20. Eating in this egg-shaped wood-and-glass structure (try the lentil salad or the warm salmon on wilted greens and cucumbers) is a great alternative to picnicking on the lawn. And it's perfect for a rainy day.
Colette 213 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/55-35-33-90; lunch for two $25. Check out the Pucci dresses and the latest Prada sandals on your way downstairs to Colette's café. There, servers as attentive as they are beautiful will bring you a sumptuous lunch and a mocha mille-feuille made by Ladurée, one of the best pastry shops in town.
L'Épi Dupin 11 Rue Dupin, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/42-22-64-56; lunch for two $35, dinner for two $51. The two-course prix fixe lunch is a bargain, considering the extraordinary quality of the food: beet salad with avocado and shrimp, scallops in a saffron infusion, snapper with sautéed leeks, all prepared by inventive chef François Pasteau. "So many of my clients are regulars that I want to surprise them with a new menu every day, and by creating a marriage of unusual flavors and textures," he says. He's not joking about the stream of regulars. If you want a table for lunch, reserve at least two days in advance; for dinner, at least 10.
Casa Corsa 25 Rue Mazarine, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/44-07-38-98; dinner for two $65. The all-Corsican staff at this bi-level, orange-walled restaurant—just a year old—presents lesser-known specialties from the le de Beauté (Corsica, of course), including zucchini-and-brocciu (sheep's cheese) tarts, scorpion fish in olive oil and tomatoes, chestnut-flour bread, and a long list of Corsican wines.