Though most readers will know that world-class prestige does not come cheap, it is still worth mentioning the fact that residency in Paris can be at the pinnacle of the world ‘cost of living’ index. France, as a whole, remains the country with the world’s most expensive residential property (La Leopolda Villa on the French Riviera, with a price tag of over half a billion U.S. dollars, is the most expensive single property on Earth.) Land within Paris itself has been estimated as having an average cost anywhere from $2,100 USD per square foot to $3,300 USD. U.S. residents bemoaning high land prices in that nation’s most popular destinations have it easy in comparison – the average price per square foot in New York City is about half of the low estimate above – and Americans seeking out Parisian properties to rent or own will be quickly reminded that investing in a comparatively richer national history involves a comparatively higher price.St. Germain-des-Prés: Crème de la Crème of Parisian Living?
So, you might ask, what areas within Paris are deemed so desirable as to command these kinds of prices, and are they suitable places for expatriate professionals? The first part of that question, at least, can be answered with “St. Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arondissement.” This area birthed the country’s world-famous café intellectual movement, as typified by radical thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and hosted by institutions like Les Deux Magots. This district’s historical receptiveness to jazz musicians and intellectuals from both sides of the Atlantic has shaped it into an area that still welcomes expatriates today (again, particularly ones of a highly educated and worldly nature.)
Character of Parisian Neighborhoods, at a Glance
Most prospective residents in Paris are likely to have other things on their mind than just the acquisition of prime real estate, though, and will want to know which neighborhoods are suitable to which kinds of activities. Like most European cities, neighborhoods are something like ‘functional cores’ in which one set of designated activities will take place, with ‘all-purpose neighborhoods’ being quite uncommon. Montmartre is a fine choice for culinary buffs (particularly fans of baked goods) and modern nightlife, La Marais is ideal for aficionados of historical grandeur and museums, and both Champs-Élysées and Western Paris (i.e. the 16th and 17th arrondissements) are global centers for vendors of high fashion and local centers for managerial and white-collar labor. The number of available residences in these areas can vary wildly, even if one is ready to pay any price asked for habitation.
As for neighborhoods that have been essentially given over to expats, Frommer’s again lists La Marais as one of the most popular by far, deducing that this should not be your first choice of neighborhood if you instead prefer the challenge of mastering the local language and ‘going native.’ Even if one is unconcerned with the challenge of being accepted as a full-time contributor to the French economy or culture, they may still want to separate themselves from the steady flow of tourists, which are a regular feature of the aforementioned St. Germain-des-Prés.
Though living here comes with the cost of earlier ‘closing times’ and separation from the nightlife bustle of Pigalle and Montmarte, life in Montparnasse is both a more low-key residential area, and former home of one of the world’s most celebrated expatriate communities. The Bastille and République neighborhoods (roughly corresponding to the similarly named Metro station stops) are another area in which the characteristically Parisian brand of social life can be experienced without having to fight through throngs of bewildered first-time visitors to the city.
Neighborhoods Close to Work
Those seeking proximity to the city’s business centers may wish to look into one of the many residential towers in La Défense, which is home to some 20,000 of the Paris aire urbane [metropolitan area], though not incorporated into Paris proper. The 8th arrondissement (of which Champs-Élysées is a part) is another option for those with little time to waste between work and home life: there is less travel time to work here owing to its centrality, yet with much less residential space available there to begin with (it is home to only about 2% of the total Parisian population.)
Among the numerous high-profile companies and organizations in the 8th arrondissement are Standard & Poor’s, HSBC, and Air China. Those working as academic professionals or researchers should familiarize themselves with residential possibilities in the Left Bank, home to the Sorbonne as well as École Normale Supérieure and the École des Mines de Paris (incidentally, this is also a good area to bring children, owing to the wealth of kid-friendly amusements in the Latin Quarter.)