Paris, the beautiful city of light and love, is one of Europe’s most compact capitals. Step off the Euro-star, push through the crowds at Gare du Nord and the city lies in wait, easy to cover in a weekend.
“People who love Paris have a real passion for the intellectual life in art, music, literature or architecture,” says Susie Hollands of estate agent Vingt Paris. “The city has a strong cultural romance for so many nationalities.”
Hollands sells and rents Parisian property to mainly international clients, taking them on detailed city tours and explaining the difference in prices between the areas.
She acknowledges that the market, as buoyant as central London until 2011, has been difficult since the French elections in 2012.
“Paris has always been seen as a safe haven for investment, but uncertainty over tax changes caused buyers to hesitate,” says Hollands. “However, since the start of this year, we have an active market again. The favourable exchange rate for US and UK buyers has made a significant difference.”
Heart of the city
In prime Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a large studio on the top floor of an elegant 17th-century building is for sale through Vingt Paris for £616,200.
The owners have spent £35,000 on updating the kitchen and bathroom, and the 603sq ft apartment features a view of the Eiffel Tower.
It would rent for more than £2,000 a month, says Hollands. Nearby, an airy one-bedroom apartment over two floors on Rue Jacob, arguably the best street in the best neighbourhood of the Left Bank, sold last month for £287,000.
“All Parisians have a favourite café and stick with one butcher and baker in their neighbourhood,” says Hollands. “No matter where you are in Paris, there’s a food market at least two days a week selling affordable fresh food.”
The city is divided into 20 arrondissements, or administrative districts, each with its own atmosphere. The four areas most popular with international buyers include the 6th arrondissement — Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Left Bank.
Once bohemian, but now home to some of the priciest and prettiest streets in Paris, this area is a huge favourite with Britons. Unlike the prestigious but business-orientated 8th arrondissement, the residential 6th teems with life day and night. Historic exteriors often hide quirky interiors.
Then there is the Triangle d’Or, or “golden triangle” of prime designer shops and five-star hotels in the 8th arrondissement, marked out by the exclusive boulevards of Avenue Montaigne, Avenue George V and the Champs-Élysées. It lacks the buzzing café life of the Left Bank, but it is classy and elegant.
Vingt Paris has an 882sq ft, one-bedroom, eighth-floor apartment on Avenue Foch for £895,000 and a beautiful three-bedroom, furnished and renovated Art Deco apartment off Rue Christophe-Colomb for £2.5 million.
In the working-class areas of the 9th, 10th and 11th arrondissements, there are exciting things happening, with a fabulous foodie scene, good wine shops and a focus on organic produce. Check out restaurants Bones and Septime, both in the 11th.
The 9th is close to the Gare du Nord, which is convenient for British visitors, while the supremely hip 10th remains a favourite with a younger crowd.
Lastly, there is Le Marais in the 3rd arrondissement. It features medieval buildings and Paris’s oldest and possibly most beautiful planned square, the Place des Vosges.
Le Marais borders the 11th and is home to several cool concept shops, including Merci. A 1,022sq ft two-bedroom apartment with a terrace overlooking Rue Saint-Martin is priced at £677,000 through Vingt Paris.
Expect to pay an average of £10,500 per square foot for renovations in classic buildings, says Hollands. A 1,572sq ft three-bedroom apartment in a Haussmann building by the Élysée Palace is £1,128,000, half the price per square foot of homes in the Left Bank. It requires total refurbishment, but has original 19th-century parquet floors, several fireplaces and is hidden behind a charming courtyard.