Unless you’re immensely lucky or immensely rich, you’ll most likely have to make some compromises when looking for a Paris apartment. Most people have their list of essentials, and a list of things they’re willing to sacrifice. For me, I will never again rent a place with a shared toilet down the hall (one flat I inspected on the rue Guy Lussac had a detachable toilet seat hanging on the back of the front door that you would have to carry with you every time. Needless to say, I did not submit a request to rent that particular flat.) I will no longer book places with a tiny pod shower situated in the middle of the kitchen (this becomes very awkward if you have guests who you don’t want to see naked). And never again will I sign on for an apartment where I need to set up my own wifi, for just obtaining a simple modem is like entering the ninth circle of French bureaucratic hell.
However, there are things I’ve learned to compromise on in order to live somewhere decent. I don’t mind if my apartment is the size of a glorified broom closet. I don’t mind if I have to climb six flights of stairs to get inside (and am fortunate that I’m able to do so). I don’t mind if the bed is up a rickety staircase, in a mezzanine you can barely sit up in, or if it’s actually a fold-out sofa. I don’t mind if the street is noisy or there’s no washing machine (actually, those are rather luxurious in Paris).
Paris real estate is a game of compromises. But it’s all worth it if you get a good view.
My first apartment, in the Dupleix area of the fifteenth arrondissement, looked out over a very underwhelming 1970s apartment building. But when the neighbours had their windows closed, the reflection of the Eiffel Tower would sparkle in them at night. I considered this poor man’s view of the Eiffel Tower to be very exciting and precious.
When I moved to my fifth-floor tree house on the very dodgy rue Saint-Denis, I missed my sparkling friend. That was, until I realised that if I opened my windows and craned my neck, I had a view (not a reflection, a direct view!) of the Tour Saint-Jacques.
Constructed in the 1510s and 1520s to mark the city’s first square, the Tour Saint-Jacques is a lovely, elaborate stone tower (formerly a belltower) in the centre of the first arrondissement. Next to the bustling Place du Châtelet, it is situated inside a sweet little park. At lunchtime, I recommend picking up a sandwich camembert from the nearby Boulangerie Julien on the rue Saint Martin, finding a spot on the stone benches built into the base of the tower itself, and enjoying this soaring structure in the sunshine.
At 54 metres high and with 300 steps, the Tour Saint-Jacques can be climbed, and provides a beautiful view out over the Seine. (Although claustrophobics may wish to skip this one: the staircase is only 85cm wide.) Often overlooked among its vibrant surrounds, the Tour Saint-Jacques should be more famous than it is. Although, perhaps you should take that statement with a grain of salt; after all, it comes from someone who sat at their window and stared at it for years.