Finding reasonably priced accommodations in Paris can always be a challenge. Fortunately, a few months ago I discovered St. Christopher’s Inns in Barcelona, which immediately became one of my favorite hostels around the world. So when it came time to find a place to lay my head in the City of Light I was delighted to accept an invitation to try out St. Christopher’s Inns Canal in Paris.
When choosing accommodations, the most important issues for me are safety, wifi availability in the room, location, and cleanliness, in that order. I want to be able to walk the neighborhood streets alone after dark without concern, write from the comfort of my bed in the evenings, have access to public transportation, be near the best Paris restaurants, and not feel like I could pick up a case of diphtheria just by walking into the bathroom. St. Christopher’s Inns Canal in Paris not only passed my litmus test, they passed with flying colors. Just as in their Barcelona and London facilities, I found dorm bunks equipped with privacy curtains, a personal lamp, an electric receptacle, and a big wire cage on wheels that slid out from beneath my bunk bed for locking up my valuables. Access to the elevator and rooms (300 in total!) was by key-card, enduring safety.
The hostel was fully booked during my stay so it was impossible to get decent photos of my own; those shown here are from the hostel’s website. In slower times I have no doubt that the rooms and facilities look exactly like their photos, however when every bed is occupied, things get a little messier. Just imagine being in a dorm room with seven other backpackers. Open backpacks spew clothes in a way that suggests a small bomb exploded within. Hand-washed clothes hang on chair backs and towels are draped from bunk railings. Shoes and boots scattered around the floor create a minefield to be picked through when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. But it’s a happy mess.
Hostel dorms always offer an atmosphere of camaraderie, but I found this to be especially so at St. Christopher’s Inns Canal. No one cared that I was significantly older than the average dorm occupant. The reaction was one of acceptance and “the more the merrier.” I met two young men in this particular dorm who were traveling around the world. When I asked one of them how he felt about sharing with someone my age he said, “It doesn’t make a bit of difference to me what age or sex my roommates are. The only time I’m uncomfortable is when people keep to themselves.” I agreed wholeheartedly. I have shared dorm rooms with 80-yearold women and families with young children and have made lifelong friends that began with a meeting in a hostel dorm.
This spirit of conviviality is encouraged by St. Christopher’s Inns Canal. The hostel offers walking tours of the neighborhood made famous by the film Amélie, a street art tour, and a Paris introduction, all free of charge. It’s a good base if you want to do a walking tour of Paris by night. Their on-site Belushi’s Bar hosts Sunday night open mic, Mojito Mondays, and Wednesday Quiz Nights with a chance to win prizes like free stays in one of their 11 hostels around Europe. In the basement, Belushi’s Nightclub hosts up and coming bands from both the French and the International scene and serves drinks in French, English, German and Spanish.
The St. Christopher’s website says, “A big part of backpacking is making new friends and we aim to help out with that, whenever we can!” They certainly do that with great success, but I’d like to point out that hostels are no longer just for backpackers. Though I still carry all my electronic equipment in a mid-size backpack that weighs about 25 pounds, I now use a 22″carry-on size roll-aboard suitcase for my clothes; I’m simply not able to carry everything on my back anymore. And I’m not alone. More and more I see suitcases replacing traditional backpacks, regardless of the age of the traveler. Additionally, like most hostels these days St. Christopher’s Inns offer private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, so it’s not necessary to sleep with strangers if that’s not your cup of tea. In a city where hotels usually command upwards of $200 per night, St. Christopher’s Inns Canal offers dorm bed for about $40 or a private double room for about $60, and provides a liberal dollop of free, fun entertainment as well.
Disclosure: I was a guest of St. Christopher’s Inns Canal during my recent three-day stay in Paris, however the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Since I last visited in June the company has opened a second hostel in Paris, St. Christopher’s Inns Gare de Nord, which is located just 100 meters from the Gare du Nord train station. But while I love St. Christopher’s Inns, those who prefer other neighborhoods may wish to check out this guide to the best arrondissements to stay in Paris.