Getting to know Paris

Paris is an intriguing mix of arrondissements, each with its own identity and history. The river Seine runs through the centre of Paris, creating a clear separation between left bank and right bank. The majority of Paris fits within the boundaries of the Bd Périphérique, the massive ring road that surrounds the city. The green ‘lungs’ of Paris sitting on either side – the Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulogne.

Whether you only have time for the heart of Paris or have a few days to get out and explore a little deeper into the multi-cultural and diverse regions of the city, there is something here for everyone.

So here is a very brief guide to the different arrondissements of Paris. Over time I will add much more in-depth guides to each area, so you know exactly what to look for, no matter how long you are visiting for.

1st ARRONDISSEMENT

Île de la Cité, Les Halles, Place Vendôme, Palais-Royal

The original centre of Paris is home to some of the biggest attractions in Paris.

Île de la Cité is one half of the tiny islands that sit in the Seine, splitting Paris between the ‘left’ bank and ‘right’ bank. Here you will find the incredible Sainte-Chapelle and padlock covered Pont Neuf. Whereas on the right bank the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre, stands surrounded by the Tuileries and Les Halles (the historical food market of Paris). This is the home of the main administrative buildings and designer boutiques.

Must see: Tuileries, Musée du Louvre, Église Saint-Eustache, Sainte-Chapelle & Pont Neuf

Read my full guide on what to do and see in the 1st Arrondissement HERE

The glass pyramid outside the Louvre museum
The glass pyramid outside the Louvre museum (Image by 139904 from Pixabay)

2nd ARRONDISSEMENT

Vivienne

The smallest yet most eclectic arrondissement, it almost feels like this is a blink and you miss it area! But don’t be mistaken, even though the 2 arr. is the smallest arrondissement in Paris it is home to some of the best boutique shops in Paris. Wander through the gorgeous covered walkways, find hidden bars and some of the most authentic Japanese you’ll taste outside of Japan.

Must see: hidden undercover passageways, Japanese quarter

Passage des Princes, 2nd arrondissement, Paris
Passage des Princes, 2nd arrondissement, Paris (Moonik, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

3RD ARRONDISSEMENT

Le Marais, Sainte-Avoye, Enfants-Rouges, Quartier du Temple

One half of the Marais, this area is filled with independent boutiques and cafes, as well as Paris’ Jewish quarter. Stunning Renaissance mansions now house iconic brands such as Chanel, as well as modern art galleries and museums. This area has it all, from shopping, dining, history, architecture and of course nightlife.

Must see: Musée National Picasso-Paris, Carnavalet Museum, Metiers Art Museum, Musée Cognacq-Jay

The Carnavalet Museum, Paris (Lionel Allorge, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

4TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Île St-Louis, Pletzl, St Gervais, Quartier Saint-Paul, Arsenal

Home to the world-famous gothic masterpiece Notre-Dame on Île de la Cité, while Île St-Louis houses administrative buildings in what were once royal palaces. The 4e also includes part of the Marais, and the modern art museum Centre Pompidou. Wander along the quays before heading inland towards Bastille and Place des Vosges.

Must see: Notre-Dame, Hôtel de Ville, Le centre Pompidou, Tour Saint-Jacques, Église Saint-Gervais, Place des Vosges

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (Image by Leif Linding from Pixabay)

5TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Latin Quarter, Sorbonne, Val-de-Grâce, St Victor

Across to the Left bank you will find the 5th arrondissement, filled with university students, bookstores, cheap & delicious crepe stands and the Jardin des Plantes.

Take a break in the world-renowned Shakespeare & Company bookstore, debate philosophy with students from the Sorbonne, or visit the natural history galleries and the zoo. Ancient roman architecture still stands and are found scattered through the Latin Quarter.

Must see: Shakespeare & Company, Panthéon, Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, Rue Mouffetard, Jardin des Plantes, Le Ménagerie

The Pantheon, Paris
The Pantheon, Paris (Image by Bronisław Dróżka from Pixabay)

6TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Monnaie, Odéon

Luxembourg gardens is the place locals go to escape the city, while the streets surrounding it are filled with belle époque era brasseries. People watch at the famous Café de Flore before exploring some of the galleries and churches nearby, such as the Église de Saint German des Prés or the Église Saint-Sulpice.

Must see: Café de Flore, Jardin du Luxembourg, Luxembourg Palace, Jardin des Grands Explorateurs, Église Saint-Sulpice, Odéon Theatre

Luxembourg Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

7th ARRONDISSEMENT

Faubourg Saint-Germain, Invalides

The Eiffel tower is unmissable, and as you walk through the grand buildings that populate this corner of Paris you will find yourself in an area that seems to embody ‘Paris’. Quaint streets, ornate buildings, glimpses of the Eiffel as you turn each corner, tempting patisserie stores and the glint from the golden Dôme des Invalides all beckons. Wander along the rivers edge or bring a picnic and pick a spot on the Champ de Mars.

Must see: Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Champ de Mars, Rodin Museum, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Médaille-Miraculeuse, Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Musée d’Orsay

The Eiffel Tower (Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

8TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Quartier du Faubourg-du-Roule, L’Europe

Chic and iconic, the Avenue des Champs-Elysees connects the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, and ultimately the Louvre. This is the street for window shopping, fine dining and ticking off your must-see in Paris list.

Must see: Le Palais de L’Élysée, Avenue des Champs- Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, L’Église de la Madeleine, Avenue Montaigne

The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe (Image by jplenio from Pixabay)

9TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Saint-Georges, New Athens, Rochechouart, Quartier Pigalle

Elegant and timeless, the 9th arrondissement houses theatres, museums and shopping galleries galore. The stunning architecture of the Opera houses and covered passageways throughout will take you back in time, as you move away from the centre and towards the original red light district of Paris – south Pigalle. Make sure to try some of the tempting  

Must see: Palais Garnier, Eglise de la Sainte Trinité, Grande Synagogue de Paris, Printemps Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette, Musée de la Vie romantique, Musée Gustave Moreau

Musée de la Vie romantique, Paris
Musée de la Vie romantique, Paris (Musée de la Vie romantique)

10TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Petites Écuries, St Vincent de Paul, Canal St Martin, Cité Rouge, Grange Aux Belles, Hôpital-Saint-Louise

Quaint streets and footbridges filled with multi-cultural eateries, the 10th has both the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est stations. If you are taking a day trip to or from Paris, chances are you will be using one of these stations. This is not on the main tourist path, however if you need to catch a train then it is worth wandering along the canal and trying one of the bohemian cafes that line it.

Must see: Musée du Chocolat, Place de la République, Rue Sainte-Marthe and Canal Saint-Martin

Place de la République, Paris
Place de la République, Paris (Britchi Mirela, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

11th ARRONDISSEMENT

Folie-Méricourt, Saint-Ambroise, Ste Marguerite

Diverse, lively, a little bit grungy but definitely entertaining, the 11th is not what you think of when you picture Paris, however it is the destination for foodies and shoppers alike. Here you’ll find an international crowd venturing into independent boutiques and experimental bars.

Must see: L’Atelier des Lumières, Place de la Nation, Place de la Bastille, Colonne de Juillet, Bataclan music hall

Place de la Bastille (Mbzt, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

12TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Bastille, Quinze-Vingts, Quartier D’Aligre, Bel-Air Nord, Bel-Air, Picpus

More than half of the 12th is made up of beautiful green spaces, from the Coulée verte René-Dumont (a green walkway built on an elevated old railway) to the Boise de Vincennes and the Parc zoologique de Paris.

Perfect for families, sports fans or those who simply want a green oasis to escape to when the city gets too much.

Must see: Coulée verte René-Dumont, Cinémathèque Française, Gare de Lyon, Place de la Nation, Parcours Sportif Daumesnil, Parc zoologique de Paris, Wood of Vincennes

Coulée verte René-Dumont
Coulée verte René-Dumont, Paris (Guilhem Vellut from Paris, France, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

13TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Salpêtrière, Paris Rive Gauche, Gare, Olympiades, Floral City, Paris, Butte-Aux-Cailles, Place D’Italie, Crouleberbe

Mixing the old with the new, the 13th arrondissement is a multicultural hub where modern towers blend in with the historic. Here you will find the Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand, Paris’ main library, while the Quai de la Gare draws in the nightlife with its clubs, café and bars.

The tiny corner of Cité florale (Floral City) is a unique triangular area with individual houses, each house has its own glower garden and each street is named after a flower. Stunning in spring time!

Must see: Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand, Pont Charles de Gaulle, Église Sainte-Anne de la Butte aux Cailles, Cité florale

Cite Florale, Paris (besopha, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

14TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Montparnasse, Moulin de la VIergre, Plaisance, Porte de Vanves, Petit-montrouge

The home of the infamous catacombs of Paris, and the sprawling Montparnasse Cemetery is a bohemian and lively neighbourhood.  Spend a few hours wandering through the cemetery and see if you can spot the graves of famous figures such as Jean-Paul Satre, Simone de Beauvoir, Charles Baudelaire and Charles Garnier, while admiring the sculptures and art scattered throughout.

Several streets in the 14th have also been converted to pedestrian only, so you can relax and take your time deciding which historic bistro to stop at for lunch.

Must see: Cimetière du Montparnasse, Catacombs of Paris, Tour Montparnasse, Foundation Henri-Catier-Bresson, Parc Montsouris, Institut Giacometti

Catacombs of Paris (Image by Hartmut Kellner from Pixabay)

15TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Necker, Falguière, Saint-Lambert, Cité des Perichaux, Georges Brassens, Javel, Beaugrenelle, Grenelle

On the other side of the Eiffel Tower, the 15th arrondissement sits on the outskirts of Paris. While mostly residential, the area still has some quirky and interesting draws to it. Visit the Montparnasse tower for views from the 56th floor observation deck, or for even more of a birds eye view, go to the opposite side near the Seine and take a short ride up the tethered Ballon de Paris and get a view from 150m high!

Must see: Bourdelle Museum, Montparnasse Tower, Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Parc Georges Brassens, Parc André-Citroën

Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris
Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris (Pierre Blaché from Paris, France, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

16TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Port de Saint-Cloud, Auteuil, Nap, Immeubles Water, Chaillot

The 16th is a large, sweeping arrondissement which includes one of the two ‘green lungs’ of Paris – the Bois de Boulogne. For the best evening views of the Eiffel this side of the Seine, visit the Place du Trocadéro where the lights of the tower put on a mesmerising show.

The Jardins du Trocadéro also houses the Aquarium de Paris and several museums. There are beautiful tree lined streets which are beautiful to walk through, especially in Spring when the flowers are in full bloom.

Or spend a day wandering through the massive Bois de Boulogne where you will find interesting buildings, mini gardens and plenty of spots for a picnic on a hot summer day.

Must see: Paris Museum of Modern Art, Jardins du Trocadéro, Palais de Tokyo, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Musée de l’Homme, Parc Bagatelle – la Roseraie

Jardins du Trocadero, Paris
Jardins du Trocadero (Image by herry wibisono from Pixabay)

17TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Ternes, Batignolles, Porte D’Asnieèes, Port de Clichy, Épinettes, Porte de Saint-Ouen

The 17th arrondissement continues the journey around the periphery of Paris, drawing an eclectic crowd to its mix of tourist attractions and trendy eateries. One end branches out from the Arc de Triomphe, leading towards the stately Paroisse Saint Ferdinand des Ternes and across to the edge of the 18th arrondissement.

Must see: Paroisse Saint Ferdinand des Ternes, Palais des Congrès, Square des Batignolles, Parc Clichy-Batignolles – Martin Luther-King

Paroisse Saint Ferdinand des Ternes
Paroisse Saint Ferdinand des Ternes (William Jexpire, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

18TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Grandes-Carrieres, Goutte D’Or, La Chapelle, Porte de Cligancourt, Porte d’Aubervilliers, Port de la Chapelle, Barbès

The home of the awe-inspiring Sacre-Coeur and the artist community of Montmartre, the area needs little introduction. The former home of Picasso and Dali is filled with winding streets and surprising finds as you wander through the narrow streets. This area will take you back in time to the 19th century, with little gardens still growing vines.

Take a seat at the Square Nadar at sunset to enjoy the sounds of buskers playing as the sun sets over the city. Even in winter, this is a popular spot at sundown.  Don’t forget to book in a show at the famous Moulin Rouge, in the still gritty red-light district. A stark contrast to the artists village above! But nonetheless a must-see.

Must see: Sacré-Coeur, Wall of Love, Moulin Rouge, Musée de Montmartre, Place du Tertre, Buste de Dalida, Le Passe-Muraille, Montmartre Cemetery, Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, Square Louise Michel

Sacré-Coeur (Image by amir dhaouadi from Pixabay)

19TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Villette, Danube, Jaurès, Combat, Quartier de la Mouzaïa, Place des Fêtes

An usual experiment in urban regeneration, the 19th arrondissement is split by a canal which leads from one end through to the Parc de la Villette. Inside this park there is the city of Science and Industry, several live music spaces and the concert venues.

In contrast the smaller Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has everything from waterfalls to city views with plenty of bike lanes and paths for you to wander along. Try a game of pétanque along the canal, or take in a show at one of the many concert venues.

Must see: Parc de la Villette, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Le Géode cinema, Philharmonie de Paris, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Canal Saint-Martin

Le Géode cinema, Paris
Le Géode cinema (Zairon, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

20TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Belleville, Télégraphe, Saint-Fargeau, Ménilmontant, Les Fougères, Les Amandiers, Python Duvernois, Felix Terrier, St Blaise, Charonne

The former industrial area of the 20th is now a trendy, bohemian escape. Everything from contemporary art galleries to thoroughfares filled with street art, grungy bars and Asian restaurants are found here. Little visited by tourists, the trip is well worth your time.

Visit the Parc de Belleville with its open-air theatre and vineyard, before taking a short walk to the Neo-Gothic Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix. Step into the Père Lachaise Cemetery and see if you can find the tombs of Colette, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison.

Must see: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Parc de Belleville, Regard Saint-Martin, Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris (Image by 139904 from Pixabay)

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