Paris, like most cities, is incredibly diverse with museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, cafes, parks, boutiques and more.
In 2012, I lived in Paris for one semester during college, yet I was still having trouble clarifying what arrondissement (neighborhood) I wanted to spend most of time when I traveled back in the summer of 2017.
So I thought I’d figure it out once and for all.
Paris has 20 arrondissements, organized in a spiral outwards starting with the first arrondissement.
These 20 arrondissements make up central Paris; the first 3 zones of Paris relating to the Paris metro, and include famous landmarks such as the Eiffel tower, Arc du Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Moulin Rouge and many other notable Parisian sights.
So here you are, the arrondissements of Paris explained!
Not just named the 'first', but the actual first settlement of Paris; the center of Paris. Located on the right bank of the Seine River. The first arrondissement (ARR.) is “super riche et très chic”. It includes the west end of the little island known as Île de la Cité (shared between the 1st and 4th arrondissements). The 1st ARR. is so expensive, most Parisians can't afford to live there. But you will find couture, 4 and 5 star hotels, fashion and lots of tourists, the Louvre museum, Palais-Royal, Comédie-Française, which is the oldest active theater in the world, the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries and so much more.
Landmarks – Paris Bourse, Opéra-Comique
Located on the right bank of the Seine River, just north of the first arrondissement. Together with the 8th and 9th arrondissements, the 2nd ARR. is primarily a business district. An interesting neighborhood that has become "yuppie bohemian chic", with it’s small businesses, startups and specialty shops. Here you’ll find The Paris Bourse historical stock exchange, auction houses, the Sentier textile district, Opéra-Comique, and Place des Victoires which is a major boutique shopping destination.
Located on the right bank of the River Seine, east of the 2nd arrondissement. It's a very hip and trendy "up and coming" part of Paris, but not yet gentrified. The 3rd ARR. includes the Northern "quieter" part of Le Marais (medieval neighborhood, one of the oldest in Paris) while the 4th ARR. has the southern "livelier" part. Its shops are less brand name and more up and coming designers and small boutiques.
Landmarks – Notre-Dame, le Marais, Hôtel de Ville, Place de Bastille
Located on the right bank on the River Seine, just below the 3rd and to the east of the 1st arrondissement. The heart of le Marais district with lots of trendy bars and restaurants. The place to get kebabs in Paris. Also known as the center of Gay nightlife in Paris.
This arrondissement also contains Hôtel de Ville which is not a hotel but the building housing the city's local administration since 1357, Place de Bastille which is shared with the 11th ARR. and the east end of Île de la Cité and the other island on the River Seine called Île St. Louis. This two islands are the oldest parts of Paris.
Situated on the left bank of the Seine River. This arrondissement is where you'll find the well known Latin Quarter and where the famous Sorbonne University resides. Feels like a small village, where the students and university professors mix along it’s winding, narrow streets. The small streets are charming, but busy and can be difficult to navigate. Rue Mouffetard is known for it’s markets and international restaurants and cafes.
Located on the left bank of the River Seine, just below the 1st arrondissement and to the west of the 5th. Once a hangout for bohemians and intellectuals, this neighborhood is now the most expensive and affluent in Paris; if you live here (where Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Jean Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg formerly resided) you’ve arrived. Here you’ll find very old French restaurants, art galleries, high end shops, publishing houses, and design furniture showrooms.
The 7th arrondissement is located on the left bank of the River Seine (Rive Gauche). This neighborhood is a very chic, residential area including many well to do Americans possibly because of the American University here or the fact this is where the Eiffel Tower is. Here you’ll find the final resting place of Napoleon in Les Invalides, Musée d’Orsay, Musée du quai Branly which is a very new museum and beautiful place to have lunch, and many embassies.
Situated on the right bank of the River Seine, together with the 2nd and 9th arrondissements makes up the primary business district. This upscale neighborhood is very diverse including businesses, chic residences, lots of shopping, tourists, embassies, and famous fashion houses.
The 9th arrondissement is a diverse residential, shopping, cultural and business neighborhood. It is famous for its many large department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Here you can also find the Paris Opera called Opéra Garnier, and Pigalle district which is shared with the 18th arrondissement.
This area is sort of a weird place to be with it’s incredible famous malls, business hub, famous theaters and red light district. There are lots of bars and cafes and is the “new place to be” for Parisians.
Landmarks – Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord, Canal Saint-Martin, Place de République
Lively and young district was once mostly immigrants who have been there since the 1850’s-60’s for the industrial revolution. Now this arrondissement is changing and gentrifying. Here you can find lots of African restaurants, bars next to the beautiful and romantic Canal Saint-Martin, and Place de République which is shared with the 3rd and 11th ARR.
The 11th arrondissement is a mix of a lot of things; chefs who want natural fresh products, marche aligre outdoor flea market, fashionable cafés, restaurants, nightlife, boutiques, galleries, and the Oberkampf district which is very popular for nightlight. This arrondissement is quite young and affluent.
This arrondissement is primarily all residential, since there’s not a lot to do here there’s not a lot of tourists, which is a great way to get the true feeling of a city. Here you’ll find the Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in Paris and the Château de Vincennes, the former residence of the Kings of France.
Home to Chinatown, high rise apartments, and mostly wide modern streets. Here you can find wonderful Vietnamese food and Buttes aux Cailles district with its cobblestone streets and wonderful restaurants, cafes and nightlife which preserves a village-like atmosphere.
Landmarks – Catacombs, Boulevard Montparnasse
The 14th arrondissement is a residential district known for it’s lively cafes and restaurants on the Boulevard Montparnasse. The part that’s closest to the 6th arrondissement is very rich and upper class, part that’s further south is working class, and somewhere in between is University dorms housing lots of students. Again this “boring” and “residential” reputation also lends itself to peace, quiet and a more authentic real life in Paris without the tourists.
Landmarks – Beaugrenelle
Very similar to the 14th; quiet, residential, non-touristy. The area bording the 7th arrondissement (Eiffel tower) is very upscale, and as you work further out it’s still relatively safe and affordable. Here you’ll find Beaugrenelle skyscraper shopping mall which locals gave nicknamed mochegrenelle (ugly grenelle, instead of beau which means beautiful).
Not as exclusive as the 7th or 6th arrondissements, but still incredibly safe and upscale. Many old wealth Parisian families live here in the north. Many students live in the south. Here you’ll find high end shopping in rue de Passy and Place Victor Hugo. Place de Trocadéro offers lots of cafes and views of the Eiffel tower. At Palais de Tokyo you’ll find lots of modern art and exhibits.
Landmarks – Place de Clichy
This arrondissement is very residential and non-touristy. It’s close to Parc Monceau, the Arc du Triomphe and Champs-Elysees all in the 8th arrondissement. It’s chic, but younger with some good bars and restaurants. Here you'll find Place de Clichy a square touching four arrondissements that have an array of shops, restaurants, and businesses, including a popular cinema.
This artsy, residential, multi-ethnic neighborhood is situated on top of a hill overlooking Paris center. It’s very young, hip, and full of young professionals and tourists. It’s very popular and overcrowded. On the plus side you can find great African food here.
A mostly residential and up and coming part of Paris. Was once quite poor and full of immigrants and is now becoming gentrified with many chic areas but parts are still quite affordable. Here you’ll find many ethnic restaurants and shops, and the markets on Wesnesday and Saturday for epic fresh food and people selling stuff like homemade pesto, and Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie a museum and exhibition center located in Parc de la Villette. There’s a lovely café called Barbes which doesn’t quite suit the area now but will in only a matter of months or a year or two.
Landmarks - Père Lachaise Cemetery
Multiethnic neighborhood which is home to the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, the first garden cemetery and home to final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Isadora Duncan, Colette, Edith Piaf and many more. It’s also home to a smaller China town, markets on Tuesdays and Fridays, art and galleries.
Notable landmarks outside of the 20 Arrondissements:
Palace of Versailles is roughly 13 miles / 20 km southwest of the center of Paris. It takes roughly 1 hour on the RER C.
Charles de Gaulle Airport is the major airport of Paris north east of the center. This airport is roughly 15 miles / 25 km of the center and takes approximately 1 hour on the RER B.
Orly Airport is 8 miles / 13 km south of Paris on the RER B and can be reached by both RER and Orlyval bus.
Disneyland Paris is 20 miles / 32 km east of Paris, and takes approximately 45 minutes on the RER A.
Paris is a very complex and beautiful city, one that should be carefully researched yet organically discovered.
As seasoned travelers, we have the special ability to offer you relevant recommendations and personal insights to help ensure that you have the most magical Paris vacation.