Paris Arrondissement Guide

Paris Arrondissement Guide

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I often get asked: “where is the best place to stay in Paris?”. Unfortunately, there is no right answer to that. Or rather, there are many different options depending on what tickles your fancy.

Like many capital cities, Paris is divided into multiple districts (a.k.a. “arrondissement“), which serve an administrative and organizational purpose. Each one has its own zip code and town hall (“mairie“). They are organized in a snail-like shape starting in the geographic and historic heart of the city and spinning clockwise. They tend to follow the historic neighborhoods roughly, but some (like the Marais) are divided across several districts.

Each arrondissement has its own identity, history, and a general vibe that can be dramatically different from one to the next. You may want to hang in the heart of all the tourist attractions for a quick first visit. Or maybe, on the contrary, you want to experience life like a real Parisian away from the city center. Perhaps you have an interest in modern architecture, or you love ethnic food. The good news is that Paris has something for everybody!

From must-do attractions to hidden gems, this Paris arrondissement guide will help you decide where to stay, eat, and how to organize your visit to the City of Lights.

1st Arrondissement de Paris (Heart)

If it is your first visit to Paris, you will likely spend a good bit of time in the heart of the city: the first district, or, as locals call it le premier. Not only is it the place where it all started, but it also has one of the highest concentrations of all the must-do places you have to visit the first time(s) you are in Paris. If you want to explore the Louvre, stroll through the Tuileries Garden, gawk at the windows of the jewelers Place Vendȏme or do some shopping in the Halles, look no further. There is plenty to keep you busy for days in a small walkable area. It is the Paris of postcards, narrow streets, and grand monuments. On the downside, like any hyper-touristy area, it is overrun by crowds of visitors – especially in the summer months – and offer little to no glimpse of what the “real Paris” looks like.

Green chairs in the Jardin des Tuileries in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
Green chairs in the Jardin des Tuileries in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.

What to Visit and Do in the 1st Arrondissement

2nd Arrondissement de Paris  (Passage)

The second arrondissement is the beating financial heart of the city, with the Bourse, at its center, housing the Parisian stock exchange. If you had visited Paris before the nineteenth century, it would have been a shady place to hang out, full of narrow unsanitary alleys and up-to-no-good ruffians. However, it was the theater of wide-scale urban changes in the early 1800s, which left behind an abundance of more polished Art Nouveau buildings and indoor shopping galleries. Those passages are one of my favorite spots in Paris to catch a glimpse of this fin-de-siècle glamour. The Belle Epoque may be long gone, but you wouldn’t know while strolling through those glass-covered alleyways bordered by old-school stores and restaurants. The Sentier area, once a no-mans-land only inhabited by wholesale textile businesses, is now one of the hottest spots in the city. If you want a good dose of Parisian trendy chic to excess, look no further than these pedestrian streets where the terraces of the cafes are the place to see and be seen.

Paris Galerie Vivienne
Galerie Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris.

What to Visit and Do in the 2nd Arrondissement

3rd Arrondissement de Paris

The third arrondissement includes part of the famed Marais (translated as “Swamp” in French), which extends into the fourth arrondissement as well. If you love small designer boutiques, artsy galleries, and swanky brunch places, you will feel right at home. My friend and fashion-insider Kasia is lucky enough to call the troisième home, and you can read more about her insider tips below. There is more to see in the area than hipster eateries among the charming medieval alleys – although that’s reason enough to visit. It is also the place to go to see some of the lesser-known, but worth the trip museums in Paris such as the Musée Picasso, the Arts et Métiers (Arts and Crafts), or the Carnavalet (a must-do for Parisian history buffs).

What to Visit and Do in the 3rd Arrondissement

Metro Arts et Metiers Paris
The Arts et Metiers metro in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris.

My friend Kasia’s local picks for the 3eme.

4th Arrondissement de Paris

Le quatrième includes two distinct areas. The area closest to the Seine is one of the tourist highlights of the city. It includes Ile de la Citée (on which sits Notre Dame), the posh Ile Saint Louis, which has been populated by the French crème de la crème and their grand hȏtels particuliers since the Middle Ages, and the elegant Place des Vosges. The banks of the river are closed to cars. Parisians of all ages rush over as soon as the sun makes an appearance to picnic and sunbath with a breathtaking view on Notre Dame (something they can no longer do after the fire). And then, there is the former Jewish neighborhood, with its winding cobblestone streets, quirky boutiques, and a wealth of middle eastern eateries like the word renowned As du Falafel. While most of the city gets sleepy on Sundays, the Marais is still bustling with many restaurants and boutiques open and the streets closed to cars. Resident Charli was kind enough to tell me about some of her favorite hangouts!

What to Visit and Do in the 4th Arrondissement

Paris Place de Vosges
Place de Vosges in the 4th arrondissement of Paris.

France24 reporter Charli’s local picks for the 4eme.

5th Arrondissement de Paris

Le cinquième has been a hub of the Parisian student life since the Middle Ages when La Sorbonne opened its doors in 1253. All the youngsters chatting in Latin – the teaching language at the time – gave the neighborhood its name: the Latin quarter. The area doesn’t appear to have changed all that much since then: there are still plenty of students, going to class, hanging at the terraces of the cafes, lounging on the lawns of the Jardin des Plantes. There are also plenty of tourists striding through the narrow cobblestone streets – including Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets in Paris – and visiting some of the most famous Frenchmen and women, buried in the Pantheon. You can even visit one of the last visible remnants of the Paris’ Roman past: Les Arènes de Lutèce.

What to Visit and Do in the 5th Arrondissement

Panthéon Paris
View from the roof of the Panthéon in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.

6th Arrondissement de Paris

If the fifth arrondissement is where the French go to study, le sixième next door is the intellectual beating heart of the city. All the famous artists, writers, and philosophers have graced the streets and cafes of Saint Germain, from Diderot to Dali, Hemingway, and Simone de Beauvoir, among many others. Nowadays, the neighborhood is no place for a starving artist: luxury boutiques, upscale food stores, and overpriced coffee (you are paying for a slice of history along with your espresso after all!) are the name of the game. Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite places in Paris that I never get tired of visiting again and again. Once you are done discussing the meaning of life or the subject of your next groundbreaking novel at the Café de Flore, you can always escape into the green alleys of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Allegedly one of the most beautiful public gardens in Paris, it is a breath of fresh for Parisians and visitors alike.

What to Visit and Do in the 6th Arrondissement

Paris Les Deux Magots
Les Deux Magots terrace in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.

Photographer Eileen’s local picks for the 6eme.

7th Arrondissement de Paris

You will undoubtedly make le septième one of your first stops on your maiden tour to Paris. Why? Because it is home to the most iconic of Parisian monuments: the Eiffel Tower! That said, you would be missing out if you missed to opportunity to linger awhile at the feet of the Dame de Fer. First of all, it is where you will find some of Paris’ best museums, including my favorite: the Musée d’Orsay. Besides, with its tranquil bourgeois atmosphere and old-school bistros, it is, in the words of part-time resident Ann Mah, “classic Paris”. Once you leave the obvious touristy areas, the streets belong to the locals. You will not necessarily find the trendiest bar and the hottest nightlife in the area – although the banks of the Seine have their share of hip spots – you won’t miss them one bit.

What to Visit and Do in the 7th Arrondissement

Paris Orsay Museum
View through the clock at the Musée d’Orsay in the 7th arrondissement of Paris.

Author Ann Mah’s local picks for the 7eme.

8th Arrondissement de Paris

The Champs-Elysées is arguably one of the most famous streets in the world. It is hard not to have your heartbeat a little faster while ascending the majestic avenue from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. After all, it is very long, it climbs up, and the cars won’t slow down one bit if you attempt to take a picture of the iconic view for the ‘Gram. Parisians often argue that the area has lost some of its cache with the chain stores and restaurants taking over the leases on both sides of the streets. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to let go of your hard-earned cash in the luxury flagship stores and Michelin-starred eateries in the area. If you can steer away from all the bling, head to the Parc Monceau. It is the perfect image of the neighborhood surrounding it: polished, manicured, and extremely elegant.

What to Visit and Do in the 8th Arrondissement

Paris Grand Palais
View of the Grand Palais in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

9th Arrondissement de Paris

As an unapologetic foodie, le neuvième ranks high on my list of favorite neighborhoods. Between the glitz of the grands magasins (excellent for shopping with amazing food courts!) and Garnier Opéra, and the grittier Pigalle district, where the ladies and gents of the night still roam, there is something for everyone. And let’s not forget about the unending delicacies of the Rue des Martyrs where you can apparently find every single type of specialty food shop under the sun.

What to Visit and Do in the 9th Arrondissement

Paris Printemps Roof
View from the roof of the Printemps department store in the 9 arrondissement of Paris.

Food bloggers Alix and Hugo’s local picks for the 9eme.

10th Arrondissement de Paris

Brooklyn has its hipsters, but Paris has its “bobos” (the bourgeois-bohêmes or bohemian bourgeois). Le dixième once belonged to immigrant communities – and they still have an important presence in some pocket areas – but it is well on its way to gentrification. The Canal Saint-Martin area is an artificial paradise of small designer boutiques, organic community stores, and vegan bistros. Meanwhile, the area around Barbès and Gare du Nord feels a world away. Between small ethnic restaurants, hairdressers, and exotic grocery stores, the Paris of postcards and clichés feel very far away.

What to Visit and Do in the 10th Arrondissement

Paris Canal St Martin 10
Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.

My friend Daisy’s local picks for the 10eme.

11th Arrondissement de Paris

Low-key and far from the “big” tourist attractions, le onzième is where real Parisians live and play. La Bastille and Oberkampf area are a hot spot for nightlife, with bars and restaurants open late at night. The last metros to the area are as crowded as rush hour and many students, attracted by the – relatively – affordable rent call it home. With its quirky street art, hole-in-the-wall type of places, and brunch galore, it may not have the shiny attraction of some more central areas, but it is definitely a local favorite with a cool-kid vibe that is hard to top.

What to Visit and Do in the 11th Arrondissement

Paris Cour Damoye
Cour Damoye in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.

12th Arrondissement de Paris

Le douzième is the largest and one of the greenest neighborhoods in Paris. Aside from the area located near Bastille, with its bustling bars and hip restaurants, it is a fairly quiet district. If you don’t mind a short metro ride to get to the main attractions and want to experience how the Parisian middle class lives, it is a great choice to stay. There is plenty of parks and green spaces, like the Coulee Verte (a former railway reconverted into a tree-lined walkway), the Vincennes forest, and Bercy (old warehouses turned trendy shopping district). For food lovers, the open-air Marché d’Aligre is a must-see.

What to Visit and Do in the 12th Arrondissement

Paris Rue Crémieux 12
Rue Crémieux in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.

13th Arrondissement de Paris

Le treizième has a long artistic tradition since the Gobelins, the royal tapestry factory made it’s home in the seventeenth century. Nowadays, there is still plenty of arts (and artists, thanks to the still affordable-ish rents), but it is a far cry from a museum neighborhood. It is still a blue-collar area, as well as the unofficial Chinatown of Paris. It may not be the prettiest arrondissement in terms of architecture, but it is young, dynamic, and one of the best places to stay if you like street art and modern design. The Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood offers a plethora of cute boutiques and small eateries.

What to Visit and Do in the 13th Arrondissement

Paris La Cite de la Mode et du Design
La Cité de la Mode et du Design in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. Photo credit: Fred Romero

14th Arrondissement de Paris

Montparnasse was once the home far away from home for the Lost Generation in the mid-1920s. Hemingway, Satie, Cocteau, Modigliani, and the like may not recognize the area nowadays, however. It is a mostly sleepy and residential neighborhood dominated by one of the ugliest buildings and only skyscraper in Paris: la Tour Montparnasse. However, there is still plenty to explore among the quiet streets. The Parc Montsouris is beautiful and out of the beaten path. The Catacombes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are certainly a once in a lifetime experience. It also has the highest concentration of people from the Breton region and is fabulous for crepes! Plus you have historic brasseries like La Coupole where Miles Davis and Josephine Baker often appeared.

What to Visit and Do in the 14th Arrondissement

Paris at sunset inside Montparnasse Observation Deck
Paris at sunset inside Montparnasse Observation Deck in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

15th Arrondissement de Paris

Le quinzième may not be a hotspot for nightlife and tourist attractions, but it has a quiet and homey feel, which is very welcome at the end of a busy day visiting the City of Lights. What the district lacks in wild parties, it more than makes up for it in friendly bars and green spaces like the Parc André Citroën (a.k.a. the place to go if you want a bird’s eye view over the city). And for the food lovers among us, it is also home to some of the most well-known cooking classes in Paris, like the original campus of the Cordon Bleu or L’Atelier des Chefs.

What to Visit and Do in the 15th Arrondissement

Paris Pont de Bir-Hakeim
Pont de Bir-Hakeim in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

My friend and cocktail queen Forest’s local picks for the 15eme.

16th Arrondissement de Paris

Many well-to-do Parisians and ex-pats inhabit le seizième. It is a very proper residential district. Think elegant Art Nouveau buildings and small squares populated by perfectly coiffed old ladies and mild-mannered children wearing navy jumpers from Jacadi. You can get the very best view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro. Besides, the sixteenth also hides some excellent museums amid its quiet streets, like Musée Marmottan (a must-see of Monet’s admirers) or Galliera (all about fashion in Paris) or the Palais de Tokyo which offers some breathtaking exhibits.

What to Visit and Do in the 16th Arrondissement

Paris Trocadéro Eiffel Tower
View of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

17th Arrondissement de Paris

Some will argue that there isn’t much to do in the dix-septième. And yet, it is slowly becoming one of the hotspots of the city, especially near the Batignolles neighborhood. It does not translate as trendy bars open late at night but in good traditional French food and relaxed atmosphere. Since there is nothing to attract tourists here, a refreshingly authentic vibe inhabits the neighborhood. BUT it does have one of the best food markets in town on Rue Poncelet, so make sure to check that out and stock up for your picnics!

What to Visit and Do in the 17th Arrondissement

Paris Rue Poncelet Market
Amazing food at the market on Rue Poncelet in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.

18th Arrondissement de Paris

Le dix-huitième is very diverse in more ways than one. On one side, you have Montmartre, its hordes of tourists, and its charming cobblestone streets that feel a world away from the Haussmanian buildings you can see everywhere else. Then, there is the flamboyant Moulin Rouge with its showgirls and adult entertainment area. And then, there is the rest of the district: a patchwork of areas called Little India, Little Africa or La Goutte d’Or, which are mostly working-class residential neighborhoods. The eighteenth district doesn’t have the best reputation in town, so be careful if you will be walking alone late at night away from the tourist areas.

What to Visit and Do in the 18th Arrondissement

Paris Montmartre
Part of the Sacré-Cœur and the streets of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement of Paris.

19th Arrondissement de Paris

On the weekends, Parisians everywhere head for le dix-neuvième as soon as there is a ray of sunshine. The nineteenth district may not have much to offer in terms of iconic tourist destinations – it is a mostly residential, working-class district. However, you can find two of the most beloved-by-locals parks here: La Villette and Buttes-Chaumont. In the summer, Paris Plage takes over the banks of the La Villette reservoir.

What to Visit and Do in the 19th Arrondissement

Paris Bassin Villette
Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.

Blogger Elisa’s local picks for the 19eme.

20th Arrondissement de Paris

Le vingtième – last but not least of the arrondissements – is still a bit of a diamond in the rough, but things are changing quickly. The big draw for tourists is the Père Lachaise cemetery, a realm of melancholic and breathtaking tombstones and the last resting place of the likes of Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, or Chopin among many others. The traditionally working-class neighborhood has been taken over by a wave of gentrification in the Belleville area, which is becoming a nightlife destination in itself. There is still plenty of mouth-watering ethnic eateries and neighborhood places, but for how long?

What to Visit and Do in the 20th Arrondissement

Père Lachaise Cemetery
Père Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.

Paris Arrondissement Guide

Voilà ! You made it through Paris and now you are prepped and primed to get exploring! As you can see each Paris arrondissement or neighborhood has its own unique characteristics and offerings.

How many have you been to? What are your favorites? Have any new ones caught your eye? Do share!

Illustration commissioned from Linden Eller.

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29 Comments

  1. Kimberly
    November 26, 2019

    These places look incredible! Paris is on my list to visit one day – fingers crossed I can!

    Reply
  2. Kileen
    November 26, 2019

    Paris looks absolutely amazing and I would love to visit!! So many fun things to do and see there as well. Makes me want to book a spontaneous trip out!
    Kileen

    Reply
  3. Ashley R
    November 27, 2019

    I had an acquaintance once tell me that when I visited Paris I stayed in the wrong arrondissement. She had a lot more money while traveling than me and my husband. Thinking back and seeing this post, there isn’t a wrong area to stay in. You can learn and see so much in any of them.

    Reply
  4. Amanda Martin
    November 27, 2019

    Oh I just love Paris! I’ve stayed in 3 of the Arrondissements but I think the 1st has been my favorite.

    Reply
  5. Nadalie Bardo
    November 27, 2019

    This is such a PERFECT guide to Paris! I’d want to stay everywhere. Makes one realize you can spend forever in Pari!

    Reply
  6. Paula @ I'm Busy Being Awesome
    November 27, 2019

    How is it possible that every single area of Paris is absolutely perfect? Thanks for the guide

    Reply
  7. Juliann
    November 27, 2019

    What a great guide! I need to save this for sure. I’ve been to Paris three times and always have to research the arrondissement every time because I never remember where I want to stay. I’ve stayed in the Latin Quarter and liked it, but also stayed in an apartment years ago that was off the beaten path. It was near a huge library that was a fascinating exploration on our last day there. But really, it doesn’t seem to matter too much where you stay in Paris; the Metro makes it so easy to get everywhere you need to go!

    Reply
  8. Sarah
    November 27, 2019

    Absolutely adore the illustration, Andi! This is such an in-depth guide and I will definitely return to it when I plan my next trip to Paris. You could totally spend a lifetime just exploring this city.

    Reply
  9. Patricia
    November 27, 2019

    I visited Paris once, 20 years ago. This is making me want to go back!!!

    Reply
  10. Amber S Battishill
    November 27, 2019

    Love this breakdown and so much information! I need to pin this for later!

    Reply
  11. Angela
    November 28, 2019

    This guide is so comprehensive! I’m definitely going to use this guide next time I’m in Paris!

    Reply
  12. Lauren
    November 30, 2019

    This is so helpful!! I remember feeling a bit lost when I visited Paris. This guide would have eased those fears. Pinning for future reference (hoping to return soon!)

    Reply
  13. Aga
    November 30, 2019

    Wish I had this when I was planning my trip to Paris a few years ago. I remember having a hard time deciding where to stay, especially that it was a very short visit and I wanted to be in the best area to see as much as possible. I ended up staying in Latin Quarter and was very happy with my choice, but when I return, I’ll probably choose a different neighborhood, as there are so many. Your guide will be very helpful for that.

    Reply
  14. Vanessa Shields
    November 30, 2019

    This is such an excellent guide to navigating the different districts! I really wish I had had this on my previous trips to Paris. Love all your photos and great info! 😁

    Reply
  15. Patricija
    November 30, 2019

    Wow this is legit the best guide to Paris I ever saw! Never been so definitely pinning this for later, thanks!

    Reply
  16. Brittany Jane
    November 30, 2019

    This is such a great way to breakdown the many, many sights to see and things to do in all corners of Paris! Love it! xx Bri

    Reply
  17. Rachel
    December 1, 2019

    This is such a helpful guide! I’ve been to Paris a few times but I still find the arrondissements quite confusing. This really breaks it down and is full of local knowledge.

    Reply
  18. Cat Lin
    December 1, 2019

    I think there is nobody in this world that never dreamt of going to Paris, alone, with family and friends or even with their lovers. Thank you so much for having this blog written so detailed, you even put precaution for some areas. Now we can plan which and where to go to maximize our trip.

    Reply
  19. Imane
    December 1, 2019

    Wow such a detailed guide. Love it! definitely going to save this for my trip to Paris!

    Reply
  20. Maheen
    December 1, 2019

    Your photos never disappoint! Great post

    Reply
  21. Shafinah
    December 1, 2019

    omgosh that map illustration is beautiful – did you make it yourself! 🥰

    Reply
  22. sarah
    December 1, 2019

    My favourite neighbourhoods in Paris are definitely the 3th and 4th arrondissement, but you convinced me to explore more of them now.
    Btw, love that personalised map!

    Reply
  23. Melissa
    December 1, 2019

    Incredible post! So much detail here! I have pinned so i can refer back when I visit again!

    Reply
  24. Ashley Hubbard
    December 1, 2019

    Wow this is incredibly comprehensive. My Paris knowledge is from one day a long time ago. I couldn’t even tell you anything about any of the arrondissement so this entire post was full of information for me. Definitely using it whenever I make it back to Paris.

    Reply
  25. Coni
    December 1, 2019

    If I had a cent for every time I got asked “where is the best place to stay in Paris?”… Now I’ll just refer them to this wonderful guide 🙂

    Reply
  26. Rhonda
    December 1, 2019

    This is so great for better understanding of Paris, where to go and what to do. I wish I had this before our last visit.

    Reply
  27. Miranda
    December 4, 2019

    This is such a detailed guide I wish I had during my trip to Paris! The layout of the city is a little confusing so this is great – even the illustration I love 🙂

    Reply
  28. Olivia
    December 4, 2019

    Great job on this guide! It’s so hard to explain the arrondissements to someone visiting for the first time.

    Reply
  29. Danial (Dan On The Road)
    December 12, 2019

    Twenty arondissements in twenty days? A great guide and the cartophile in me is loving the sketch map of Paris!

    Reply

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