Visiting Paris? (Congrats! I am SO EXCITED for you!!)
Seriously. Paris is one of my favorite places. I feel absolutely happy when I hear of someone experiencing Paris for the first time (or 20th). (even more happy when I can visit) I imagine while you are planning a trip to Paris you keep reading about an airbnb in the 18th arrondissement or a historic must see cafe in the 7th arrondissement. What does this all mean? How do you know the best place to stay? Is there a particular neighborhood you should avoid ? What is different about these neighborhoods? Paris is really quite simple to figure out. After reading this post you will have the confidence you need to plan your stay with ease.
Lets talk general set up of Paris Neighborhoods
Did you know Paris neighborhoods spiral out in a clockwise direction? The neighborhoods are called arrondissements.(districts) The famous Seine river splits the 20 arrondissements in half. The Seine runs East to west. Sections of Paris will be on either the Left bank or the Right bank. The first arrondissement is in the middle and one of the oldest sections of Paris. The numbers grow and spiral out like a snail. The higher the number, you know it is further away from the middle of Paris and not as old.
When booking your hotel, or looking at addresses of places you want to visit, a neat way to know which arrondissement it is in is by looking at the zip code. 75001 all the way up to 75020 are the zip codes for Paris. Look at the last two digits and you will know where your location is. (In french written like 5eme or 5e ) easy peasy. As you plan your trip pay attention to what neighborhood your planned stops are. If you can, try to plan by neighborhood to save you time, money and energy.
Where should I stay?
Choosing where you stay is as important as choosing your hotel for an enjoyable experience in Paris. If your goal in Paris is to do the typical tourist stops you likely will want to stay in the 1st -4th arrondissements. These are close to many of the attractions you likely will be visiting. This list should give you a quick overview of what to expect in the different neighborhoods.
1st Arrondissement : Louvre , Palais Royale
Lets call this a tourists Heaven. haha This is the oldest part of Paris. The center. This is likely the Paris you've been dreaming of. The Paris you see in Hollywood movies. It is a MUST. Rue de Rivoli, Place de Vendome, Tuileries, The Louvre, Forum de Halles and Sainte Chapelle. Ah. So many lovely places.
2nd Arrondissement : Bourse
Business section mostly. Paris Stock exchange is here. There is however a place here on my list for the next time I go to Paris that looks super cute and a neat little shopping place. Galerie Vivienne. An indoor passageway built back in 1823 with shops and cafes.
3rd Arrondissement : Marais
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris. 17th century mansions. Old , tiny roads and buildings that tend to lean a little. You can find the Picasso museum here too! Also here not often talked about as a tourist destination is the French National Archives and the Carnavalet Museum, which is dedicated to Paris’ history. Something you may really enjoy if you are in love with France.
4th Arrondissement: Marais/ Hotel de Ville
Here you can enjoy modern art of Centre de Pompidou, Tour Notre Dame on its lovely little island in the Siene. You can even go see where Victor Hugo lived when he wrote Les Miserables. (near Place des Vosges) Rue des Rosiers (Street of the rosebushes) is a street in this area known as the Jewish quarter.
5th Arrondissement : Latin Quarter
This neighborhood is named after the scholars who spoke in only Latin on these very streets. Sorbonne University (University of Paris is here and has been here a very long time. 2nd oldest university in Europe. This area has not been hugely updated. You feel the ancient medieval vibes here still. A fun stop for Bibliophiles is The iconic Shakespeare & Company book shop. .
6th Arrondissement: Saint Germain-des-Pres
Visit the Luxumbourg museum and gardens here. (over 60 acres of Gardens! Also, small version of the Statue of Liberty rests here in the gardens) You have to stop in at Le Procope as well. Oldest cafe in Paris! If you really want to fill your day with Paris oldest cafes, be sure to visit Les Deux Magots. A popular spot for people such as Picasso and Hemingway. Or if you are in the mood for famous hot chocolate stop on by Cafe de Flore . Delish!
7th Arrondissement: Palais-Bourbon
The Eiffel Tower ! yay! You know you want to see it. Luckily for you, even if you don't spend too much time in this neighborhood, you will likely see her beauty in many different areas of Paris. Hard to miss. She sits right in this district. Of course its a must see for your first trip. There are other notable places to see here in this neighborhoood. Hôtel des Invalides, Louis XIV built it for care for soldiers. It now houses a small number of elderly and French veterans. The main attractions here are multiple museums on French military and Napoleons tomb. You also can see works of VanGoh in Musee d’Orsay.
8th Arrondissement: Élysée
I love this area. A ritzy area but still a wonderful place to visit. You get to see the Arc de Triomphe here. It is on Avenue des Champs-Elysèes. A street filled with shopping. upscale restaurants, high end shops and lots of tourists. You will find multiple world class Hotels here too. . This neighborhood is beautiful. Pricier to stay in but sure to not disappoint. Does your bucket list include having tea and Macarons at Laduree? This is the classiest spot to do that.
9th Arrondissement: Opera
Just as it sounds. This neighborhood is home to the Paris Opera. It was built as Paris 13th opera house since the introduction of Opera. You can take a tour of it. (kids under 10 free) An absolutely gorgeous Theater one should not miss. You will also find the very famous Department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.
10th Arrondissement: Entrepôt
This is where alot of Parisians live. 9th and 10th blend together as very busy areas full of Parisians working, shopping and where they live. While there are many beautiful places to see (Like the canal St. Martin) be careful as some areas can get a little sketchy. Not typically known or paid heavily attention to by tourists.
11th Arrondissement: Oberkampf
Do you like to look for hip bars and clubs? This neighborhood may be the place for you. Home to Opera Bastille. A huge modern opera house. Be sure to check out Place de Bastille if you end up in this neighborhood. A beautiful tribute to the many French revolutions that took place and made impact on who France is today. You will also find Port de l’Arsenal. Used to be a moat for Charles IV and also a busy port for commercial good.
12th Arrondissement: Bastille / Bercy
An affordable and safe area to stay if you are really needing a budget friendly stay. You can access the major metro lines here making it super easy for you to get to the other areas of Paris. Do you like historical train stations? This lesser know area of Paris is home to Paris Gare De Lyon train station. Also home to a Park 3 times the size of NYC Central Park. Bois de Vincennes, is an English style , Romantic Park sprawling with beauty. Enjoy a Zoo, botanical gardens, pathways, ponds etc. A truly beautiful place for a picnic.
13th Arrondissement: Place d'Italie
Busy China town, and for the Bibliophile in me I have to mention the Super modern National Library.(6th largest Library in the world) Out of the way, without the "Paris feel" that you may be looking for. Still, has its lovely cafes, restaurants and Bars.
14th Arrondissement: Montparnasse
In the 1920s this area was very popular for the arts and Literature scene. Super residential now. A tall skyscraper is found in this district called "Tour Montparnasse". You wont miss it. Standing at 210 meters its hard to miss. Almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower.
15th Arrondissement: Parc des Expositions
Just South of the Eiffel Tower. It is Heavily residential. If you end up staying here you will have whatever you need close by. Restaurants, cafes, lively food-markets, etc. You will also find the Postal museum here. On my list for my next Paris trip for sure. For those of you who are foodies and love to cook, or maybe a fan of Julia Child, Paris most famous cooking institute is here , Le Cordon Bleu. ( it has been around since 1895!)
16th Arrondissement: Passy
ah. The most Posh of neighborhoods here in Paris. Looking for the perfect picture of the Eiffel tower? View it from this district. Across the river at plaza at Trocadero. Catch the sun rise behind the tower from here before crowds arrive and you will not be disappointed. Multiple Museums can be found here as well as The Paris Aquarium.
Arc De Triomphe can also be seen here. One of my favorite strolls down the Champs Elysees to people watch and window shop. Fancy but worth it. The Arc De Triomphe actually sits where the 16th, 17th and 18th arrondissiments meet. Surround it is a huge round about you probably don't want to get caught driving in as a first timer in Paris. Luckily their is a tunnel you can take to see the view from the top of the Arc. Or below. Either is so much fun to check out. Last, don't forget to visit Musée Marmotton-Monet if you love impressionism and Monet. A truly beautiful collection I hope to see in person one day.
17th Arrondissement: Palais de Congrès
Off the beaten path. Very non touristy. Often left out of popular tourist guide books. Often passed through on the way to Montmarte or Arc De Triomphe. It has a great pedestrian street that becomes quite lively for great food. You also are likely to find great housing options here. A wonderful safe upscale neighborhood to rest your head after exploring all over Paris.
18th Arrondissement: Montmartre
ah. The Lovely unique, charming Montmartre. I will never forget sitting at The Piano Bar,Le Tire-Bouchon, for crepes with my Aunt and having a good laugh after we were greeted by a gentleman wearing a cape and a top hat. After he left She proceeded to tell me he was the mayor of Montmartre and just wanted to see how we were enjoying our visit. She mentioned this was not uncommon for him to do. I just thought that was the best. You will love visiting these history filled hilly cobblestone streets. Many of Paris wonderful artists painted on these very streets. Be sure to pick up a little painting from one of the current street artists. Rain or shine they can be found painting along with amazing talent.
You absolutely need to visit the Sacré Coeur to see Paris from its highest point. There are stairs or you can take a tram up to the top. The view is worth it and beautiful Sacré Coeur is a site to see on its own. This district, towards the bottom of the steps. It is whimsical and beautiful. One of my favorites. Every corner is postcard worthy.
You will see one of the oldest carousels in Paris right near the Sacré Coeur. Another place here you may have heard about, The Moulin Rouge. Still open for tourists nightly and pricey cabaret shows. Another old popular entertainment spot in their neighborhood was Le Chat Noir. (avoid staying near Barbès-Rochechouart or Château Rouge metro stop in this district)
19th Arrondissement: Parc de la Villette
The 19th, a neighborhood continuing to grow. Many Parisians live here. I believe no matter what there is something special about each neighborhood. You may be told to skip the 19th. If you only have a few days, yes. You probably will have many other places that top your list. If you do find your self with extra time here is what you can find in this neighborhood.
The biggest Science museum in Europe complete with a planetarium , IMAX theater and tons of hands on interactive exhibits. Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, would be fun for those who love Science. It will be sure to not disappoint. If you haven't noticed that Paris is the city of museums. You will also find Cité de la Musique, The Paris museum of Music. Over 1000 vintage instruments on exhibit. Music lovers, you will love Philharmonie de Paris. New and now the largest symphonie hall in the world. Conservatoire de Paris, is nearby as well. Frances most prestigious school of music, drama and dance. The school once was situated in the 7th arrondissement dating back to 1795.
20th Arrondissement: Belleville, Père Lachaise
A heavy working class district, with a great population of immigrants. I have to quote Trip Advisor for this area. So perfectly said.
"The 20th arrondissement is known for the Père Lachaise Cemetery where one can find the tombs of many famous composers (such as Frédéric Chopin and Gioacchino Rossini), writers (including Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust), painters (Camille Pissarro, Jacques-Louis David, and others), and the rock singer Jim Morrison of The Doors."
Generally, this district is advised to best be avoided at night. The cemetery looks to me as a wonderful reason to visit for a morning stroll taking a peek at a little history though.
As you can see, 20 arrondissements is no easy feat. You will likely have to pick and choose to fit your timeline. You've researched to your hearts content. Now choose a place to stay based on what calls out to you as an area you would enjoy most. Go, and enjoy. Explore. Walk lots. Opt for buses above ground so you can see the city pass by. Don't be afraid to try the cute little cafe you spot even if you have read nothing about it. Likely, it is there still serving because it is good. The one thing I know, is Paris has something special about it. Something so special no one can fully understand until you experience it for yourself.
Enjoy! Best wishes for your trip! Be sure to come back and share in the comments what you loved about your trip. Have you already fell in love with a certain district? I would love to hear your experience my friend!
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