Paris is divided into arrondissements, which are arranged a bit like a snail’s shell, working their way out from the centre of the city. Popular neighbourhoods often have blurry boundaries overlapping two arrondissements. For example, Montparnasse overlaps the 14th and 15th arrondissements and the Marais overlaps the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Montmartre overlaps the 18th and 19th.
There is so much more to do in all of these neighbourhoods than what I’ve listed below, but I’ll save all of those details for individual neighbourhood guides. In the mean time, this guide should help you get your bearings and work out where you want to base yourself during your trip to Paris.
Ile de la Cite
The largest island on the Seine, this is beautiful old-world Paris and the home to Notre Dame and the Marche aux Fleurs (flower markets). Pont des Arts, AKA The Lock Bridge, is connected to Ile de la Cite.
Ile Saint Louis
Charming, expensive and tiny, Ile Saint Louis is the smaller island in the Seine. I really like taking a lazy walk around here and getting a gelato from Berthillon, arguably Paris’ best gelato.
1 | Louvre-Tuileries
This is Hollywood’s Paris, and it comes at a high price. You’ll find Rue St-Honore, the real luxury shopping street in Paris, the Louvre, the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries and the ritzy Rue de Rivoli.
2 | Bourse
The financial district and home to Rue Montorgueil, one of Paris’ most treasured streets. It’s full of fromageries, butchers and bakeries and is where Paris’ best restaurants buy their produce.
3 & 4 | The Marais
The arrondissements are Temple & Hotel de Ville, but together they’re known as the chic, arty Marais neighbourhood. It’s home to the controversial Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris’ modern art gallery), Place des Vosges, which is the prettiest square in Paris, and lots of great boutiques and art galleries.
5 | Pantheon, AKA The Latin Quarter
Nicknamed the Latin Quarter because of all of the students at the Sorbonne, who learned Latin. The Latin Quarter is a crazy maze of narrow streets brimming with every type of cheap restaurant imaginable. I love going here for a cheap and cheerful meal. It’s also home to it’s namesake, the Pantheon.
6 & 7 | Saint Germain
One of the most famous neighbourhoods in Paris, Saint Germain has been attracting artists for centuries. Cafe des Flores and Les Deux Magots were popular haunts for literary heavyweights like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but today you’ll find them filled with literary tourists and wealthy Parisians. This is one of my favourite neighbourhoods, with beautiful leafy boulevards and lots of great boutiques and cafes, including the famous Laduree patisserie and tearoom. Outside of Saint Germain, still in the 7th, you’ll find Musee Rodin & the Eiffel Tower.
8 | Elysee
You guessed it, the 8th is home to the Champs-Elysee. Unfortunately, the most famous shopping street in the world is packed with tourists and gypsies and foreign brands outnumber French stores 10:1. The 8th is a pretty, wealthy residential neighbourhood and home one of my favourites structures in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe.
9 | Opera
Opera is a beautiful area low on tourists and rich in beautiful ways to drain your bank account. Printemps, Paris’ premier luxury department store, is worth a visit even if you don’t plan on buying anything. Galeries Lafayette is another major shopping centre, which is extraordinarily beautiful and houses both luxury and high street brands. The highlight of Opera is of course, Opera Garnier, which is the inspiration (and setting) for Phantom of the Opera.
10 | Entrepot
Away from the tourist trail, the 10th is home to Canal Saint Martin.
11 | Popincourt AKA Oberkampf
The 11th is best known for the biggest market in Paris, Marche Bastille and the Oberkampf neighbourhood.
12 | Reuilly
Home to the Bastille Opera, the newer and modern Opera House.
13 | Gobelins
You’ll find Paris’ Chinatown here, but be more careful of your personal safety in this neighbourhood.
14 & 15 | Montparnasse
Montparnasse is my favourite neighbourhood in Paris! It’s a gorgeous, leafy residential neighbourhood which I first discovered when I lived there, while I studied in Paris. I stayed in Montparnasse again on my last visit, because it’s a beautiful area and there are hardly any tourists. It’s also not that far from the Eiffel Tower, so I think it’s the perfect area to stay in. This is the neighbourhood I want to live in one day. I think the best views of Paris are from the top of Tour Montparnasse at night.
16 | Passy
If I become a millionaire, I’m buying an apartment in Passy. This is the wealthiest neighbourhood in Paris. It’s chic, sophisticated and the streets are lined with gorgeous old buildings. It’s also right beside the 8th, which is where the Arc de Triomphe is.
17 | Batignolles-Monceau
A residential neighbourhood full of nice restaurants. Parisians can look down their noses a bit at this neighbourhood, assuming everyone who lives here does so because they can’t afford to live in the 16th.
18 & 19 | Montmartre
There are beautiful parts of Montmartre and there are seedy parts of Montmarte. Technically, the seedy parts are in the Pigalle neighbourhood (avoid this Metro stop at night), but the two blur into each other very quickly. You’ll find the beautiful Sacre Coeur, which I personally think is a must-do for any first time visitor to Paris, and the Moulin Rouge, which I think is overrated. The Moulin Rouge is in the Red Light District, which is also not somewhere you want to be by yourself at 2am in the morning.
20 | Menilmontant AKA Belleville
Considered one of Paris’ seedier neighbourhoods, the 20th is home to the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery. The Belleville neighbourhood overlaps into four arrondissements, 10, 11, 19 and 20, but most of it is in the 20th. Belleville divides people – some love it for it’s rawness, other’s feel unsafe. It escaped the Haussman-era beautification that changed Paris’ other suburbs and is a grittier side to Paris than you see in the postcards. Today it’s home to the artists, immigrants, Paris’ second Chinatown and some of the best African food in Paris.
On the Outskirts | La Defense
La Defense is Paris’ futuristic business district. It’s worth checking out if you have the time, especially the unbelievably enormous La Grande Arch. The gigantic arch is the modern answer to Arc de Triomphe, which it lines up with perfectly.
What is your favourite neighbourhood in Paris?
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