The best way to visit to Paris or in fact, any large city, is to learn about its different neighbourhoods. Paris is divided into 20 districts, or arrondissements and many guidebooks and most Parisians refer to them when describing or discussing an area.
From the 1st to the 20th arrondissement, these districts follow a clockwise spiral like a snail’s shell. The Seine River divides the city into the Left Bank on the south and the Right Bank on the north. Learn which one is home to haute couture or high finance, the Louvre, the Latin Quarter and the Left Bank.
1st – Louvre
The first is in the heart of Paris and includes the Musée du Louvre (Louvre Museum), the Musée des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts), Musée de L’Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens). The Palais Royale hosts France’s national theatre, the Comédie Française while Place Vendôme is one of the haunts of the wealthy with banks and lavish jewellery and designer boutiques showcasing names like Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Armani, Piaget and Bulgari.
2nd Arrondissement – Bourse
Just north of the first arrondissement, Bourse is the financial district, home to the Paris stock market or Bourse de Paris. The Bibliothèque Nationale is also here.
3rd – Temple
The Marais, Paris’s oldest district, was once the exclusive domain of Orthodox Jews. It is now a predominantly gay area, filled with stylish boutiques, art galleries, lively bars and fun places to eat. The National Archives, the Picasso Museum and Musée Cognaq-Jay are also in the third arrondissement.
4th – Hôtel de Ville
Swirling south of the Marais is the fourth arrondissement, where the Place des Vosges, a beautiful 17th century square is located. This area includes part of Ile-Saint-Louis, the island in the middle of Paris that is home to the Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou is known for its unusual high-tech exterior construction and modern art exhibits.
5th Arrondissement – Panthéon or Latin Quarter
This area became known as the Latin Quarter because the ancient language was once spoken by students attending the Sorbonne University. The fifth arrondissement features cheap places to eat and sleep. Also in the neighbourhood are the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle, (Museum of Natural History) and the Musée National de Moyen Age- Thermes de Cluny.
6th – Luxembourg – St. Germaine
Saint-Germaine-des-Près is a chic left-bank district of galleries, boutiques and cafes. The beautifully lavish Luxembourg Gardens are in this Paris arrondissement as is Musée Delacroix, situated in the artist’s former home and the French mint’s Musée de la Monnaie.
7th – Palais-Bourbon & Tour Eiffel
An elegant, moneyed Parisian neighbourhood where the Eiffel Tower and the large public park Champ de Mars can be found. Also in the seventh arrondissement is the Musée d’Orsay, a renovated railway station that boasts a fine collection of 19th and 20th century art, the best place to see the work of the Impressionists. Sculptures by August Rodin are displayed in the Musée Rodin.
8th Arrondissement – Elysée
HIgh finance and high fashion mingle in the eighth arrondissement. Traffic streams endlessly along the Champs-Elysées and around the traffic circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. Avenue Montaigne and Faubourg Saint-Honoré are the streets for haute couture and fine art while shops on Place de Madeleine serve up gourmet delicacies. Musée Jacquemart André hosts a superb collection of art and antiquities in a private mansion.
9th – Opéra
Besides being the home of the Paris Opera house, some of the city’s finest shopping can be found at the elegant department stores Galleries Layfayette and Printemps.
10th – Canal Saint-Martin
This eclectic neighbourhood received a boost in visitors after it appeared in the hit French movie Amelie. A fun artsy area, Canal Saint-Martin is rapidly being gentrified. Meander beside the canals that are still open, or picnic on top of the ones that have been covered. The upscale Musée des Cristalleries de Baccarat (Baccarat Crystal Museum) is in the tenth arrondissement.
This article was compiled using information from L’indispensable de Paris, an excellent Parisian map book and during numerous trips to Paris. Please note that while some of the descriptive names of the arrondissements may differ, the numbers, locations and boundaries do not.
© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.