Last Updated on 15th September 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Paris is a beautiful capital city worthy of a visit on any venture through Europe. Full of life, culture, and plenty of historical things to do, the city is divided into twenty districts known locally as ‘arrondissements‘. Here’s your complete guide to the Paris Arrondissements; where to stay, what to do in each Parisian district, and the vibe of each French area (as told by a local!).
First things first, the easiest way to think about how the arrondissements are mapped out in Paris is like a snail, unfurling clockwise. The first arrondissement leads into the second, the third, the fourth, before dropping to the other side of the river into the fifth, across to the sixth, etc.
What are Paris Arrondissements? And what does the word ‘arrondissement‘ mean?’
Parisian Arrondissements are basically districts into which the city is divided. In total, there are twenty and each has their own unique style, architecture, and ambiance. Due to the unique nature of the administrative and layouts of the arrondissements, the term is often not even translated into English and locals still prefer the use of ‘arrondissement’ rather than ‘area’ or ‘district’.
Paris 1 – Louvre/ Premier
The premier arrondissement of the city encompasses many of the main tourist hotspots and those ‘must-see’ Parisian attractions you wouldn’t want to miss on any trip to the city. After all, the city’s most famous natural island, Île de la Cité is included within the 1er. On this small isle it’s possible to find gems such as the gravestone courtyard, one of the narrowest streets in Paris, and some of the best-preserved stained glass windows in the world (Sainte Chapelle).
Ile de la Cité is also the historic heart of Paris and it’s here where the centre of the Roman city of Lutetia was based some 2000 years ago. Other highlights of Paris 1 outside of Ile de la Cite include the Louvre Museum (the largest museum in the world) and the Tuileries Gardens. The park is so-called because the site was once home to a series of tiles factories and where a Medici established palace once stood.
The 1er arrondissement is one of the smaller and least populated of all Paris arrondissements. However, what the area lacks in full-time population it certainly makes up for in sheer tourist numbers! Head here earlier in the day if you want to make the most of the 1er without the crowds!
Where to Stay | Le Meurice
Read Next | A quick guide to Île de la Cité
Paris 2 – Bourse
The French word ‘Bourse’ (and the name of the 2nd arrondissement) can quite literally be translated as ‘stock exchange,’ ‘trading,’ or ‘grant’. As this would suggest, the second arrondissement of the city is the financial one and as such, is home to the Parisian stock exchange as well as a myriad of banks and financial institutions. Bourse is also the smallest of all twenty Parisian arrondissements.
As well as money-related places (seriously, even the metro station is financially themed!), Bourse is also home to one of the highest concentration of covered passages that the city has to offer. These 19th-century built commercial lanes are often covered in beautiful Art Nouveau façades which are well worth a wander along, particularly on a rainy day. Some of the best passages are Galerie Vivienne, Passage des Panoramas, and Passage du Grand Cerf.
Where to Stay | Hotel Le 123 Sébastopol – Astotel
Paris 3 – Temple
Much of Le Marais, which in its entirety is located on the Right Bank of the Seine, is also part of the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. This is the second smallest arrondissement in Paris and if you’re a history buff and you’re looking to discover a little medieval France then you’ve most definitely come to the right place!
It’s here where you’ll find real gems of museums such as the Carnavalet Museum (a cultural space dedicated to all things related to the history of Paris), as well as the Musée des Arts et Mètiers. Using the metro, you can also expect to find a Jules Verne inspired steampunk metro station on line 11 of Arts et Mètiers.
Where to Stay | Le Pavillon de la Reine – Place des Vosges
Paris 4 – Hôtel-de-Ville
The rest of Le Marais can be found in the 4th arrondissement of the city, a district which also encompasses Paris’ other natural island, Île Saint-Louis. The 4th arrondissement is the lively part of Le Marais; an area filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants which remain open into the early hours of the morning.
Elsewhere in the 4th arrondissement (and I highly recommend staying in this part of the city if you love history, culture, and want a typically French experience), there’s the oldest public planned square in Paris (Place des Vosges) as well as a former medieval mansion turned library (Hôtel de Sens).
Within the Hotel de Sens, a former Archbishropic’s Palace, the Bibliotheque Forney specialises in the decorative arts and is free to visit by any member of the public. If you want to get a Paris library card for yourself, then all you’ll need is some ID and a passport style photo.
Where to Stay | Hôtel Jeanne d’Arc le Marais
Read Next | A free & self-guided walking tour of Le Marais
Paris 5 – Panthéon
Also known as the Latin Quarter of the city (so-called because during the Middle Ages students of the Sorbonne university would converse with one another solely in Latin), the 5e arrondissement of Paris is well-known for its vintage cinema screenings and as a hub of student nightlife.
Highlights of the 5th arrondissement of Paris include seeing the grand architecture of the Sorbonne University and perusing many of the independent and offbeat bookstores on offer. Some personal favourites include Shakespeare and Co (so-called for a bookshop of the same name where the great writers would hang out in the 1920s) and the Abbey Bookshop.
The Latin Quarter of the city is also home to the Paris Pantheon, a former church dedicated to the Patron Saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve, turned mausoleum. One of the highest honours a French citizen can receive post-mortem is to be interred here. Other ecclesiastical buildings of note in the 5th arrondissement include College des Bernardins and Eglise Saint Syriaque.
Where to Stay | Hotel Monge
Paris 6 – Luxembourg
If you’re looking for a little luxury during your time in Paris, then you’ll definitely need to visit Saint Germain des Pres, the chicest area the city has to offer. While in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, you’ll also want to check out Café de Flore (one of the oldest coffee houses in Paris), as well as Saint Sulpice, a crumbling church made famous by the Dan Brown book, the Da Vinci Code.
Elsewhere in the 6e Parisian district, the Luxembourg Gardens were first commissioned by Catherine de Medici to resemble the Boboli Gardens of Florence. Today, this public green space is where all the locals hang out in the summertime playing Petanque (a French game similar to Boules) and rent small wooden toy boats to float across the sparkling fountains.
Where to Stay | Hôtel Esprit Saint Germain
Paris 7 – Eiffel Tower
One mistake many first time visitors to Paris make is that they assume that the Eiffel Tower is in the very heart of the city. However, this is simply not the case! Instead, the famous Parisian monument is actually located to the West of the city where touristic attractions are few and far between.
Some of the best things to do in the 7th arrondissement of Paris include a visit to the final resting place of Napoleon (Les Invalides), a visit to the army museum, a dip into Paris’ underground in the form of the Musée des Égouts and strolls along the Seine.
Where to Stay | Hotel Pont Royal
Read Next | Tips and tricks for ascending the Eiffel Tower
Paris 8 – Élysée
Following the Eiffel Tower, the most recognisable monument in Paris is the Arc de Triomphe, a triumphal arch first commissioned by Napoleon in 1806. For the best view in all of Paris (even better than the panorama from the top of the Eiffel Tower), you can ascend the arch for a fee. But what you may not know is that there are actually two Arc de Triomphes in Paris.
The large one in the Élysée district is known as the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile whereas the smaller triumphal arch located by the Louvre is called the ‘Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel’. Other highlights of the 8e arrondissement in Paris include strolling down the world-famous shopping street that is the Champs Élysées and seeing the exterior of the Élysée Paris (the official residence of the President of France).
Where to Stay | Le Pavillon des Lettres Paris 8
Read Next | Iconic photo locations in Paris, Frace
9 – Opera & Pigalle
While there are actually two opera buildings in Paris (the other main Parisian opera being located in Bastille), the Opera made famous by Victor Hugo’s The Phantom of the Opera can be found in the form of the beautiful Opera Garnier building in a Parisian arrondissement of the same name. The inside of this sumptuous building can be visited for a fee, though you’re not likely to catch a glimpse of the phantom any time soon!
Elsewhere in Opera and Pigalle, there are some of the Grand Department stores of Paris to visit and explore. The Galeries Lafayette and Printemps flagship stores sit side by side to the back of Opera Garnier and both are well worth a visit around Christmas time when they are all decked out for the holiday season.
Throughout the year, it’s also possible to access these department stores’ rooftop terraces for free. These open air terraces offer breathtaking panoramic views onto the city, including free views of the Eiffel Tower! It’s also in Pigalle, of course, where you’ll find the iconic Moulin Rouge.
Where to Stay | France Albion
Paris 10 – Canal Saint Martin
Forget the Seine because this is where the locals hang out. Chic and trendy, if you’re looking for a non-touristic place in Paris then you should visit Canal Saint Martin. This waterway was first installed in the 19th-century and since then various pop-up shops, bars, and cafés have opened along its two banks.
Some of the very best places to visit in the 10th arrondissement of Paris include searching for filming locations (Hotel du Nord and Amelie were both filmed around here), boarding a barge to see a different perspective of the city, and hanging out with friends in quirky bars until the early hours of the morning.
Where to Stay | L’Imprimerie hôtel
Paris 11 – Oberkampf/ Popincourt
Of all the Paris arrondissements included within this article, the 11e is easily one of my favourites. And while I may be biased because I quite literally used to live there, the district is fun to visit if you love some nightlife, street art, and plenty of quirky hotels.
For some of the very best brunches in the city, head to Café Oberkampf, or its newer twin sister restaurant, Café Mericourt. Elsewhere in the arrondissement, some of the very best things to do include visiting the Musée Edith Piaf (the iconic singer actually grew up in the 11th) and enjoying happy hour drinks along Rue Oberkampf.
Where to Stay | Hotel Fabric
Paris 12 – Bastille/ Reuilly
So-called because prior to the French Revolution, this large arrondissement of Paris was home to a fortified prison of the same name, today Bastille is a hub of industry and is one of the largest arrondissements in Paris.
Here, you’ll also find the second largest opera house in Paris, Opéra de la Bastille, which was inaugurated on the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. Elsewhere in Reuilly, the ‘Instagram-famous’ street, Rue Cremieux can be found. However, if you want to take photos of this colourful street for yourself, then make sure to head there earlier in the day, mid-week to get some snaps sans people!
Where to Stay | Hotel Motel One Porte Dorée
Paris 13 – Gobelins
Formerly the site of many textile manufacturing factories, the 13th arrondissement is also where the Gobelins factory once produced many of its most famous tapestries. For the uninitiated, Gobelins was (and still is!) a tapestry manufacturer which once supplied royalty with all their furnishing needs.
The Château de la Reine Blanche is a former Gobelins family mansion and can now be visited via guided tour on a near-daily basis. Elsewhere in the arrondissement, Cité Florale is well and truly an escape from it all. After all, once upon a time, the area surrounding Paris proper was populated by small villages which were settlements in their own right.
Although these pockets of peace have since been incorporated into the fabric of Paris, they still retain their own village vibe. Just as you’ll find out should you opt to visit the Cité Florale or nearby Butte-aux-Cailles! Butte-aux-Cailles is particularly worth a visit if you love speciality shops- they even have a store dedicated to beekeeping in the area!
Where to Stay | Hotel Verlaine
Paris 14 – Montparnasse
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more off the beaten path, then you simply must head to the 14e arrondissement. Home to hidden gems such as the Square de Montsouris (a confusingly named pretty residential road) and parts of the Petite Ceinture (Napoleon’s secret railway), you can’t go wrong by dedicating a couple of hours to exploring this underrated Parisian arrondissement.
If you have a little extra time to spare and want a drone-like view of the city (the use of drones in Paris is strictly prohibited), then take the time to ascend the huge tower that is Montparnasse. Once at the top, there’s a massive panoramic viewing platform, as well as a bar where you can enjoy a bite to eat with beautiful views of Paris stretching out below.
Where to Stay | HOTEL MAX
Paris 15 – Vaugirard
This area of Paris is mostly residential which means that unless you’re headed here for something specific, you’ll likely skip it if you’re headed to the city for a more touristic visit. Located on the left bank of the Seine, this arrondissement is home to the likes of the Pont Bir-Hakeim (a beautiful bridge which is perfect for sunrise photos), as well as several parks, notably that of André-Citroën (so-called because it used to be the site of a citroën manufacturing plant).
Where to Stay | Hotel Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel
Read Next | How to legally visit the Petite Ceinture
Paris 16 – Trocadéro
For the best view of the Eiffel Tower, then you simply must head to Trocadero at sunrise. Set your alarm early and head to the Iron Lady early. This way, you’ll surely be rewarded with some of the best skies and candy hues without the crowds that Paris has to offer.
It’s also here where you’ll find true 19th-century Haussmannian architecture at its finest; ornate façades, wide boulevards, cafés spilling out onto the streets and all. Other than strolling around with your camera in hand, one of the best things to do in the 16e arrondissement is to visit some of the museums on offer; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Musée Baccarat, and Musée Galliera can all be found in this district.
Where to Stay | Shangri-La Hotel
Paris 17 – Batignolles-Monceau
Hip, trendy, and cool, this arrondissement is located in the very North Western corner of the city on the Right Bank of the River Seine. Much like the 15th arrondissement, this area is slightly less touristic than many of the others and so you likely won’t find yourself in this residential district unless you have a specific place you want to see.
Where to Stay | B Montmartre Hôtel
Read Next | How to spend three days in Paris
Paris 18 – Montmartre
In order to experience the Paris of yesteryear (and all the vintage vibes that go along with it), I highly recommend a visit to Montmartre. Of all the Paris arrondissements, Montmartre is easily my favourite and I could literally talk about this area all day!
Some of the very best things to do in Montmartre include visiting the teeny tiny house museum of Musée de Montmartre, seeing La Maison Rose (a café which Picasso used to frequent), and soaking up the ambiance of one of the last remaining vineyards in Paris, Le Clos Montmartre.
And if that’s not enough, simply wandering around this quirky area and allowing the 18e to reveal itself to you is a rather enjoyable way to spend away an afternoon- particularly on a Sunday…
Where to Stay | Hôtel Particulier Montmartre
Read Next | A quick guide to the best of Montmartre
Paris 19 – Parc de la Villette/ Butte-Chaumont
Come summertime, the glittering waters of La Villette are the perfect escape from the crowds of tourists which inevitably flock to more popular Parisian arrondissements. Instead, here in the Butte-Chaumont district, you’ll find plenty of places to hang out with your friends.
Places of interest in Paris 19 include visiting one of the last vineyards in the city (Butte Bergeyre) and exploring an obscure manmade grotto complete with waterfall (Parc des Buttes Chaumont).
Where to Stay |
Paris 20 – Belleville & Père Lachaise
Leafy and green, while Paris is often accused of being limited in green spaces in comparison to other major European capitals such as London or Amsterdam, this is simply not the case! If you’re looking for a less touristic area of Paris and where the locals actually hang out, then you should totally head to the 20th arrondissement.
After all, it’s here where you’ll find the most famous of all Parisian Cemeteries, that of Père Lachaise. Iconic people such as Edith Piaf, Jim Morrisson, and Oscar Wilde all find their final resting place in this French graveyard. And with its own labelled alleyways and leafy enclaves, this necropolis is also home to many a legend, including that of fated lovers, Heloise and Abelard.
Where to Stay | Hôtel Comète Paris