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A guide to Paris’ best arrondissements

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Cool, cultured and compact, Paris is up there with being the best European city for walking. At its heart is the Seine River, lined with leafy promenades and spanned by handsome bridges that link the Left and Right Bank neighborhoods. Paris’ 20 arrondissements radiate out from the center in a spiral, criss-crossing the river at intervals. The low numbers lie in the grand city center, while the teens end up at the city limits with green spaces and village-like locales. 

Each area has its own style and attractions, but their boundaries aren’t clearly delineated. As you discover Paris, you’ll no doubt cross and recross arrondissement boundaries multiple times without realizing it. Nonetheless, they serve to paint a helpful impression of Paris, albeit in broad brushstrokes and with blurry lines. In this guide to Paris, we offer you a flavor of what to expect in our top 10 favorite arrondissements. 

1st Arrondissement – For grand monuments, gardens and the Mona Lisa

With elegant squares, preened gardens, monuments, museums, palaces and parks, Paris’ 1st Arrondissement (on the Right Bank) is numéro un in more ways than one. It’s home to the outstanding Louvre Museum, and everyone who visits Paris will want to step through these doors and lock eyes with the steady gaze of the Mona Lisa. For art beyond the Louvre, visit the Musée de l’Orangerie for a feast of Impressionist painting, and the contemporary art museum Bourse de Commerce.

For fountains and formal gardens, saunter through the dappled paths of the Jardin des Tuileries or the Jardin du Palais Royal. Then, for a spot of window-shopping, stroll the high-end boutiques on Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The 1st Arrondissement also encompasses half of the Île de la Cité, the larger of the two Seine River islands (which it shares with the 4th Arrondissement). Here you’ll find the Sainte-Chapelle church with its superlative stained-glass windows, as well as Notre-Dame (technically in the 4th, so more on that later).

Stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

2nd Arrondissement – For atmospheric shopping, bistros and browsing

This is the smallest of Paris’ arrondissements, but it certainly warrants a wander. The main draw here is meandering through some of the city’s prettiest covered shopping arcades. Dating back to the 19th century, these historic shopping passageways are lined with coffee shops, ateliers, bistros and boutiques. Elsewhere, former textile and garment-making neighborhood Sentier has re-emerged as a lively locale for dining and drinking that exudes Parisian charm. 

Shopping arcade in Paris, France

3rd Arrondissement – For a walk through history and street food feasting

The narrow cobblestone streets of the 3rd Arrondissement are easy to get lost in. Brimming with activity, al fresco coffee shops and fashion-forward concept stores, this medieval-tinged labyrinth is also known as the Haut Marais. Some excellent museums are to be found here, housed in magnificent 17th-century mansions that are a joy to explore in themselves. Don’t miss the Picasso Museum and the Musée Carnavalet, which tells the glittering story of Paris down through the ages. When you feel hungry, head to the Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris’ oldest covered market that today sizzles with international street food stalls. 

Musée Carnavalet of Paris, France

4th Arrondissement – For magical bridges and artworks old and new

Back on the river and still on the Right Bank, the 4th Arrondissement is another big-hitter. Picturesque bridges span the river to both islands and historic neighborhoods stretch out beyond. The iconic Pompidou Center is found here, alongside venerable old mansions and hotels, pretty gardens and shopping streets. Around the Hôtel de Ville, you’ll see the flutter of rainbow flags, indicating that this is a center for Paris’ LGBTIQ+ communities.  

On Île de la Cité stands Notre-Dame Cathedral in all its Gothic glory. Then, over on the smaller Île Saint-Louis, you can join the queue at Berthillon for the best ice cream in Paris. Softly illuminated and under the twinkle of stars, the bridges and riverside come into their own at night when the locals come out to enjoy the neighborhood bars and bistros. 

Notre Dame in France, Paris

5th Arrondissement – For youthful energy in Paris’ oldest neighbourhood

Crossing the river to the Left Bank, the streets of Paris’ 5th Arrondissement, also known as the Latin Quarter, have a lively student atmosphere. The prestigious La Sorbonne university campus is found here, and second-hand bookstores, jazz cafes, late-night bars and reasonably-priced restaurants cater to its youthful student population. For more learned pursuits, head to the botanical gardens and the natural history museum. Then, tread the medieval cobblestone streets to the magnificent Panthéon where the great and the good of Paris are interned, before veering off to the famous market street of Rue Mouffetard. In the evening, pick up the pace at Paris’ oldest cabaret, Paradis Latin.

The Latin Quarter stretches into the 6th Arrondissement, where the lovely Luxembourg Gardens dazzle in summer with colorful floral displays and ponds. 

Botanical gardens, Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France

7th Arrondissement – For the wow factor of seeing the Eiffel Tower up close

This large and wealthy arrondissement on the Left Bank is made up of wide avenues and stately mansions, many of them transformed into embassies. It’s not our favorite neighborhood for strolling, but you’ll almost certainly set foot here to gaze up at Paris’ most iconic monument – the Eiffel Tower. Art enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Rodin Museum, housed in an elaborate mansion, and the Musée d’Orsay specializing in Impressionist art.

Eiffel Tower of Paris, France

8th Arrondissement – For luxury shopping and some of the grand sights of Paris

The sprawling 8th Arrondissement is one of the most moneyed areas in Paris, with the Golden Triangle shopping area home to showy flagship stores for a roster of luxury brands. Here you can climb the steps of the Arc de Triomphe and cast your gaze down the Champs-Élysées. For a change of pace, head over to the peaceful Parc Monceau and visit one of a host of museums and galleries in the vicinity.

Arc de Triomphe Paris, France

10th Arrondissement – for street art, hipster cool and a grittier slice of Paris life

Home to Paris’ two main train stations, this can be one of the grittier sides of town, but it also has its fair share of up-and-coming areas. The Canal Saint-Martin runs through the center, surrounded by iron footbridges and dotted with cafes, bars and pop-up shops. As you wander, you’ll come across striking street art, grassroots design shops and cool cafes. For a different flavor, head to the canteens of Little India near La Chapelle metro station. 

Canal Saint Matin Paris, France

12th Arrondissement – For local city life, flea markets and green spaces

The 12th Arrondissement is a popular residential neighborhood on the Right Bank, with lots of lovely green spaces and bold, colorful houses along Rue Crémieux. On its outer edge is the Bois de Vincennes, a parkland of forests, formal gardens, lawns and lakes. Traversing much of the 12th is the Promenade Plantée, an obsolete train line now transformed into an elevated park and promenade. Down at ground level are the food and flea markets of Marché d’Aligre, and Bercy Village, an attractive shopping and entertainment complex housed in a series of old wine warehouses. 

Rue de Cremieux Paris, France

18th Arrondissement – For panoramic city views, village scenes and the Moulin Rouge

You’ll likely want to hop on the Paris Metro to get to the hilly 18th Arrondissement. This is home to the famous Montmartre, a pretty village now incorporated into the city. Its steep winding streets are lined with pastel-hued and ivy-clad terraces and topped by the Sacré-Cœur basilica. The church’s prime spot on a hill overlooking the city makes it extremely well-visited. Hang out on its wide steps and lawns, along with a whole host of other visitors and locals, and enjoy panoramic views of Paris spread out before you.

Beyond Montmartre, the 18th boasts the giant Puces flea market, the biggest in all of France. The famous Moulin Rouge cabaret in the red-light district of Pigalle is another classic draw. Then there’s Little Africa, with its vibrant music scene, fragrant markets, and color-popping fabric stalls. 

18th Arrondissement, Montmartre in Paris, France

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