Paris is one of the most visited cities on the planet and probably on everyone’s bucket list. In comparison to cities in the Americas or Asia, Paris isn’t actually that large and all the parts are well-connected by metro, bus, and tram routes. The larger RER metros moreover circulate between central Paris and the outskirts as well as the airports.
The city of Paris is divided into 20 circular districts (arrondissements) and although Paris can be perceived as a homogenous architectural masterpiece, each of the districts has its own specificities and unique features.
Written jointly by a Parisian native and a former expat resident, here is a complete guide to Paris’ arrondissements with all the essentials and practical tips on what to visit and where to stay, eat and drink in each district.
The 1st and 2nd arrondissements: culture, shopping and food
Starting in the geographical centre of Paris, the 1st and 2nd arrondissements are home to some of Paris’ most recognizable structures and some of its most well-known cultural institutions. In District 1, you will find the Louvre, the Royal Palace and the Tuileries Gardens. Another famous part of District 1 is the Rue de Rivoli, one of Paris’ best shopping streets. You will find well-known international brands as well as local designers for every taste, style and budget in this street.
This is in fact the Paris where the former French kings resided and played in all their decadence and today it is the king of tourist areas.
In this perspective, staying here is great in terms of location but still not recommendable because of the inflationary prices which are in no relation to quality whatsoever. If that doesn’t bother you, Hotel Molière is a great little boutique hotel close to everything.
All in all, District 1 is a beautiful area and certainly a must when visiting Paris but probably not the right place to stay, eat or drink.
District 2 doesn’t contain a whole lot of sights since it’s located around the Stock market and thereby more suitable for business than culture. The district is architecturally quite appealing though, as is most of Paris. Gourmets will moreover not be disappointed in the Rue Montorgueil, one of our top picks in terms of restaurant streets in central Paris
The 3rd arrondissement The Georges Pompidou Museum and very typical Paris areas
District 3 contains the famous Georges Pompidou Museum and lots of very typical Parisian streets. The 3rd arrondissement is notably the part where half of the trendy Marais area is located. In this area, you will find a wide variety of restaurants, bars and shops. The 3rd arrondissement is also the place where the first Chinese immigrants settled in Paris which means that you can find lots of brilliant Asian restaurants in this area.
The 4th arrondissement: The Hôtel de Ville, the islands and the other half of the Marais area
Paris 4 is home to the pompous and lavish Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) as well as the picturesque and teeming islands, the Ile de la Cite, on which Notre Dame Cathedral is located and the Ile Saint Louis. The latter is an excellent place for a stroll in any season and it is also the main outdoor spot where young Parisians gather with a bottle of wine on warm summer evenings. The second half of the hip Marais area is also situated in District 4.
The 5th & 6th arrondissements: the Latin Quarter, universities, the Luxembourg Garden, shopping and lots of food
Paris 5 is home to the main buildings of the Sorbonne and Assas universities as well as the famous Panthéon and myriads of bars and restaurants. The small pedestrian alleys behind St Michel Square are a great place to grab some food in one of their countless restaurants from every corner of the globe. The Latin Quarter around the Sorbonne is the oldest district in Paris and mostly attracts students and tourists. If you wish to spend a night out in this area, some trendy bars include the Bombardier Pub (2 Place du Panthéon) and the Violon Dingue (46 Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève).
District 6 is home to a wide array of designer boutiques, fine dining as well as high-end hotels and real estate. District 6 is a great area to stay thanks to the fact that is a lot quieter than the Latin Quarter but equally beautiful and very well-connected (as is all of Paris). In this area, we recommend the Hotel Odéon St Germain (small and perfectly located with a beautiful interior) and the Hotel à la Villa des Artistes (small and cosy in a very quiet street close to many metro stations).
District 6 also has some of the most charming walks along the Seine river and the Pont des Arts, the bridge where couples from all over the leave a lock to immortalise their love for each other.
For upscale shopping and eating, visit the area of Boulevard St-Germain-des-Près, a large avenue full of well-known international brands and fantastic restaurants. Prices are high but the quality and the location generally justify them. You will find the not so français Ralph Lauren Paris flagship store in this street, complete with a mouthwatering restaurant in its patio and also the equally excellent Armani Caffe.
Very close to St-Germain, you will be able to enter the marvellous Luxembourg Garden, one of the most beautiful parks in Paris containing the French Senate building, innumerable sitting areas and lots of quiet floral paths for a relaxing walk.
For more authentic bars and restaurants, check out the Vavin area, a lovely little maze of streets with lots of international and local options such as the Cubana Café (Rue Vavin 45), one of our favourite latino bars in Paris.
The 7th arrondissement: The Eiffel Tower, museums, embassies and high-end real estate
District 7 is one of Paris’ most touristy districts where you won’t find many Parisians. The plain and simple reason for this local exodus is the presence of the Eiffel Tower.
Frankly speaking, we cannot consider ourselves fans of the tower (it does look great from a distance but visiting it is a strenuous endeavour), if you want to visit Paris’ most famous landmark, the queues are longer than the US highway network and everything around it is completely overpriced and unauthentic.
On the plus side, the 7th arrondissement also hosts the Invalides Military Museum (Place des Invalides), a highly insightful museum about France’s military history, especially under the rule of Napoléon Bonaparte. Another great museum located in the 7th arrondissement is the Musée d’Orsay on the riverbank, one of our favourite art museums in all of Europe. The rest of District 7 mostly consists of embassies and very expensive real estate (overseas investors’ toys).
The 8th arrondissement: some of the most famous landmarks, the Champs Elysées and nightlife
District 8 is a very two-faced area. On the one hand, you have the Champs Elysées, probably Paris’ most teeming and touristy avenue but on the other hand you have lots of great Parisian nightlife institutions and some smaller local designers. The first rule is: do not eat or drink on the Champs Elysées themselves. Although there are some great gourmet palaces on this affluent avenue, the prices are so high that even the most world renowned and exquisite food couldn’t justify them.
There are quite a few buzzing nightlife options in this area though. For high-end, pretentious clubbing, the Matignon (3, Avenue de Matignon) is one of the best options while the Titty Twister (5 Rue de Berry) is a (barely) more down to earth pub with a great West Coast feel in the middle of Paris. Electro lovers shouldn’t miss the ZigZag Club (32 Rue Marbeuf), one of the clubs with the best sound systems in the world. Be aware that all of these clubs have very strict door policies and sky-high prices. Showcase is another recommendable nightclub thanks to its extraordinary location in a basement under the Pont Alexandre III bridge.
The 9th arrondissement: Shopping heaven
District 9 is home to some of the best shopping centres in Paris, notably the Galeries LaFayette and the Printemps, both located on Boulevard Haussmann.
Unlike in modern cities, these malls were not built from scratch to accommodate a large variety of shops, the buildings in the Grand Boulevards area were actually purchased by the owners of the first LaFayette shops and afterwards transformed into lavish palaces in order to impress their upscale customers. The buildings are as spectacular as the myriads of brands for every taste and budget that can be found inside. District 9 is moreover home to the famous Opéra Garnier, arguably Paris’ most iconic music institution.
The 10th arrondissement: the Canal St Martin and train stations
Paris 10 is home to the hip and eclectic Canal St Martin district, the core of Parisian hipster land. This area has lots of trendy bars and restaurants on the banks of its canal while also offering affordable shopping alternatives. Two major train stations, the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est are also located in this district. Be aware that the area around Gare du Nord is quite sketchy and not recommendable at night.
The 11th arrondissement: some international, multicultural areas and great nightlife options
District 11 is another very authentic arrondissement characterised by trademark Parisian architecture and lots of small shops and restaurants. The district is generally multicultural and its inhabitants are from diverse social and national backgrounds. Paris 11 also has some lively nightlife spots, check out the Oberkampf & Bastille areas for some buzzing smaller venues or the Le Motel (8 Passage Josset), a fantastic small off the beaten path bar in a trendy setting for fashionable millennials.
The 12th arrondissement: the famous Bastille and some riverside nightlife options
District 12 is another trademark Parisian district with lots of unmistakably Parisian architecture and some landmarks. The most well-known sight is the Bastille, the square where revolutionaries surmounted the French army and took the notorious Bastille prison on 14th July 1789.
District 12 also has some great riverside nightlife options, notably the Concrete (Port de la Rapée), one of the best but also wildest and most unorthodox electro clubs in the city. On the other side of the river (actually in District 13) you have the Wanderlust Club (Quai d’Austerlitz 32), an excellent hybrid between restaurant, bar and club and another stomping ground for electro enthusiasts.
The 13th arrondissement: Chinatown, universities and some food and nightlife options
District 13 certainly isn’t the most appealing Parisian arrondissement in terms of architecture but even this accumulation of soulless concrete blocks with the odd occurrence of a beautiful Haussmann building in its midst has its sweet spots. The Place d’Italie has a large shopping mall and the area of Butte aux Cailles right behind it has some excellent food and nightlife options for reasonable prices. The bulk of the students of the Sorbonne university have their lectures in shabby seventies blocks in District 13 which means that there is no shortage of cheap and buzzing bars. Another interesting feature of District 13 is its large Chinese population. The amount of Chinese shops and restaurants is staggering which certainly adds to the arrondissement’s diversity.
The 14th & 15th arrondissements: a mainly residential area with good authentic food and bars
Districts 14 & 15 contain mostly residential areas with lots of very authentic and well-priced restaurants. These areas are also great to stay in, since they are very well-connected with the centre and offer great accommodation for better prices. Hotel MAX is a fantastic little boutique hotel, located in a quiet but very well-connected area with neat and stylish rooms and a delicious breakfast assortment. For more classical and quintessentially Parisian accommodation, check out Hôtel Résidence Quintinie Square in District 15, an excellent place to spend some nights in great comfort in the French capital.
For foodies, the Boulevard Montparnasse is a great place to eat, drink and spend a night out and Montparnasse Tower arguably offers the best views over the French capital. If you want to see Paris from above, scrap the Eiffel Tower and ascend to the 58th floor of the 200m high Montparnasse Tower. The tower itself has earned the title ugliest structure in Paris on numerous occasions and you can see why.
The observatory is however a completely different animal and inside the tower, you have the best views over Paris without the unsightly brown tower in it, perfect, right?
The square of Denfert Rochereau moreover holds the Catacombs, the spooky yet extremely tempting underground cemetery which still accommodates the remains of over 6 million 18th century Parisians. The Catacombs are nothing for the fainthearted but certainly worth a visit if you are fond of ghostly locations.
The 16th arrondissement: some of Paris’ most exclusive residential real estate and the Trocadéro Square overlooking the Eiffel Tower
District 16 is the largest arrondissement in Paris and locals mostly refer to it as an elite playground. This is due to the high amount of uber-upscale property and very high-end restaurants. All in all, district 16 is a bit of a ghost town but the high density of Art-Nouveau buildings will certainly tempt architecture enthusiasts. If you want a soothing area with a definitive element of luxury, District 16 is a great place to stay. The Shangri La Hotel would be the top address in this regard. Its splendid rooms are only trumped by its rooftop bar offering some stunning views over the Eiffel Tower.
District 16 offers little to travellers apart from the Trocadéro Square, the square overlooking the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. The Trocadéro is beautiful and a must-visit square but also extremely teeming which subtracts some of the romanticism from it.
The 17th arrondissement: the Arc de Triomphe
Akin to Paris 16, Paris 17 is a mostly residential area which doesn’t have many landmarks or cultural activities. The landmark that should be visited is the famous Arc de Triomphe and the infamous roundabout encircling it. The Arc the Triomphe was built in 1806 by Napoléon to demonstrate the might of his army and so on…99% of the six billion tourists which you will find around the Arc de Triomphe at any given moment won’t care about this.
Since you are still reading you might actually care about insights so we will give you two facts which you won’t instantly find on Wikipedia. Firstly, there is a much bigger Arc de Triomphe in Mexico-City and a more expensive triumphal arc in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, take that Napoléon! Secondly, the aforementioned roundabout is the road section with the highest number of accidents per year in all of France and by observing it, you can see why. If you want to test your skills as a driver, try the Arc de Triomphe roundabout during rush hour, it is complete mayhem.
The 18th arrondissement: the famous Montmartre area, some legendary nightlife and some very shady areas
The 18th arrondissement is mostly famous for the quintessential Montmartre neighbourhood which contains the imposing Sacré Coeur Cathedral and for its red-light district, the Pigalle. It is here where the world-renowned Moulin Rouge is located and it is indeed possible to have a great time in this area. Be aware of the fact that this is not only Montmartre but also Little Casablanca, Little Mumbai and Little Alger. Paris 18 has some of the seediest streets and the highest crime rate in the French capital. It is therefore not advisable to walk through the district after dark.
The 19th and 20th arrondissements: Local, authentic, cheap and shady
Except for the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery (16 Rue du Repos), Districts 19 and 20 do not contain much in terms of sights and landmarks but some highly authentic areas with very multicultural and mostly low-income demographics. The areas also have some of Paris’ best street art and certainly the highest amount of North– and Sub-Saharan African restaurants. Be aware that these areas can get quite shady at night, it is therefore not recommendable to walk through them after sundown. If you head to Paris 20 at night, make sure to experience the club La Bellevilloise (19-20 Rue Boyer), a concert hall doubling as an electro club and hosting a wide variety of international events.
- The best areas to stay in are in our opinion districts 5 and 6, if you only want a quick glimpse of the main sights, district 1 is your best bet. For more affordable options, districts 13, 14 and 15 are well-connected and offer a more authentic Parisian experience. For the ultimate luxury experience, stay in district 16.
- The best areas for sightseeing are districts 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8.
- The best areas for shopping are districts 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9.
- The best areas for nightlife are districts 5, 6, 8, 11 and 12.
- the seediest and most ‘dangerous’ areas are districts 18, 19 and 20.