The City of Lights is one of the top-visited cities in the world, and it’s easy to see why. For me, like many others, Paris is about museums, history and architecture that has made this one of the most influential cities in the world. There is no denying that it’s a beautiful city with so much to offer visitors.
However, figuring out where to stay and how to get around might be confusing, especially for first-time visitors who might not be well-versed in Paris arrondissements. You’ve probably heard the word used before, but what exactly are arrondissements? If you’re baffled by them or need a quick refresher on Paris’s neighbourhoods, this post is for you.
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What are Paris Arrondissements?
Paris arrondissements are administrative districts of the city, similar to boroughs. The city is divided into 20 of them. The easiest way to think about them is to think of them as the shell of a snail – the arrondissements start at 1 in the center, near the Louvre, and wind around in a clockwise spiral pattern.
Paris arrondissements have their own distinct personality, from historical landmarks to vibrant local life, offering a diverse experience for every traveller. As Paris has a well-developed metro, you can easily explore different neighbourhoods to see which Paris arrondissements you like most.
1st Arrondissement: The Historic Heart
Situated in the heart of Paris, the 1st arrondissement is the city’s oldest area. This was the seat of power of the French kings for centuries. It’s the arrondissement for history buffs and those who want to be in the center of it all. Here, you can find the magnificent Palais Royal and the Louvre Museum. Just beyond, the Tuileries Garden provides a lush green escape, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic with a view of the spectacular Place de la Concorde.
Aside from the iconic landmarks, the 1st arrondissement is a haven for luxury shopping, with places like Rue Saint Honoré and Place Vendôme glittering with high-end boutiques and exquisite jewelry stores. You can find traditional French bistros and chic cafes where you can indulge in a buttery croissant or sip a frothy café au lait.
2nd Arrondissement: Historic passageways and streets
As the smallest of all Paris arrondissements, the 2nd is a hidden gem cherished for its historic passageways and picturesque streets. From the oldest covered passage, Passage des Panoramas, to the bustling streets of Sentier, this district invites you to stroll through time while savouring the flavours of its culinary legacy. For those seeking an authentic Parisian experience off the beaten path, the deuxième offers a delightful blend of history, gastronomy and local charm.
3rd Arrondissement: A Haven for Cafés and Cultural Delights
Nestled in the heart of the Haut Marais, the 3rd arrondissement has undergone a captivating metamorphosis, becoming a vibrant canvas adorned with design ateliers and chic cafés. The 3rd arrondissement is a hotspot for design enthusiasts, featuring an array of ateliers showcasing contemporary and classic design.
Here, you can explore the Archives Nationales, Musée National Picasso or Musée Carnavalet. Stroll through the peaceful Jardin Anne Frank or visit the local favourite, the Square du Temple. Notable sites include the Gothic St. Nicolas des Champs church, alongside the bustling Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris’ oldest covered market known for its diverse food offerings.
4th Arrondissement: Hip Vibes and Heritage Wonders
The 4th arrondissement of Paris is a quintessential blend of historical grandeur and modern vibes. This district is often associated with the paramount beauty of Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint-Louis, two natural islands in the heart of Paris, and the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral, a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture.
Other notable sites include the Hotel de Ville, Hôtel de Sully, St Gervais-St Protais church and Centre Pompidou, home to one of Europe’s most extensive collections of modern art. Here, you’ll also find a thriving LGBTIQ+ community and the historic Jewish quarter. The 4th arrondissement lights up at night with a warm and convivial atmosphere, perfect for those looking to experience Paris by night.
5th Arrondissement: The Latin Quarter’s Nightlife Haven
In the 5th arrondissement, you’ll find the Sorbonne University, picturesque streets and a lively atmosphere. Known as the Latin Quarter, here you can find indie bookshops and cozy cafés where you can sip espresso and imagine the likes of Hemingway penning his next work of literature.
Notable sites in the neighbourhood include the Panthéon, Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Hôtel de Cluny, and the National Museum of Natural History. The rue Mouffetard is an absolute must-visit for foodies, brimming with delicacies from artisanal cheeses to the finest charcuterie.
6th Arrondissement: Quintessential Charm and Literary Legacy
Nestled in the heart of Paris, the 6th arrondissement offers trendy boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. Brimming with artistic flair and literary history, this district is famously known as Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It has long been a haven for artists, writers, and philosophers. Its quintessentially Parisian streets are lined with iconic cafes like Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, where existentialists once debated and today’s visitors can bask in the rich cultural legacy.
Here, you can explore the Luxembourg Palace and Jardin du Luxembourg, Hôtel des Monnaies and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The historic district is also home to the prestigious School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-Arts) and the beloved French Senate. Stumble upon the district’s many hidden bookshops, and you may find yourself lost in a maze of forgotten tales and literary riches.
7th Arrondissement: A Tapestry of Iconic Landmarks
Stretching gracefully along the Left Bank, the 7th arrondissement offers a breathtaking panorama of iconic Paris landmarks. From world-renowned museums like Musée d’Orsay and the Rodin Museum to historic military complexes and the emblematic Eiffel Tower, this district encapsulates the essence of the City of Lights.
The 7th arrondissement is home to the National Assembly, various embassies, and the grandiose Hôtel des Invalides, with Napoleon’s tomb under its golden dome. You can wander off the beaten path to find some charming, quiet streets and hidden gems that give the 7th its unique character, making this district both a must-see on the tourist map and a beloved escape for discerning travellers.
8th Arrondissement: Luxury and Grandeur
Venture into the 8th arrondissement of Paris, and you’re stepping into the lap of luxury and historical prestige. This district is famed for the glorious Champs-Élysées, a boulevard lined with trees that leads majestically from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.
It’s a shopper’s paradise, with flagship stores of renowned brands beckoning fashionistas from around the globe. The area is also peppered with cultural icons such as the Grand Palais and the Palais de la Découverte. Don’t miss the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, a byword for haute couture and home to the Élysée Palace — the residence of the French President.
9th Arrondissement: Shopping Extravaganza and Culinary Bliss
Venturing eastward, the 9th arrondissement is a dynamic district where shopping extravagance meets culinary delight. From the iconic Palais Garnier opera house to the art-nouveau wonders of Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps, this area invites you to explore a vibrant blend of culture, commerce, and gastronomy.
Once the playground of artists and writers, this dynamic neighbourhood thrives with hip bistros, boutique hotels, and vintage shops exuding youthful zeal. For those drawn to the edgy and eclectic, the 9th is brimming with hidden gems like the Musée Grévin, Musée de la Vie Romantique and the Mogador Theatre.
10th Arrondissement: Transit Hub and Canal-Side Charms
The 10th arrondissement is a vital transit hub with the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est train stations. Beyond its transportation significance, this district unfolds as a lively canvas where the revival of Canal St-Martin offers a unique blend of indie-run establishments, canal-side dining, and cultural vibrancy.
11th Arrondissement: The Creative Hub
Nestled in the heart of creativity, the 11th arrondissement is a vibrant hotbed of artistic expression. From traditional craftsmen to avant-garde graphic designers and multimedia artists, you’ll find the L’Atelier des Lumières museum, Rue Oberkampf, craft breweries, collaborative coffee roasteries, and a culinary scene that sizzles with new openings.
12th Arrondissement: Authentic Local Vibes
Embracing the spirit of authenticity, the 12th arrondissement unfolds as a resolutely local haven stretching from the historic Place de la Bastille to the expansive forest of Bois de Vincennes. With the elevated park Promenade Plantée as a scenic thread, this district showcases a blend of history, vibrant markets, and repurposed spaces, offering an authentic taste of local Parisian life.
13 Arrondissement: A Gastronomic and Artistic Melting Pot
The treizième arrondissement emerges as a culinary and artistic melting pot, inviting you to savour unique flavours and immerse yourself in vibrant street art. From the bustling Chinatown to the towering skyscrapers adorned with murals, this district defies traditional Parisian stereotypes.
As you explore innovative landmarks like Bibliothèque Nationale de France and witness the regeneration at Station F, don’t forget to indulge in Too Hotel’s panoramic views and unique dining experiences. The local tip guides you to the lively world of street art at Itinerrance Gallery, adding an extra layer of cultural richness to this captivating and ever-evolving neighbourhood.
14th Arrondissement: Quiet Reflections
From the profound silence within Les Catacombes, this district speaks volumes through its muted elegance. The Parc Montsouris offers a tranquil haven, inviting a pause for introspection. Beyond the well-trodden paths lies a tapestry of artistic sanctuaries, where the Giacometti Institute and Fondation Cartier whisper profound narratives, gently guiding those who seek tranquillity in the heart of Paris.
Here, you can tread the same cobblestoned streets that were once the haunt of literary greats like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Amid the cobblestone streets, iconic Montparnasse brasseries like Le Select beckon with a timeless allure, while Breton crêperies offer a taste of rustic elegance.
15th Arrondissement: A Burst of Urban Energy
The 15th arrondissement offers a dynamic urban landscape that pulses with the energy of daily life. While traditional landmarks may be few, the district provides an array of attractions, from the vibrant Parc André Citroën to the serene Île aux Cygnes. The Commerce area’s cobblestone streets and Polichinelle’s culinary delights provide, or the Beaugrenelle Shopping Center should keep you busy.
16th Arrondissement: Where Nature and Elegance Meet
Enveloping the expansive Bois de Boulogne woodland, the 16th arrondissement, Paris’s largest geographically, stands as a refined haven on the swanky Right Bank. Within its elegant confines, discover the Palais de Chaillot overlooking the terraced Jardins du Trocadéro and explore the hidden gem, the Musée Marmottan Monet, nestled in a hunting lodge.
The charm of the 16th is its mixture of culture, relaxation, and sport, all tied together with a distinctly upscale ribbon that makes it simply irresistible as a truly Parisian quarter to explore. Here, you can also discover stunning Art Nouveau buildings designed by some of the most influential architects of this style.
17 Arrondissement: Off-the-beaten-track
Beyond the well-trodden paths of Paris, the 17th arrondissement emerges as an off-the-beaten-track haven. It offers a distinctive blend of classical Parisian residences, rejuvenated post-industrial zones and the eco-friendly quarter of Clichy-Batignolles. Less explored by typical visitors, this district showcases family-friendly spaces, parks, and a transformation from artisan workshops to upscale boutiques and trendy eateries.
18th Arrondissement: Best City Views
In the heart of Paris, the 18th arrondissement unveils the enchanting heights of Montmartre, where steep, ivy-clad streets lead to the hilltop Sacré-Cœur Basilica. This district, synonymous with artistic history, echoes the footsteps of luminaries like Picasso, Braque and Modigliani, who once graced its streets. While the touristy Place du Tertre hosts portrait artists, the throngs of visitors can momentarily overshadow the area’s intrinsic romance.
Beyond Montmartre’s heights, explore the diverse quarters of Pigalle (home to the iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret), Château Rouge, and La Goutte d’Or, each offering a unique facet of Parisian life. As you navigate the red-light district and Little Africa, the district unfolds as a multifaceted canvas, blending artistry, cultural richness, and panoramic city views.
19th Arrondissement: Green Spaces
In the distant realms of the 19th arrondissement unfolds a haven of green spaces, often overlooked by the typical tourist trails. While some edges may carry a rough charm, the district’s gems include the futuristic Parc de la Villette, home to museums and diverse music venues, including the renowned Philharmonie de Paris concert hall. Amidst the bustling La Villette, where family-friendly activities abound, the district offers a serene respite at the picturesque Parc des Buttes Chaumont on the outskirts of Belleville, adorned with grottoes, waterfalls and a lake.
20th Arrondissement: Homage to famous residents
Venture to the eclectic 20th arrondissement and unearth Paris’s quintessential charm and bohemian spirit. At the resting place of famed luminaries at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, you can pay homage to legends like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf.
Venture beyond the famed burial ground into the evolving neighbourhoods of Ménilmontant and Belleville, where artist studios and classic establishments embody the district’s vibrant artistic spirit. From the classic melodies of Le Vieux Belleville to the hidden gems of la campagne à Paris, the 20th arrondissement reveals a multifaceted character and the allure of under-the-radar delights.
Tips for identifying Paris Arrondissements
So, how do you tell which arrondissement is which? The easiest way is to look for the last two numbers that appear in the postal code of each district. For example, if you see 75001, it’s located in the 1st arrondissement.
Another tip for identifying Paris arrondissements is to look at street signs. Each district will have its own number displayed on the street sign, making it easy to navigate. Additionally, the districts are often referred to by their number rather than their name, so it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the numbers before your trip.
Which Paris arrondissements should you stay in?
Where you stay depends on your preferences and budget. The closer to the centre and main attraction you are, the more expensive it will be. I’ve stayed in many parts of Paris, including the 13th and 19th arrondissements, further away from the main attractions. Those were regular Parisian neighbourhoods with fewer tourists and fewer crowds. Staying there made me feel like I was a local, even if just for a short while.
No matter where you stay, try finding a hotel or apartment on the metro line. Paris has an extensive transportation network that lets you get to all the major sites, no matter where you are. If you’re on a budget, consider staying in less touristy areas so you can spend your money on actually exploring the city.
Best Paris Arrondissements
Some of the most popular and centrally located options to stay in Paris include the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements. These districts offer easy access to major attractions and are surrounded by charming streets and iconic landmarks.
These are good options if you’re in Paris for a short time and want to cover as much as possible during your stay. However, don’t overlook the other arrondissements, as each has a unique charm and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Worst Paris Arrondissements
It depends on what you consider worst. The 10th, 15th, 18th and 20th arrondissements are known for being more residential and having fewer tourist attractions. If you’re here for the major attractions, this might not be what you want.
When it comes to safety, the 10th, 18th and 19th arrondissements have neighbourhoods within them that can be rife with crime and drugs. This doesn’t mean the whole district should be avoided, so make sure you check out reviews before booking your accommodations.
Final thoughts on Paris Arrondissements
Now that you better understand Paris arrondissements, it’s time to start exploring. Remember, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden gems in each district. No matter which arrondissement you choose to stay in, there will always be something exciting and unique waiting for you around every corner. So pack your bags and get ready to experience the magic of Paris through its diverse and enchanting neighbourhoods.