20 Paris Arrondissements: The Ultimate Breakdown

Just so exploring Paris doesn’t become too overwhelming.

The biggest concern every traveler encounters when planning a trip to Paris is deciding which neighborhood to call your home away from home. With 20 arrondissements (districts) to sift through, each one has a different culture, population and sights to see. Here are three important things to know:

1.Rive Droite (Right Bank) refers to the northern part of the Seine river, while Rive Gauche (Left Bank) refers to all the arrondissements in the southern part of the river. 

2. 20 arrondissements are arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral, beginning with the first one in the center.

3. It’s unfair to say that Left Bank is better than the Right Bank or vise versa. But as a traveler, I’d highly recommend looking for hotels or Airbnb in these arrondissements: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 11th. Go through the descriptions below and you’ll see why!

PARIS NEIGHBORHOODS, EXPLAINED.

LOUVRE
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Reputation: Heart of the city. This is an area packed with touristic must-sees.

The 411: 

The central arrondissement carries some parts of the right bank such as Les Halles which has been there since the Middle Ages. In addition, a large part of this arrondissement is occupied by the Louvre and Tuileries Garden.

Don’t miss:

The Louvre, Tuileries Garden, Les Arts Décoratifs, Les Halles, Palais Royal, Hôtel Ritz Paris, La Sainte-Chapelle, Pont Neuf, Place Vendôme, Palais-Royal, Place de la Concorde,  Rue de Rivoli. 

ARTS ET METIERS
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Reputation: The smallest arrondissement but remains trendy.

The 411: 

During the 19th century, streets in Paris were dark without sidewalks. Some businessmen emulated after the Passage des Panoramas then lit the streets with paved pedestrian walkways. 2nd arrondissement has been known as the home of surviving 19th-century glazed commercial arcades.

Don’t miss:

Café de la Paix, Paris stock exchange (Palais Brongniart, former headquarters), Passage des Panoramas, Théâtre-Musée des Capucines, a perfume museum, trendy store Etienne Marcel and Rue Montorgueil.

LE MARAIS
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Reputation: The quieter part of Le Marais (see 4th arrondissement) and old Jewish quarter.

The 411:

You can find the oldest private house of Paris built in 1407 on rue de Montmorency. In Yiddish, this area is called “the Pletzel” which means “little place.” This ancient Jewish quarter now hubs trendy boutiques but you can still find stores that sell Jewish traditional foods.

Don’t miss:

The medieval and quieter part of Le Marais, Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Crafts), Musée Picasso, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (Jewish History Museum), Les Archives Nationales (The National Archives).

NOTRE DAME
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Reputation: Fusion of the Sohos of London (gay district) and Manhattan (local designer boutiques). Le Marais is fashionable, expensive with little shops and cafés galore.

The 411:

Le Marais is a historic quartier in Paris where aristocrats used to live, hence a plethora of beautiful and historic architectures throughout this arrondissement. In 1240, the Order of the Temple built its church in the northern part of the Marais and turned the district into a coveted area with many religious institutions. During the mid-13th century, the King of Naples and Sicily, built his residence near the current n°7 rue de Sévigné. In 1361,  King Charles V built the Hôtel Saint-Pol, a mansion where he resided during his reign as well as his son’s. Today’s Place des Vosges was teh 17th century Royal Square, and Le Marais became the French noble’s favorite place to stay. Today’s Marais is hip and trendy with a growing gay population since the 1980s.

Don’t miss

Centre Georges Pompidou, Hôtel de Ville, Le Marais, Notre-Dame de Paris, Saint-Louis-en-l’Île Church, Place de la Bastille (shared with 11th and 12th arrondissements), Rue de Rivoli (shared with 1st arrondissement), Place des Vosges (shared with 4th arrondissement).

SORBONNE
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Reputation: Student life in the Latin Quarter since this area hubs some of Paris’ most prestigious universities (Sorbonne), colleges and high schools. 

The 411:

The oldest arrondissement in Paris, and was first built by the Romans dating back from the 1st century BC. It’s called Quartier Latin because the latin language was widely spoken in universities and was the international language during the Middle Ages.  

Don’t miss

Jardin des Plantes and the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Musée Curie, Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air, The Panthéon, Quartier Latin, Musée du Moyen Age, Musée de l’Institut du Monde Arabe, Grande Mosquée de Paris.