The Right Bank
Les Halles, Louvre and Palais Royal (1er and 2e) -- Home to some of Paris's most important sites, the area around the Louvre and Palais-Royal is one of the most visited (but least residential) parts of the city. Whether you're strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries or admiring the classic beauty of the Place Vendôme, this is one of the most elegant neighborhoods in the city. It's also one of the most luxurious, with designer boutiques filling the arcades of the Palais-Royal and haute couture lining the sidewalks of the Rue St-Honoré. Rue de Rivoli, the main street running through the 1st arrondissement, is one of the busiest streets in Paris, full of shops, cafes, and restaurants. For a little peace and quiet, head south for a walk along the banks of the Seine or take refuge in the gardens of the Palais-Royal.
North of the Palais-Royal is the Bourse (stock exchange). You'll find fewer tourists, but it still remains close to the center of the action. Like most financial districts, it's bustling and lively during the week but much quieter at weekends. To the east is Sentier, the traditional center of the wholesale clothing trade, and the picturesque, cobbled market street, Rue Montorgueil. For a more classic shopping environment, explore the various passages (covered arcades) that the 2nd arrondissement is famous for.
Although the area around the Forum des Halles is currently being redeveloped by architect David Mangin, it remains one of central Paris's least attractive neighborhoods. The huge underground shopping center and Métro/RER station means that Les Halles is always hectic and heaving with people. It's not the safest area and it's worth avoiding at night. The same is true of the seedy Rue St-Denis, just east of Les Halles, as this is one of Paris's red light districts.
Le Marais, Ile St-Louis and Ile de la Cité (3e and 4e) -- Located in the heart of the city, Paris's two islands could not be more different from each other. Although the Ile de la Cité does have some quieter spots, such as the Square du Vert-Galant, it is dominated by the majestic Gothic cathedral Notre-Dame and is visited by thousands of tourists every day. The Ile St-Louis, with its aristocratic town houses, is much calmer and more picturesque. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of Paris, the quais of the Ile St-Louis are perfect for a romantic stroll.
Having avoided Haussmann's 19th-century transformation of Paris, Le Marais has a more intimate atmosphere than other parts of Paris. The neighborhood became fashionable in the early 17th century when Henri IV commissioned the beautiful Place des Vosges, and it is full of aristocratic mansions (known as hôtels particuliers) that were built by the French aristocracy. After the French Revolution the area fell into disrepair, but in 1962, under Culture Minister André Malraux's law which permitted the preservation of historic quarters, Le Marais underwent a process of restoration and today it is one of Paris's trendiest neighborhoods.
Stretching across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, the southern part of Le Marais is a lively area, full of elegant boutiques and small, contemporary art galleries. It's a great area for wining and dining, and very popular on Sundays as, unlike many other parts of Paris, most of the shops here are open. The area around Rue des Rosiers has long been home to the city's Jewish community, while the Rues St-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, des Archives, and Vieille-du-Temple are the center of Paris's gay and lesbian life. The northern part of the Le Marais, around the Rue de Bretagne, is more up and coming but considerably quieter than the 4th.
Champs-Élysées and Western Paris (8e, 16e and 17e) -- One of the most famous avenues in the world, the tree-lined Avenue des Champs-Élysées is the embodiment of Parisian grandeur. While strolling along the Champs-Élysées may be something of a disappointment thanks to the fast-food restaurants, overpriced cafés, and chain stores, leading off to the south are Avenue George V and Avenue Montaigne, home to haute couture boutiques and several of Paris's most luxurious hotels. Above the Champs-Élysées, around Boulevard Haussmann, you'll find a busy, commercial district and a lot less tourists.
Heading north you'll come to the picturesque Parc Monceau and the area known as Batignolles. This sophisticated neighborhood became fashionable during the 19th century, and is full of elegant Haussmannian-style buildings and wide avenues. Today, it's a wealthy, residential area. Nearby is Rue des Dames, where there are a number of hip bars and restaurants.
There's a similar atmosphere in the 16th arrondissement, which is full of embassies, diplomats, and exclusive residences. Although there are several interesting museums, including the Musée Guimet, Paris's Musée d'Art Moderne, and the hip Palais du Tokyo, this bourgeois district can feel quite far from the action.
Opéra and Canal St-Martin (9e and 10e) -- Sandwiched between the 2nd and 18th arrondissements, the 9th is a good base for exploring Paris's Right Bank. The area around the Opéra Garnier is one of the busiest, most commercial areas of Paris. It's a great place for shopping, and it's where you'll find the famous 19th-century department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Heading east from Opéra you come to the area known as Grands Boulevards, which stretches from Boulevard Montmartre to Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle. This was the epicenter of cafe and theater life during the 18th and 19th centuries, and although there is still lively nightlife here, the grandeur of Grands Boulevards has faded and the area can seem rather shabby and inauthentic.
The 10th arrondissement is one of Paris's most multiethnic neighborhoods, and the streets around Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis are home to large numbers of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, West Indians, Africans, and Turks. It's a vibrant, thriving area and the Passage Brady is one of the best places in Paris to eat Indian and Pakistani food. However, the streets around Strasbourg St-Denis, Gare du Nord, and Gare de l'Est are not the safest parts of the city and should be avoided late a night. The main attraction of the 10th is the increasingly popular Canal Saint Martin. With its picturesque footbridges and cobbled, tree-lined quais, this is the ideal place for a summer picnic or Sunday stroll. There's a very bobo (short for bourgeois bohemian) atmosphere around here, thanks to the stylish boutiques and trendy bars and cafés.
Pigalle and Montmartre (18e) -- Located on a hill, Montmartre's winding, narrow streets are a far cry from the wide avenues and boulevards of central Paris. Despite its distance from the center, Montmartre -- or la butte (the hill), as it is affectionately referred to by locals -- is one of the city's most popular neighborhoods for visitors and residents alike. At the end of the 19th century, Montmartre was full of avant-garde writers and artists, including Picasso, van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec, who were attracted by the cheap rents and cheap booze. Despite the busloads of tourists who climb the hill to visit Sacré Coeur, this area has retained its bohemian atmosphere and if you avoid the tourist traps -- such as Place du Tertre -- you'll find plenty of charm and romance. There's a great selection of bars and restaurants around Rue des Abbesses and Rue Lepic, and one of the advantages of being a little farther away from the center is that the prices are lower.
Around Pigalle there are a number of good bars and well-known music venues. However, between Place Pigalle and Place Blanche, you'll discover the seedier side of this neighborhood with flashing neon signs advertising sex shops and adult-only cinemas. To the east of the 18th, around Rue de la Goutte d'Or and Barbès Rochechouart, there is a large North African community. There's a lively atmosphere here but it's quite hectic, particularly on Saturdays when there is a popular fruit and vegetable market. If you do get off the Métro here, be wary of pickpockets. Located on the northernmost edge of the 18th is the city's most famous flea market, the Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt.
République, Bastille and Eastern Paris (11e and 12e) -- Until a few decades ago, the 11th and 12th arrondissements were home to Paris's working-class population. Despite the fact that this neighborhood has become gentrified, both Place de la Bastille and Place de la République remain symbolic places for the French Left and are often the scenes of large public demonstrations.
Politics aside, République and Bastille are well connected in terms of public transport and are popular places to go out at night. Although many of the bars around Place de la Bastille are overpriced and overrated, the area between Goncourt, Menilmontant, Parmentier, and Oberkampf is young and hip, and boasts some of the best nightlife in the city. As you head farther south, the 11th becomes increasingly quiet and residential.
Place de la Bastille is dominated by the modern Opéra Bastille, which was met with mixed reactions when it opened in 1989.To the east of the Place is the Rue du Faubourg St-Antoine, which has been the center of the furniture-makers district for centuries. It's now a pleasant shopping street, but if you go up some of the side streets you can still find some artisans at work. In the southern part of the 12th is Bercy Village. Up until the 1980s, wine was unloaded from boats and stored in warehouses here, but the warehouses were recently renovated and are now home to shops and bars.
Belleville and Northeast Paris (19e and 20e) -- Traditionally a working-class district Belleville is home to large numbers of immigrants. North African Muslims and Jews, many of Tunisian origin, live alongside Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants, and Belleville is Paris's second Chinatown. Sadly, Paris property prices mean that this area, like many others before it, is slowly being gentrified. There's a lively atmosphere in Belleville, and if you climb Rue de Belleville the park at the top of the hill offers spectacular views of Paris.
The 19th is not the most attractive of Paris's arrondissements, but there are some places that are worth visiting. At the top of the Canal St-Martin is the Bassin de la Villette, where two MK2 cinemas (MK2 is one of Paris's biggest movie theater chains) face each other across the canal. There's a pleasant atmosphere here during the summer, when people gather outside the local bars, picnicking or playing pétanque. If you continue along the Canal de l'Ourcq you'll reach the Parc de la Villette, which hosts an outdoor cinema festival in the summer and a jazz festival in September. A little farther south is one of Paris's loveliest green spaces, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. If you continue south, the 19th becomes the 20th, a sprawling, predominantly residential district, some parts of which are not easily accessible on the Métro. There are a couple of good bars and music venues dotted around the 20th, but its main attraction is definitely the Père Lachaise Cemetery, where the likes of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Chopin are buried.
The Left Bank
Latin Quarter (5e) -- From a historical perspective, the Latin Quarter is not to be missed. From the Roman settlement of Lutetia to the heady days of May 1968, layers of Parisian history are visible in the 5th arrondissement. Home to the Sorbonne -- the administrative center of the University of Paris -- the Latin Quarter has been associated with education and learning since the Middle Ages. Parts of it, particularly around Rue Mouffetard and Place de la Contrescarpe, are filled with students, and there are a lot of art house cinemas here that give the neighborhood an offbeat, indie vibe. As you head farther south, you can see the quieter, more residential side of the 5th.
Its popularity with the expat community in the 1920s -- Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, and James Joyce, among others -- gave the Latin Quarter a romantic, literary edge. To relive this era, head to the charming English-language bookshop, Shakespeare and Co., on Rue de la Bûcherie. Sadly, however, very little of this Latin Quarter remains and many visitors are disappointed by how tacky and commercial parts of the 5th have become. The area around Place St-Michel and Rue de la Huchette, although very central, is one of most touristy parts of the city. If you're looking for an authentic Parisian experience, avoid eating or drinking in any of the bars and restaurants around here.
St-Germain-des-Près and Luxembourg (6e) -- Now one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods, St-Germain oozes Rive Gauche glamour. For most of the 20th century, the area around the Eglise-St-Germain-des-Près was the intellectual heartland of Paris, and everywhere you turn, you'll encounter historic and literary associations. Here you'll find three of Paris's most famous cafes, all within a few meters of one another. Known as The Golden Triangle, the Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Magots, and Café de Flore were frequented by the likes of Hemingway and Picasso in the 1920s, and Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in the 1950s. Nowadays, you'll find more haute couture (Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, and more) than highbrow culture.
There's a lively atmosphere in the narrow streets around St-Germain and Odéon, and this neighborhood boasts some great bars and restaurants. It gets much quieter towards the charming Jardin du Luxembourg, a 24-hectare (59-acre) park, the design of which is based in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Full of 19th-century park furniture and allegorical statues, this is one of Paris's loveliest parks.
Eiffel Tower and Nearby (7e) -- Despite the fact that many people hated it when it was showcased at the 1889 Great Exhibition, the Eiffel Tower has become Paris's most famous symbol. The panoramic views from the top, and the sheer magnificence of the structure itself, attract thousands of visitors everyday. But where there are tourists there are pickpockets and you should be very vigilant when strolling around beneath the tower. Similarly, the Champ de Mars attracts some dodgy characters and it's not the safest place to hang out after dark.
The 7th arrondissement is a calm, elegant neighborhood. In the center you'll find the Hôtel des Invalides, where Napoleon's body was interred, the Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly), and a number of key government ministries. Although there are a lot of civil servants running around -- or being chauffeured around -- during the week, there's very little life at the weekends. There's a bit more of a buzz on either side of Invalides. The area around Rue St-Dominique and Rue de Grenelle is quite lively, and Rue Cler is a popular, well-heeled market-street full of gourmet food shops and classy cafés. On the other side of the 7th, you'll find the elegant shopping street, Rue du Bac, and on the Rue des Sèvres, the beautiful, 19th-century department store, Le Bon Marché.
Montparnasse and Southern Paris (13e, 14e and 15e) -- Montparnasse is a busy, commercial neighborhood dominated by the rather ugly Montparnasse Tower, which was built in the 1970s. It's still reasonably close to central Paris and is very well connected in terms of public transport. Along Boulevard Montparnasse you'll find several famous, Art Deco brasseries -- La Coupole, Le Select, and Le Dôme -- which were patronized by the all the movers and shakers of the interwar period, including Hemingway, Picasso, Lenin, and Trotsky.
As you head south, the 14th becomes increasingly residential and there's very little to see or do down here. The same is true for the 15th arrondissement, with the exception of the lively shopping district around Métro La Motte Picquet Grenelle and Rue du Commerce. However, as you head east you'll see quite a different side of Paris in the 13th arrondissement. Equally as residential as the 14th and 15th, it's one of the few districts in the city where there are modern, high-rise tower blocks. Home to Paris's principal Chinatown, the area around Place d'Italie, Tolbiac, and Olympiades is a great place to come for authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.