From impressive historic monuments to cuisine that is nothing short of exceptional, there’s no denying that Paris is a destination unlike any other. A city where you can spend your days wandering in and out of museums, cafes, farmers markets and beautiful gardens; it’s little surprise that the French capital has earned itself the reputation as the city of Romance.
As impressive and beguiling as it may be, planning a trip to the city of lights can very quickly become overwhelming. With 20 neighbourhoods (arrondissements) to choose from, finding the best place to stay in Paris can be terrifying. However, having an understanding of the Parisian Arrondissement system will help you in knowing where to go in Paris, as well as where the best places to stay are.
Whether you’re wondering what the best Paris arrondissement is to stay in, or where the best areas are to explore in Paris, our guide below will help you in deciding the best districts for you to eat, sleep, drink and go out in.
What is an Arrondissement?
Put simply, arrondissements are administrative districts. Unlike many other cities, the arrondissements in Paris are laid out in a regular order. The first arrondissement leads into the second, which leads into the third, and so on. The easiest way to visualise this, is to imagine a snail, unfurling in a clockwise direction.
This division of the districts dates back to the French Revolution, where in 1795, authorities organised Paris into 12 arrondissements. Then, due to the growth of the city that was once made up of small towns, Paris created 8 new arrondissements in 1860; thus creating the Paris snail (or escargot).
Each of the 20 Parisian arrondissements has its own unique identity and personality, popular attractions, special events and other interesting things to explore.
In this guide, we’ve tried to share a good breakdown of all of the Paris districts, including information on landmarks and attractions that make each arrondissement special. Hopefully this will help you in deciding which is the best Paris arrondissement for you and your upcoming visit!
The premier arrondissement; if it’s your first time visiting the French capital, you’ll want to include Paris 1 in your itinerary, as it’s the home to many of the city’s famous monuments and sights.
Home to the Tuileries Gardens, Pont des Art, Place de Vendôme, the Louvre and the Seine River, there’s no denying that this is one of the most sumptuous Arrondissements in Paris. However, it is also one of the most expensive arrondissements to stay in.
A visit to the 1st Arrondissement is perfect for experiencing famous Parisian monuments, elegant squares and enjoying the bank of the River Seine.
The 2nd Arrondissement of Paris, known as ‘Bourse’ (which translates to ‘stock exchange’) is the smallest district of Paris. As the name suggests, it is home to the city’s stock exchange, as well as a number of banks and financial institutions. This district is largely overlooked by tourists, however, is well worth exploring for its beautiful architecture, covered passages and hidden gems for the determined traveller.
If you’ve come to Paris to revel in history, you’ll feel right at home in Temple, or the 3rd Arrondissement. The second-smallest district in the city, Temple is home to some of the best museums in Paris, including the Carnavalet Museum, Musée Picasso and the Musée des Arts.
Additionally, the 3rd Arrondissement is also home to half of the famous Le Marais (an area that is neither an Arrondissement or a district).
You can explore the intriguing and equally beautiful Marais district on a walking tour on the Trafalgar ‘Paris Explorer’ tour, where you’ll see firsthand the mansions and courtyards of this delightful corner of Paris.
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The 4th Arrondissement of Paris is where you can find the other half of Le Marais. The 4th Arrondissement is the more lively part of Le Marais; an area that is lined with bars, clubs and restaurants.
Also in the 4th Arrondissement is the city’s oldest public planned Square (Place des Vosges) and the former medieval mansion which is now a library (Hotel de Sens). Being so centrally located to many of the city’s biggest attractions makes Paris 4 one of the best places to stay in Paris, especially if you love history, culture and are seeking an authentic French experience.
The 5th Arrondissement of Paris, which is also known as the Latin Quarter, is most well known for its vintage cinema screenings and as a hub of student nightlife for students at Sorbonne University.
Aside from the lively student atmosphere, the 5th Arrondissement is also the area where the Romans settled for the first time, founding the Roman city of Lutetia. The ancient streets which line this district still contain remnants of the Roman Lutetia, including medieval religious buildings and charming squares.
If you’ve been dreaming of living the quintessential Parisian life of sipping coffees at trendy cafes that line narrow streets, then the 6th Arrondissement is the area where you can bring that vision to life.
One of the most chic areas in the city, the 6th district is home to one of the oldest coffee houses in Paris, Cafe de Flore, as well as the Luxembourg Gardens, Saint Sulpice Church, and upmarket boutique art galleries.
Many first time visitors to Paris assume that the Eiffel Tower is located central to the city. However, this isn’t the case. The 7th Arrondissement, which is west of the city centre, is home to the iconic Parisian monument, in an area where other tourist attractions are far and few between.
Aside from seeing the Eiffel Tower up close, you can also visit Les Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting place), the army museum and the Musee des Egouts in this district of Paris.
Following the Eiffel Tower, the most recognisable monument in Paris is the Arc de Triomphe, which can be found in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris; the home to all things fashion and luxury, which is symbolised by the famous “Golden Triangle” of Rue Montaigne, Rue George V and Avenue des Champs-Elysees.
Additionally, the 8th Arrondissement (Elysee) is also home to the French President’s official residence, an abundance of beautiful historic 5-star hotels, and two of the best Cabarets in Paris. This is definitely the best district in Paris to explore if you’re in search of that famous Parisian je ne sais quoi.
While there are two Opera buildings in Paris, the Opera made famous by Victor Hugo’s The Phantom of the Opera can be found in the form of the Opera Garnier in the city’s 9th Arrondissement.
In addition to the awe-inducing Opera Garnier, visitors can also explore the Grands Magasins, enjoy a spot of shopping at the Grand Lafayette or enjoy the local Haussmannian architecture.
The arrondissement where the locals hang out, Paris’ 10th arrondissement is referred to as the district of bobos (bohemian-bourgeois Parisians), with streets lined with cafes, vintage shops, bars and restaurants.
Time in this district can best be spent strolling along the Canal Saint-Martin, vintage shopping, sipping on evening aperos and enjoying a picnic along the canals banks.
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Located in the east of Paris, the 11th Arrondissement comes packed with history. Lying beneath the shadows of Bastille prison, the district boomed during King Louis XIV’s reign. The working-class district also later became a revolutionary icon during the 1832 rebellion, which sparked inspiration for Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables.
The industrialisation of the 19th century saw many factories built in the area, especially in the fields of textiles, metals, glass and ceramics.
Retaining its historical working class roots, some of the 19th century factories do still exist, however, many have also been converted into contemporary hotels, shops and museums, such as l’Atelier des Lumieres.
To really experience Paris like a local, one must make time to explore the 12th Arrondissement; one of Paris’ main residential areas.
While there aren’t any ‘big ticket’ items for tourists to visit in this district, the 12th Arrondissement is home to one of the city’s best markets, promenade, quirky historic sites and plenty of other delights.
Occupying the far southeast of Paris, the 13th arrondissement is filled with unique character. Filled with lots of artistic feats, visitors can enjoy incredible street art and speciality shops, including a store dedicated to local beekeeping!
If you’re after an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Paris, then it’s worth setting aside some time to explore the 14th arrondissement. This largely residential area in the south of the city isn’t on everyone’s list of best districts in Paris, however, the area does offer some beautiful gems for locals, or those who travel here frequently.
Home to the district of Parc Montsouris, you can spend time enjoying one of the most beautiful parks in the city, or opt for an underground adventure at the Catacombs of Paris or the Carrieres of the Capucins.
Situated in the southwest of Paris, the 15th Arrondissement is the largest in the city and the most populated. The area is largely residential, so unless you’re headed here for a specific reason, it’s unlikely that you’d visit if on a more tourist-y adventure. However, with no big-name sites nearby, the area is very quiet and family-friendly, making it one of the best places to stay in Paris if you’re travelling with a family, and are seeking a real local’s Paris.
Built during the second half of the 19th century, the 16th Arrondissement is one of the more upmarket districts in the city. Home to some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower and numerous lesser-known museums, this area is one of the best districts in Paris for picnics and enjoying impromptu lay-downs on the grass – making the most of that Parisian sun!
This upscale residential neighborhood offers some of the best places to stay in Paris, with plenty of rooftop bars for you to enjoy glowy, panoramic views of the city with your favourite cocktail in hand.
Located in the northwest of Paris, until the French Revolution, the area that is now the 17th Arrondissement was mostly occupied by Royal hunting grounds!
Nowadays, the 17th Arrondissement is mostly residential; so similar to the 15th arrondissement, it’s unlikely that you’d find yourself here unless you had a specific place you wanted to visit.
Easily the most quintessential Parisian arrondissement (and the most visited!) is the 18th Arrondissement – or Montemarte. Considered by some as the best Paris arrondissement, Montemarte is where one can go to explore the Paris of yesteryear.
Some of the best things to do in Montmartre include visiting the Musee de Montmarte, enjoying a croissant et cafe at La Maison Rose (a cafe that used to be frequented by Picasso), the mesmerising Sacre Coeur and the famous Moulin Rouge.
Just in case that’s not enough, simply wandering along the winding cobbled streets and allowing the 18th Arrondissement to reveal itself to you is a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.You can visit Montmartre on Trafalgar’s ‘Paris Explorer’ tour, where you’ll hop onboard a private street trolley car and travel back in time to the colourful hillside village.
If you’re looking for an escape from the crowds, then the 19th Arrondissement is the best Paris arrondissement for you!
A former industrial area, today Paris 19 is home to the trendy Canal de l’Ourcq – Parc de la Villette, and one of the most beautiful parks in the city – Les Buttes-Chaumont.
If you’re after leafy green and tourist-free, the 20th Arrondissement is where you need to go in Paris! Only a few years ago, the 20th Arrondissement was the cheapest district to live in Paris, which saw a lot of young people move to the area. As a result, today, the district is one of the most authentic and trendiest Paris areas to explore – all without the crowds too!
With no shortage of things to do, visitors can enjoy walking around the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery, wandering the art-filled streets, inhaling the fresh aromas of the Asian markets and savouring the charming village-like pockets that adorn this district.
The 20th Arrondissement is the best Paris district to explore if you want to enjoy the city like a local.
Have you explored the city of lights and discovered what you believe to be the best Paris Arrondissement? Or, are you hoping to find the best Paris district for you soon in the future? Let us know in the comments! Or, visit our website to learn more about how you can travel Paris with Trafalgar.