When people arrive in Paris, they oftentimes only spend time in one or two neighborhoods. C’est dommage! Each arrondissement has something different and unique to offer; in relation to my “How to find an Apartment in Paris” post, I’ve broken down what each arrondissement offers for Parisian hopefuls – or visitors interested in straying from the beaten path.
1st: Wander here and you’ll find “Paris,” the romantic, cultured, chic poster hanging in your room. Stroll through Les Tuileries, shop along Rue de Rivoli, and mournfully gaze at the fallen locks of le Pont des Arts. This is the Paris in fantasies of romantic hopefuls all over the world.
2nd: Nice and compact, the second is brimming with delightful cafes and shops at every corner. You’ll find the business district here, including the former Paris Bourse (stock exchange), banking headquarters, as well as Sentier, the textile district. What does the textile district equate to? A daily deafening racket of morning delivery trucks. You have been warned.
3rd: Home to the Marais, the 3rd has wonderful little areas to explore, as well as some of the best shopping in the city.
4th: Similar to the 3rd, the 4th comprises the Marais, where you can amble along crooked cobblestone and eat all the falafal your heart desires. With its artistic flair, the Marais is a haven for would-be-hipsters, as long as you avoid the main streets, which will plop you in beautiful yet pricey brasseries and luxury boutiques. However, you can opt to live in the outskirts of République if you’d like to enjoy this chic neighborhood without paying for it. Pro tip: Just off of St. Paul (line 1), to the right on a small street, you’ll find a small Irish bar. Why is this bar so special you ask? Because as soon as everyone’s Favorite Season comes around, they host WEEKLY GAME OF THRONES VIEWING PARTIES!
5th: Ahh the Latin Quarter. Although I’d never want to live here, I love exploring it. All the food! All the smells! If you’re adept at dodging gaggles of hormonal French teenagers, you’ll feel quite comfortable in the 5th.
6th: Home to the glamorous shops along Boulevard Saint Germain, this arrondissement is the 5th’s secret superior neighbor. The thinner crowds and yet equally attractive sites make the 6th an excellent place to get lost in. Le Musée de Cluny provides a quiet sanctuary for medieval lovers, and pleasant bars surround Odéon, including everyone’s favorite sangria watering hole, Dix Bar. Also, if you’re a student at Sciences Po and have difficulties making your 9 am lecture, the 6th is ideal.
7th: In my entirely biased opinion, the 7th is la crème de la crème of arrondissements. Stunning at every turn, it offers a delectable sampling of Paris’ finest, including the Eiffel Tower, le pont Alexandre-III where Adele cried, Invalides, le Musée Rodin, and more. Oddly enough, despite the close proximity to major tourist sites, the 7th has quiet pockets with families, and most of the arrondissement feels safe and secure. Similar to the 6th though, apartments here will cost you. For a reference point, I paid 540 euros for a 9 meters squared apartment that lacked a proper kitchen, and I shared a shower and toilet with my neighbors. But hey, I survived, and managed to avoid falling into debt, so it can be done! The only major downside is the nightlife. If you want to go out drinking and dancing, you’ll most likely need to take a cab at the end of the night. However, you only really notice this encumbrance during winter. If you can afford it, the 7th is positively lovely.
8th: Care to join the President of France? Perhaps rub elbows with Oprah? Take up residence in the 8th.
9th: You’ll find plenty to do in the 9th. If it so strikes your fancy, visit Opéra: shows sell out very quickly but never fear, people are always selling tickets outside an hour or so beforehand. Also? If you’re feeling a little homesick, visit the Starbucks at Opéra. The crystal chandeliers, wall murals, and free WiFi will sweeten the sips of your delicious latte.
10th: Le Canal Saint-Martin lures Parisians who hope to avoid the crowds of the Seine. You’ll always find plenty to do in this sprawling arrondissement. Additionally, Gare de l’est et Gare du Nord are located here–perfect for commuting and impromptu, financially irresponsible trips to London.
11th: If you’re up for a wild night, Oberkampf and Bastille (in the 12th) are the places to be. Although other bars and clubs are scattered throughout the entire city, the higher concentration of them in the 11th and 12th allows you to stumble from bar to bar without much effort. Plus, for literary nerds such as myself, the bar Chat Noir hosts an English poetry reading event called Spoken Word every Monday night.
12th: Of the Oberkampf and Bastille areas, I prefer the 12th (although they somewhat overlap). You know what you can find at Bastille? A dive bar that serves cheap pastis. I can’t remember the name of this wonderful little gem but if you need a guide and are willing to pay for my ticket to Paris, I’m sure I could find it again.
13th: I believe we’d call this the French version of Chinatown. Other than that, I didn’t find the 13th that memorable. It’s quiet, though, which could be the best recipe after an exhausting day of childcare and “des bétises.”
14th: Personally, I don’t love the Montparnasse region (which borders the 15th). However, the 14th’s proximity to the suburbs equates to sleepy, quiet neighborhoods and cheaper apartment prices than central Paris.
15th: Because it borders the 7th, the 15th offers plenty of beautiful sites–in certain pockets. Stray too far and you’ll find yourself in “moche-grenelle,” or ugly grenelle. Apart from the unfortunate 1970’s architecture, the 15th can be splendid.
16th: Fairly residential and quiet, the 16th is rather difficult to access but prices here are cheaper. As an additional bonus, you’re right by Bois de Boulogne–quite suitable for your Parisian picnic needs.
17th: From my experience, the 17th boasts small parks and residential neighborhoods. Its bourgeois, artistic style attracts prominent French writers and artists, who you may glimpse sipping espresso at corner cafés. And as an added bonus, this arrondissement borders the 8th, so you could end up just a quick jaunt away from les Champs-Élysées.
18th: Montmartre gained esteem through its host of legendary artists, whose fame has made this once-poor residence a hotspot for tourists. Ironically, the more we glorify the starving artist of Paris, the more the apartments cost. If you avoid particularly touristy areas though, prices here are extremely reasonable. Take note: many people warned me against living in the 18th before I arrived. You’ll find a handful of safe, quiet areas in this arrondissement but be sure to explore the neighborhood beforehand. The sex shops are never far! But hey, if you’re into that, this is the arrondissement for you. On a darker note though, crime rates escalate in this part of the city, as well as most of northern Paris. Don’t entirely rule it out but be aware of the culture here. If you’re willing to ignore the more scandalous side, you’ll find the old romance of Montmarte tucked away, and it’ll be delightful when you do.
19th: Perhaps my green space starvation has skewed my viewpoint but I seem to find parks the most notable parts of Paris. Here in the 19th, you’ll find the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, as well as charming flower and food markets. However, you’ll also find your share of prostitutes in Belleville. So may not be best for the kiddies.
20th: The 20th and the 19th share a lot in common; both are on the outskirts of Paris and don’t have an exceptional amount to offer tourists, except for the Cimetière du Père Lachaise of course!
Bonne chance, mes amis! You really can’t go wrong. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.