Paris, the City of Lights, is one of the world’s most visited destinations, and for good reason. It is rich in history, culture, art, and architecture, making it a must-see for any traveler. The city is divided into 20 districts known as arrondissements which unfurls like a snail and each area has its own unique character and charm. We break it down for you.
See also: How to get around Paris on public transport
The 1st arrondissement is located in the heart of Paris and is home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It is home to the famous Louvre Museum, which houses some of the world’s most renowned artworks, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Other notable places of interest include the Jardin des Tuileries, a beautiful park that offers stunning views of the Louvre, and the Palais Royal, which boasts beautiful gardens and stunning architecture.
The history of the 1st arrondissement dates back to the medieval era when Paris was just a small town. It was originally known as the “Parisian island” because it was surrounded by the Seine River. Over the years, the district has undergone numerous transformations and has become a hub for culture and art.
The 2nd arrondissement is known for its covered passageways, which date back to the 19th century. Visitors can shop for unique souvenirs and enjoy the charming atmosphere. The Opera Garnier, a stunning opera house, and the Place des Victoires, a beautiful square built in honor of King Louis XIV’s victories, are also popular attractions in this district.
The history of the 2nd arrondissement is closely tied to the history of Paris as a whole. In the 17th century, it was the site of the city’s first public park, and it was also the location of the city’s first stock exchange. Over the years, the district has become known for its shopping and entertainment, making it a popular destination for tourists.
The 3rd arrondissement is home to the Picasso Museum, which showcases the works of the legendary artist. Other notable places of interest include the Place des Vosges, one of Paris’s oldest squares, and the trendy neighborhood of the Marais.
The history of the 3rd arrondissement dates back to the 13th century when it was home to many of the city’s artisans and craftsmen. Over the years, the district has undergone numerous transformations, but it has maintained its unique character and charm.
The 4th arrondissement is known for its beautiful architecture, including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Place de la Bastille. Visitors can also explore the charming streets of the Île Saint-Louis, a small island in the Seine River. Sites around this neighbourhood are closely tied to the history of Paris. It was the place of many of the city’s most important events, including the French Revolution. Over the years, the district has become a hub for art and culture, and it is home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
The 5th arrondissement is home to the Latin Quarter, a bustling neighborhood filled with cafes, bookstores, and lively streets. The Panthéon, which houses the tombs of famous French figures, is also located in this district.
The history of the 5th arrondissement dates back to the Roman era when it was known as the “Left Bank.” Over the years, it has become a hub for intellectual and artistic activity, and it is home to some of the city’s most prestigious universities.
The 6th arrondissement is located on the Left Bank of the Seine and is home to the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens were originally created for Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, and are now a popular destination for both locals and tourists. The district is also home to several historic churches, including the Saint-Sulpice Church and the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a vibrant neighborhood filled with chic cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops.
The history of the 6th arrondissement dates back to the Middle Ages when it was a rural area outside the city walls. Over the years, the district has undergone several transformations and has become a hub for intellectual and artistic activity.
The 7th arrondissement is home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Visitors can also explore several museums in the district, including the Musée d’Orsay, which houses an impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, and the Rodin Museum, which showcases the works of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin.
The history of the 7th arrondissement is closely tied to the history of France. The Palais-Bourbon, which houses the French National Assembly, was built in the 18th century and has served as the seat of government since the French Revolution.
The 8th arrondissement is known for its luxurious shopping and dining options, including the famous Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world. Visitors can also explore the impressive Arc de Triomphe, a symbol of French national identity, and the Grand Palais, which hosts exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year.
The history of the 8th arrondissement dates back to the 17th century when it was a rural area outside the city walls. Over the years, the district has undergone several transformations and has become a hub for luxury and entertainment.
The 9th arrondissement is home to the beautiful Palais Garnier, a stunning opera house that has been featured in numerous films and television shows. Visitors can also explore the trendy neighborhood of Pigalle, known for its nightlife and music scene, and the Folies Bergère theater, which has a rich history of music hall performances.
The history of the 9th arrondissement dates back to the 19th century when it was a popular destination for the upper class. Over the years, the district has become known for its entertainment and cultural offerings.
The 10th arrondissement is located on the Right Bank of the Seine and is home to the charming Canal Saint-Martin, a popular destination for picnics and boat rides. The district is also known for its diverse food options, including Indian and African cuisine, and its vibrant nightlife.
The 11th arrondissement is home to several historic neighborhoods. One of the most popular areas to explore is Oberkampf, known for its lively atmosphere, street art, and hip bars and restaurants
Over in the Bastille neighborhood, this historic district played a pivotal role in the French Revolution and is now home to the iconic Bastille Opera House. Visitors can stroll down the charming Rue de la Roquette, which is lined with boutiques and artisanal shops.
End your visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery, a must-visit attraction. This cemetery is the final resting place of many famous figures, including Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Édith Piaf. It’s a peaceful place to take a walk and pay your respects to some of the most influential people in history.
The 12th arrondissement is located on the right bank of the Seine and is one of the largest arrondissements in Paris. It is known for its modern architecture, particularly the Opéra Bastille and the Bercy Village shopping complex. The Gare de Lyon train station is also located here, making it a convenient spot to catch trains to other parts of France. Other notable attractions in the 12th arrondissement include the Coulée Verte, a pedestrian walkway built on top of an old railway line, and the Bois de Vincennes, one of the largest parks in Paris.
The 13th arrondissement is located on the left bank of the Seine and is primarily a residential area. It is known for its diverse Asian population and features many Asian markets and restaurants. Some of Paris’ best Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants are situated in this colourful district. The arrondissement is also home to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the national library of France, and the modernist Place d’Italie tower complex.
The 14th arrondissement is located on the left bank of the Seine and is a mix of residential and commercial areas. It is home to the Montparnasse Tower, one of the tallest buildings in Paris, and the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, a complex of university residences that houses students from all over the world. Other notable attractions include the Parc Montsouris, a large park with a lake and a waterfall, and the Catacombs of Paris, an underground ossuary that contains the bones of millions of Parisians.
Located in the southwest of Paris, the 15th arrondissement is the city’s largest in terms of surface area. It is primarily a residential district with many parks and green spaces, making it a great place for a relaxing stroll. The main attraction in this area is the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles, which is a major exhibition center. It hosts several large events throughout the year, such as the Paris Motor Show and the Agricultural Fair.
Other points of interest in this area include the Beaugrenelle shopping center, which features a wide variety of stores, and the Musée Bourdelle, which displays the works of the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Additionally, the Front de Seine area, which was built in the 1970s, features several impressive examples of modern architecture.
Located in the west of Paris, the 16th arrondissement is a wealthy residential district with many beautiful buildings and parks. One of the main attractions in this area is the Bois de Boulogne, which is a large park that features lakes, gardens, and even a zoo.
The Palais de Chaillot is another popular destination in the 16th arrondissement. This impressive building was constructed for the 1937 World’s Fair and now houses several museums, including the Musée de l’Homme and the Musée de la Marine.
The Passy neighborhood, located in the 16th arrondissement, is home to several high-end shops and boutiques, making it a popular destination for luxury shopping. Additionally, the Eiffel Tower can be seen from many parts of the 16th arrondissement, offering stunning views of this iconic landmark.
Located in the northwest of Paris, the 17th arrondissement is a largely residential district with several parks and open spaces. The main attraction in this area is the Parc Monceau, which features several ornate bridges and a small lake.
The Batignolles neighborhood, located in the 17th arrondissement, has recently become a trendy destination with many shops, bars, and restaurants. Additionally, the Musée Cernuschi, which houses a collection of Asian art, is located in the 17th arrondissement.
Located in the north of Paris, the 18th arrondissement is home to the famous Montmartre neighborhood, which is known for its charming streets and stunning views of the city. The Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which is located on top of a hill in Montmartre, is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris.
Other points of interest in the 18th arrondissement include the Moulin Rouge, which is a historic cabaret that has been operating since 1889, and the Musée de Montmartre, which offers a glimpse into the history of this fascinating neighborhood.
The Buttes-Chaumont neighborhood is located in the northeast part of Paris and is known for its beautiful parks and green spaces. The Buttes-Chaumont Park is a large public park that offers breathtaking views of the city. The park is home to a lake, waterfalls, and a suspension bridge. It is also a popular spot for picnics, jogging, and other outdoor activities.
Another popular destination in this arrondissement is the Canal de l’Ourcq. Visitors can take a stroll along the canal or take a boat tour. The Parc de la Villette, a large cultural complex that includes a science museum, a music center, and a park, is also located in the Buttes-Chaumont neighborhood.
The Ménilmontant neighborhood is located in the eastern part of Paris and is known for its artistic and bohemian vibe. The area has a rich history and was once home to artists and writers such as Edith Piaf and Jean-Paul Sartre.
One of the main attractions in this arrondissement is the Père Lachaise Cemetery, which is the final resting place of many famous people such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf. Visitors can take a walking tour of the cemetery to see the graves of these famous figures.
The Belleville neighborhood, which is located in the northern part of the 20th arrondissement, is another popular destination for visitors. The area is known for its diverse population and vibrant street art scene. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which is located on the border of the 19th and 20th arrondissements, is also worth a visit.