Paris has so much to offer visitors, and although Napoleon III didn't divide the city into 20 distinct arrondissements purely for the benefit of tourists, this late 19th century demarcation of Paris into individual zones proves to be very useful to the 20th century traveller in navigating the city. Here is an overview of a few of them that should prove useful to any visitor.
Home to regal palaces and magnificent gardens such as the Jardin des Tuileries, the 1st arrondissement also offers the sightseer an impressive view of the Eiffel Tower. One of the largest museums in the world is found in this zone, namely the Musee du Louvre with its extensive collection of objects spanning all the way from prehistory to modern times. For obvious reasons, Paris’ 1st arrondissement proves popular with art lovers, not only for the Louvre, but also the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, and the Musee de l'Orangeri with its collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. While there are many cultural sights to see, bear in mind that the 1st arrondissement is rather low-key in the evening. In the day, however, this is a great place to go round on a bus tour – for more information, click here.
Paris’s 6th arrondissement is a popular location to stay in due to its lively and vibrant spirit. Plenty of cafes and bistros can be found here, but there are lots of quieter little cobble-stoned streets in which to lose yourself. Many recommend the 6th arrondissement as a perfect base for the first time visitor. This area contains the Jardin du Luxembourg which is home to the French Senate, and the park is the second largest in all Paris making it particularly popular with tourists and Parisians alike. Close to the Jardin du Luxembourg is the eye-catching neoclassical 18th century Odeon Theatre. Also close by is the magnificent Saint Sulpice Church, the second largest in Paris. To experience some authentic Parisian charm head to the oldest part of the city, the 11th century Saint Germain des Pres with its fascinating little shops, cafes, and galleries.
Paris' 4th arrondissement also proves popular with visitors as it contains some of the city's most noteworthy historical sites. The gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, or Notre Dame de Paris, is widely considered one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in the world. Its magnificent rose window is a masterpiece to behold and from the inside is particularly stunning. Also in the 4th arrondissement is The Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, offering a restful place to unwind amidst the city. In this arrondissement you will also find the renaissance style City Hall, the Tour St-Jacques, and the modern Pompidou Centre.
The 5th arrondissement is home to the Sorbonne University, students of which, at least in medieval times, spoke Latin, hence this arrondissement is often called the Latin Quarter. The popular tree lined avenue which is the Boulevard St-Michel is famed for its many quaint bookshops, cafes and bars, offering a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Also in the Latin Quarter is the famous neoclassical Pantheon with its impressive Corinthian columns. Other noteworthy sites in the 5th arrondissement include the church of the Val de Grace with its magnificent dome forming a dominant and unmistakable feature of the Parisian skyline. You may also like to walk in the Jardin des Plantes and visit the associated National Museum of Natural History.
This is far from being a comprehensive coverage of all Paris offers the visitor, but it will hopefully assist you in making the most of your stay in this much loved and celebrated city and in deciding which arrondissement to stay in in Paris.
Written by Thomas Edwards. Thomas has been an international traveller since the early ‘80s. He has travelled across Europe, the USA and as far afield as Thailand, Hong Kong and China. He has written as a business, individual and family traveller and a language or two has given him the opportunity to engage with locals in most places he visits.