Most people know Paris to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. In fact, most of Paris is comprised of a vast metropolitan area of 14,549 square kilometres which is home to a population of over 12 million residents. It is within the heart of Paris, though, in which you will find the famous monuments, beautiful streets and boulevards, cultural palaces, exquisite boutiques and restaurants, attractive bridges, parks and bustling, exciting and sophisticated Parisian life.
This is the Paris of Napoleon III who created a series of twenty administrative areas, arrondissements, which form a clockwise spiral starting on the North Bank (the Right Bank) of the Seine River and forms a wobbly circle which ends at Menilmontant.
When visiting Paris you will probably remain within these arrondissements for most of your stay, so here is a brief description of each district.
1st Arrondissement – Louvre: On the Right Bank and the oldest and least populated arrondissement in Paris mainly because much of its area contains the famous Louvre Museum and Tuileries Gardens.
2nd Arrondissement – Bourse: An important business district containing the Paris Opera, Bourse Stock Exchange and many charming covered arcades.
3rd Arrondissement – Temple: A small district which contains a medieval area, the ancient Dutch quarter and a modern Chinatown.
4th Arrondissement – Hotel-de-Ville: Home to Paris City Hall, the Pompidou Centre, known for its tiny streets, cafes and expensive shops and now the gay centre of Paris.
5th Arrondissement – Pantheon: On the Left Bank and famous for its Latin Quarter; many colleges and churches are contained within this area.
6th Arrondissement – Luxembourg: Also on the Left Bank and best known for its cafe scene and was once the hangout of many intellectual luminaries; contains some of the best known bridges in Paris.
7th Arrondissement – Palais-Bourbon: Home of the Eiffel Tower, the French National Assembly and the Musee d’Orsay home of the best French Impressionist painters.
8th Arrondissement – Elysee: Back on the Right Bank where the really big occasions are celebrated as it is home to the Arc de Triomphe, the Elysee Palace, residence of the French President, and the Place de Concorde, the largest public square in Paris.
9th Arrondissement – Opera: No phantoms, but the Paris Opera is located here, as is the Folies Bergere, and the Paris Olympia concert venue.
10th Arrondissement – Enclos-St Laurent: Perhaps best known for its two railway stations the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est.
11th Arrondissement – Popincourt: One of the most densely populated urban districts in Europe home of the Cirque d’Hiver, or Winter Circus, but mainly residential.
12th Arrondissement – Reuilly: Much of this area is occupied by the Bois de Vincennes a public park which contains four lakes and is about three times bigger than New York’s Central Park.
13th Arrondissement – Gobelins: This is a Left Bank district which has many high rise residential buildings, tall office towers and is home to the biggest Chinatown in Paris.
14th Arrondissement – Observatoire: Home to many artists, the Paris Catacombs and Gare Montparnasse, the major railway terminus in Paris.
15th Arrondissement – Vaugirad: A lot of high rise buildings at Front-de-Seine, there is a large exhibition centre her, but it is mainly a commercial centre.
16th Arrondissement – Passy: One of the richest areas in Paris due to its magnificent houses, also an area in which you will find lots of museums.
17th Arrondissement – Batignolles-Monceau: A former industrial district that is now residential with many good shops.
18th Arrondissement – Butte-Montmartre: Is most famous for its hill bearing the Sacre Coure basilica and the Moulin Rouge; also home to the Pigalle red light district that was home to some of Paris’s most famous artists.
19th Arrondissement – Buttes-Chaumont: On the Right Bank and crossed by two canals, best known for its two parks Parc du Buttes-Chaumont and Parc de la Villette, plus the Paris Conservatorium.
20th Arrondissement – Menilmontant: where the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery, last resting place of composers, writers and rock singers is located.