Paris is a dense patchwork of 20 distinct neighborhoods, or arrondissements, all within the périphérique (ring road). Each arrondissement has its own identity and dedicated postcode (75001 for the 1st arrondissement, 75002 for the 2nd, and so on), to make it easier to discover at a glance where the hotel, attraction or other address you’re looking for is located. Hop aboard for our whistle-stop tour of all 20…
Right in the heart of the action, the premier is home to a number of Paris’s big-ticket attractions, chief among these being the Louvre. Stroll through the delightful Jardin des Tuileries with its tree-lined avenues, riverside views and graceful Rodin statues, and drop by the Musée de l’Orangerie in its southwest corner to admire the fine collection of Impressionist art, including several of Monet’s famous Water Lilies murals.
Treasure hunters rejoice! Here’s where you’ll find many of Paris’s historic covered passages, including Passages des Panoramas, the city’s oldest. Shop under beautiful glass canopies in these atmospheric 19th-century arcades, where you’ll discover all manner of antiques tucked away behind old-fashioned wooden storefronts, plus chic boutiques, cute cafés, well-stocked wine cellars and more. The sticky signature rum babas at Stohrer, Paris’s oldest pâtisserie, on the nearby Rue Montorgueil are also not to be missed.
The Haut Marais district’s quaint cobbled streets are lined with independent boutiques and several top museums, including the Musée des Arts et Métiers and stunning Musée Picasso, where you can view over 700 paintings and surreal sculptures by the Cubist master, including his Self-Portrait and La Celestina. Pause at the gift shop before strolling to the Marché des Enfants Rouges for some of the best street food in town.
Overlooking Notre-Dame Cathedral from the Seine’s Right Bank, the Marais neighborhood’s maze of narrow streets is nothing short of enchanting. Take a picnic to the formal gardens in Place des Vosges and people-watch from beneath the linden trees, then wander the arcades that line this charming 16th-century square. Don’t miss the extraordinary modern art collection in the Centre Pompidou, or the equally exceptional ice cream at Berthillon on Île Saint-Louis, a tiny island in the middle of the Seine.
Within the winding lanes of the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank, you’ll find a dazzling array of late-night bars and restaurants, sultry jazz clubs and Art Deco cinemas. Pay your respects to Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie and the dozens of other French luminaries who are interred or commemorated in the magnificent Panthéon, buy a book at the semi-legendary English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company, and meet cute red pandas at the Ménagerie in the verdant Jardin des Plantes
Walk in the footsteps of the hundreds of artists and intellectuals who have called boho Saint-Germain-des-Prés home across the years, including Sartre, Picasso, Camus and Brecht. The 6th is also home to one of Paris’s finest parks: the Jardin du Luxembourg. Rent antique toy boats and sail them on the lake in front of the Palais de Luxembourg, smell the roses in the exquisite Italianate gardens or simply pull up a chair and watch the locals compete at the ancient game of pétanque.
Tick off some of the city’s biggest hitters in the 7th, where you can – deep breath – climb the Eiffel Tower (or picnic beneath it on the lawns of the Champ de Mars), view the biggest collection of Impressionist art on the planet at the Musée d’Orsay, stroll the Musée Rodin’s perfectly sculpted gardens and admire hundreds of years of indigineous art behind the foliage-covered facade of the Musée du Quai Branly.
Just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower is a luxury shopper’s paradise. The Champs Élysees is home to the largest Louis Vuitton store in the world, plus branches of Cartier, Chanel, Dior and more. Treat yourself to a colorful box of macarons from pastry master Pierre Hermé or the opulent Ladurée store, then use the subsequent sugar rush to power you up the 284 steps to the Arc de Triomphe’s viewing platform.
Noted for its beautiful Haussmannian architecture, the lively 9th arrondissement continues the shopping theme with Galeries Lafayette – worth a visit for its incredible stained-glass cupola and terrace views alone. Check out Musée Grévin, a 150-year-old wax museum inside the historic Passage Jouffroy arcade and take in a show at the flamboyant Opéra Garnier, an absolute must-visit for Phantom of the Opera fans.
Stroll the scenic Canal Saint-Martin, with its picturesque Venetian bridges, tree-lined cobblestone walkways, shaded quays and colorful street art. The 10th is also home to the busy Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Ést train stations, gateways to the likes of Parc Astérix and the Palace of Versailles.
Place de la Bastille and its weekly markets make the largely residential 11th arrondissement worthy of your time. Head for the arts and crafts market on Saturdays, and visit the Marché Bastille on Thursdays and Sundays, where local producers showcase the finest foods the region has to offer.
Also mostly residential, the 12th is notable primarily for the magnificent Opéra Bastille, as well as its proximity to the expansive Bois de Vincennes. Paris’s biggest public park, it boasts a chateau, a boating lake, a forest, an arboretum and a zoo among other things.
Street art fans will find much to enjoy in the residential 13th arrondissement. Here, local artists use huge concrete high rises as their canvas, resulting in some spectacular and often huuuuge murals.
Twenty meters beneath the streets of the 14th, you can visit one of the city’s most macabre attractions. The Paris Catacombs contains a labyrinth of tunnels, with a bone-chilling ossuary that contains the mortal remains of some six million Parisians. A must-see, but most definitely not for the faint of heart.
At the westernmost point of the Left Bank, the 15th offers some of the Paris’s finest views. Board the Ballon de Paris Generali in Parc André Citroën to rise 150 meters above the city, or whiz up to the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower for uninterrupted views of its far more beautiful counterpart, the Eiffel Tower.
There are enough specialty museums here to while away a day or more, the Palais de Tokyo with its excellent avant-garde art collection and the anthropological Musée de l'Homme to name but two. The 16th also adjoins the massive Bois de Boulogne park, where you can go boating, stroll through the woods to the Parc de Bagatelle botanical garden, explore the grotto and much more.
Many consider this residential area to be the real Paris. Head to its charming Batignolles neighborhood for quirky bistros, boutiques and street markets, and pause to feed the ducks and play pétanque with the locals in leafy Batignolles Square.
Take the funicular up to the Sacré Cœur Basilica atop Montmartre and soak up the atmosphere in cobbled streets and squares that have inspired artists from Modigliani to Picasso. It’s here you’ll find the Moulin Rouge cabaret with its iconic neon-red windmill, and the Place du Tertre, where local portrait painters ply their trade. Get yours done, then grab an ice cream and take in one of the city’s best views from the basilica steps.
Green space abounds out in the 19th, where hilly Parc des Buttes-Chaumont offers some of Paris’s best views, as well as an Eiffel-designed suspension bridge, secret grotto and artificial waterfall. Nearby Parc de la Villette is a cultural mecca, home to the biggest science museum in Europe, an IMAX cinema, plus several music venues and theaters. Visit in summer for its open-air cinema and the temporary artificial beach at nearby Bassin de la Villette.
Last but by no means least, the 20th arrondissement boasts cool street art, independent boutiques and the second-biggest Chinatown in Paris. It’s also here that you’ll find the vast Père Lachaise Cemetery. You could spend many hours wandering the cemetery’s wide avenues and visiting the ornate tombs and monuments where great artistic figures including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin and Édith Piaf are interred.