Paris is so densely packed with amazing things to see and do, and so very well connected, that it’s impossible to pick a straight-out winner when it comes to deciding which arrondissement (neighborhood) to stay in. Rather, it’s best to choose based on the type of break you want to have. Traveling with kids? Book a stay in the 5th and 6th arrondissements. Looking for romance and great nightlife? That’d be Montmartre in the 18th. Check out our short guide to where to stay in Paris below.
Best for Seeing it All
Perched on the Seine’s Right Bank, Paris’s 1st arrondissement is premier by name and premier by nature. This compact little neighborhood is bang in the heart of the action and makes a fantastic base from which to explore the city.
The jewel in the 1st’s crown is of course the Louvre – home to some of the most famous artworks in the world, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Stroll through Catherine de Médici's Jardin des Tuileries, a huge formal garden in the Italian Renaissance style, and spot Aristide Malliol’s larger-than-life female nudes among the park's hundreds of sculptures and statues. You’ll also find the Musée de l’Orangerie here, where several murals from Monet’s Water Lilies series rub shoulders with fellow Impressionist and Post-Impressionist greats including Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Modigliani.
Just over the 17th-century Pont Neuf – one of Paris’s most photogenic bridges – lies Île de la Cité, the tiny island in the middle of the Seine. It’s here you’ll find Notre-Dame Cathedral and medieval Sainte-Chapelle with its incredible soaring stained glass windows – as well as some of the best ice cream in Paris, at the Berthillon shop.
The 1st also has you covered for shopping, with the huge Les Halles mall, plus 19th-century covered shopping arcades (and many more next door in the 2nd arrondissement) and big-name jewelers including Chanel, Bulgari, Cartier and Dior in and around Place Vendôme and Rue de la Paix.
On top of all this, you’re also just a hop and a skip from most of Paris’s other bucket-list attractions, including the Eiffel Tower and the cute Marais district. And yet staying in le premier needn’t come at a premium. Alongside uber-luxury hotel brands like Mandarin Oriental and the Ritz are plenty of comfortable mid-range options.
Best for Living Like a Local
The largely residential nature of the 11th arrondissement makes it great for affordable Airbnb stays, meaning you get to live your best life in your very own Bastille apartment. Venture out to wander among the heady aromas of Marché Bastille and pick up freshly baked breads and pastries, fragrant fromages, local wines and more from the dozens of stalls here. This enormous open-air market runs from Place de la Bastille all the way down tree-lined Boulevard Richard-Lenoir every Thursday and Sunday.
Being on the fringes of the main action needn’t mean missing out. Bars and restaurants are just as plentiful here as anywhere else, and you’ll find that brasseries, cafés and crêperies have a pleasantly local feel.
You’re also within easy strolling distance of the Marais district, and there’s nothing more Parisian than waking on a Saturday, and wandering into its cobbled lanes for a morning coffee and a bag of sugary chouquettes from the boulangerie, as you window-shop the area’s cute independent shops and boutiques. Alternatively, a stroll south over Pont de Sully, with its picturesque views of tiny Île Saint-Louis, will take you straight to the boho Saint-Germain-des-Prés district and Latin Quarter.
Best for First Timers
First time visiting Paris? The 8th arrondissement provides a solid base for ticking off as many attractions as possible. A stay here places you within strolling distance of the Arc de Triomphe and vast Place de la Concorde, with its regal monuments and fountains, skyscraping Luxor Obelisk, and sweeping views across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower.
Indulge in some luxury shopping on the Champs-Élysées, where you’ll find top-end brand names including Louis Vuitton and Chanel, as well as some of the poshest macarons in town at Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.
It’s also from the 8th that the city’s Bateaux Parisiens set sail for sightseeing cruises along the Seine. These tours are a fun way to find your bearings and see a stack of attractions, including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Grand Palais and Instagram-tastic Pont Neuf and Alexandre III bridges with minimal effort.
Best with Kids
Though all of Paris's arrondissements are well connected, the 1st to the 8th are the most central and therefore particularly well suited to families. A stay in any of these neighborhoods will minimize time spent zipping between attractions, as well as making it easier to nip back to the hotel when you discover you’ve left the diaper bag behind.
There’s much to recommend the 5th and 6th for family breaks. Set on the Left Bank, these boho arrondissements are home to the historic Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhoods, where you’ll find stacks of family-friendly hotels and restaurants, as well as a legendary English-language bookstore and a fab Parisian candy shop, both sure to keep the little ones happy for a while.
This is also the place for some of the most kid-friendly public parks in town: the Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes. Kids can enjoy puppet shows, pony rides and one of the biggest playgrounds in Paris in the Jardin du Luxembourg, while the stunning formal gardens and pétanque courts ensure there’s enough to keep the grown-ups happy, too. For a perfectly charming activity that you can all get on board with, there are old-fashioned wooden toy boats to rent and sail on the Grand Bassin lake in front of the Palais de Luxembourg.
Nearby Jardin des Plantes is home to one of the world’s oldest zoos, which specializes in the preservation of endangered species including such cute critters as red pandas and giant Aldabra tortoises. You can also visit the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution on the park’s edge. This natural history museum showcases some incredibly lifelike taxidermy animals alongside meteorites, massive dinosaur fossils and several thousand plant species.
Best for Couples
Ah, the City of Love with its gorgeous monuments, cute sidewalk cafés, beautiful gardens and swoonsome, soaring bridges… Where better to go on a romantic break with your significant other?
Even the most jaded of couples won’t fail to be seduced by Montmartre, the 18th-arrondissement butte (hill) that can lay legitimate claim to being the city’s most romantic spot. Here, among gently sloping cobbled alleyways and colorful, ivy-clad buildings, lie dozens of adorable bistros, sultry bars and gourmet food shops to help you plan your perfect picnic.
Get your bearings on a walking tour then taking in the flamboyant hilltop confection that is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Head round the corner to have a cutesy couples’ portrait painted by one of the Place du Tertre’s resident artists and snap a selfie at the wildly romantic-sounding mur des je t’aime (that’s right: the wall of love).
The 18th also boasts plenty of great nightlife, with world-famous entertainment including La Cigale concert hall and, of course, the magnificent Moulin Rouge cabaret. Step inside for high-kicking can-can dancing and risqué burlesque from some of the city’s finest performers. You can’t miss it: it’s the one with the neon-lit red windmill.