By now you’ve probably guessed I know this city like the back of my hand (because I won’t shut up about it). But there’s always more to discover. My Parisian friend recently tagged me in a Facebook link to this post where some guy listed the arrondissements in his order and the 20th was at the top and the 13th was at the way bottom of the list and frankly, I DISAGREE, MONSIEUR so I’m making my own list. Of course, it’s hard to rank Paris because I love most of it equally, but here goes!
*note: the order is based on my own personal experience. Which arrondissement do you think should be number 1?
First, here’s a basic map for reference:
1. Really hard to choose but: 5ème
This is part of the Latin Quarter where you can find the Panthéon, la Grande Mosquée de Paris, the Jardin des Plantes, the Sorbonne and la Rue Mouffetard. It’s a chill student area with plenty of English and Irish pubs where expatriates gather on game night to watch soccer and have a pint. I like getting lost around these streets, although you always end up running into some landmark eventually. An entrance to the Jardin du Luxembourg is just down the street from the Panthéon and you can easily walk down La Rue Saint-Jacques to Notre Dame, where you can cozy up with a book at Shakespeare & Co.
This might sound cliché, but this is a favorite of mine because I love the city center where the two islands and the river Seine are. This is the heart of Paris, and also the oldest and most historic. Here you can find, among much more, Notre Dame, Hôtel de Ville, part of the Marais including Place des Vosges, and a myriad of old winding streets. The Centre Pompidou is here and, barely noticable by the Rambuteau métro stop is my favorite little Vietnamese joint called Hai Lúa, where you can get the best (veggie) Bò Bún while watching the little TV permanently tuned to some Vietnamese sing-off channel.
YES. Here is where most people get confused. Many don’t even know it exists, but this spot is where I lived for 7 months so I got to know this area very well. The 13th is a multi-cultural neighborhood with beautiful houses, colorful streets decorated with street art, the Place d’Italie Mall for all your commercial needs, and Chinatown where you can get the best bubble tea. The modern BNF area where the food trucks are is where I used to go all the time to see movies and admire the tall modern apartments. This neighborhood is so diverse you can go to what feels like countryside to city life in a short walk. Tucked away on métro lines 7, 5, and 14, this is where I felt most at home.
Another great area of the left bank, this is where you’ll find the Luxembourg Garden and Saint-Germains des Près, as well as the Saint-Michel area, another student spot with great places to eat and go out. This is one of those places that’s not only beautiful, but feels like the “real” Paris of the locals. Get lost and make some friends, then admire the monuments lit up at night!
Sure, this one is a bit over-looked, but I love it because it’s close to where I lived during my gap year, and it’s very cozy. It’s home to my favorite park, le Parc Montsouris and the Alesia area. Home also to one of my usual haunts, the abandoned railroad of la Petite Ceinture, and the Catacombs of Paris of course – guess which ones 😉 The Montparnasse tower is also located near here, up which the observatory offers incredible 360 views of the city.
The first arrondissement is where you’ll find the Louvre and Châtelet, the chaotic métro station to avoid at all costs (this is a joke among Parisians, it’s a huge station and you can easily get lost in it trying to change lines). Walk along the river Seine and read a book or have a picnic on les Quais.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this one, but the good outweighs the bad. Unfortunately the Boulevard de la Villette, where I have also lived, can get pretty crowded with men standing outside store fronts spending their time ogling women, whistling and shouting obscenities and comments so much so that some days I didn’t even feel like leaving the apartment and making that 5 minute walk to the Belleville métro stop. It’s a shame though, because the Rue de Belleville is lively and full of great ethnic food restaurants and at the top of the hill there’s a park with a nice view of the Eiffel Tower. The sidewalk at number 72 is also where Edith Piaf was apparently born. Like, right on the sidewalk. There’s even a plaque commemorating this. Anyway, behind this part there is the more peaceful side of the 19th, where the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is, and this park is awesome. It’s so big you forget you’re in a bustling city. Climb up the Belvédère and admire the urban skyline. Go see a concert at the Zénith or enjoy the outdoor movie nights in the summer at the Parc de la Villette.
This is another one of the most “Parisian” areas when it comes to where I would hang around at night. Crossing into the 11th arrondissement, the Rue Oberkampf and Ménilmontant are full of great restaurants and bars. One of my best friends I made during my gap year was a bartender at this tiny hole in the wall bar called the Fat Cat. Despite the small space, they always had live music and punch. I knew that if I went, I’d always know somebody there. That same friend sometimes worked at a nearby restaurant called Phô Café so some late nights where I needed a friend I’d just swing by and slurp some delicious pho with her. The 20th is home also to the Père Lachaise, definitely worth getting lost in if you’ve never been.
The Canal Saint-Martin. It’s gorgeous in the fall and home to some really cool bars. Stand at the top of one of the lock bridges to watch boats pass through as leaves gently fall into the water with the autumn breeze.
I confuse this area with the 20th because of the proximity and the overlap of the Oberkampf/Ménilmontant area. The more traditional 11th is where the famous Bastille roundabout and green column are. I more recently discovered, thanks to a friend, the Bassin de l’Arsenal and its little park where you can walk next to the water admiring the boats exiting the tunnel that leads from the Canal.
This is a nice area because it’s a short walk from the Louvre to the Opéra Garnier, one of my favorite monuments. This theater is the one that inspired The Phantom of the Opera and it’s no wonder why. It’s worth taking a guided tour because you get to go into the house and see the infamous chandelier, or just visit it on your own and notice the mini hall of mirrors on the Grand Foyer on the second floor, as well as pretend you’re in the Victorian era flaunting your social status as you glide up the opulent grand staircase. I also got stranded in the middle of the night once at the big intersection in front of the opera and had a panic attack but that’s another story!
Most people know this part as where Montmartre and Moulin Rouge are found, but I really dislike Montmartre (sorry) only because right by the Sacré-Cœur there’s always too many tourist traps and pickpockets, plus it gets very sketchy right after the sun goes down. The Porte de Clignancourt area is also a bit sketch (I’ve also only been a handful of times) but you can find really cheap housing if you’re looking for a place. However if you explore behind the basilica, toward the métro stop Lamarck-Caulaincourt, there are really beautiful streets and villas, an great pizzerias like Il Brigante, a tiny joint really worth the wait – try to get there early because it’s popular, and for good reason!
Another less-known area, it’s also pretty residential, and technically where the Tour Montparnasse is actually located. There are plenty of pretty streets that are fun for getting lost in. If you take the métro line 6 from Bir-Hakeim to Passy you will get the most cinematic view of the Eiffel Tower as you pass over the Seine. Sometimes I take that train just to look out the window. Sit on the right side by the window for best results!
This is a small arrondissement in the center of Paris, there’s not a whole lot to see that’s different than the rest of the Marais. This is where the Strasbourg-Saint Denis neighborhood is. I don’t love it but again, cheap rent around here.
This area is most famous for the Marais, but I prefer it for the historic streets of the Temple area. There’s a lot of really cool architectural quirks to observe and cute cafés to relax in, although they tend to be pretty expensive.
This is where I usually take the train when I visit places outside of Paris. The beautiful Gare de Lyon and the small, more practical Gare de Bercy are my best friends. If you want to feel fancy, grab a hot chocolate and some macarons at the historic Le Train Bleu inside the Gare de Lyon. The Parc de Bercy is a nice spot to meet with friends and do some dog-spotting.
Home to the Eiffel Tower. Look, it’s okay, alright? The Eiffel Tower is good to visit if you’ve never been, but personally I prefer just wandering around Paris and spotting it from afar, sometimes appearing on the horizon when you least expect it. Go and visit Les Invalides instead if you want to get cultured and see Napoleon’s ostentatious burial site. Seriously. He had a huge ego.
There’s not much to see here except fancy government buidings like the Elysée Palace where the Monsieur le Président lives. Place de la Concorde, l’Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées are found here too, but please don’t waste your time along the Champs if it’s your first time! It’s overrated as fuck, except during the holidays because the Christmas markets are really cute and there are ice skating rinks too.
Where all the posh people live, including former presidents and celebrities. The only nice thing here is the Trocadéro, because you have probably the best view of the Eiffel Tower, again very touristy but better than going to the actual monument!
Literally nothing here- at least nothing that I know of besides residences.
So voilà! That’s my list. This was so much more difficult to do than I thought, so maybe I sympathize a bit more with that author who wrote the original article. Once again, this was purely based upon my personal experiences in Paris, so if you’re like me and love this city, I would encourage you to try this out yourself! It’s a great exercise which makes you remember your best (and worst) memories around the city and where they took place. Each city has its ups and downs, and eveyone has their secret spots. Share yours in the comments below!