It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that many of the posts on Distant Francophile are inspired by the questions we receive from people who are keen to visit France.
Regardless of how these queries reach us – via the website, email or in person – they always get me wondering whether I might be able to create a post that will answer the original question and help others in the process.
When I put my mind to it, I often realise that I might have previously covered the subject at some point – but that it was ages ago or that I didn’t cover the topic in the depth it deserved.
All of the above was true when I received a question late last week about which Parisian arrondissement is best to stay in, particularly for a first time visitor to Paris.
I have posted limited information on the 20 Parisian arrondissements themselves and the areas we’ve stayed in – but all that was a long, long time ago and it was always with a light touch.
So to help new readers to Distant Francophile (there are so many of you – welcome – we are very glad you are here) and anyone planning their first trip to Paris, I decided it was about time I posted some fresh information on what you’ll find if you stay in the various arrondissements.
Please note – I’ve not covered every arrondissement here, as some are better suited than others for travellers. And to help you in identifying the arrondissement I’ve included both the number and the name. And if you are completely new to the idea of Paris and her arrondissements Parisnet.com has a neighbourhood map which will help you get your bearings.
But before I get into the detail, I have to say that deciding on which Parisian arrondissement to stay in shouldn’t be a scary experience. Central Paris is relatively compact when compared to other big cities, and while all the arrondissements listed below have their own flavour, all will offer a taste of the authentic Parisian experience you are looking for.
1st Arrondissement – Louvre. If you decide to stay in the 1st, you will find yourself in the heart of Paris and in the centre of the action, at least as far as big name historical sites and high end shopping are concerned. Located on the right bank of the Seine River, the 1st arrondissement is home to the the Palais-Royal (my favourite), the Tuileries Gardens and the Musée de l’Orangerie. And, as the name suggests, you’ll also find the Louvre. From the 1st, it’s an easy to walk to many of Paris’ must visit sites, and if you choose the right accommodation, you’ll have excellent views of the Eiffel Tower.
3rd Arrondissement – Temple. This small arrondissement, also on the right bank of the river, takes in the northern part of the historic Marais district. This part of Paris is home to both museums – including the gorgeous Musée Carnavalet – and edgy shopping options. And lets not forget stacks of cafés and bars. Unlike some areas of Paris, the 3rd is very lively on a Sunday.
4th Arrondissement – Hôtel-de-Ville. Another popular arrondissement primarily situated on the right bank. In the 4th you’ll find the southern part of the Marais (so ditto to the comments about cafés and shopping from above) as well as another swag of must see historical sites including Place des Vosges, the Hôtel-De-Ville and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Other must sees include the fun department store BHV and the ‘I wish I lived there’ Île Saint-Louis.
5th Arrondissement – Panthéon. Located on the mythical left bank of the Seine, if you choose to stay in the 5th you will most likely find yourself in the legendary Latin Quarter. This area is packed with accommodation options around the Sorbonne and Boulevard Saint-Michel and given all the students in the area, is full of places where you might discuss philosophy or….whatever. You’ll also find the Panthéon and the Jardin des Plantes if that is more your thing.
6th Arrondissement – Luxembourg. Home to the not to be missed Luxembourg Gardens and probably better known as Saint-Germain, the 6th is a very popular left bank arrondissement. Accommodation options abound – but do be ready for very small hotel rooms. Similarly, you will find lots of places to satisfy your tastebuds in the 6th – but if nothing local takes your fancy, the 6th is easy walking distance to left and right bank alternatives. The 6th also offers some of the best shopping opportunities in Paris, just in case you need to pick up a little treat for yourself. And don’t miss the Saint-Sulpice church while you are there.
Well, there you have our thoughts on of five of Paris’ arrondissements. Stay tuned over the weekend where I’ll finish this list.
And until next time – au revoir.