Paris’s districts and neighborhoods have a unique charm, a kaleidoscope of architecture, a mixture of expensive perfumes and freshly baked croissants. Everyone who has felt this unforgettable atmosphere will certainly again feel the desire to walk along the old Parisian pavements.
The districts or how they call it in French ‘arrondissements’ of the city diverge from its centre on Île de la Cité in a spiral, like rings of snail shells, separated by the winding Seine. Somewhere the echoes of the Middle Ages are clearly visible, while in other places all traces have long disappeared under the wide boulevards and new houses. On the city streets, the Parisian chic coexists with migrant ethnic cafés and their small craft shops. Such curious combinations make each area truly unique, like mini-cities within one big Paris. Let’s explore together how versatile the City of Love can be.
Previously, in the centre of Paris, houses were almost standing on top of one another. But that all changed at the end of the 19th century when, thanks to the project of Baron Haussmann, most of the buildings were simply demolished. This made the city both cleaner and more spacious and gave us all the well-known wide boulevards. Nevertheless, in some places, the layouts of those medieval streets have been preserved. Where can you find them?
If you are looking for the oldest part of the city, take a stroll through Panthéon, on the left bank of the Seine. The area is hilly with curvy streets and reminiscent of a nice village. Among those winding and narrow streets you can find the witnesses of more than 2000 years old history, such as the ruins of the arena of the ancient Roman city of Lutetia, or magnificent churches and abbeys from the 6th century. These old streets also witnessed the events of the French Revolution and the outrage of students in 1986.
A must-see in this historical neighborhood is Quartier Latin, where it sometimes feels more like a village than the centre of Paris.
A special atmosphere reigns in Quartier Latin, the oldest and most curious part of the neighborhood, with students of famous universities, colleges and high schools walking everywhere. The quarter has actually acquired its name thanks to La Sorbonne, one of the oldest universities in the world. Teaching in this educational institution used to be conducted in Latin so that all scientists and their students in the area spoke only this language.
Panthéon offers many fantastic places to visit, like the oldest English bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the National Museum of the Middle Ages, or the eponymous church, the Panthéon. But the real must here, is strolling the curving little streets and hills of Quartier Latin, which are packed with cafés and restaurants. With our free map of Paris you will be able to quickly find the nicest bar streets in Quartier Latin yourself, by using the Neighborhoods layer and the Bar & Café layer.
The area is named after the city hall located here, but it is better known as Le Marais, the most distinguished part of the neighborhood.
In the neighborhood of Hôtel de Ville, on the right bank of the Seine, you will still see picturesque medieval streets and old 18th-century mansions. Here you can explore the largest collection of contemporary art in Centre Pompidou, peak into the 17th-century Jesuit Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis church or enjoy the elegance of Place des Vosges. Not to mention that this neighborhood is a perfect spot for shopping! It is well known for its eclectic and high-fashion boutiques, vintage stores, craftsmen and handcrafted jewelry.
A must in this neighborhood is a stroll through Le Marais, once known as the Jewish Quarter. It is still home to the city’s largest synagogue, while cafés and restaurants serve stuffed fish and the most delicious falafel in Paris. Le Marais has a special vibe, with beautiful houses, elegant boutiques and a good amount of bars and restaurants. If you want to go for drinks, shopping, or rather prefer sightseeing, with our travel map of Paris you are totally ready for Le Marais.
The sweetest cafés at nearly every step, certainly add to the romance. It is easy to imagine that Picasso or Toulouse-Lautrec were inspired here for some of their finest sketches.
Montmartre is another traditional old neighborhood, with narrow streets winding up the tallest hill of Paris. Once it belonged to the outskirts of the city, with vineyards and numerous mills producing flour and cheap wine.
The best artists settled here in the 19th century and glorified the sights of Montmartre in their paintings and works. Attracted by cozy bars and local cabarets, old narrow streets filled with charm, colorful shutters on beautiful houses and geranium pots in the windows, the looks of Montmartre have been immortalized in their works. And that’s not where the story ends, as we can still experience this bohemian corner of Paris today, by simply walking its streets, having a coffee or two and a good look around. Montmartre has an extraordinary aura and architectural style, unlike any other neighborhood with its amazing cobbled streets that go up and down.
This whole neighborhood deserves a special visit and for that, we have already prepared an amazing tour of Montmartre where you will get to know its incredible story, the most fascinating places and curious facts.
No matter how hard the revolutionaries tried to destroy the monarchy and its legacy, it is still alive on the streets of Paris in the form of royal palaces, beautiful houses and intricate decoration. In such areas, grace and serenity reign all over.
Café Les Deux Magots was one of Hemingway’s favorites here. The famous place got its name after two Chinese figures located inside, which are called ‘magot’.
Beautiful, romantic, poetic, calm and respectable in a bourgeois way, Luxembourg has always been one of the favorite places of the intellectual part of the Parisian society. In the post-war years, it became a literary mecca, and masterpieces of 20th century French and American literature were literally created in its magnificent cafés. Such great geniuses as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hemingway, Camus, Arthur Koestler, Verlaine and André Breton have all worked here in the famous literary cafés, to which we have dedicated one of our articles. But how quickly this spark ignited, so quickly it went out.
Today Luxembourg is rather the centre of the beau monde with narrow streets filled with boutiques, galleries and restaurants in the north and one of the most elegant corners of Paris – the Luxembourg Garden – in the south. It enjoys the fame of a quiet and picturesque corner in the centre of Paris, where it is pleasant to stroll and sit on one or two of the typical green chairs.
The neighborhood boasts many famous landmarks including the stately Les Invalides, which is where you will find Napoleon’s tomb.
As of the 17th century, the district of Palais Bourbon has become home to the French upper class. And still, it is known as one of the most prestigious residential areas of France, rich with embassies, spacious parks, monuments and historical buildings. We can say that this part of Paris is privileged, with its concentration of iconic places, like the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Les Invalides or the Orsay Museum. Attractions are at every step, or at least one will always be within your sight.
One of the nicest ways to pass through this neighborhood, is walking along the Seine riverbank. During this walk you will get a touch of the stately side of Paris and you will see most of the major landmarks of Palais Bourbon. It will take about 40 minutes to walk from the Orsay Museum to the Eiffel Tower along the Seine. Have a look at our interactive map of Paris to find out about all the great things this neighborhood can offer and to make your plan.
Despite all the chic and grandeur, it was in this area, on the Place de la Concorde, that the monarchy fell when Louis XVI was executed.
Élysée is a neighborhood that personifies the Paris that we know from glossy fashion magazines – a luxurious and elegant city, decorated with beautiful windows of prestigious shops, expensive restaurants, fashionable hotels and greenery of well-tended parks. It is also one of the political and business centres, where the President of France governs the country from the Élysée Palace.
It is here that the most visited street of Paris is located – the one and only Champs-Élysées with its well-groomed trees and dozens of shops from international mass-market brands to the most luxurious boutiques. If you’d rather want to get away from the tourists there, but still enjoy the posh-style atmosphere of Élysée, then it is worth going north towards Parc Monceau. True Parisian tranquility reigns here.
The centre of Paris does not suffer from a lack of attention but if you have been here and have already seen all the famous places, visited all the museums, then it’s time to touch the other side of the city in order to feel like a resident of it and get to know it a little better.
To feel the heartbeat of ordinary, non-touristy Paris, take a stroll along Canal Saint-Martin. You will pass through a neighborhood of a calm and homely city, imperfect, but romantic and cute.
Entrepôt is not the most popular neighborhood among tourists, but it has its own characteristics and is well known among locals. The main railway stations Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est are located here, bringing a good flow of immigrants into the area. Walking there one will see a totally different Paris and some extra care is required – as we have also indicated on our travel map of Paris.
Still, Entrepôt is a neighborhood that should be on the list of a true Paris lover. The good life in Entrepôt is concentrated around Canal Saint-Martin, with a pleasant vibe and plenty of bars, restaurants and boutiques. Young people like to sit right by the canal with what they bought in a nearby shop.
The best way to approach Entrepôt is simply by walking its magnificent canal with its iconic bridges and sluices, from north to south. And don’t forget to peek into the adjoining streets, as that’s where you will find the nice little boutiques and cute French cafés – the most popular streets of Entrepôt are highlighted as shopping or bar areas on our travel map.
La Mouzaïa is a little quarter that stands out in this neighborhood, with narrow pedestrian passageways, small houses and hidden gardens.
Buttes-Chaumont contrasts strongly with the city centre, containing many modern constructions, houses from the late 20th century and some straight out faceless buildings, which is not at all typical for Paris. But this does not prevent the neighborhood from being one of the greenest in the entire city.
Parc de la Villette combines modern architecture with nature and is surrounded by cultural places, like the Conservatoire de Paris, the Musée de la Musique and the Philharmonie de Paris. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont on the other hand is wild and hilly, offering beautiful views over the city – without doubt, one of our favorite parks in Paris. If, after walking in the fresh air, you feel like eating, you can land here in one of the ethnic restaurants of the neighborhood.
Another curious place that makes Buttes-Chaumont stand out, is La Mouzaïa. This is a little quarter with narrow pedestrian passageways, small houses and hidden gardens. Its appearance is related to the fact that this once was the site of gypsum mines – the underground holes and tunnels here would not support any heavier buildings. La Mouzaïa stretches out from Rue de Bellevue northwards till Metro Danube.
Rue Denoyez is one of the graffiti legitimized alleys. It is always covered with pieces and on the lookout for new graffiti legends.
Right at the junction of the neighborhoods of Buttes-Chaumont, Ménilmontant and Entrepôt, there is a unique place with an unusual vibe for Paris. This is Belleville. In the past, this hilly eastern part of the city harbored the small village of Belleville, full of vineyards, and there were no fewer bars here than in Montmartre, but it did not see the same bohemian fate. By the end of the 19th century, it had become a working-class area where migrants began to settle, particularly Arabs, Jews, Chinese and Africans.
But don’t think that we are introducing a lost place here, not at all! Belleville is very well-groomed and even extravagant. Today young people are buying up real estate and old factories, turning them into cultural spaces, not to mention some pretty cool graffiti that decorates the area.
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Also be sure to go to Rue de Belleville, where you will find a huge number of small restaurants with Greek, Turkish, Chinese and many other cuisines of the world. However, the best places to explore here are the underground bars. It will be a perfect choice if you fancy more edgy and bohemian places, as opposed to postcard-perfect Paris.
Paris is undoubtedly multifaceted and multi-layered, and no article will be enough to describe it in all its diversity. To keep track of the many attractions and places around all 20 arrondissements, be sure to check out our travel map and travel guide to Paris. There is so much more to discover, like the colorful Rue Crémieux in the neighborhood of Reuilly.
In 1993, local residents asked the municipality to pave their street. The authorities agreed and in return asked the owners of the houses to repair the facades on their own, and they did, very colorfully!
Rue Crémieux is just one tiny piece of Paris, but it will already amaze you with true tranquility in the midst of a raging city centre. The colorful houses are somewhat reminiscent of the famous Notting Hill in London.
Paris can be seen through many different eyes, even through those of your favorite movie characters. What to think of discovering the places of Amélie Poulain, or walking across the moving bridge from Inception? Check out our guide to movie locations in Paris to find more of this!