One of the most important things when going on a vacation is where you stay, it can make or break your entire trip. I wanted to make an easy guide to the arrondissements so that you can figure out the best place for you to stay. Take a look at the lists below as I will be using them as a reference later.
Who are you & who will you be with?
a family of 3+ all older than 16
a family of 3+ with young kids
a group of friends
What do you want to do in Paris?
I want to sightsee ( Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, etc)
I want to go museums
I want to go shopping
I want to experience Paris like a local
I want to dine out or experience French cuisine
I want to do a mixture of everything
What is your level of French?
I know bonjour, bonsoir, au revoir
high school level (mediocre) can order at a restaurant
college level (intermediate) can have an actual conversation
fluent je peux comprendre tout !
Have you been to Paris or France before?
I’ve been to Paris once or twice
I’ve been to France before but never Paris
I’ve been here many times
Where do you want to spend your money?
admissions to sightsee/museums
a mixture of everything
Now that you’ve figured out what it is that you want to do here, write them down for quick reference. Now for the arrondissements! Quick tip: the last digits to the zip code in Paris is which arrondissement it is, so if it says 75018 it means it’s in the 18th. Also the arrondissements spiral like a shell, refer to my map above!
Left Bank vs Right bank?
I don’t know whoever coined “left bank” and “right bank” but I can tell you that I’ve never heard anyone other than tourists mention the banks. If you’re confused, here’s an easy reference. Left bank refers to the south side of the Seine that runs through Paris. The right bank would be the northern side.
Left Bank: 5,6,7,13,14,15
Right Bank: 1,2,3,4,8,9,10,11,12,16,17,18,19,20
Le premier, this district is what is considered the center of Paris. It’s where the Louvre is, the Tuileries, tons of museums, very expensive cuisine and luxury shopping. It’s extremely touristy and très cher ! This arrondissement can be very touristy or local depending on where you stay. I live in this arrondissement next to Palais Royal.
good for: families, if money isn’t an issue, people who want to do touristy things, museum seekers, first-timers, people who want a central location, people who don’t speak French, solo vacationers, restaurant seekers.
The second is the smallest district of Paris. I’ve recently spent more time in the second and have been really enjoying it. At night its quiet, during the day it’s more of a business district. There are some good boutique shopping and cute restaurants and bars. The second is known for its textile district and the former Paris stock exchange. It’s a bit expensive but not as much as the first.
good for: families, group of friends, first timers, English & French speakers, central location, money isn’t an issue, restaurant seekers.
3rd & 4th Arrondissements
Le Marais, one of my favorite neighborhoods. The Marais is technically both the 3rd and the 4th, so it’s decently large. What’s great about these arrondissements is the endless amount of small boutique shopping, amazing food, bars, incredible coffee(which is HARD to find in Paris). It has museums, parks, Notre Dame, Hôtel de Ville, and BHV (my favorite department store in the world)…it has everything! The buildings in this arrondissement are different because it’s one of the oldest districts dating back to the late 1200’s, so expect for the typical apartment to be a bit smaller. Le Marais is extremely trendy, you cannot miss visiting this district even if you can’t afford to stay here. I love wandering new streets and exploring here.
good for: groups of friends, first timers, solo vacationers, English & French speakers, hostel stayers, central locations, people who want to shop, restaurant seekers, young people, couples, everyone, if money isn’t an issue.
The Latin Quarter, this neighborhood just like the Marais, is an older part of Paris. This district is known to have a lot of students because of the multiple Universities inside. This is a very lively quarter, the college aged nightlife here is booming, if you’re into that kind of thing. The 5th also has multiple museums and borders the beautiful garden, Le Jardin du Luxembourg. I would really recommend this if you’re young and looking for cheap eats and young people like you!
good for: backpackers, inexpensive housing, hostel seekers, couples, youth, central location, english and moderate & up french speakers.
Saint Germain-des-Prés. The most written about arrondissement of the left bank. In what feels like to me every blog about Paris, people rave about Saint Germain. It’s beautiful and great for people watching, it’s classy and obnoxious at the same time. Expect to be surrounded by lots of wealthy foreigners. Very famous for the artists and thinkers who lived here throughout the many years. Extremely posh and incredible for luxury shopping and boutiques.
good for: if money isn’t an issue, young people, families, friends, english speakers, shopping, couples.
The 7th is known for Paris’s most recognizable landmark, La Tour Eiffel. This district is filled with museums, parks and over priced restaurants. The 7th is starting to develop a younger crowd, and trying to differentiate itself from just the Eiffel Tower. But this district is still very heavy on tourists, but the buildings and views here are truly incredible. I still pause when walking to watch when the Eiffel Tower sparkles every hour.
good for: families, english speakers, if money isn’t an issue, groups of friends, first timers, museum goers, shopping, couples.
The Champs-Elysées. I would compare this area to times square of NYC, it’s tourist hell. However it does have very notable landmarks like Arc de Triomphe and the first Chanel store. The 8th is mostly a shopping district. Most of the restaurants, housing, boutiques are going to be quite expensive or over priced to cater to wealthy tourists or people who get sucked into the charm. The quieter areas of the 8th are lovely and scenic.
good for: if money isn’t an issue, people who don’t speak french, shopping, central location.
The 9th is kind of split into two parts. The north, known as Pigalle. And the south, which is a huge business and shopping district. The 9th houses the two famous shops, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Recently I’ve been finding a lot of good lunch places off the Grand Boulevard stop. I would be careful in this neighborhood depending on where it is. I think closer to Galeries Lafayette the better off you’d be.
good for: people who speak French, shoppers, couples, seasoned visitors to Paris, central location.
Canal St. Martin is a mini favorite of mine, I used to not like this area but the more I got to know it the more I’ve loved it. The best part of this arrondissement is right next to the Canal and Republique. There are tons of vintage stores, new bars, brunch places, restaurants, and new boutiques. This arrondissement is gentrifying; part shady and part trendy. You’ll definitely find a lot of young Parisian hipsters and foreign tourists here. But beware, close to Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est can be a bit more shady. Stick to being closer to Republique, plus it’ll be easier to get to Bastille and Le Marais
good for: people who speak French, first timers, solo vacationers, couples, young adventurers, shoppers, people who want a more authentic Paris visit.
Bastille to me is like the Brooklyn of Paris. This neighborhood has been blowing up with new cocktail bars, restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, etc. I spend a lot of time in here, I like that it’s off the beaten path. It’s quaint and not overly crowded with tourists, but this neighborhood has a lot to offer! My first trip to Paris this is where I stayed, it’s what made me fall in love with this city. I would choose the inner part of the 11th that’s closer to the 3rd & 4th numbered arrondissements and the 12th over the outer part. Not everywhere in this neighborhood has become trendy and safe.
good for: people who speak French, first timers, solo vacationers, young adventurers, restaurant seekers, backpackers, couples, seasoned visitors to Paris, people who want a more authentic Paris visit.
Partially Bastille, partially Gare du Lyon. I stayed here on my second trip to Paris off of Ledru-Rollin metro. There are some really good restaurants and small unique shops in this arrondissement. It’s also pretty safe and quiet at night, except for next to Place de la Bastille, there are a lot of bars. They also have the Paris high line, which is a hidden gem and inspired the high line in New York. Also this neighborhood is pretty affordable and close to both Bastille and Le Marais, a good choice if you’re wanting to save money on housing.
good for: families, people who speak French, first timers, backpackers, couples, youth.
This arrondissement houses the Chinatown of Paris, the boulevards here are quite large and there’s not a whole lot going on here. It does house a very famous boulangerie called Laurent Duchêne, I will admit their croissants are heavenly. Mainly quiet with the exception of the street Buttes aux Cailles that has some bars and restaurants.
good for: people who speak French, families, backpackers, people wanting a quiet area.
I don’t often spend too much time in this arrondissement. It’s not known for being very lively. It’s the home of the catacombs, which if you’re going to go…make sure you get here extremely early. I’ve seen the line go around an entire block. Like any arrondissement it has beautiful buildings, if you’re into photography it would be a good place to capture pictures of Paris without so many people around.
good for: people who speak French, families, people wanting a quiet and safe area.
This is a very large and odd arrondissement. Some areas here have the worst 70’s architecture you’ve ever seen, and some parts have these beautiful buildings with well maintained parks and the Eiffel Tower in the background. I would recommend looking at places that are off of the 6 line, which is also elevated and gives great views of Paris. Also one of my favorite boulangeries is in the 15th called Des Gâteaux et du Pain.
good for: people who speak French, families, people wanting a quiet and safe area, people who want a more local vacation feel.
Le Seizième, the Upper East Side of Paris. I have to be careful of what I say because this is where my boyfriend’s family is from. Le Seizième is pretty quiet and is the largest arrondissement of Paris. They have good shops and decent designer vintage here. Also those iconic views of the Eiffel Tower are shot at Trocadéro which has tourists everywhere. This arrondissement is expensive both from the arrondissement itself and all the tourists, but it’s very safe and posh. I would recommend staying in the northern area of the 16th rather than the south.
good for: people who have a lot of money, families, couples, people who speak French, people who don’t speak French, central location.
The 17th is a bit like 16th, the buildings are beautiful and its very safe. For some odd reason this arrondissement reminds me of the children’s books Madeline because of the wide boulevards and Haussman buildings. The 17th has a bit of a younger crowd than the 16th, there are also some very good restaurants here. Also there is a beautiful park called Parc Monceau, I would recommend finding something around the park for the best location in this arrondissement.
good for: families, people who have money, people who speak French, couples.
The 18th is one of my favorites, I love the elevated and windy streets of this arrondissement. The 18th is known for the artists who lived and worked here. I spend a lot of time here because all of the fabric stores are at the base of Sacré-Cœur. But beware this arrondissement is quite diverse and is not exactly the safest depending on where. Tourists flock to Montmartre, and although its very beautiful and scenic there are a lot of pickpockets here. Also on the edges of this arrondissement it is not safe. The views here are incroyable and the handmade art boutiques are adorable. My favorite area of the 18th is off of the metros Blanche, Pigalle, Anvers, Abbesses.
good for: young adventurers, people who don’t speak French, first timers, couples.
19th Arrondissement & 20th Arrondissement
I can’t say I spend a lot of time in either arrondissement. The 19th has a lot of ethnic diversity and the 20th is more known for the bo-bos that have taken over and turned the 20th into an artsy district. The 19th is famous for Parc des Buttes Chaumont that has a lake and a waterfall, I would highly recommend at least visiting this park. And the 20th is well-known for the Père-Lachaise Cemetery that is home to many famous people from around the world. The 20th is also home to Belleville, a small area that is quickly gentrifying and is the new hipster area. I wouldn’t recommend these areas to you I’ve you never been to Paris before.
good for: people who are familiar with Paris, people who speak French
I hope this information helped you figure out which arrondissement to choose. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or wanting an opinion on an address!