Paris holds a very special place in my heart. From studying aboard over a summer, to bringing my husband, Chris back with me a few years later, it is a city I will never get sick of and that my heart is always aching to go back to. Since there is an unbelievable amount of things to see and do in Paris, planning a trip can be overwhelming- so we want to help!
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods) which spiral out from the center of the city starting at 1st arr. (Louvre/ Tuileries). Here you will find a quick breakdown of what you’ll find in each neighborhood to help you prioritize what neighborhoods you would like to visit during your stay.
1st/2nd Arr. (Louvre/ Palais Royal)
This centrally located neighborhood is not only home of the Louvre but also to other landmarks such as the Tuileries Gardens. Between the Tuileries and the Louvre holds the peaceful Musée de L’Orangerie. Visit to see the tranquility of Monet’s famous Waterlilies Gardens and some incredible Picasso and Marie Laurencin works.
Unless you are determined to see a few classic pieces, you may want to skip the Louvre to save yourself from the insane crowds. If you do decide to pass up a visit the Louvre, you can still see the famous pyramids housed outside on your way to the Tuileries and Musée de L’Orangerie. Another point of interest in this neighborhood is the alluring Palais Royal (a former royal palace in the 14th century).
3rd Arr. (Le Marais)
One of my favorite neighborhoods to shop in Paris is in Le Marais. There are countless unique boutiques and cafés. This is definitely a “cool” place to hang out in Paris. Some of my favorite shops here are Merci and Nice Things. While Le Marais doesn’t quite hold the popular attractions as the other neighborhoods nearby, it is a trendy and fun area to explore.
4th Arr. (Île de la Cité/ Île St. Louis)
The beautiful cathedral of Notre Dame lays on one of two natural islands in Paris called Île de la Cité. It is an obvious must see while in Paris and one of our favorites. It’s free to go in and see the incredible stained glass art, but it cost a few euro to go to the top (which we highly recommend to see 360 views of Paris).
After visiting Notre Dame, walk across the Pont Saint-Louis to visit Île St. Louis, the second natural island in Paris. This area is small, and looks as though it is frozen in time. It is one of the most authentic places in the city to explore. Walk the tight streets to visit boutiques, chocolate shops and anything else that you want that is truly Parisian. My favorite ice cream shop in the world, Berthillon, is located here as well.
5th Arr. (Latin Quarter)
The Latin Quarter has a very vibrant night-life scene, but in our opinion it is a tourist trap within the bars and restaurants. Many appeal to American tourists with American themed bars and cheaper menu items. There is some fascinating history in this neighborhood as well (the reason it is called the Latin Quarter is due to the fact that Latin is the language spoke in this area of Paris during the middle ages). As a college student, I spent a lot of time hanging out in the Latin Quarter with friends, but going back with Chris, we didn’t find it as charming. I’ll let you decide if this seems like something you would be interested in taking the time to visit.
6th Arr. (Luxembourg Gardens)
The stunning Luxembourg Gardens are a must see. When we visited Paris last, we stayed in this neighborhood and started most of our mornings in the gardens. We found ourselves spending hours on end sipping on coffee or tea and walking through the landscape. The well-known Boulevard St. Germain is also in this neighborhood, bustling with shops and restaurants. You will find the famous café, Les Deux Magots near by which is a popular attraction to many tourists. This centrally located neighborhood is a great place to choose an accommodation in since you will likely be passing through many times during your stay in Paris.
7th Arr. (Eiffel Tower)
We would advise you to set aside a day to explore the 7th. There is so much to see and do and we find ourselves constantly running out of time when we are in the 7th.
Musée Rodin is one of my favorite museums in Paris. Here you will find some classic sculptures including: The Thinker, The Kiss, Gates of Hell and many more. Outside is the Sculpture Garden (a separate entrance fee) which is absolutely stunning. In the gardens you’ll find a beautiful cafe, endless flowers, a gorgeous pond and enlarged replicas of the classic sculptures inside. Another popular attraction is Hôtel des Invalides, home to Napoleons tomb. I visited once and thought it was very interesting, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a must do.
Some of my best memories of Paris are spending time at The Champ de Mars at the Eiffel Tower. Whether it be having a picnic, reading a book or simply taking the city in, it is truly my happy place. As touristy as it seems, it is what I would recommend most to anyone visiting.
8th Arr. (Champs-Élysées, Place de la Concorde)
The Champs-Élysées is perhaps the most famous shopping street in the world. There is a magical feel to walking down the street busy with some of the best shopping you’ll ever find. Start your visit at Place de la Concorde (the largest public square in Paris) and work your way down the Champs-Élysées to shop, making a dead end at the Arc de Triomphe in the 17th. Don’t expect to find many local boutiques here, these are all major brands and many are incredibly expensive. However, that doesn’t take away from the joy of spending a day in this exquisite neighborhood.
9th Arr. (Palais Garnier)
The 9th is where you will find the theater district of Paris, including the home to The Palais Garnier. This opera house is one of the most famous in the world due it being the setting for The Phantom of the Opera. You’ll also find lovely upscale shopping and dining to enjoy in this neighborhood.
10th Arr. (Gare du Nord)
If you are looking for good Indian food in Paris, this is the place to find it. These streets are lined with trendy bars and restaurants. The neighborhood is also home to well-known train station Gare du Nord, one of the busiest train stations in Europe.
11th Arr. (Bastille)
Bastille is home to the main Opera House in Paris, Opera Bastille. There is a vibrant nightlight scene on Rue Oberkampf (which I visited frequently during college). There isn’t a ton of notable attractions around here, but there is a bustling market on Thursdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. that is worth a visit.
12th Arr. (Bercy)
This is the neighborhood I lived in during a summer in college. The 12th is mostly a residential district. It is known for the beautiful Promenade Plantée to walk on, go for a run or sit and relax in above the busy city. It is also home to the beautiful train station, Gare de Lyon.
13th Arr. (Butte-aux-Cailles)
The 13th is home to the vibrant Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood, full of street art, the historic Butte-aux-Cailles pool and interesting architecture. Butte-aux-Cailles leads right into the other part of the 13th, the Chinatown of Paris. This is a neighborhood we aren’t too familiar with yet but are excited to explore more on our next trip to France.
14th Arr. (Catacombs)
If you are looking for something historic that will blow you away, look no further than the Catacombs. You’ll walk 130 steps down a steep spiral staircase to find six million people’s remains due to what was thought to be a solution to the over flowing cemeteries in Paris. It takes about 40 minutes to walk through the Catacombs. It is eerie, fascinating and we are so glad we took the time to see this!
Disclaimer: If you plan to visit the Catacombs be prepared for a VERY long wait to get in. Plan on getting there at least an hour before they open to get in line. Twice in my trips to Paris I have waited in the line for hours and then was told I couldn’t get in because they were done with visitors for the day. It is definitely worth the wait if you have time. Save about a half day to visit due to the wait.
15th Arr. (Tour Montparnasse)
This neighborhood begins at the Eiffel Tower and extends beyond Champs de Mars. You’ll find it to have a neighborhood feel here with it being a residential area. There is an interesting museum on the French Resistance and World War II (Musée Jean Moulin) and the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper that will catch your eyes at 56 stories. Rue De Commerce nearby is known for their boutiques. (The shops are closed on Sunday- heads up). This neighborhood also features a major shopping complex, bowling alley and some universities (including Novancia Business School, where I studied!).
16th Arr. (Passy)
The 16th is home to some of the wealthiest Parisians. You will find the alluring embassy buildings among the tree lined streets and the beautiful Bois de Boulogne park. The park has canoe rentals which makes for a tranquil day in this beautiful neighborhood.
17th Arr. (Arch de Triomphe)
Starting at the Arch de Triomphe and heading north marks the 17th. The arch truly blew me away the first time I saw it. The views from the top are supposed to be incredible, however each time we’ve visited the lines have stopped us from doing this. North of the arch you will find Place de Clichy. This square is a hip area filled with locals. You’ll find many tight streets full of bars, restaurants and shops.
18th Arr. (Montmartre)
Ahh.. Montmartre! One of my favorite places in this city and in my opinion the most magical. This is the highest point in Paris with breathtaking views from the steps of beautiful Sacré-Coeur. There are local artists painting on the streets daily and endless shops and cafes. While you are here, walk down the steps until you hit Pigalle, in which you will find Moulin Rouge. Pigalle is an area that is known to be dangerous at night so be sure to visit during the day.
19th Arr. (Parc de la Villette/ Parc des Buttes Chaumont)
The 19th is one of the largest family friendly areas in Paris. It isn’t necessarily the most popular neighborhood for tourists, but it is lovely to visit if you’re looking for a day to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city. You’ll find two of the largest parks, Parc de la Villette and Parc des Buttes Chaumont as well as a lovely waterfront promenade.
20th Arr. (Belleville)
Home to Père Lachaise Cemetery, one of the most aesthetically pleasing cemeteries you’ll find. It’s no wonder big names such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried here. Belleville is an artsy and somewhat grungy neighborhood that is known to be up and coming.
Our biggest piece of advice for your visit is to take your time. Don’t rush trying to fit too many things into each day. The beauty of Paris is to allow yourself hours for each meal, to wander the streets and find new shops and restaurants that aren’t in any guide books you’ve read before, to relax in a new park each day and people watch and to savor all the food and wine you can before the trip is over. Those are the things we crave when we leave Paris and what will keep us coming back time and time again.
Hope you enjoy Paris.
Emilie & Chris