Travel is an intensely personal thing, and thankfully there is no 'one size fits all' solution. Each traveller needs to customise their itinerary to suit their available time, budget and personal interests, but starting with a blank sheet of paper can be an intimidating thing - especially for a city as large and complex as Paris - so here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
What follows are a few suggestions for diverse attractions in certain areas that could be easily grouped together: please be aware that this is by no means a definitive list, and there are some notable exclusions, as I deliberately haven't included attractions which I don't enjoy myself. This will probably be a 'work in progress', but hopefully it should help to kick start your planning process - just bear in mind that certain areas offer so much that you could easily occupy yourself for more than one day.
It's up to you to decide in which order to do things, but perhaps consider doing the more major attractions earlier in the day. Also consider 'mixing up' different types of attractions - as 'more of the same' - however wonderful the quality - can get dull after a few hours.
ST DENIS: Basilique du St Denis and the royal necropolis, fresh produce market, picnic in the park by the South Door of the Basilica and/or al fresco drink/meal in one of the pavement cafes on the square. Also possible to add on a pilgrimage to Stade de France if you're a sports fan (about 20 minutes walk or a short Metro ride).
MONTMARTRE: Basilique du Sacre Coeur, the artists of Place du Tertre, Square Vilette, Musée du Montmartre. If you're in this northern area of this city, this could also be combined with St Denis - see above.
LATIN QUARTER: there's easily enough to keep you busy in this area for a couple of days, so perhaps break this up into a couple of sections. Notre Dame, Point Zero, Charlemagne's statue, the Holocaust Memorial, St Chapelle/La Conciergerie, Pont Neuf, 'love locks' on the Pont de l’Evêché, Musee de Cluny, Fontaine St Michel, St Germain-des-Pres, St Sulphice and the neighbouring Place St Sulphice. Consider attending a concert at St Chapelle or mass at Notre Dame. Venturing further east, you could also incorporate the Mosquée de Paris (complete with its hamman or Turkish bath), the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Museé de la Sculpture en Plein Air (the latter of which is still on my wish list)
CANAL ST MARTIN: start at the 'elbow' close to Gare de l'Est and walk southwards along the canal. This will take you past the locks, the statue of La Grisette and through the series of small parks that overlie the tunnel that links Canal St Martin to Place de la Bastille and the Bassin de L'Arsenal marina beyond to the point where the canal discharges into the Seine at Quai Henri IV (with the memorial to heroines of the French Resistance). Consider investing in a set of boules to play pétanque or a cheap set of table tennis bats and balls to make the most of the park amenities and either pick up the makings of a picnic from a local supermarket or dine in one of the local eateries along the canal. If you want to make a day of this area, you could also add on the celebrity-packed Père Lachaise cemetery, which is just a little to the east.
EIFFEL TOWER AND SURROUNDS: Musée d'Orsay, Musée Rodin, Eiffel Tower and Champs de Mars - bring a picnic to enjoy in the gardens at Musée Rodin or on the Champs de Mars. You could easily add in Les Invalides to this day (though it's not really my scene) and on my next trip, I am keen to explore the highly regarded Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine at the Trocadéro, which I haven't yet had the opportunity to visit.
One of the things that drives me up the wall about navigating in French cities - particularly Paris - is the use of ther terms Rive Gauche and Rive Droit.
'Rive' - 'bank'- OK. 'Gauche' - 'left' and 'droit' - 'right'. So far so good. But aren't left and right dictated by the direction that you're facing???? Exactly ... and if I were of a suspicious mindsight, I would interpret this as a typical Gallic piece of bamboozlement thrown into the mix to confuse unsuspecting foreigners ...
So, to put your mind at rest, in a Parisian context, 'gauche' actually means 'south' rather than'left' and 'droit' means 'north' rather than 'right'. So why didn't they just say that in the first place???
P.S. Don (aka Nemorino) has kindly pointed out that the reason why they are known as the right and left bank is that this is how they would present themselves to someone travelling downstream ... which makes perfect sense, but raises the question of how confused those travelling upriver must have been? Presumably why we invented the non negotiable concepts of 'north' and 'south'!
This is the story of the arrondissements or districts of Paris and what you see today.
Effective law of the nation on January 1, 1860. Paris immediately went from 3438 hectares to 7802 hectares,with the administrative repartition passing from 12 to 20 arrondissements or districts.
The Paris 1 has it after the church Saint Germain l’Auxerrois next to the end of the Louvre.
Paris 2, is done in 1847 after opening the rue de la Banque, inside a mariage hall done in 1879 decorated with the 3rd Republic emblems.
Paris 3 was the first done looking more like a renaissance castle with doric columns and clock evoking Chambord.
Paris 4 done with column first realized for the Chateau des Tuileries (today gone extension of the Louvre),
Paris 5 was done to accompany the silhouette of the Pantheon in the center of a big plaza ,rue Soufflot with two monumental columns holding a massive fronton one is entering an university the other the mairie or mayor’s office.
Paris 6 facing the facade of the church Saint Sulpice practically shown behind the church and as a second stage to it.
Paris 7 is in a mansion of the 17C built between 1645-1647, acquired in 1710 then Robert de Cotte,then Laroux,finally in 1862 the city of Paris buys it and put the mairie or city hall there.
Paris 8 at rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and integrated in 1926 to the hotel Cail or mansion cail;built during the Second Empire between 1865-1867.
Paris 9 design and built between 1846-1848 with an entry of an old cour de service or domestic entrance.
Paris 10 began built in 1892 making it look like a renaissance castle with facades similar to those of Chambord with the uniqueness of having its main structure of metal attached to the facade just like the Grand Palais years later.
Paris 11 supporting the boulevard Voltaire and rue Parmentier it was built between 1862-1865.
Paris 12 built in 1876 in a classical composition following other similar buildings with a woman statue on top meaning the city of Paris.
Paris 13 facade design and built between 1864-1867 .
Paris 14 built between 1852-1858 for the town of Montrouge, after annexation it is at the centre of the 14 district so name its mairie.
Paris 15 built between 1876-1876 with extensions designed in 1913 but finally done between 1925-1928.
Paris 16 the towns of Passy and Auteuil could have done it by rue Francklin and pl Jean Lorain but not in agreement the mairie was finally done behind rue Henri Martin built between 1875-1877.
Paris 17 an exception as it is built in 1971! replacing the old mairie of Batignolles, indeed very modern looking.
Paris 18 it was for a while at place des Abbesses but the admin imposed its will in 1882 to have a new one done at the same spot, done in a renaissance style.
Paris 19 facing the park parc des Buttes Chaumont with five arcades similar to renaissance castles built between 1876-1878.
Paris 20 place gambetta and built between 1887-1897. I will list the sites webpages for each Mairie numerically,now
Paris 1 http://www.mairie1.paris.fr/mairie01/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 2 http://www.mairie2.paris.fr/mairie02/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 3 http://www.mairie3.paris.fr/mairie03/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 4 http://www.mairie4.paris.fr/mairie04/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 5 http://mairie05.paris.fr/mairie05/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 6 http://www.mairie6.paris.fr/mairie06/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 7 http://www.mairie7.paris.fr/mairie07/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 8 http://www.mairie8.paris.fr/mairie08/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 9 http://www.mairie9.paris.fr/mairie09/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 10 http://www.mairie10.paris.fr/mairie10/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 11 http://www.mairie11.paris.fr/mairie11/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 12 http://www.mairie12.paris.fr/mairie12/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 13 http://www.mairie13.paris.fr/mairie13/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 14 http://www.mairie14.paris.fr/mairie14/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 15 http://www.mairie15.paris.fr/mairie15/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 16 http://www.mairie16.paris.fr/mairie16/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 17 http://www.mairie17.paris.fr/mairie17/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 18 http://www.mairie18.paris.fr/mairie18/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 19 http://www.mairie19.paris.fr/mairie19/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
Paris 20 http://www.mairie20.paris.fr/mairie20/jsp/site/Portal.jsp
12éme is the rendez-vous point for all Parisiens around place de la Bastille and place de la Nation. The fame Marché d’Aligre, and the cours de Vincennes the old entry point for the king Louis XIV and Maria Teresa. Not long ago the cementary of Picpus is located past avenue de Saint-Mandé, you go there by 35 rue de la rue éponyme, it is here the bodies of 1306 persons guillotine are located and it is today private, the only one in Paris, but you can visit in the afternoons.
In the 13éme the mansion or hôtel queen Blanche its at 17 rue des Gobelins, here Marguerite the wife of king Louis IX (Saint Louis) came to guard silence, as well as in the 14C Blanche of Bourgogne wife of king Charles IV lived.
In the 14éme, you have the Observatoire de Paris ,the oldest in the world.1667. the astronomic cupola dates from 1845. Coming out of the observatoire you turn left and see the Maison du Fontainer, distribution of water from Rungis, and store in the aqueduct of Medicis, from here it provided water to the Palais de Luxemburg and Parisiens with 14 fountains!
In the 15éme done around the village of Vaugirard and old agricultural land area.rich in sand and construction materials.
In the 16éme, the villages of Passy and Auteuil were annexed to neighborhood of Chaillot to create the 16 arrondissement! on June 16 1859! becoming the biggest district in Paris ! OF course, 52% of it is the Bois de Boulogne!. Here you have the Maison de Balzac with the writers memoirs, it still has vinyards around it.Now it is a museum Balzac. Here the musée du vin or wine museum is located at rue des Eaux (street of water ::)) on the old fortification from the middle ages that serves as cellars to the brothers of the order of Minimes (Passy) producing a wine very much like by king Louis XIII. It became the cellars of the wines serve in the Tour Eiffel until becoming today the museum.
In the 17éme is the union of Ternes (lordship from 1318) to those of Monceau (lordship from 1549) under the village of Batignolles. You go to 78 boulevard des Batignolles the theater of Batignolles was built in 1838 in an Italian salon with 630 seats, then it takes the name of theatre des Arts in 1906 and finally the name of Théatre Jacques Hébertot that leds it until 1840 as director. At the place Villiers (now name place Prospére-Parfait Goubaux, but locals still call it place villiers) at the center of the plaza you have a bust of actor Henri Becque, the bust has no signature of its makers but it is no doubt Auguste Rodin the maker !
In the 18éme officially born on january 1 ,1860, this is the commonly call Montmartre a union of the neighborhoods of La Chapelle and Montmartre plus a small section of Batignolles. At rue Lepic you will find one of the remaining windmills in Paris today power by electricity. Many painters from Renoir to Van Gogh describe them in their paintings.
In the 19éme, the village of La Villette and portions of Pantin,Belleville,and Aubervilliers were added to create this arrondissement. The water to supply Paris started from here and the Parisiens finally could taste clean pure water in 1822! here you have the Rotonde de la Villette, a barrier to pay your taxes to come into Paris built in 1785 When the are joined Paris this was abolished,and it became a depot for salt then the seat of the commission for old Paris from 1959.
In the 20éme ,was the union of the villages of Belleville,Menilmontant, and Charonne. Even in 1871 they fought for Paris during the uprising of the commune that gave them the name of the red hill or colline rouge. Here the Cementary Pére Lachaise (name François d’Aix de la Chaise, confessor to king Louis XIV) is omnipresent. It is 58 hectares big ( 143.2 acres).
Fondest memory: walk all over its sublime
This is known as a great train station of gare montparnasse, with its wonderful hub of metro lines , buses, and suburbian trains and the TGV. It is now my entry point to Paris.
However, a while back it used to be my last work area in Paris before moving out to Brittany. This is where I came to work, play and make friends, and spent quite a bit of time around it enough to write a book but I am not one of those like Fitzgerald and Hemingway...lol!
The district of Montparnasse is the no 53rd administratively of Paris located in the 14e arrondissement, althought the 15 and 6 also comes to its borders, it sits in the rive gauche of the Seine. Its name comes that which the students gave it when they stop by here to mingle in the hill and ramparts of the 17C in reference to mount parnasse residence of the muse of Greek mythology. The hill was flattened to trace the blvd du Montparnasse in the 18C, the place for walks in the city area then.
Some of the artists that made it or visit the area of Montparnasse from the 1910's but especially at the heydays of district in the 1920's were, Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Gargallo, Julio González, le douanier Rousseau, Antoine Bourdelle, Ossip Zadkine, Moïse Kisling, Marc Chagall, Maurice Le Scouëzec, Nina Hamnett, Fernand Léger, Jacques Lipchitz, Max Jacob, Blaise Cendrars, Chaïm Soutine, Michel Kikoine, Prosper Galerne, Pinchus Kremegne, Amedeo Modigliani, Ford Madox Ford, Ezra Pound, Marcel Duchamp, Suzanne Duchamp-Crotti, Constantin Brancusi, Paul Fort, Juan Gris, Diego Rivera, Tsuguharu Fujita, Marie Vassilieff, Grégoire Krug, Léonide Ouspensky, Léon-Paul Fargue, René Iché, Alberto Giacometti, Andrtheé Breton, Pascin, Wolfgang Paalen, Alice Paalen, Salvador Dalí, Jean-Paul Sartre, Henry Miller, Django Reinhardt, Joan Miró ,and at the end of his life Edgar Degas.
With each district renown the district of Montparnasse has become a place for business offices, and passing train travelers at daytime to a place of diversion and entertainment at nights. It is indeed ,just that, work daytime party nightime ,yes yes yes.
oh yes an interesting cementary of Montparnasse where they rest Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir , Charles Baudelaire, Robert Desnos, Georges Sand, Camille Saint Saëns, François Rude, Charles Garnier, Maupassant, Sainte-Beuve, Alfred Dreyfus, Jean Carmet , and Serge Gainsbourg amongst others.
Something famous in the two restos La Coupoule and le Dôme as well as La Ruche. Link to the history of Brittany as Fulgence Bienvenûe lands here in 1868, considered as one of the fathers of the Paris metro. His project he puts the line 12 to link Montparnasse with Montmartre! And of course, making the Gare Montparnasse a grandiose train station linking the west of France, and one of the main line stations in Paris, for which I use often now...Without leaving the Tour Montparnasse, possibly the best view of Paris from above.
Fondest memory: oh well, eating in its terraces, the bussle of the train station, the views from the tour M, the nice plazas and the history alors come on over, its Montparnasse.
What is an arrondissement? It is a section or district in the city.
Paris is made up of 20 districts, each having its own city hall and administration. These districts are called arrondissements and arranged starting in the center of town on the Seine and going around in a snail-like pattern. The snail makes it difficult to figure out where you are.
#1 is in the center of town on the north side of the Seine and called the Right Bank; #2 is above it so not near the river. #3 is east so also not on the river. Then you turn south to #4 that is actually beside #1 and on the Seine.
Next you cross the Seine still headed south and come to the Left Bank (south side of the Seine) and arrondissement #5 that is called the Latin Quarter because it is where the universities are and they all used to speak Latin. Relax, they don't do that now!
Continue west along the Seine on the Left Bank (south side) into arrondissement #6 or the St. Germain district. This has many famous literary associations. Continue west along the Seine toward the Eiffel Tower into arrondissement #7.
You again cross the Seine to the Right Bank (north side) into arrondissement 8 and the snail continues up and east, then down and west and repeats until you end at #20 on the eastern side of the city.
The postal code in the address is the key to finding what you are looking for. If you are looking for a place to stay, any of the central arrondissements are near tourist attractions and safe. Look for arrondissements #1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 for starters. If you find a hotel you like, look at the address. The last two digits of the postal code are the arrondissement number. Hence, a postal code ending in 05 would be in the 5th arrondissement or Latin Quarter; a postal code ending in 06 would be in the 6th arrondissement or St. Germain district. You get the idea.
To further confuse the issue, some arrondissements have popular names. #5 is the Latin Quarter; #6 is St. Germain; #4 is the Marais and they are often referred to by these names instead of their numbers. The word-names are a bit more fluid than the numbers so use the numbers when looking for hotels, restaurants and tourist sights.
Paris is a very well organized city. 8^)
Fondest memory: Too many to print . . .
Miss the most: everything.
Arrondissement 8 - Élysée
The Champs-Élysées - the world's most famous boulevard;
Place de la Concorde;
Arc de Triomphe.
Fondest memory: Bordering the Champs-Élysées are the magnificent Grand Palais and Petit Palais, as well as the Élysée, the presidential Palace.
The arrondissement also features the temple-like Madeleine church.
Arrondissement 7 - Palais-Bourbon
This upscale arrondissement has major landmarks.
The most famous of these landmarks is the Eiffel Tower.
Other important tourist draws are the Invalides - with its museums and Napoleon's tomb - and two more museums: the Musee d'Orsay and the Rodin Museum.
Fondest memory: The Palais Bourbon (National Assembly), Ecole Militaire (Military School) and the UNESCO headquarters can also be found in the 7th arrondissement.
The 4th arrondissement contains the southern part of the medieval Marais district as well as the Île St-Louis and the eastern part of Île de la Cité, the oldest part of Paris. This area is very popular thanks to attractions such as:
the Notre-Dame Cathedral,
the Place des Vosges,
the city hall and the gothic Tour St-Jacques.
Fondest memory: Contrasting with all the historic buildings is the modern Centre Pompidou.
The city of Paris is divided into twenty administrative districts - arrondissements ( R indicates Right Bank, L - Left Bank of the Seine):
1st R Louvre
2nd R Bourse
3rd R Temple
4th R Hôtel-de-Ville
5th L Panthéon
6th L Luxembourg
7th L Palais-Bourbon
8th R Elysee
9th R Opéra
10th R Enclos-St-Laurent
11th R Popincourt
12th R Reuilly
13th L Gobelins
14th L Observatoire
15th L Vaugirard
16th R Passy
17th R Batignolles-Monceau
18th R Butte-Montmartre
19th R Buttes-Chaumont
20th R Menilmontant
Fondest memory: They are arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral, starting in the middle of the city, with the first on the Right Bank of the Seine.
If you are used to spread-out American cities, Paris is compact. Most tourist sights are in a central area. There are many hotels and restaurants within the center and they come in all price ranges. If you want to avoid spending your sightseeing day on the Metro, find a hotel in the center of town. This would be arrondissement (district) numbers 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
How do you figure out where that hotel is when you start looking?
A hotel in Arrondissement (district) number 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 would be the most central. Look at the hotel street address. The postal code is the secret to its location. The arrondissement or district numbers are the last 2 digits of the postal code. For example, arrondissement 1 would be 75001, arrondissement 2 would be 75002; arrondissement 4 would be 75004. You get the idea.
You will also see reference to the Latin Quarter, St. Germain and the Marais. The Latin Quarter is mostly 75005 (or the 5th arrondissement); St. Germain is mostly 75006 (or arrondissement 6); the Marais is generally within 75004 (or arrondissement 4). 75007 is the Eiffel Tower area. These names are not as specific as the arrondissement numbers but give you a general idea. Just check your postal code and you'll be fine. (01, 04, 05, 06 and 07)
BTW, you do not need to stay within this central zone because the public transportation system (Metro) is wonderful. We stay there so we don't have to spend precious sightseeing time on the subway or bus. You will do a lot of walking because the city is so beautiful so be sure to take comfy shoes.
Have a great trip.
Fondest memory: I think our first sight of Notre Dame on our very first trip was the most memorable. Suddenly it was all so real to us.
Second memory is of a summer downpour in the Tuileries Gardens. Everyone ran for cover but us. We went to a garden cafe, got a tart and coffee and had a lovely romantic snack in our very own Paris Tuileries.
Other fond memories involve introducing our daughters to Paris, singly and in pair. That was fun.
What do I miss most? Wow, that's difficult. I think being surrounded by so much beauty constantly. There is just so much to see, hear and do in such a compact area. The art, architecture, music, gardens, river, canal, parks . . . there is just so much to enjoy and it's right at your doorstep.
I must admit I miss Parisians too. They have always been informative and helpful to us and we always look forward to returning soon.
When people suggest restaurants or hotels and mention that it's "in the 5th" or "in the 7th", what they are talking about is an arrondissement or neighborhood. There are 20 arrondissements in Paris, you can tell by the last two digits of the postal code which one the restaurant, hotel or attraction is in, for example the 7th would have a postal code of 75007. You might also see the 7th arrondissement abbreviated as 7ème or 7e.
This website has a listing of the arrondissements and their general character. The lower numbers are the more central neighborhoods, the 1st-8th are where most of the tourist attractions and hotels are.
Carol and I are, of course, huge fans of architectural exploration. That is to say, we love seeking out and discovering (as if we were the first) hidden architectural gems. We also love exploring neighborhoods that don't always make the first cut in the travel guides. In a city like Paris these exploratory pursuits are available in abundance but, perhaps, no more so than in the 16th Arrondissement.
Like many of the best things about travel, I discovered this fascinating area by accident. In an attempt to locate the Paris Metro stations designed by Hector Guimard, I came across a wonderful website called Paris Kiosque which laid out a fascinating self-guided walking tour through the 16th Arrondissement. It was a guide through some of the the most beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco streets I had ever seen. While I have to live with the disappointment of not being the first to discover the 16th Arrondissement, the three hours we spent in this area became the highlight of my Paris visit.
Our introduction to the 16th Arrondissement begins as we walk across the Pont de Grenelle. From the center of the bridge, to the right, is a terrific view the Eiffel Tower seeming, form this vantage, to be straddling the Seine. To the left, on Grenelle Island, is Frederic Bartholdi's 35' bronze model for the Statue of Liberty.
From this point we were directed through an obviously upscale and largely tourist free warren of streets that were alive with architectural milestones. I will detail several of these in other tips but have decided to summarize our walking tour with the following photo highlights:
Fondest memory: Intro Photo: The view south from Pont de Grenelle toward the 16th Arrondissement with Statue de la Liberté in the foreground. There seems to be some conflicting accounts as to whether the statue is Bartholdi's model or a bronze replica given to the French people by Americans living in Paris in 1889.
Photo 2: Our first "discovery" was Hector Guimard's stunnung Castel Béranger located at 14 la Fountaine. This is Art Nouveau at is finest. Guimard has designed every inch of this building with his groundbreaking vision. See more at my Guimard General Tip.
Photo 3: As we followed our tour we came to Rue George Sand which, much as any, seemed to capture the ambience of the neighborhood. While none of the works of the giants of architecture are seen here, what Hollywood director could resist these streets to reflect his Parisian epic.
Photo 4: There is not a first year architecture student who does not know the name Le Corbusier. Here at 51 rue du Docteur Blanche in a he building originally designed for Raoul La Roche and Albert Jeanneret and is now Le Corbusier's foundation. Carol studied his architecture but as an interior designer, I have always been enamored by his famous chaise lounge which sits in the front window.
Photo 5: In the May 2005 issue of Architectural Digest I found an article by Stephen Calloway called "Rue Moderne in Paris" which described a still standing in neighborhood designed in 1926 by an architect unknown to me...Robert Mallet-Stevens. I clipped it, filed it but, never forgot it. As we followed our route...there it was in all its stylist splendor.
The Chinatown in Paris extends from Tolbiac Metro Station southeast to Porte d'Ivry. It's difficult to find a dim sum restaurant, and many of the remaining Chinese restaurants in this area are closed between lunch and dinner. There is actually a cheap Chinese hotel in this neighborhood, so one could possibly choose accomodations amidst the Asian stores and restaurants. (Hotel Le Baron: 76, Avenue de Choisy, 75013 PARIS 33.1 45 85 33 33)
However I truly didn't find any outstanding restaurants here worth recommending. They all seem to have similar menus and the prices range from about 6 - 8 Euros for the same dish. This is a good place to buy a few groceries if your hotel room has a refrigerator. I found myself trying various exotic fruit juices at small shops on almost every block. There are a couple of large supermarkets here as well, if you want more than just lychee juice and durian wafer cookies.
Fondest memory: How about a Chinese McDonald's in Paris? Isn't that neat? That's my fondest memory of Paris Chinatown!
One phenomena I observed is that a lot of the Chinese restaurants around here are actually Vietnamese with a Chinese name. You have to search around for authentic Cantonese or northern Chinese cuisine. I expected to see more Vietnamese restaurants than Chinese, so it wasn't really a major disappointment. I finally ended up eating at a Chinese restaurant called "Hao Hao" near McDonalds (23 Avenue de Choisy) only because they were one of the few restaurants still open between lunch and dinner.
I only went to Chinatown once during my brief 4 day stay in Paris, and during the other days enjoyed Chinese meals elsewhere in the city. I can't think of any other reasons to visit Chinatown beyond eating and shopping, and I didn't do much of either activity during the day that I went there.
I've heard about a smaller second Chinatown in Paris located at the northern district of Belleville in the 19th Arrondissement but I'm saving that one for my next trip to Paris!
There are several sites of interest to tourists among the working class neighborhoods in the 19th and 20th.
The Parc de la Villette in the 19th is a favourite of both adults and children, with diverse exhibits at rhe Cite des Sciences et de L'Industrie and the Cite de la Musique.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has rolling hills, cliffs, a central lake, and a small classical temple.
The Pere-Lachaise Cemetary in the 20th is the most visited cemetary in Paris and permanent home to many historic figures; it provides an atmospheric stroll among romantic alleys, trees, mausoleums and sculptures.
Quartiers in the 19th and 20th include Rhin-et-Danube, Belleville (sometimes called the Brooklyn of Paris) with its Parc de Belleville, Bagnolet, Gambetta, Menilmonthant (the childhood home of Edith Piaf), and Charonne.
The 18th is a popular tourist destination full of contrasts. It's noted for the Neo-Byzantine Basilique du Sacre-Coeur sitting high on the "Butte" Monmartre overlooking the Paris landscape and village Monmarte to its west. The animated Place du Tertre is a virtual tourist trap unless you arrive early in the morning. Village Monmartre has winding cobblestone strets, vestiges of former windmills, and delightful green spaces. Here you'll find former haunts of the artists and writers who lived in the area at the turn of the century; the oldest and still operating cabaret; Au Lapin Agile, a functioning vineyard and several small museums.
Quartiers in the 18th include the Butte, Abbesses with its Art-Nouveau Metro entrance, the rather sleazy Pigalle, Barbes, La Chapelle, and La Goutte d'Or, a vibrant haven of primarily African and Arab immigrants.
Paris' largest flea market is at the northern edge of the 18th at the Porte de Clignancourt