Arrondissements - Sections of Paris, Paris
The 9th is... an interesting mix of neighborhoods, grand boulevards, and large department stores (Printemps and Galeries Lafayette).
It is also home to the opulent Opera Garnier, now more frequently a venue for ballet and concerts than opera.
Across the street from the Opera Garnier, first-time Paris visitors will find Paristoric, an excellent multimedia overview of city history and its monuments.
Neighborhoods in the 9th include Chaussee d'Antin, Grands Boulevards, l'Opera, la Nouvelle Athenes, and Saint George.
Most of the 10th is... fairly uninspiring, particularly the areas around two of Paris' train stations.
Shoppers looking for crystal, porcelain, and faience, however, may head to the rue de Paradis where the Musee de Cristal de Baccarat is also found.
Perhaps the most interesting neighborhood in the 10th is the eastern portion by the Canal St. Martin built during the time of Napolean I. The quais along the canal are very charming
The 2nd arrondissement... contains the Bourse (the Paris Stock Exchange) and Sentier, the ready-to-wear garment district.
This area is normally not a tourist choice.
It does, however, contain several 19th century glass-roofed "galeries" or "passages"; there are others in the 1st, 9th, and 10th. These passages were originally designed to protect pedestrian shoppers from the mud of the streets.
The tranquil 16th on the Right Bank is an area of chic, monied neighborhoods; Auteuil, Passy, Ranleigh, Trocadero, the Ave Foch, and the Ave Victor Hugo.
It has rich Art Nouvea (my favourite) and modern architecture with buildings by Hector Guimard, Mallet-Stevens, and Le Corbusier.
There is a host of small, worthy museums. Among the best are the Musée Marmottan, the Musée Guimet, and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the Palais de Tokyo.
The Palais de Chaillot and Jardins du Trocadero provide spectacular views of the Tour Eiffel across the Seine. To the west is the Bois de Boulogne with its Jardin de Bagatelle, Pre-Catalan, and Jardin d'Acclimatation.
The 17th is a mix of upscale and working class residential areas without major tourist attractions.
Those close to the Place Charles de Gaulle as well as the Monceau and Ternes neighborhoods west of the train tracks are the working class Epinettes and the lower-middle class Batignolles.
Historically a number of artists and writers had homes and studios in the 17th.
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.
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.
Ile de la Cite is the oldest part of Paris and is situated on a small island in the middle of the river Seine. A lot of the small houses and small alleys caracterising the Middle Ages have disappeared in the 19th century, but you can still feel the atmosphere in some parts on the island.
It is here that you can admire the Notre Dame Cathedral.
St. Germain-des-Pres is a lively quarter on the left bank of the Seine full of cafes and restaurants. Back in the fifties, it was the place to be for the intellectuals. After that, it were the philosophers. Now, you will find here a lot of tourists :-) and fancy people.
Fondest memory: Spending the evening here, strolling along the streets and having a nice dinner in a historical restaurant Le Procope.
Montmartre is a very attractive hill. You can climb the hill to visit the beautiful Sacre Coeur Basilica or just stroll along the cobbled narrow alleys and enjoy the rural atmosphere. At the former village square Place du Tertre you will find a lot of artists.
Fondest memory: Walking up the stairs to the Sacre Coeur and looking over Paris from the square in front of the Basilica.
In this part of Paris, you will find two major attractions. There is the Eiffel Tower with the Parc du Champs de Mars and the Military school on one hand, and the imposing hotel des Invalides on the other hand. Two things not to be missed.
Walking around in this area, you will notice many luxurious buildings, such as embassies in art nouveau style and aristocratic mansions.
History is in every arrondissement in Paris, but only on metro line 8 can you travel between the French Revolution and Napoleon's tomb in one easy swoop!
You will find the monument in Place Bastille at the Bastille station and Invalides at La Tour Maubourg station.
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.
For a country that serves up all that egalitarian stuff about Liberty Fraternity and Equality stemming from the 1789 revolution, it would be difficult to find a more innately snobbish city.
The "I live in a better arrondisment than you" is all very well, but all those who live beyond the peripherique (Paris' ring road) are considered by those 'in the loop' as barbarians who have recently fallen out of the trees. They drag their knuckles along the ground to the outer reaches of the Metro, complete their menial jobs in the city only to return home, hunt wild animals and make fires with two bits of flint.
Such prejudice is not uncommon in big cities, indeed in London anything North of Watford is a londoner's hazy idea of the rest of England - but would they really look down on someone who lived just the wrong side of the North Circular. The idea may seem more normal to a New Yorker - Manhattan is not just the centre of town, it is NY.
Fondest memory: Using this prejudice to your own advantage. Find a hotel just beyond the peripherique and the prices drop right down, as to neighbourhood restaurants and shop prices. The only downside ? a few more stops in the morning on the Metro.
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'!