The city of love. The city of lights. The city with so much good food you will not be hungry afterwards for weeks – that’s just a few of the typical names for this lovely European capital. Paris is an immense city though – few realise just how far Paris actually stretches, well beyond the most popular sights. Parisian neighbourhoods are called ‘arrondissements’ and knowing how they work can help you navigate both on foot and on the metro – an informed Paris tourist will have a city map first thing! Here’s the top neighbourhood’s you will find yourself in during your visit.
This is the true city centre and naturally is where many of the major city landmarks reside. Most visitors will start at the world-renowned Louvre, with its breathtaking architecture and snazzy glass pyramid. But what is actually breathtaking is how big this place is – literally – you could easily spend a few days exploring all the hallways, corridors, and exhibits. The priceless artefacts go on and on. Thankfully, you can pick up handy brochures at reception that show you how to find some of the most popular works – that includes, yes, the Mona Lisa.
The fourth arrondissement also has another cluster of sightseeing opportunities – including the epic architectural site, the Notre Dame. This is a beauty and you can’t come to Paris without seeing it. Once you’ve been around the Notre Dame, be sure to wander around behind it and visit my personal favourite in all of Paris: Île Saint-Louis. It’s an island in the middle of the river, and most people don’t give it a passing glance. But it’s here you’ll find a very famous ice cream parlour, as well as quiet lanes and restaurants.
Not every tourists makes it to this area, because it’ a little more off the beaten path. The main strip that you’ll hear about is Saint Germain des Pres, which is a cult classic when it comes to Paris café culture. Some of the terraced cafes have been here for ages, and sometimes it can feel like those brusque butlers have been here that long too! Another sight in this area that I truly love is the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s a rolling garden, with a big pond where locals float their toy boats. There’s also a couple of cafes where you can enjoy a coffee or glass of wine. What’s not to like?
This is another popular tourist hotspot, although few know it but everyone recognises it – this is where you’ll find Champs Du Mars, the stunning slice of greenery that leads up to the Eiffel Tower. On the opposite end you’ll find the park slopes up a steep incline, offering those picture-postcard views, particularly at night. (It’s also a hot spot for souvenir vendors to sell their cheap goods, as well as pickpockets.) Musée d’Orsay is in this neighbourhood too, and it is my favourite Parisian museum (even over the Louvre) because not only does it have some great pieces, but the building itself is a work of art – a converted railway station.
Last but certainly not least is the 18th arrondissement – a bit away out from the city centre, but for good reason. From here you can visit the Sacré Cœur, a cathedral that is not only gorgeous but also has a wonderful panoramic perspective across central Paris. Nearby is the Monmartre strip, which is home to the city’s strip clubs. It’s worth stopping by for the novelty factor, including getting a photo of the Moulin Rouge (though you will not want to stay for the singing.)
Posted : Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 10:25
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not criss-crossing the world to have his next travel adventures, he is spending time hanging out on his own website, Sharing Travel Experiences.