Paris has been a gem for centuries and a must-see for first-time visitors to France for about as long. Why go anywhere else when the City of Love has so much to offer? Paris is a highly sought-after travel destination because of its rich history, magnificent food, and cultural arts.
The capital of France is home to over two million people and offers a mild climate. The famous Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower can be found here. What’s more, you can wander through luxurious gardens and elaborate shopping locales accompanied by unforgettable cafés. The city can also be easily traversed with metro lines that span most of the area.
In 1795, officials decided to organize the city into 12 districts, known as arrondissements. Since then, the city has grown to include as many as 20 arrondissements. They each have their own town hall and mayor and they are incredibly distinct from each other. Let’s take a dive into what makes the most popular arrondissements unique and worth a visit.
In the heart of Paris, the Louvre is one of the oldest districts, comprised of the 1st and 2nd arrondissements. This district is situated on the banks of the River Seine, offering charming rentals with pleasant views. As the original center of the French monarchy and aristocracy, you’ll find lush gardens and grand architecture. You’ll also come across the Place Vendôme, a famous square built in the late-1600s by order of King Louis XIV.
If you’re looking to see the Mona Lisa, you’ll find her in the Louvre Museum, for which the district is named. The Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, a contemporary art museum, can also be found in the 1st arrondissement. Plus, you can take a tour of the Tuileries Garden, where Marie Antoinette hid during the French Revolution.
The Church of Saint-Eustache, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals, can be found in the Louvre district. The market surrounding the church is filled with cafes, restaurants, and boutiques, making it a worthwhile area to look for rentals. Another sight worth experiencing is the Church of St. Germain-l’Auxerrois. Those interested in shopping and viewing classical paintings will absolutely want to stay in this stately quarter.
2. Le Marais
Marais means “swamp” in French, and, as you might have guessed, this district was named as such because it was built over one. The Île de la Cité and Île St. Louis, two of the last natural islands in the Seine River, can be found in this arrondissement.
A lot of travelers end up in Le Marais to see the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, which was ravaged by a devastating fire in 2019, and is currently closed to visitors. The New York Times reports that there are plans to partially reopen in 2024, just in time for the Olympic Games in Paris. Luckily, if you plan to stay in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements that make up Le Marais, there are plenty of other historic sites worth seeing.
In fact, the Marais neighborhood is like taking a walk backward through history since all the buildings display architecture from the Medieval and Renaissance periods. As a result, it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris. The good news is, if you plan on staying here, there’s a nice mix of modern rentals to choose from. The old Jewish district is a great place to experience Yiddish culture. To see more landmarks that show France’s illustrious history, check out the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris.
In the 4th arrondissement, you can explore the Centre Pompidou, which houses:
- A massive public library
- Musée National d’Art Moderne
- A music and acoustic research center known as IRCAM
If you’re seeking the top nightlife hot spots in Paris, you’ll want to stay in the 4th arrondissement to be near all the action. Plus, there are loads of bistros, cafes, bars, and restaurants that make staying in this district an unforgettable experience. Most importantly, the 4th arrondissement is an extremely safe area in Paris.
3. The Latin Quarter
The 5th arrondissement is referred to as the Latin Quarter or Panthéon, and is situated on the Left Bank of the Seine. This district received its name from the ancient Romans, who settled on the western slope of the hill called Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, known to the Romans as Mons Lucotitius. Today, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, atop the hill, is used by students of the University of Paris.
The Panthéon, which provides the district with its nickname, also can be found on the hill. This impressive Neoclassic building was originally built in honor of Saint Genevieve, but was repurposed during the French Revolution in 1789. Marquis de Vilette proclaimed that it should be made into a temple that honors France’s finest people. Inside is a crypt that houses the bodies of several historical figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Victor Hugo, a French Romantic writer and politician.
The Latin Quarter also holds one of Europe’s oldest educational institutions and the first university of France — the Sorbonne — which is one of the most prestigious universities in Europe and the world. However, if the university isn’t of interest to you, you may have fun perusing Jardin des Plantes, a magnificent garden that contains a zoo. Thanks to the university’s presence, you’ll find a younger crowd in this area. But entire homes and well-furnished apartments are still readily available for rent.
The 6th arrondissement is another great place to stay when visiting Paris, named after the medieval abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The abbey was sacked by Vikings twice in the 9th century, and after being rebuilt and renamed, has seen multiple restorations and different architectural renovations in its thousands of years of occupying the Left Bank. It is considered the oldest church still standing in Paris.
You can also find another beautiful garden in this district, the Jardin du Luxembourg. Colloquially referred to as the Jardin du Sénat (“Senate Garden”), these pristine grounds cover 25 hectares and are divided into French and English gardens. The name is derived from the fact that the French Senate meets inside a palace located in the center of the grounds.
Lively, artsy, and centrally located, the 6th arrondissement is filled with art galleries and antique shops, plus cafés and bakeries galore. You’ll find a nice mix of intimate flats and large apartments for bigger groups of friends or family.
5. The Eiffel Tower
The 7th arrondissement is a walker’s paradise as its home to the Eiffel Tower, making it one of the most visited, trendy districts in Paris. This iconic attraction was built in 1889 for the World’s Fair in Champ de Mars, and is a must-see for first-time visitors. From the Eiffel Tower, there are several great spots to view the Seine from up high.
Musee d’Orsay, another magnificent art museum, is located in the 7th arrondissement. A nice complement to the Louvre, which features classic art up until the Romanticism period, the Musee d’Orsay restricts its pieces to the 19th century and modern art. As a result, the Musee d’Orsay is where you’ll find famous paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, among many others.
There’s so much to see in Paris that it might be hard to decide what’s most important, as you probably won’t be able to visit every site during your stay. The disparate attractions are spread out throughout the city, so you’ll want to stay in an arrondissement that contains the highest number of things you most want to see. Luckily, with the 7th arrondissement, you can find a vacation rental with views of the Eiffel Tower, which is a treat unto itself. This is far and away the favorite arrondissement to stay in for first-time visitors to Paris.
Champs-Elysées, or the 8th arrondissement, is a very touristy section, but it’s also one of the best areas for shopping. Everything you need can be found in this district, which houses up to 40,000 Parisians. As such, you’ll have no trouble finding exactly the kind of vacation rental you’re looking for.
Some of the best shopping in Paris can be found on the world-famous street of Champs-Elysées. Parc Monceau is also a wonderful green space, originally built as a private garden for the Duke of Orleans in 1778 by the painter Louis Carrogis Carmontelle with unique elements, including a pyramid and a Roman temple.
Elysee is also the home of the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon after his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. You can get a great view of the city from the top of the Arc.
Fans of the opera will want to stay in the 9th arrondissement, where they can get easy access to the Opéra Bastille and Palais Garnier. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Musée de la Vie Romantique, containing a collection of Romantic artwork.
The 9th arrondissement is also known for some of the best neighborhoods, including swanky apartment rentals listed at good prices. Here, you’ll find covered passages that contain shops and restaurants underneath glass ceilings.
Known as the artists’ district, Montmartre, or the 18th arrondissement, has been the home to many famous visiting artists, including Pablo Picasso. You can also find the Moulin Rouge here, a historic dance theater that has been entertaining locals and tourists since 1885. Another big draw to the 18th arrondissement is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, a cathedral with a cemetery next door.
Typically, staying in central Paris will be more expensive, so if you’re working with a tighter budget, consider staying somewhere outside the city center like Montmartre. For example, the city center of Paris is only a 20-minute metro ride from the 18th district.
Find the Best Parisian Vacation Rentals
Are you excited about visiting the arrondissements of Paris and seeing all these magnificent sights? Before you book your trip, make sure you’ve got your accommodations covered. VacationRenter makes it easy to find the perfect vacation rental, no matter where you are in the world — and Paris is no exception.