A city as iconic as Paris offers a wealth of sight-seeing opportunities for any traveller – so many that you may be a little perplexed on where to start on your first visit.
Since the late 19th century, and thanks to Napolean Bonaparte, the city has been divided into 20 districts, or arrondissements, which actually prove to be a very useful way of navigating the city today, once you get the hang of it’s outwards spiralling formation. To get you started, we’ve listed the top 4 arrondissements you need to see, if nothing else.
1st ARRONDISSEMENT – PALACES AND GARDENS
Paris’s first arrondissement is the place to marvel at palaces such as the Palais-Royal and beautiful gardens in the Jardin des Tuileries. Not to be overlooked is one of the world’s largest museums, the Musee du Louvre with its impressive array of art and artefacts spanning from prehistoric times to the present. Art aficionados may also enjoy the impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works found at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs and the Musee de l’Orangeri.
You will also enjoy a view of Paris’s most famous landmark from here, the Eiffel Tower. This is the area to enjoy the city’s cultural riches and, although low-key in the evening, nonetheless provides some top-rated dining options for those of you with a discerning palate. And a fat wallet.
6th ARRONDISSEMENT – HOME OF THE LATIN QUARTER
For a buzzy, energetic atmosphere, the sixth arrondissement is the place to be. With the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg playing host to the second largest park in Paris, the 6th proves a hit with Parisians and visitors alike. Along with its unmistakable cafe culture and charming bistros lining the delightful cobblestone streets, is the 18th-century Odeon Theatre with its distinctive neoclassical features. For that real quaint feel of old Paris, head to the 11th century Saint Germain des Pres replete with cafes, art galleries and historic churches making the whole area ooze that romantic vibe with which the city is synonymous.
4th ARRONDISSEMENT – CATHEDRALS AND MODERN WONDERS
Many historical sites can be found in Paris’s fourth arrondissement such as the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral, undeniably one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world. This magnificent structure started life in the 12th century but wasn’t completed until the 15th century and was largely inspired by the tendency toward naturalism in contrast to earlier Romanesque architecture.
Here you will also find Paris’s oldest square in the form of The Place des Voges with its ornate arches under which you can seek solace in little cafes and galleries or wander down intriguing pathways. This is the perfect place to relax right in the midst of the city. Further architectural highlights include the City Hall and the Tour Saint-Jacques or Tower of Saint Jack built in elaborate Baroque style. Then there is the famous Pompidou Centre which exhibits more contemporary architectural craftsmanship with its impressive external escalators and colourful tubing.
5th ARRONDISSEMENT – LATIN QUARTER AND ROMANESQUE STRUCTURES
Often referred to as the city’s Latin Quarter due to locally taught students at one time speaking so extensively in Latin, the fifth arrondissement is home to the Sorbonne University which goes hand in hand with its quaint bookshops and cafes dappled along the tree-lined Boulevard Saint-Michel. This city area is also famous for its Pantheon, built in neoclassical style and firmly based on the original of the same name in Rome. It comes replete with impressive Corinthian columns looming down over the observer. It long ago started off life as a church but has since become a mausoleum, and subsequently, its grand Gothic windows were filled in, but it still is an undeniably resplendent building. This arrondissement also is home to the Val de Grace church with its distinctive dome, the Jardin des Plantes and the National Museum of Natural History.
There are undoubtedly many more sites and places to discover in this much-loved city, but these suggestions may just help you to choose which arrondissement to place at the top of your Paris sight-seeing list.
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” –Virginia Woolf