The Sights

Paris by arrondissements

There is never enough time in Paris...​

Whether you are in Paris for a week, a month, or three years, you will leave wanting for more. It's helpful to plan ahead of time, but keep in mind that sometimes the most memorable treasures in Paris are not the ones that come with long lines.

My list below is by no means exhaustive, and of course I've kept a few secret favorites to myself, but have fun getting to know Paris better, and remember, walk, walk, walk as much as you can - you never know what you will run into.

There are 20 arrondissements in Paris. I will cover the first 8, and then list a few other things you may want to check out.

1st

Some of the most-visited sights in Paris are in the 1st, including:

  • The Louvre - home of the Mona Lisa (and lots of tourists!) - do not miss the lower part of the Louvre to see its foundation.

  • Jardin des Tuileries - one of my favorite spots in Paris.

  • Musée de l'Orangerie - Monet's huge canvases.

Some other things not to miss:​

  • Take fun pictures in the courtyard of the Palais Royal on the Colonnes de Buren and then meander over to the fountain to enjoy the peace and sun. Particularly lovely in spring with the flowers blooming.

  • WH Smith Bookstore - a large, wonderful place where I enjoy perusing the titles and covers on the first few tables in the store.

  • Into plastic Eiffel Towers in every color and placemats with Parisian scenes? You have your share of these souvenirs on rue de Rivoli.  

  • Certain times of the year a fair is set up in the Jardin des Tuileries near rue de Rivoli, which includes a huge ferris wheel - La Grande Roue de Paris - I highly recommend a whirl!

Palais Royal

2nd

The 2nd has a very different feel depending on where you are, from the wide boulevards and less-lively business section near Bourse, to the many bars and restaurants at and around the pedestrian area of Montorgueil.

  • Be sure to visit the Montorgueil area both during the day and at night.

  • For some great vegan food with a typical Parisian restaurant feel, check out Brasserie 2ème Art on rue Montmartre.

  • Hop on or off the métro at the Quatre Septembre stop - used in the film The Tourist.

  • Discover Galerie Vivienne, a beautiful covered passage with original details. Read in my book how to discover the other lesser-known historical passages in Paris.

  • If you are into unusual cocktails, check out the Experimental Cocktail Club, where their menu changes often and always includes unusual concoctions. Be advised that seating is often non-existent if you go too late.

3rd

Both parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissement share the area of the Marais, a quaint must-see area of Paris.

  • There are several smaller museums in the 3rd, and a notable larger one: Musée des Arts et Métiers, which has to do with science, mechanics, and transportation.

  • Like to eat? Take your pick at the Marché des Enfants Rouge, the oldest covered market in Paris. I have personally never eaten there, but they have many different choices of types of food.

  • Place des Vosges is both in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, and is a charming square/park surrounded by stately buildings on all sides. Often a bit crowded with kids on weekends and in the summer, it's a great place for a picnic during quieter times.

  • Bien l'épicerie - I stumbled upon this newer addition to the bio (organic) markets in Paris and it's absolutely wonderful. The person working there when I went was super nice. Great selection of groceries, but there is also a section of tasty treats made daily that you can take to go. Grab a bottle of wine and head for a picnic!

4th

Ah, the 4th arrondissement. I have fond memories here as the apartment I rented my first time ever in Paris is located here. As is my favorite boulangerie, shoe store, corner bar, and what I consider the most beautiful building in Paris, the first point of interest in the list below.

  • Hôtel de Ville. I love this building. I feel at home when I am near it. Free exhibits are offered most of the time, and keep on the lookout for other events in and around this building depending on the time of year.

  • I don't shop at BHV, a large department store just across from Hôtel de Ville, however, you might want to ascend to Le Perchoir Marais, the rooftop bar located on top. Depending on the hour and the time of year the line can be long, but the views are great.

  • Into vintage clothes and rummaging through second-hand shops? There are a few on rue de la Verrerie. Look for the Kilo Shop.

  • Wander the streets in the 4th, especially in the area of the Marais. See if you can find where the "treasure" street is...

  • Hungry? Seek out rue des Rosiers for a quick - and tasty - bite.

Some of the most-visited sights in Paris are in the 4th, including:

  • Notre Dame de Paris - while many aim for the cathedral, many miss a gem located across the square and below the ground : the Crypte Archéologique du Parvis Notre-Dame. The foundations of Paris sit here. Fascinating. And when I went there was an interactive video that showed how Notre Dame was constructed, over the nearly 200 years it took to build.

  • Île St. Louis - one of the islands in Paris, small and quaint. Walk the entire thing. Read about where all the tourists (and locals) flock in the summer for a sweet treat in my book.

  • Modern art is found at the Centre Georges Pompidou. I've taken some fun pictures there, as shown on the right. However, one time I got stuck in a very bizarre exhibit that played strange music and had plastic doll heads. Can you say nightmare?

  • One of the most interesting buildings in Paris, the Hôtel de Sens, is worth a visit. Even if you don't go inside, the exterior is fun to look at. This is the location where I saw the band Paris Combo during Fête de la Musique, my second time in Paris.

La Grande Roue

Pompidou

5th

The 5th is best known for the Latin quarter. Do you know why it is referred to this way?

 

Other sites:

  • The Panthéon - a bunch of famous dead people here.

  • Musée de Cluny - wonderful representation of the Moyen Âge, with focus on the Middle Ages and medieval artifacts.

  • Shakespeare & Co. bookstore - wonderful, well-visited place that often holds readings, book signings, and sometimes musical events. 

  • Fontaine Saint-Michel

  • Take a walk up rue Mouffetard to Place de la Contrescarpe, stop for a drink in this lovely square, then continue down Moufftard. There are some nice shops and a vegan bakery too.

Shakespeare & Co.

Tip

A very popular walk between the 5th and 6th is to start at Shakespeare & Co., cross over rue Saint-Jacques, continue down rue de la Huchette, then cross over Boulevard Saint-Michel. The Fontaine Saint-Michel will be on your left. Then continue down rue Saint-André des Arts. Tons of shops, tourist trinkets, small bars, and quick food (not that I recommend the quick food; there is one exception, Chez Le Libanais, which uses organic flour and has delicious vegetarian and vegan options). 

6th

I love the 6th. Boulevard Saint-German, rue de Seine, Odéon, and some of my favorite shopping and hang out places are here. I am not drawn to the 6th for what many tourists head for, such as dining or having a drink in Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots. These are actually my two least favorite places. I have many other little treasures in this area of Paris.

Walk this whole area. Just walk. I talk my longest promenades through the 6th, sometimes lasting for hours. Maybe because I'm a writer, but something about the 6th feels different than the rest of Paris.

7th

While not as packed with tourist sites (a large part of the 7th is residential and home to many ministries and embassies), the 7th to me is calm and relaxing, and a place that feels like home. It doesn't hurt that the Eiffel Tower is just a few minutes walk either. 

  • Musée d'Orsay - my favorite museum in Paris.

  • Musée Rodin - beautiful grounds surround this

       stately mansion.

  • rue Cler - pedestrian cobblestoned market

       street​

One of my favorite walks is to go from Invalides towards Pont Alexandre III. (Don't miss this bridge - it's the one shown in all the movies.) It's a lovely walk, with green space on both sides of you as you make your way towards it. When you cross the street to meet the bridge, there are staircases on either side that go down to Les Berges, a now pedestrianized part of the quai that is just wonderful. You can use the long stretch for a walk or jog, there are stations set up for fitness along the way, and at times you can also see fitness classes being held. If having a cocktail is more your cup of tea, there is no shortage of choices in the way of dockside and floating bars and restaurants. It is open year-round, and at night also.

Gardens of Paris

To me, Paris doesn't seem like a big city at all. It feels like an array of small neighborhoods, each with their own unique characteristics, all put together in one place. And there is certainly no lack of outdoor space where you can have a jog, enjoy a picnic, or take a leisurely stroll. Be sure not to miss the beauty of  Jardin du Luxembourg, have some champagne at Champs de Mars with the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop, or discover some of the smaller, but quite delightful, parks dotted throughout the city.

8th

People typically head to the 8th for two reasons: to walk along the Champs-Élysées, or see the Arc de Triomphe. I spend the least amount of time in the 8th, unless you count Place de la Concorde, which, while bordering the 1st, is in the 8th.

One year I did enjoy the rather unusually-shaped outdoor ice rink that was set up in winter at the start of the Champs-Élysées.

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All photos are the property of Nicole T. Smith, L.Ac. and cannot be copied or used in any way. All rights reserved.