Paris districts

Most of the Paris we see today is a result of a nineteenth-century renovation, but its boulevards and arrondissements were but a new grid bisecting quarters built by centuries of Parisian habit; as a result of this, Paris has many quarters that are not necessarily mentioned on any administrative map.

Although Paris's origins are in its Left Bank, Parisians began to move to the newly-dried swampland of the Right bank around the 10th century, leaving the Left Bank to ecclesiastical and scholastic institutions. Commerce was at its highest around the Châtelet bridge guardhouse and Place de Grève port, a market quarter that would later become Les Halles, artisans tended to keep to the east of the city, and the more noble residences and shops were always near the royal palaces. Although many are split between several arrondissements, most of these tendencies still hold true in Paris today.

Below are a few quarters that have developed or retained a character of their own, usually identifiable by a grouping of commercial activity and named for a neighbourhood landmark.


The Central Islands

Paris' islands were once many, but over the centuries have been united or joined to the mainland. Today there are but two adjacent islands forming the centre of Paris, the Île de la Cité and the Île Saint-Louis (plus the artificial Île aux Cygnes).

The Notre-Dame cathedral

Île de la Cité

Main article: Île de la Cité

The westernmost of these two island, Île de la Cité, is Paris' heart and origin. Its western end has held a palace since even Roman times, and its eastern end since the same has been consecrated to religion, especially after the construction in the 10th century of the cathedral predecessor to today's Notre-Dame. The land between the two was, until the 1850s, largely residential and commercial, but since has been filled by the city's Prefecture de Police, Palais de Justice, Hôtel-Dieu hospital and Tribunal de Commerce. Only the westernmost and north-eastern extremities of the island remain residential today, and the latter preserves some vestiges of its 16th-century canonic houses.

Île Saint-Louis

Main article: Île Saint-Louis

Purely residential in nature, this island's first use was for the grazing of market cattle and the stocking of wood. One of France's first examples of urban planning, it was mapped and built from end to end during the 17th-century reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII. A peaceful oasis of calm in the busy Paris centre, this island has but narrow one-way streets and no metro station.

La Rive Droite

Paris' Rive Droite (Lit. Right Bank), formerly a marshland between two arms of the Seine river, remained largely uninhabited until the early 11th century. Once growth began there it soon eclipsed that of both the island and its Rive Gauche combined, and has remained Paris' densest area ever since.

Châtelet-Les-Halles / Hôtel de Ville

"Le Châtelet", a stronghold/gatehouse guarding the northern end of a bridge from the Cité island, was the origin of Paris' first real Rive Droite growth. Where the Les Halles quarter starts and ends is debatable, but for the average Parisian, it surrounds the former Les Halles marketplace, today a shopping mall centre for a highly commercial district whose many "trendy" boutiques are geared to tourism. As Les Halles is a Metro and RER hub for transport connecting all suburban regions around the capital, the stores closest to the station reflect the rap and hip-hop trends common there. Fast-food is the restaurant staple of this quarter's most central region, but more traditional fare can be found to its north-west.

One of the region's most prominent landmarks is the 1976-built Centre Georges Pompidou. Built in a highly colored modern style greatly contrasting with its surrounding architecture, it houses a permanent modern-art museum exposition and has rotating expositions that keep to a theme of the post-pop art period. Recently renovated, it also houses the BPI, one of the city's largest libraries and places of study. The wide square in front is a preferred place for street performers, as its location is ideal for drawing a mix of both tourist and student spectators.

Just to the east of the Place du Châtelet lies Paris's Hôtel de Ville (city hall). It stands on the almost exact location of a 12th-century "house of columns" belonging to the city's "Prévôt des Marchands" (a city governor of commerce), then a later version built in 1628 whose shell is still the same today. Just across the street to the north of rue de Rivoli is the large 1870's-built BHV (Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville) household shopping centre.

Le Louvre / Palais Royal

The Louvre, once Paris' second Royal Palace, is today a museum, garden (Tuileries), and, more recently, a shopping mall and Fashion show centre (Le Carrousel du Louvre). The Palais Royal just to its north, at its origin a residence of the Cardinal Richelieu, is a walled garden behind its rue de Rivoli facade, with covered and columned arcades that house boutiques forming what could be considered to be Paris' first "shopping arcade". This quarter in general has many 17th and 18th century buildings of large standing, as well as some of Paris' more grandiose constructions, namely along the avenue de l'Opéra, from the Haussmann era. The long perspective of massive buildings that make the northern side of the rue de Rivoli, with their covered and columned arcades, are a result of Paris' first attempt at reconstruction in a larger scale in the early 1840s, and today house the quarter's most tourist-oriented shops, boutiques and night-clubs.

Place Vendôme seen from rue de la Paix.
The Arc de Triomphe seen from the Avenue de Friedland.
Montmartre as seen from atop the Centre Georges Pompidou.


Centred around Paris' Opéra Garnier, completed in 1882, this quarter houses at once central Paris' largest shopping centres (the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps) and is an important banking centre (Crédit Lyonnais, BNP and American Express just to name a few). The streets behind both sides of the avenue de l'Opéra have many Japanese restaurants, and most of the avenues in this area "duty-free" stores selling luxury brands.

Saint-Honoré / Place Vendôme / Concorde

The rue Saint Honoré (and rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré) is known for its luxury boutiques selling all fashion labels of international renown. The Place Vendôme, around its famous Hôtel Ritz, is the centre of the Paris "Triangle d'Or" of jewellers. There are many major banks and offices in this area as well. The Place de la Concorde, to the western end of the Louvre's Jardin des Tuileries, is a major stop for tourists (for its vista, fountains and Egyptian obelisk) and a panoramic introduction to the Champs-Élysées that begins at its western extremity.

Les Champs-Élysées

Easily Paris' most touristic avenue, and almost every commerce along its entire length between the rond-point des Champs-Élysées and its Arc de Triomphe is geared to nothing else. The buildings above the street-side boutiques are for the most part Paris offices or residences for businesses the world over. The streets behind the Avenue and in the neighbourhood surrounding are filled with Haussmanian buildings of large standing that host some offices, but are largely residential.

Montmartre / Bas-de-Montmartre

Montmartre is Paris' highest hill, and second most-visited tourist area. Formerly town of wine growers and plaster miners centred around a 15th-century monastery, it began from the late 20th century (namely around the time of the construction of its Sacré-Coeur Basilica in 1919) to become a tourist attraction. Much of Montmartre's windmills and "old village" charm had already been destroyed when Paris' tourist boom began, but investors and speculators rebuilt it anew. All the same, Montmartre is a very picturesque place to visit, and has one of the best views of the capital. Some of its former charm can be found to the rear of the hill, as well as a windmill or two, and it has even the remains of its former vineyard topping.

The boulevards below Montmartre, also called "bas-de-Montmartre", were once highly popular with mid-19th century Parisians for their cabarets, as at the time they were in an open-air scenery that was almost countryside. The Moulin Rouge is all that remains of the once many such saloons and dance-halls that lined the north side of the boulevard, but today this establishment is but a gaudy tourist-tailored mirror of what it once was. The boulevard surrounding, especially to its east towards Pigalle, is filled with establishments offering shows of a slightly "warmer" nature than can-can.

Gare de l'Est / Gare du Nord

To the north of Paris' textile "sentier" quarter, this area is fascinating for its myriad of clothing stores and hair salons whose owners are largely of African origin. These stations mark the northernmost limits of Paris' "Sentier" textile industry district.

La Bastille

La Place de la Bastille is named for a former castle/dungeon guarding Paris' 17th-century eastern gate. Aside from this place's central column, its most prominent landmark is its Opéra-Bastille, an opera-house with a style of architecture and repertoire more modern than its classical Opéra-Garnier counterpart. The north-westerly boulevard Beaumarchais is known for its music and camera stores. To the north of the place stretches its narrow rue de la Roquette with its many small bars, restaurants and night-clubs, a street that ends to the north-east at the Père Lachaise cemetery.

Le Marais

To the west of the place de la Bastille extends the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, a street running through the centre of what was once a village of furniture-making artisans. To the north and north-west from there, across a map of narrow streets remaining unchanged from this 17th-century time, lies Le Marais. The rue du faubourg Saint-Antoine still has many furniture stores.

Today Le Marais is most known for its square and uniformly-built Place des Vosges. Inaugurated as the "Place Royale" in 1612, much of the land surrounding was built with vast and luxurious "hotels" by those seeking closer relations to royalty, and many remain today. This area fell out of royal favour when the King's court left for the Louvre then Versailles, and was in a state of almost abandon by 19th century. It became a largely Jewish quarter around then, and has remained so ever since. It is also the heart of gay Paris, with many gay cafés, bars and clubs.

La Rive Gauche

Paris' Left Bank was its centre from its first to 11th centuries, but little evidence remains of this today. The largest reason for this is that, solidly built from Roman times, its crumbling constructions in fact served as a quarry for Rive Droite constructions when its population moved to Paris' northern shores. Calm even today, the rive Gauche is in its majority residential.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés / Faubourg Saint-Germain

This central Rive-Gauche quarter is named for its 7th century abbey of which only a church is still standing. Its commercial growth began upon the 1886 completion of its Boulevard Saint-Germain and the opening of its cafés and bistrots namely its "Café de Flore" and "Deux Magots" terraces. Its fame came with the 1950s post-WW II student "culture emancipation" movement that had its source in the nearby University. Many jazz clubs appeared here during those times, and a few still remain today.

Located near the École des Beaux-Arts, this quarter is known for its artistry in general, and has many galleries along its rue Bonaparte and rue de Seine. In all, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is an upper-class bourgeois residential district, and its quality clothing and gastronomical street-side commerce is a direct reflection of this.

Odéon / Saint-Michel

Odéon is named for the 18th-century theatre standing between the boulevard Saint-Germain and the Luxembourg gardens, but today it is best known for its cinemas and cafés.

The land just to the south of the Seine river to the east of the Boulevard Saint-Michel, around its Sorbonne university, has been a centre of student activity since the early 12th century. The surrounding neighbourhood is filled with many student-oriented commercial establishments such as bookstores, stationery stores and game shops.

The land to the north of the boulevard Saint-Germain, to the east of the Boulevard Saint-Michel, is one of the Rive Gauche's few tourist oases. Although its narrow streets are charming, as they have remained unchanged from medieval times, they are filled with souvenir shops and tourist-trap restaurants, and it is a quarter where few Parisians ever stray.

Invalides / École Militaire / Eiffel Tower / Quai d'Orsay

La Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) seen from l'Esplanade du Trocadéro.

Paris' 17th-century Hôtel des Invalides and 18th-century École Militaire were built where they were in an effort to force the Rive Gauche's growth westward, to match that to its opposing Rive Droite. Les Invalides, a former military hospital and still today a retirement home for a few former soldiers, became a tourist attraction after Napoleon Bonaparte's ashes were interred there in 1840, and a military museum from 1872 (Artillery).

Just to the west from there lies the École Militaire (Military school) built from 1751, but it is to the river end of its former parade ground that lies Paris' foremost tourist attraction. The Eiffel Tower, built by Gustave Alexandre Eiffel for the 1889 Universal Exposition, averages around 6 million visitors a year.

Further east along the bank of the Seine lies the former Paris-à-Orléans train station built for the 1900 Universal Exposition. Closed in 1939, it has been since renovated into a museum of 19th-century art, the Musée d'Orsay, open to the public since December 1986.

Montparnasse / Denfert-Rochereau

This quarter owes its artistic reputation to its Montparnasse cemetery. Open from 1824, it attracted the ateliers of sculptors and engravers to the still-inbuilt land nearby, and these in turn drew painters and other artists looking for calmer climes than the saturated and expensive Right Bank. Many of these today-famous artists met in the boulevard Montparnasse's many cafés and bistros, one of these being the world-known Belle Époque "La Coupole". This aspect of Montparnasse's culture has faded since the second world war, but many of its artist atelier-residence "Cités" are still there to see.

The Gare Montparnasse, since its beginning as a railway connection to Versailles in 1840, has since grown into the Rive Gauche's commuter hub connection to many destinations in southern France. The neighbourhood around it is a thriving business quarter, and houses Paris' tallest building: the Tour Montparnasse.

The Catacombs of Paris

To the south-east of the boulevard Montparnasse, to the bottom of the northward-running Avenue Denfert-Rochereau at the square of the same name, is one of Paris' few-remaining pre-1860's "prolype" gateways. The westernmost of these twin buildings holds Paris' most macabre attraction: the Catacombs of Paris. Formerly stone mines, abandoned when Paris annexed the land over them from 1860, the underground hallways became a new sepulture for the contents of Paris' many overflowing and unhygienic parish cemeteries. At its origin but a jumbled bone depository, it was renovated in the early 19th century into uniform rooms and hallways of neatly (and even artistically) arranged skulls and tibias, and opened to the public for paid visits from 1868.

Key Suburbs

La Défense business district

As one of the largest business districts in the world, Paris La Défense is a major destination for business travel in Europe.


  • 3,000,000 m² (32.3 million sq. ft) of offices
  • Europe's largest shopping centre with nearly 3,000 hotel rooms, 600 shops and services, and over 100 restaurants
  • daily influx of 160,000 office staff with 2 million tourist visits annually
  • CNIT congress centre, the largest self-supporting vault in the world, 43,000 m² (463,000 sq ft), including 29,000 m² (312,000 sq ft) of modular spaces, 36 meetings rooms and 4 halls
  • La Défense stands on Paris's historic East-West axis (L'Axe historique).

In December 2005 the new plan for the district of La Défense was presented. The project is articulated around a tall skyscraper (more than 400 m/1,300 ft high), a new symbol for Paris which would be the tallest skyscraper in Europe if it is built. This big project will change the skyline of the capital of France.

The project to build the Grande Arche was initiated by the French president François Mitterrand. He wanted a 20th century Arc de Triomphe. The design of the Danish architect Otto van Spreckelsen looks more like a cube-shaped building than a triumphal arch. It is a 110 meter tall white building with the middle part left open. The sides of the cube contain offices. It is possible to take a lift to the top of the Grande Arche, from where there is a scenic view of the historical heart of Paris, which is 6 to 10 km. (4 to 6 miles) from the Grande Arche.

Chart of the eighty quartiers of Paris

Arrondissement[1] Quartiers
Population in
1st arrondissement
(Called "du Louvre")
1st Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois 1,672 86.9
2nd Les Halles 8,984 41.2
3rd Palais-Royal 3,195 27.4
4th Place-Vendôme 3,044 26.9
2nd arrondissement
(Called "de la Bourse")
5th Gaillon 1,345 18.8
6th Vivienne 2,917 24.4
7th Mail 5,783 27.8
8th Bonne-Nouvelle 9,595 28.2
3rd arrondissement
(Called "du Temple")
9th Arts-et-Métiers 9,560 31.8
10th Enfants-Rouges 8,562 27.2
11th Archives 8,609 36.8
12th Sainte-Avoye 7,501 21.3
4th arrondissement
(Called "de l'Hôtel-de-Ville")
13th Saint-Merri 6,523 31.3
14th Saint-Gervais 10,587 42.2
15th Arsenal 9,474 48.7
16th Notre-Dame 4,087 37.9
5th arrondissement
(Called "du Panthéon")
17th Quartier Saint-Victor 11,661 60.4
18th Jardin-des-Plantes 18,005 79.8
19th Val-de-Grâce 19,492 70.4
20th Sorbonne 9,683 43.3
6th arrondissement
(Called "du Luxembourg")
21st Monnaie 6,185 29.3
22nd Odéon 8,833 71.6
23rd Notre-Dame-des-Champs 24,731 86.1
24th Saint-Germain-des-Prés 5,154 28.2
7th arrondissement
(Called "du Palais-Bourbon")
25th Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin 12,661 82.7
26th Les Invalides 6,276 107.4
27th École-Militaire 12,895 80.8
28th Gros-Caillou 25,156 138.2
8th arrondissement
(Called "de l'Élysée")
29th Champs-Élysées 4,614 114.1
30th Faubourg-du-Roule 10,038 79.6
31st La Madeleine 6,045 76.1
32nd Europe 18,606 118.3
9th arrondissement
(Called "de l'Opéra")
33rd Saint-Georges 20,850 71.7
34th Chaussée-d'Antin 3,488 54.3
35th Faubourg-Montmartre 9,233 41.7
36th Rochechouart 22,212 50.1
10th arrondissement
(Called "de l'Entrepôt")
37th Saint-Vincent-de-Paul 21,624 92.7
38th Porte-Saint-Denis 15,066 47.2
39th Porte-Saint-Martin 23,125 60.9
40th Hôpital-Saint-Louis 29,870 88.4
11th arrondissement
(Called "de Popincourt")
41st Folie-Méricourt 33,002 72.6
42nd Saint-Ambroise 32,168 83.8
43rd La Roquette 47,520 117.2
44th Sainte-Marguerite 36,476 93.0
12th arrondissement
(Called "de Reuilly")
45th Bel-Air 33,976 138.6
46th Picpus 62,947 186.3
47th Bercy 13,987 190.3
48th Quinze-Vingts 25,752 123.6
13th arrondissement
(Called "des Gobelins")
49th Salpêtrière 18,246 118.2
50th La Gare 69,008 304.4
51st Maison-Blanche 64,797 223.2
52nd Croulebarbe 19,526 69.2
14th arrondissement
(Called "de l'Observatoire")
53rd Montparnasse 18,570 112,6
54th Parc Montsouris 19,793 135.7
55th Petit-Montrouge 37,230 134.6
56th Plaisance 57,229 178.5
15th arrondissement
(Called "de Vaugirard")
57th Saint-Lambert 82,032 283.1
58th Necker 46,932 157.8
59th Grenelle 47,411 147.8
60th Javel 49,092 260.9
16th arrondissement
(Called "de Passy")
61st Auteuil 67,967 303.0
62nd La Muette 45,214 203.7
63rd Porte-Dauphine 27,423 141.4
64th Chaillot
21,213 142.4
17th arrondissement
(Called "des Batignolles-Monceau")
65th Les Ternes 39,137 146.6
66th Plaine Monceau 38,958 138.4
67th Batignolles 38,691 144.2
68th Épinettes 44,352 137.8
18th arrondissement
(Called "des Buttes-Montmartre")
69th Grandes-Carrières 67,152 190.6
70th Clignancourt 64,868 165.3
71st Goutte-d'Or 28,524 109.0
72nd La Chapelle 24,037 134.8
19th arrondissement
(Called "des Buttes-Chaumont")
73rd La Villette 53,650 128.6
74th Pont-de-Flandres 24,584 237.7
75th Amérique 55,365 183.6
76th Combat 38,988 129.5
20th arrondissement
(Called "de Ménilmontant")
77th Belleville 35,773 80.7
78th Saint-Fargeau 42,087 148.7
79th Père-Lachaise 42,332 159.9
80th Charonne 62,901 209.1


  1. ^ Noms donnés aux termes de l'article R2512-1 du Code général des collectivités territoriales (partie réglementaire) (voir le texte intégral sur Légifrance) mais ces appellations sont rarement employées dans la vie courante.
  2. ^ a b Paris 1954-1999. Données statistiques. Population, logement, emploi. Paris et arrondissements, Atelier parisien d'urbanisme, septembre 2005. Les données de population proviennent de l'Insee.

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