Many Paris travel guides will tell you where a certain hotel, attraction or restaurant is located by listing its arrondissement. But what exactly does the term mean, and how can it help you to get around the capital more easily?
Arrondissement is a French term that refers to a district and administrative unit of Paris. The city is divided into 20 of these, beginning with the 1st arrondissement at the city center and spiraling out-- in clockwise fashion-- to the 20th and final district in the northeast.
See the map above to visualize how they're laid out, with the Seine River cutting through the middle and dividing the city into right and left banks (rive droite and rive gauche, respectively. The 1st through 4th arrondissements are on the right bank, while the 5th through 7th spiral downward south of the Seine, to the left bank, and so on.
The Difference Between "Arrondissements" and "Neighborhoods"
While some arrondissements correspond to single, well-known neighborhoods-- for example, the 5th arrondissement wholly covers the popular district known as the Latin Quarter-- some neighborhoods, like the Marais, comprise two or more arrondissements.
This can be a bit confusing for visitors who try to make sense of Parisian neighborhoods exclusively through the arrondissement system. For example, a traveller already familiar with the Marais might assume that since a café or restaurant is listed as being in the popular neighborhood, it must be in the 4th arrondissement.
But several key attractions in the neighborhood, including the Picasso Museum and the trendy, café and restaurant-lined square known as Temple, are actually in the 3rd arrondissement.
Our advice? Learn how to read addresses the Parisian way. Any address you look up will have a post code at the end, beginning with "750" and ending with the arrondissement. For example, the Louvre Museum is located in the 1st arrondissement and its postcode is 75001. Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookshop, is located in the 5th arrondissement; its postcode is 75005.
Another way to easily figure out what city district you're in is to look for the blue, white and green street signs that are affixed to the sides of buildings on pretty much every corner of the city. In addition to telling you what street you're on, the plaques also show the arrondissement.
Once you understand these two local quirks, you can better orient yourself and get around the city more easily. We strongly recommend you either use an app like Google Maps or a traditional. printed Paris par Arrondissement city guide with detailed maps for each of the 20 districts. In fact, since phone batteries can so easily drain on a long day out, it's prudent to have both on hand.
Key Arrondissements to See & Stay In
We think every district is worth seeing. But if you're on a debut trip to the capital or have only a short amount of time. you'll probably want to prioritize certain areas over others, especially when you have an ambitious plan to hit lots of big-ticket sights and attractions.
If this is your first vacation to Paris, you'll probably want to be located near the Seine, where there is a larger concentration of things tourists come to Paris to see and do. Experienced travelers suggest the 1st, 4th, 5th, or 6th Arrondissements for easy access to the city's most-popular tourist attractions and useful transport lines.
On the other hand, if you're after a more authentic and local experience of the city, or have visited before and are looking for a more off-the-beaten-path neighborhood to explore, consider staying in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th or 18th arrondissements.
See our complete guide to the 20 arrondissements of Paris for full details on what to see and do in each one, as well as tips on how to choose which areas to focus your attention on during your stay.
In the meantime, here's an overview of some of the city's more significant and well-known arrondissements:
The 1st arrondissement harbors a number of major tourist attractions, including the Musée du Louvre, Tuileries Gardens and the Palais Royal. In addition, it's a great district for shopping in Paris, with boutiques of all kinds clustered along and in the Rue Saint Honoré, Rue de Rivoli and the sprawling Les Halles shopping complex.
The 4th is a large arrondissement that spans many different neighborhoods, including "Beaubourg" around the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Marais and the Ile St-Louis, an idyllic area between the right and left banks of the Seine that affords beautiful views of the water and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Other attractions include the picturesque Place des Vosges and the Musée Carnavelet, dedicated to the history of Paris.
The 5th arrondissement consists of the historic heart of the Latin Quarter, with attractions like the Pantheon, the Sorbonne University and the botanical gardens known as the Jardin des Plantes. Wonderful local bakeries, winding, picturesque streets and small courtyards are among the discoveries here, while the area is also well endowed with museums and cinemas.
The 6th includes the neighborhoods called Luxembourg (with the garden and museum of the same name at its heart) and the traditionally intellectual but now ultra-chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés. If you like medieval history, old cafés where philosophers and writers once convened, and fantastic bakeries, the 6th might just be for you.
Meanwhile, the 7th and 8th arrondissements stretch across the left and right banks and bring you to attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d'Orsay (both in the 7th), the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Grand Palais and the Arc de Triomphe (all in the 8th). This is a traditional, decidedly tourism-focused side of Paris with posh residential streets, but many locals consider it to be less authentic and rather staid.
More on Getting to & Around Paris
Want to learn how to get around like a pro? Paris is served by a highly efficient public transportation system, including an extensive metro network comprising 14 different lines, dozens of bus lines, light rail and trams. For travel within the city of Paris, you'll want to peruse the Complete Guide to Paris Transportation.
To get to or from other destinations in Paris, you can easily take local or national rail. There are six train stations in Paris, which you'll find located on our Paris Train Stations Map. The map shows the main stations and the arrondissement they occupy.
You can also see Paris via hop-on, hop-off tour buses, or take a commented cruise down the Seine river. These are great options when you want to get a good overview of the city, particularly on a first trip.