Paris - An Overview

An introduction to the moods, sights and history of the various districts in the centre of Paris...

Facts and Figures

Total area:

  • Paris: 8,692 hectare
  • Paris and woods: 10,540 hectare

Perimeter:

  • Paris: 35 Km
  • Paris and woods: 54.7 Km

Altitude:

  • Highest point: 40, Rue du Télégraphe (Arr 19)
  • Tallest summit: Montmartre (Arr 18)
  • Lowest point: corner of Rue Leblanc and Rue St-Charles (Arr 15)

Parks:

  • 426 gardens and parks
  • 3,000 hectare of lawns, woods and gardens

Arrondissements

Paris comprises 20 arrondissements that spiral out from the centre of the city. These serve as administrative districts for city hall and the 20 town halls that compose the municipal government. They also offer a practical point of reference for locating an address. Be aware that these differ from neighbourhoods and business districts, which can be situated in more than one arrondissement.

  • Note: The arrondissement of any Paris address is indicated by its post code: 75001 is the first arrondissement (Arr 1) 75020 the 20th (Arr 20)
  • Click for Map (from pac.ru)

Left and Right Banks

Historically, the Left Bank of the river Seine (which devides Paris) was known as a centre for arts and culture while the Right Bank was associated with business, finance and the city's more upscale districts. The Bastille Opera House and art gallery Centre Georges Pompidou are on the Right Bank while most of the city's universities, jazz venues and "philosophical cafés" are on the Left Bank, as are the designer boutiques and chic restaurants of St-Germain-des-Prés.

Districts

Champs-Elysées

The avenue, Champs-Elysées, extends from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. There are many airline companies, luxury shops and upscale restaurants on the avenue, as well as movie theatres, fast-food restaurants and chain stores. There are shops and businesses in the many side streets, particularly the ready-to-wear and couture boutiques of Avenue Montaigne.

Louvre and Tuileries

This is the area bordered by Place de la Concorde, the Jardin des Tuileries and the Musée du Louvre once constituted the royal residence of Louis XIV. The city's chicest hotels, shops and jewellers are here, notably at Place des Victoires and Place Vendôme and along Rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré. Occupied mostly by luxury hotels and art and antique dealers, the arcades of Rue de Rivoli lead east to the Palais-Royal and Théâtre de la Comédie Française. Other significant places include the Banque de France, Musée de l'Orangerie and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

Beaubourg and Les Halles

The Centre Georges Pompidou and large Forum des Halles shopping area are here, along with many cafes, brasseries and restaurants, which make this a popular social spot, especially at night. This area is also home to the French stock exchange (Bourse du Commerce), Tour St-Jacques, St-Eustache Church and a municipal media library (Vidéothèque de Paris).

Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint-Louis

These two islands of the river Seine are linked by the Pont St-Louis. The larger of the two - Ile de la Cité - houses Notre-Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle, Conciergerie and Palais de Justice. The flower and bird markets are near metro station Cité and there are interesting restaurants bordering Place Dauphine. Quaint shops and restaurants line the narrow streets of Ile Saint-Louis.

Le Marais

The Marais district groups the city's Jewish and homosexual neighbourhoods and some unusual galleries, shops, cafés and restaurants. Points of interest include the city hall (Hôtel de Ville), Musée Picasso, Maison de Victor Hugo, Place des Vosges and a number of registered landmarks including aristocratic residences and churches.

Latin Quarter

So named for the language spoken by university students until the French Revolution, the Latin Quarter is among the city's most colourful districts. The renowned Sorbonne and Collège de France are here, as well as some prestigious secondary schools. There are many ethnic restaurants and bars in rue de la Hachette and its winding side streets. Boulevard St-Germain has a variety of shops, most notable the book dealer Gibert Joseph.

St-Germain-des-Prés

This district is bordered roughly by the Seine, Boulevard St-Germain and Boulevard St-Michel. It combines a village atmosphere with the urban chic of the hotels, shops, bars and restaurants that have settled here in recent decades. Tied to a longstanding intellectual tradition, the area still has excellent bookshops, prestigious schools and the famed Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp. There are several art galleries and jazz clubs. Landmarks include the Musée d'Orsay, Musée de la Monnaie, l'Institut de France and the Palais Abbatial.

Bastille

Memorial to the insurrection of 1830, today the Colonne de Juillet is also synonymous with a young, dynamic district filled with cafés, bars and restaurants staying open and busy till late. There are a number of popular nightclubs and venues behind Place de la Bastille, notably the Havanita Café and Le Balajo in Rue de Lappe. The modern Opéra Bastille, Proménade Plantée and shops of the Viaduc des Arts are here.

Montparnasse

Controversial at the time of its construction, the 200 metre Tour Montparnasse towers over this district of shops, restaurants, movie theatres and hotels. Once renowned in the international art world, the area lost its importance after WWII but the bohemian legacy of Picasso, Modigliani, Max Jacob and Henry Miller is still evident in the cafe-theatres and restaurants such as La Coupole. Places of interest include the Montparnasse cemetery, Musée de la Poste and Gare Montparnasse.

Opéra and Grands Boulevards

The area from Place de la Madeleine all the way to Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is a centre for business and tourist activity. Most of the city's department stores are on Boulevard Haussmann, with many banks and travel agencies on Avenue de l'Opéra. The area is busy by day and night with continual heavy traffic serving the movie theatres and restaurants on Boulevard des Capucines and Boulevard des Italiens. Points of interest include the Musée Grevin, France-Richelieu National Library and a number of shop galleries.

République

Hotels, stores and chain and fast-food restaurants surround the Place de la République with Moricet's Monument de la République in the square. The Canal St-Martin with its bars and cafes is to the northeast, while to the southeast, not far from the Cirque d'Hiver, is Rue Oberkampf with its clubs, bars and restaurants.

Trocadéro

The neoclassical Palais de Chaillot houses the Musée de la Marine, Musée de l'Homme, Musée du Cinéma and Théâtre National de Chaillot. Place de Varsovie and the terraced gardens frame the palace's pools and fountains which make for good views from Pont d'Iéna. On the other side of the complex lies Place du Trocadéro. Stately buildings in the immediate vicinity serve as quarters for a number of embassies, consulates and financial institutions.

Eiffel Tower and Invalides

The 324 metre tall Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris, and for many synonymous with France. This district serves as headquarters for a number of embassies and government agencies. The Ecole Militaire and Champ-de-Mars face the Pont d'Iéna. To the east, across from the Pont Alexandre III, is the Hôtel des Invalides with its gilt dome and green lawns. The area also groups the Assemblée Nationale, Palais Bourbon and Hôtel Matignon, which together form the seat of French government.

Chinatown

One of Paris's two major Asian districts is south of Rue de Tolbiac, between Avenue d'Ivry and Avenue de Choisy. The many restaurants of the area offer a variety of pan-Pacific cuisines, especially Vietnamese. There are several shops selling exotic foods and imported gifts, the largest being the Tang Frères supermarket.

Montmartre

Montmartre is best known for its connection to the arts when, in the late 19th century, it became a centre for poets, painters and writers. The area is still known for street entertainment, traditional style bistros and nightlife. The much visited Sacré-Cœur and Place du Tertre are here, as is the Espace Salvador Dali, Musée de Montmartre and Place des Abbesses. Other points of interest include Montmartre's vineyards and cemetery. The city's tallest summit provides a view of the capital.

Père Lachaise

Père Lachaise cemetery is the resting place of many famous writers and musicians including Molière, Balzac, Bizet, Proust, Wilde, Chopin, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. The neighbouring area is eclectic and multicultural with bars and cafes in Ménilmontant and ethnic shops and restaurants in Belleville, the second largest Asian district of Paris.

Parc de la Villette

This post-modern complex houses the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Cité de la Musique, Zénith concert venue and the Grande Halle de la Villette, where trade fairs and the annual Villette Jazz Festival take place. A variety of events - including free outdoor film screenings - are held outdoors on the lawns in summer.