Where to stay in Paris: which arrondissement is right for you?
The 20 arrondissements (city districts) that make up central Paris are defined by their own unique character. Our quick-fire guide provides an overview of each one (along with the top attractions in each), but when it comes to choosing where in the French capital to base yourself, it all depends on your personal requirements.
It should be noted that public transport in the French capital means whizzing around the city is simple, but ultimately, some arrondissements are better suited to certain types of travellers. Whether you’re travelling with kids, in search of the city’s best nightlife or just its cheapest digs, we list where you should stay in Paris.
For those wanting to be close to everything
It doesn't get more central than the 1er (premier; 1st) arrondissement, which, along with the 2e, 3e and 4e, form the collective administration Paris Centre. Staying in the 1er places you footsteps from the city’s mega-sights; such as the enormous Musée du Louvre and landscaped formal gardens Jardin des Tuileries along the Seine. To head further afield, Paris' largest metro and RER (commuter train) hub, Châtelet–Les Halles, is below the 1er's canopied shopping mall Forum des Halles.
Alternative: also epicentral, the 4e has some exquisite high-end places to stay on the Île St-Louis, the smaller of Paris' two inner-city islands, and more affordable options (including hostels and budget hotels) in Le Marais, whose narrow, medieval streets are crammed with stylish boutiques, restaurants and bars.
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For first-time visitors
If it's your first time in Paris, sightseeing is likely to be at the top of your list, making the 8e a perfect base. Here you can take in the 360-degree panorama radiating from Place de la Concorde; stroll the storied av des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe; shop (or window-shop) at luxury fashion houses in the Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle); and board a river cruise, such as those run by Bateaux-Mouches, to glide past the city's most famous landmarks (especially romantic when they're illuminated by night).
For families with kids
The city's best-loved park, the Jardin du Luxembourg, in the 6e, was dedicated by Napoléon to the children of Paris, making this arrondissement a family favourite. Within the chestnut-shaded gardens, little ones can ride ponies, prod wooden sailboats on the octagonal pond, catch a puppet show at its marionette theatre and romp in its playgrounds. It's ideal for picnicking; you'll also find plenty of restaurants catering to families, such as the splendid art-nouveau brasserie Bouillon Racine, which has a kids' menus.
Especially family-friendly hotels here include Le Six, a hop, skip and a jump from the gardens' gates. Citadines Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris' serviced, kitchen-equipped apartments sleep two to four people; all can accommodate a baby cot, and babysitting can be arranged.
Alternative: The Jardin du Luxembourg is bordered to the east by the shop- and cafe-lined bd St-Michel. On the boulevard's eastern side, the 5e, aka the Latin Quarter, also makes a great base with families, thanks to English-language bookshops with dedicated children's sections such as magical Shakespeare & Company, an unmissable sweet shop, Le Bonbon au Palais, styled like a geography classroom with jars of traditional sweets from around France, and a 19th-century magic shop, Mayette la Boutique de la Magie, as well as plenty of child-friendly hotels.
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For travellers on a budget
Some of the city's biggest and best backpacker hostels are located in the 10e, including sociable St Christopher’s Gare du Nord, with a whopping 580 beds and regular live music in its bar; and Generator Hostel, with a rooftop bar, ground-floor cafe and basement bar/club styled like a Parisian metro station. Charming budget hotels in this arrondissement include Hôtel du Nord – Le Pari Vélo. On and around nearby Canal St-Martin you'll find loads of independent shops, cultural centres, bars, bakeries, inexpensive restaurants serving cuisines from around the globe, and laid-back cafes such as Holybelly 5, where locals flock for brunch.
Alternative: The residential, down-to-earth 15e, across the Seine, also has a handful of good hostels and plenty of affordable hotels, neighbourhood bistros and markets. Lovely parks where you can unwind include Parc Georges Brassens, with a secondhand book market on weekends.
For those wanting to get off the beaten track
Paris' 13e doesn't typically feature on visitors' radars but it is fascinating to explore. The village-like Butte aux Cailles, with its quaint car-free streets, has a sting of local bars and restaurants, along with an artesian spring, the Puits Artésien de la Butte aux Cailles (bring a bottle to fill up with its pure, mineral-rich waters), and art-deco swimming complex, Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles, featuring a Nordic pool. Southeast is Paris' largest Chinatown, where high-rise buildings are splashed with street art, while close to the Seine, redeveloped industrial areas include start-up hub Station F. Great accommodation finds here include stylish Hôtel Henriette, furnished with vintage decor, and, floating on the river, Hotel OFF Paris Seine.
Alternative: In the city's northeast, the hilly, gentrifying 20e is also well off the beaten track for most travellers, save for those visiting the famous graves at Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Precipitous Parc de Belleville has spectacular views over the city; its 4.5 hectares shelter an urban vineyard. The arrondissement also has its own small, bustling Chinatown. Accommodation options in the 20e include small-scale hostels and family-run hotels.
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For good nightlife
The Moulin Rouge is an 18e landmark but this northern arrondissement is home to more than just high-kicking can-can shows. The famous cabaret's boiler room has a weekend club, La Machine du Moulin Rouge. Nearby, legendary music hall La Cigale attracts famous solo acts and bands, while off-beat live-music venue Le Divan du Monde has a diverse indie program, and backstreet jazz club Bab-Ilo hosts intimate gigs in its tiny cellar. The arrondissement is awash with bars that are buzzing until late.
Alternative: Paris' 2e arrondissement is another great choice for experiencing the city's nightlife, with world-famous addresses such as Harry’s New York Bar (inventor of the Bloody Mary, among other cocktails) and house and techno temple Le Rex Club. Though small, the 2e has a good range of hotels catering to all budgets.
As the capital of a country revered for its gastronomy, you'll find superb cuisine all over the city, but certain arrondissements have an especially good concentration of divine eateries. Some of Paris' most exciting restaurants are in the hyper-creative 11e, from hole-in-the-wall daytime cafes like Mokonuts to brilliant neobistros including Le Servan, Le 6 Paul Bert and Michelin-starred Septime, as well as old-school favourites such as Chez Paul.
Design hotels, mere footsteps from the 11e's best places to dine, include mid-range Hôtel Exquis and top-end Hôtel l'Antoine, and Hôtel Paris Bastille Boutet, which once upon a time was a chocolate factory.
Alternative: Epicureans should also be sure to check out rue des Martyrs, in the 9e, which is lined with gourmet shops (cheese, wine, jam and more), award-winning boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pastry shops), and has some appealing hotels within strolling distance.
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