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Experience the Heart of Paris by Touring its Arrondissements

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Experience the Heart of Paris by Touring its Arrondissements

story by: House of Travel

Paris will always be a favourite for tourists, famous for its romance, culture, heritage and beautiful architecture. For those who want to dig a little deeper and uncover the real heart of this amazing city, put aside some time to explore some of Paris' 20 arrondissements (also known as districts by those of us unfamiliar with the native tongue).

Its first arrondissement is located right in the heart of the city, with consecutive districts spiralling outwards. The lower numbers, located closer to the heart of the city, typically have some major tourist attractions, including shopping and some iconic hotels. For example Musėe de Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Rue Saint Honore and the iconic Hotel Meurice all sit in the 1st arrondissement. Outside of the arrondissements lie the banlieues, also known as Paris' suburbs. 

Once you've got your head around all that (and you'd be forgiven for taking a moment to come to terms with it!), you'll want to pay special attention to which arrondissements deserve your attention while you're in the city of love. Unless you're planning an extensive tour it's unlikely you'll be able to spend time in all 20 districts, so we've decided to give you a leg up and picked out some of our favourite ones.

We've gone for five arrondissements (it was pretty tough to limit ourselves to that number) and even if you're only in Paris for a short stay, you should still be able to visit most, if not all, of them in one trip.

Strap yourself in and get ready for a whirlwind ride through our favourite arrondissements in Paris.

3rd arrondissement 

The city's 3rd arrondissement is one of the smallest measured by area. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in attractions. It contains the northern section of one of the most historical areas in Paris - the medieval Le Marais district, the rest of which is located in the 4th arrondissement.

The picturesque location of this district, located on the banks of the Seine, is accentuated by the charming architecture of the various old buildings and museums dotted throughout it. Many of Paris' noblest families used to live here and their 17th-century mansions make up much of the streetscape. The Jewish quarter is found here and dates back as far as the 13th century and Musee d'art et d'histoire du judaisme exhibits pieces of significant Jewish art and history.

Art and art history feature strongly here and the Picasso Museum is a must-visit for anyone with even a passing interest in one of Europe's greatest ever artists. You'll also find the Carnavalet Museum - detailing to the history of Paris - as well as the oldest surviving house in the city. Built in 1407, it's located on rue de Montmorency.

Straddling the 3rd and 4th districts is the amazing Place Des Vosges. It is the oldest planned square in the city, renamed after the French Revolution and epitomises classic French style and the very unique 17th century architecture.

6th arrondissement

This district is perhaps best known for its Saint-Germain-des-Pres quartier, but also boasts both the Latin Quarter and the Luxembourg Gardens, providing a versatile holiday experience right in the heart of the Rive Gauche. This district is beloved by locals and holidaymakers alike, with plenty of culture and vibrant atmosphere to soak up, complete with charming streets lined with authentic patisseries and bakeries, coffee shops and boutique outlets for you to rummage through. 

One must-see is the Musėe de Cluny, which is dedicated to arts from the Middle Ages. It boasts two of Paris' most significant buildings, including the Gallo-Roman Baths built near the end of the first century, and features art such as tapestries, sculptures, paintings, silver, ivory and stained glass. 

The aforementioned Luxembourg Gardens, also known as Jardin du Luxembourg, are particularly exquisite with their broad avenues, leafy trees and immaculate lawns peppered with fountains and statues. The Gardens are open longer in the summer months and are perfect for a picnic, a long walk or even just to people watch. Don't miss the toy sailboats in the octagonal pool here - you can even rent one and race them round the water to your heart's content. 

7th arrondissement

The seventh arrondissement is notable for many reasons, but the most obvious is its inclusion of the Eiffel Tower. Don't be fooled by its village-like atmosphere - this district boasts some fairly grand attractions. 

Stroll the narrow cobbled streets and undertake a spot of shopping, or fall in love with the candle-lit bistros boasting succulent meals. Don't miss the Musėe d'Orsay, a historic building that displays art work from the period between 1848 and 1914. It's not just about paintings and sculptures here, however. There's also a range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts, films and shows to take in when you visit, so plan your trip accordingly. 

If you're interested in history, this is the district for you, as it's got one of the finest collections of museums anywhere in Paris. Soak up the peaceful and romantic nature of Musėe Rodin, explore the works of Aristide Maillol at Musėe Maillol and get in touch with the past at Musėe de l'Armee, the world's largest military museum. 

Culinary enthusiasts will find plenty to sink their teeth into here, including fresh produce, mouth-watering meats, cheese and more. Check out open markets such as the one at Rue de Grenelle, or pick up organic products at Avenue de Saxe on Thursdays and Saturdays. Pont de l'Alma boasts Paris' largest open market, taking place minutes from the Eiffel Tower on Wednesdays and Sundays. Try the different types of escargot, or stick to the fresh fish and local wine.

8th arrondissement

While the 8th arrondissement is simply bursting with great tourist attractions, it's best known for one of the most famous boulevards in the world - the Champs-Elysees. It's quite an upmarket area and the famous avenue is lined with delicate trees bordering on its quality restaurants and fashion boutiques. It forms one side of the 'Golden Triangle' shopping district, together with Avenue Montaigne and Avenue George V. Here, you'll find high-end designers such as Christian Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton

The Champs-Elysees is bookended by two of the city's best-known tourist spots - the Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Grand Palais at the other. To look down the Champs-Elysees at the sun setting behind the iconic Arc is a truly spectacular sight. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, found beneath the arc, is a sobering and touching memorial.

Besides these two attractions, you'll also find the Petit Palais, the Presidential Palace Elysee and the Madeleine church. Monceau Park is the perfect spot for a romantic evening stroll in the city of love.

18th arrondissement

For our final arrondissement we jump 10 numbers to arrive at the 18th and the artsy neighbourhood of Montmartre. Situated on a hill overlooking Paris, the views across the city are spectacular, so get ready to be snap-happy. It's filled with pretty cobblestone laneways, quaint boutiques and hidden gardens, so it makes the perfect place to lose yourself for a few hours. If you visit on the weekend, this is where you’ll see the artists in the street. It’s crowded but provides another unique taste of this beautiful city. 

While this is still very much a tourist hotspot, it's also a residential area that retains some of its bohemian roots, so offers a window into Parisian life that you won't find closer to the city centre. Perched atop the Montmartre hill is the Sacré Coeur Basilica, an impressive 19th-century cathedral designed by Paul Abadie.

No visit to the 18th arrondissement is complete without paying a visit to what many would consider the most famous building in Paris, the Moulin Rouge. Whether you just want to take a photo of the famous red windmill above its doors or want to go along to the feather and sequin-filled show extravaganza, you can’t pass up to opportunity to at least say you were here.

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