The city of Paris is divided into twenty arrondissements. The first one is in the center, the following ones spiral outwards in a clock-wise direction. Most of the famous tourist attractions can be found in one of the central eight arrondissements.
The arrondissements are encircled by the périphérique, a ring highway. Outside the périphérique are the banlieues, the suburbs of Paris.
Below a concise overview of all the arrondissements and their most important sights and attractions.
Arrondissement 1 – Louvre
The least populated of the twenty arrondissements in Paris is at the geographical center of the city, hence the area is crammed with historic sights. The Louvre Museum, Royal Palace, Tuileries gardens, Forum des Halles, Bourse du Commerce and the upscale Vendôme Square are all located here. The 1st arrondissement also comprises the western tip of the Île de la Cité, including the magnificent Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie.
Arrondissement 2 – Bourse
Primarily a business district, with the Palais de la Bourse – the former stock exchange – as its most notable landmark. Another important building in the smallest of Paris’s arrondissements is the historic National Library. A modern expansion of the library is located in the 13th arrondissement. The second arrondissement is also home to a number of historic shopping arcades.
Arrondissement 3 – Temple
Arrondissement 4 – Hôtel-de-Ville
The 4th arrondissement contains the southern part of the medieval Marais district as well as the Île St-Louis and the eastern part of Île de la Cité, the oldest part of Paris. This area is very popular thanks to attractions such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Place des Vosges, the city hall and the Gothic Tour St-Jacques. Contrasting with all these historic buildings are the modern Centre Pompidou and the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain.
Arrondissement 5 – Panthéon
The Latin Quarter, with the renowned Sorbonne university, is situated in this arrondissement. The area’s popular avenue, the Boulevard St-Michel, marks the border with the 6th arrondissement. The most famous sight in the 5th arrondissement is the Panthéon, but there are many other noteworthy sights such as the magnificent Val-de-Grâce church, the intriguing St-Etienne-du-Mont church, the Cluny Museum, the roman-era Arènes de Lutèce and the Jardin des Plantes, the city’s botanical garden which is home to the Natural History Museum.
Arrondissement 6 – Luxembourg
One of the world’s greatest parks, the Jardin du Luxembourg, makes this arrondissement popular with locals and visitors alike. The 6th arrondissement also contains a number of landmarks like the Odéon Theatre and the Saint Sulpice church, which sports two towers with a different design. Another important church in this arrondissement is the 11th century Saint-Germain des Prés, the oldest abbey church in Paris. The church is at the heart of the namesake neighborhood, which is one of the most popular areas to stay in for visitors to Paris.
Arrondissement 7 – Palais-Bourbon
Government institutions and major landmarks dominate this upscale arrondissement. The most famous of these landmarks is the Eiffel Tower, drawing millions of visitors each year. Other important tourist draws are the Invalides – with its museums and Napoleon’s tomb – and three more museums: the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin and the Musée du Quai Branly, which is dedicated to non-European cultures. The Palais Bourbon (National Assembly), École Militaire (Military School) and the UNESCO headquarters can also be found in the 7th arrondissement.
Arrondissement 8 – Élysée
Another arrondissement loaded with tourist attractions. The Champs-Élysées – probably the world’s most famous boulevard – cuts through this arrondissement from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Bordering the Champs-Élysées are the magnificent Grand Palais and Petit Palais, as well as the Élysée, the presidential Palace. The arrondissement also features the temple-like Madeleine church and the romantic Monceau Park.
Arrondissement 9 – Opéra
A multifaceted arrondissement, with prestigious boulevards in the south and the not so prestigious Pigalle area – a red light district – in the north. Pigalle does attract its share of tourists though thanks to the nearby Moulin Rouge (18th arr). Just as famous, but located in the south part of the 9th arrondissement, is the former Opéra Garnier, a magnificent opera house. Nearby is the Galeries Lafayette, a well-known department store. The majestic Sainte-Trinité church is also located in this arrondissement.
Arrondissement 10 – Enclos-St-Laurent
Arrondissement 11 – Popincourt
A very low profile arrondissement, mostly residential. The Oberkampf district in the north is better known for its nightlife than its landmarks, but it is home to the Cirque d’Hiver (winter circus) and the St. Ambroise church.
Arrondissement 12 – Reuilly
The large Bastille Opera can be found in this mostly residential area, as well as the Bercy Stadium and the nearby modern Bercy Park. The arrondissement is bordered by the expansive Vincennes park on the east.
Arrondissement 13 – Gobelins
Arrondissement 14 – Observatoire
A lively arrondissement, especially around the Montparnasse Boulevard, where the Tour Maine Montparnasse (located in the adjacent 15th arrondissement) dominates the skyline. Not far from this skyscraper is the Montparnasse Cemetery, where many famous French citizens are buried. A popular tourist attraction in this arrondissement are the catacombs, which can be accessed from the Denfert-Rochereau square. The observatory of Paris nearby gave the 14th arrondissement its name.
Arrondissement 15 – Vaugirard
Arrondissement 16 – Passy
Even if the 7th arrondissement may be even more exclusive, the 16th arrondissement has the reputation of being the richest, and only the better-off are able to pay the high rents here. The arrondissement is bordered by the enormous Boulogne park to the west. A big draw is the Palais de Chaillot, from where you can have a great view of the Eiffel Tower. The Palais de Chaillot is also home to several museums and a theater. The Musée Guimet, a museum with a collection of Asian art and the Palais de Tokyo, home to modern art, can be found nearby. Another notable museum is the Musée Marmottan, with a collection of impressionist art.
Arrondissement 17 – Batignolles-Monceau
This is a diverse arrondissement, bordering the grand boulevards in the south and the lowly Pigalle neighborhood in the north. The Palais des Congrès, a large convention center, is located at the western tip of the arrondissement.
Arrondissement 18 – Butte-Montmartre
Arrondissement 19 – Buttes-Chaumont
Arrondissement 20 – Ménilmontant
This mostly residential, cosmopolitan arrondissement has no real attractions but it still gets its fair share of tourists thanks to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the most famous cemetery in Paris.