|Arrondissements in Paris, France|
|True Parisians, whether resident or visitor, know Paris's arrondissement system, a charming anachronism. Jane does. Tom ignores them. He uses landmarks and Métro stations to find his way around Paris.|
Medieval Paris was at the very heart of what is now the modern city, but since medieval times Paris has grown and absorbed many surrounding communities.
These once-outlying medieval villages live on as the arrondissements or municipal "boroughs" of Paris. As in the boroughs of New York City or London, each arrondissement has its own mini-city government and its own character.
Paris's arrondissements are numbered from 1 to 20, starting from the premier (1er) in the old medieval town center (the Louvre) and progressing in a clockwise spiral to the final 20th arrondissement which includes the famous Père Lachaise cemetery on the eastern side of the city:
In the old days, Paris addresses bore the number of the arrondissement (1er for premier, 2e for deuxième, 3e for troisième, etc.) as in Paris 4e, but today you'll see a modern postal code such as 75004, meaning that the address is in Paris (75), in the 4th arrondissement (004), which includes Île St-Louis and part of Le Marais.
Each arrondissement has a character and a meaning for Parisians:
The 3rd (3e), east of the 1st and 2nd, is the quieter northern part of Le Marais, now a residential district of young professionals.
The 4th, southeast of the 1er and south of the 3e, includes most of Le Marais, once a swamp, then the ancient Jewish quarter, today an artsy and gay neighborhood, which still preserves much of its village character with winding, narrow streets, small shops and little courtyards. Landmarks in the 4th include the Hôtel de Ville, Place des Vosges, Centre Pompidou, Île Saint-Louis, and the eastern part of the Île de la Cité (including Notre-Dame cathedral).
The 6th, west of the 5th on the south (left) bank of the Seine, includes the Jardin de Luxembourg with its Palais de Luxembourg, seat of the French Senate; the École des Beaux-Arts, Academie Française, Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Église Saint-Sulpice.
Paris 7e & 16e
To the west, south of the Seine, the 7th (7e) and 16th (16e) are the poshest residential areas. The 7th includes the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Invalides, Assemblée Nationale, Musée d'Orsay and Musée Rodin.
The landmark here is the Palais Garnier, Paris's ornate 19th-century opera house, the Boulevard Houssmann, and several of the great department stores including Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.
Paris 11e & 12e
The 13th borders the 5th and is home to the Mitterrand Library, part of the Bibliotheque national de France. You'll also find the Manufacture des Gobelins, the famous tapestry maker founded in 1601.
Paris 14e, 15e & 16e
Go to the southwestern 14th & 15th for the mammoth Gare Montparnasse and Tour Montparnasse, the Parc Montsouris, Breton restaurants, and the modern Vaugirard district. The 16th is among Paris's choicest and most expensive residential districts, in part because it includes the vast Bois de Boulogne.
Paris 17e & 18e
Paris 19e & 20e
Though fine for government, the arrondissement system isn't very useful for visitors. By the time you've learned its subtleties (if ever), you've been back home for a month.