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Sightseeing in Paris │© go_see / Pixabay
Sightseeing in Paris │© go_see / Pixabay
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14 Things to See and Do in 14 Parisian Neighbourhoods

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 20 July 2017
Officially, and excluding the woodland parks of Vincennes and Boulogne, Paris is an 87 square kilometer oval, surrounded by a 35 kilometer ring road, that’s divided into 20 arrondissements, each with its own town hall and mayor, which are then split four ways to give 80 quartiers. But, like all things worth exploring, the 14 best neighborhoods in the city are boundary-blurring, and there’s something you absolutely have to do in every one of them.

Go shopping in the Haut-Marais

The Marais is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Paris and, while the falafel restaurants, noodle joints, and gay bars of its busiest parts are definitely worth a visit, the best of the shopping is to be had in its northern section. Whether its food, fashion, literature, or interior design you’re after, you’ll find it in the chilled, village-feeling streets of the Haut-Marais.

Dine out in South Pigalle

Twenty years ago, Parisians wouldn’t have been caught dead in the area south of Pigalle; now, they can’t get enough of its boutique hotels, gourmet food shops, and high-end restaurants. You could dine out every afternoon and evening for quite a few weeks on the Rue des Martyrs and Rue Henry Monnier alone, with special mention going to La Table des Anges, Buvette, and Les Affranchis.

Take a street art tour in Belleville

The best street art in Paris can be found by wandering through the arrondissements of the north and east of the city, traditionally working class neighborhoods which are now quickly gentrifying. Arguably the Parisian street most famous for its high-quality graffiti is the Rue Denoyez in Belleville. You can take a guided walking tour of this artistic quarter for just €15 if you book online.

Play pétanque in Batignolles

Pétanque – France’s answer to bowling – is a national pastime which unites young and old in Paris. Nowadays, you can find specialist bars with indoor terrains to play in but if the weather’s good then the best way to enjoy the sport is with the locals in a square or small neighborhood park like the one in Batignolles, an up-and-coming address in the 17th arrondissement.

Pétanque in Batignolles │© KoS / Wikimedia Commons
Pétanque in Batignolles │ | © KoS / Wikimedia Commons

Picnic in Canal Saint-Martin

Few parts of Paris are livelier than the Canal Saint-Martin, home to trendy shops, bars, restaurants, and even a few quirky florists. You can take a cruise on the canal or sail yourself up and down its length but the easiest way to appreciate the vibe is with a picnic with friends on the docks, one which starts early and lasts well into the night.

Listen to jazz in Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Very much a city for music lovers, Paris is most often associated with the development of jazz during its heyday of the 1920s. There are superb jazz clubs across the capital but by far the greatest concentration is to be found in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the most glamorous of the Left Bank’s neighborhoods and the preferred hangout for everyone from Voltaire to Hemingway.

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Swim in style in Buttes aux Cailles

Few things will make you feel more like a local than donning the mandatory swimming cap and, for men, skin-tight speedos and taking a dip in one of Paris’ municipal pools. Far from dull, depressing sports facilities, many of these are beautiful architectural treasures in their own right. As well as being a looker, the Piscine de la Buttes aux Cailles is also eco-friendly, being heated by data centers.

Explore covered passageways in Grands Boulevards

At night, the Grands Boulevards neighborhood comes alive thanks to its high density of after-work bars and late-night clubs but during the day it’s often overlooked as a business district caught between the flashier areas of Montmartre, Louvre-Tuileries, and Canal Saint-Martin. However, between the office blocks are some of Paris’ most attractive shopping arcades, relics of the city’s glittering Belle Époque and the perfect places to pick up a souvenir.

Galerie Vivienne │© Benh LIEU SONG / Flickr
Galerie Vivienne │ | © Benh LIEU SONG / Flickr
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Go drinking in Oberkampf

The Rue Oberkampf is essentially 1.2 kilometers of fun: bars, restaurants, live music venues, and more bars line its length and many side streets. It’s not the kind of place to wear a suit or a glittery dress by any means (though nowhere in Paris really is) as it attracts a younger, hard-partying crowd. Two addresses to definitely check out are Les Philanthropes and Bar Les Pirates.

Bar Les Pirates, 88 Rue Oberkampf, 75011 Paris, France

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See a show in La Villette

Located in the northeast of Paris, La Villette is one of its most interesting and least-visited neighborhoods. The majority of its attractions are dotted around the futuristic Parc de la Villette, the city’s largest green space, including the Zénith, a huge venue for popular artists, and the Philharmonie de Paris, a lesser-known but sensational building and a great place to (re)discover your love of classical music.

Philharmonie de Paris, 221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris, France

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Go clubbing in Austerlitz

Quai d’Austerlitz is another of Paris’ rapidly evolving neighborhoods, once an industrial wasteland and now the home of luxury apartment blocks, a genre-defying library, the world’s largest startup campus, and Les Docks, the French capital’s self-contained city of fashion and design (a must-visit for stylists or interior decorator). Contained within this vast lime green waterfront wonder are two killer clubs: Wanderlust and the newly opened Nuits Fauves.

Nuits Fauves, 32 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013 Paris, France

Get your groceries in Bastille

Food markets and covered halls are 10 a penny in Paris, the gastronomic capital of the world (despite what some studies might tell you), but one of the best is the Marché Bastille, which takes over the Boulevard Richard Lenoir every Thursday and Sunday. The market kicks off at 7AM and usually begin to wind down around 2:00PM so get there early to bag the freshest produce.

Marché Bastille

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Buy (secondhand) books in the Latin Quarter

Paris is a book lover’s paradise and the city’s literary heart is the Latin Quarter, the Left Bank neighborhood that’s home to France’s prestigious Sorbonne university. Whether you are shopping for the latest releases in French or English or some wonderfully dusty secondhand editions, there’s hardly a street here that doesn’t have a handful of bookstores. Try these 10 books to help you get under the skin of the French.

Sorbonne university, 75005 Paris, France

Confront death in Gambetta

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Père Lachaise
Père Lachaise | © Coyau / Wikimedia Commons

Confront death in Gambetta

Not only is the sleepy 20th the last of Paris’ arrondissements numerically, it’s also the one that people are least likely to visit, except, that is, if they have an interest in life’s ultimate deep sleep. Just next to Gambetta metro station, you’ll find Père Lachaise cemetery, the final resting place of, among many others, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Extend your trip to the area by visiting great restaurants like Shingané and bars like Court Circuit.

Père Lachaise cemetery, 16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris, France

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