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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.