Paris Neighborhoods – Right Bank
What Parisians call the right bank (river Seine flows east to west) is the north side of Paris and this is where you can explore the following neighborhoods.
The Montorgueil quarter is spread across the 1st and the 2nd arrondissements in the center of Paris and was named after a hill, literally the proud mount. In its center is the adorable self-titled street, rue Montorgueil, a lively pedestrian street full of pretty cafés, restaurants, and is especially famous for its delicious food shops (fishmongers, bakeries, pastry shops, cheese shops, butchers) selling the freshest food products. The neighborhood has a village-like feel about it, right in the heart of Paris. It comprises charming little streets, some for pedestrians only, that are sometimes cobbled too (rue Montorgueil, rue Saint-Sauveur, rue Tiquetonne, rue Greneta, rue Mandar, rue Française…).
Thanks to its lively atmosphere, the area attracts lots of visitors, hipsters, boho-chic people and foodies who appreciate addresses like the Stohrer bakery, known for its pastries (baba-au-rhum, religieuse or pies), the “Au Rocher de Cancale” café for the oysters, “L’escargot de Montorgueil” restaurant for the snails, “L’Epicerie de Bruno” for its large variety of spices or the “G. Detou” grocery for its cooking ingredients. The Montorgueil quarter is surrounded to the South by the Halles and the Saint-Eustache Church, to the North by Rue Réaumur, and to the East by Boulevard Sébastopol.
The Marais neighborhood encompasses the 3rd and the 4th arrondissements and is considered the trendiest neighborhood of the city. Lots of artists, celebrities, ‘fashionistas’, hipster-chic people love to spend their time there. The area hosts some of the most beautiful historic townhouses of the French old aristocracy, and at the same time boasts a great many art galleries, stylish shops, fashionable restaurants and cafés. This old part of Paris also has the finest museums and libraries like Les Archives Nationales, sometimes being housed in historical mansions.
The name “Marais” is the French word for “marsh” (“swamp”) but the times when the area used to get flooded every winter are long gone. After being the favorite neighborhood of the French aristocracy, the “Marais” had become a place full of manufacturing shops in the 1800’s. Finally, it had to be entirely cleaned up and rehabilitated thanks to an active restoration Policy first decreed by André Malraux in the 60’s before it eventually became attractive and fashionable again. The Marais area is also known for gathering different quarters, among which the Jewish quarter, the old Chinese quarter and the Gay and Lesbian community. If you’re a fan of Jewish food, you should definitely try to go to “Pletzl” (which is the Jewish quarter of the Marais), to taste one of the delicious falafel sandwiches, pitas, apple strudels, or cheesecakes that you will find there (especially in Rue des Rosiers and Rue des Ecouffes). The lively “Marché des Enfants rouges”, which is the oldest food market in Paris and is beloved by all Parisians, is also worth a visit. When exploring the Marais, be sure not to miss the famous Place des Vosges, the Picasso Museum, and the beautiful gardens of the Carnavalet Museum!
The Bastille quarter consists of the Bastille square, where the famous prison once stood, and its surrounding areas. Very little remains from the old stronghold, which was destroyed after the storming in 1789. Instead, the tall July column stands at the center of the square, commemorating another French revolution (namely the Three Glorious Days of the French July revolution of 1830). On one side of the square the modern Bastille Opera House welcomes ballet performances, operas and symphony concerts, which contrast with the rest of the area where the numerous cafés, “crêperies”, venues and night clubs attract mainly students and night owls.
It is said that you have to be a Parisian to understand this neighborhood. Some streets are home to Chinese wholesale clothing stores, whereas a step from Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, you will discover little alleys, some of which are home to furniture stores or manufactures, others with Artists’ studios and creators’ boutiques who quite often open their doors to the visitors.
Not to be missed, the Aligre Food Market (Marché d’Aligre) is considered one of the “stomachs” of the city and is mostly frequented by Parisians. Under the Bastille square there is a lovely little marina called “Port de l’Arsenal” that you could easily miss not knowing it was there. Lastly, the Bastille neighborhood also hosts a few smart boutiques, shops and restaurants, whether it is the Ducasse chocolate manufacturing shop (40, rue de la Roquette), the Café Français (3 Place de la Bastille), the Saint-Sabin Grocery and Restaurant (Epicerie Saint-Sabin, 13, rue St.-Sabin), the Badaboum bar known for its special cocktails (2 bis, rue des Taillandiers) or the “Manger” restaurant (24 rue Keller). There are also some cool places like the Café de L’industrie (17, Rue Saint-Sabin), the China Club (bar, small venue and restaurant – 50 rue de Charenton). All these things can be a bit hard to find but that’s all part of their charm, isn’t it?
The district of the Opéra is situated all around the magnificent Opéra Garnier Palace, completed in 1875. Together with the modern Bastille Opera House, the Opéra Garnier is one of the two national opera houses of Paris. The area was shaped by Baron Haussmann and the style of architecture, whether it be buildings or avenues has remained the same ever since. Today, the Opera neighborhood is greatly prized by all Parisians and luxury brands compete for a spot on Place Vendôme, Rue Saint-Honoré or Rue de la Paix, a world-reknown triangle for jewellers and fashion stores. This part of Paris is the ultimate destination for shopping with the Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps department stores located behind the Opera. It is also worth exploring some little hidden “passages”, or simply enjoy the fancier Paris with the Ritz Hotel on Place Vendôme, the Meurice Hotel by the Tuileries Gardens, and the original Coco Chanel boutique in rue Cambon…
Towards the east of the quarter, the Japanese district is located around Rue Sainte-Anne and Rue des Petits-Champs and is full of little Japanese restaurants, groceries, bookshops, travel agencies, hair salons… Parisians also come to the Opera neighborhood to be entertained. Thus, a few movie theaters can be found on Boulevard des Italiens. A bit further, but not too far, the Grands Boulevards are home to many live theaters, the Hard Rock café, and famous addresses such as the Chartier bistrot. The most well-known French music-hall and venue (L’Olympia), which is comparable to the Carneggie Hall in New-York city, is situated on Boulevard des Capucines (to the west from the Garnier Opera House), although the most prestigious French live theater (La Comédie Française) is on Place Colette a step from the Louvre museum. Looking south, the Tuileries gardens host a fair in summertime and children can play with little sailing boats on the ponds of the park.
The neighborhood of Montmartre is situated in the northern part of Paris, in the 18th arrondissement. Paris’ highest hill (La Butte Montmartre) is dominated by the iconic Basilica of the Sacred-Heart (Basilique du Sacré-Coeur). Montmartre looks like a village with lots of narrow side-streets and cobbled alleys, small houses, typical little cafés and a few former artist studios. Even if the country landscape of the past has largely vanished, some landmarks still remain, like the two picturesque windmills and the vineyards on the hill.
The history of Montmartre is associated with the artistic life of Paris during the end of the 1800’s and beginning of the 1900’s and has attracted a large number of great artists, writers, poets, singers, and painters among whom are Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso. Today you can still find the former haunts of those famous artists, including the “Moulin Rouge”, “Au Lapin Agile” or the “Moulin de la Galette”… or their residences and studios such as the famous “Bateau-Lavoir” or the Montmartre Museum which was once home to Renoir, Valadon, Utrillo and many others.
Nowadays, the neighborhood of Montmartre is still beloved by the locals for its arty ambience. The area around the Sacré-Coeur and the Place du Tertre tends to get very crowded with tourists so it is worth coming early to appreciate the charming little streets at their best. From Pigalle to Sacré-Coeur, through Abbesses and rue Lepic, it is better to dedicate half a day to be sure to take everything in.
The quiet little village of the Batignolles was absorbed by Paris in 1860, although some lovely little streets remain (Cité des fleurs, Cité Lemercier) to testify to its surbuban past. Most of the buildings you can see now were built at the turn of the 1900’s for the modest working class. The Batignolles, with its lovely parks, its many typical restaurants and independant designers’ shops, is now a favoured part of Paris for families to settle. While there are no major landmarks here, it is nice to take a stroll in the small streets, stop at the Italian deli or the covered market, Rue des Moines, to experience the village-like feel of the neighborhood.
Don’t miss Sainte-Marie des Batignolles church and the Parc des Batignolles, home to many species of duck, a lovely miniature lake, a cascade and remarkable trees over 150 years old. A much more recent addition to the area is the Martin Luther King park, bigger in size but also more modern and featuring a skate park and areas to rest and picnic with the kids.
Overall, this quiet part of Paris is a nice break from the centre and a perfect location for a drink or a good dinner with friends.
Back in the 19th century, the Porte de l’Etoile (the star’s gate) was one of the main gateways into Paris enabling the city to collect a trading tax. Today, a straight line can be drawn from La Defense business district outside of Paris (West) to La Concorde square. Thanks to Baron Haussmann, the Place Charles de Gaulle Etoile roundabout sits proudly in the middle of that line, a marvel of urbanism spanning three different arrondissements (8th, 16th, 17th), with the Arc de Triomphe for a crown.
At the top of what is called the golden triangle, home to many embassies and institutions, the Place de l’Etoile is a hub to commute to the western suburbs and La Défense. The neighborhood is, of course, home to the world renowned Champs Elysées, a 2km long strip, referred to as the most beautiful Avenue in the world and famous for its luxury shopping and dining venues. The Avenue features brands like Louis Vuitton, Guerlain or Lancel and, no matter what time of the day or night, the flow of people (mainly tourists) is continuous.