THE CITY OF LIGHT
As the sun dips below the horizon, Paris comes alive. Epic architecture illuminates reflecting off the Seine as evening sets in. But the name “City of Light” comes from the Age of Enlightenment, a post-Renaissance intellectual and philosophical movement of European ideas during the 17th and 18th centuries.
A city rich with culture, history, cuisine, and shopping, Parisian parks, and plazas invite locals to spread out a picnic blanket or relax on a bench, while art galleries, monuments, and event spaces attract visitors from around the world. Shops range from large department stores to quaint boutiques—some are even found within hidden, indoor corridors. Michelin-starred dining mingles effortlessly with quality-focused bistros and brasseries.
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The City of Paris radiates outward from two small islands (Île-de-la-Cité & Île-Saint-Louis) at a bend along the Seine River in the central north of France. Within the Avenue Périphérique central ring encompassing Paris is the crown jewel within the Petite Couronne, the inner ring of departments (Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Val-de-Marne), to make up Grand Paris, which is then surrounded by the outer Grande Couronne, outer ring, in the capital region of Île-de-France.
Currency: Euro €
When to go: Ideal April–June, or September–early November;
Summer – generally hot;
Winter – chilly and gray, but also cozy, Christmastime lights
Airport: Paris–Charles De Gaulle Airport (main) or Aéroport de Paris–Orly
Train station: Gare du Nord for RER B (Blue) to CDG airport or for high-speed Eurostar—direct routes to London, Brussels, and Amsterdam + Gare de Lyon + several other stations throughout the city, all adjacent to the Metro
Metro + RER: Local rail system makes Paris very accessible (more below), as well as connecting the greater Île-de-France region.
River: Batobus of Paris hop-on, hop-off river cruises on the Seine are a relaxing and scenic way to see the heart of the city
Arrondissements: 20 districts into which Paris is divided
The center of Paris is measured from Point Zéro, marked in front of Notre Dame on the Île-de-la-Cité. From the western tip of this island and the Louvre across the river, 20 arrondissements (districts) spiral clockwise to the outer Périphérique (perimeter boulevard), each with unique characteristics.
|Arrondissement (District)||Main Features & Attractions|
|1st: Louvre||Musée du Louvre, Palais Royal, Tuileries Gardens, Palais de la Cité, Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle, Place Vendôme. Forum Les Halles|
|2nd: Bourse||Historic Stock Exchange (Bourse), Rue Montorgueil (market), Rue de la Paix (shops)|
|3rd: Temple||Art galleries such as Musée National Picasso and Carnavalet Museum, outer Marais|
|4th: Hôtel de Ville||Île-de-la-Cité, Nôtre-Dame, Hôtel de Ville, Centre Pompidou, The Marais, Île-St.-Louis|
|5th: Panthéon||Pantheon, Musée de Cluny, Marché Mouffetard, Sorbonne University, Ménagerie zoo & gardens|
|6th: Luxembourg||Senate, Institute of France, Odéon Theatre (School of Fine Arts), Saint-Germain-des-Prés (shops), Église Saint-Sulpice, Luxembourg Palace & Gardens|
|7th: Palais-Bourbon||Musée d’Orsay, Musée du quai Branly, Musée Rodin, Musée Maillol, Eiffel Tower, Hôtel des Invalides, École Militaire|
|8th: l’Elysée||Arc de Triomphe, Chic district, Elysée Palace, Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Grand Palais & Petit Palais, Place de la Concorde, Parc Monceau, Musée Jacquemart-André|
|9th: l’Opéra||Department stores such as Le Printemps and Nouvelles Galeries, Opéra Garnier|
|10th: l’Entrepôt||Porte Saint-Denis, Canal Saint-Martin, Gare de l’Est & Gare du Nord|
|11th: Popincourt||Place de la Bastille, Rue Oberkampf, Rue de Lappe restaurants & bars|
|12th: Reuilly||Bois de Vincennes, Gare de Lyon, residential|
|13th: Gobelins||François-Mitterrand Library, Station F corporate campus for startups, Place d’Italie|
|14th: Observatoire||Paris Observatory, Catacombs of Paris, Montparnasse Cemetery, Montsouris Park|
|15th: Vaugirard||Montparnasse Tower, residential|
|16th: Passy||Bois de Boulogne, Maison Art Nouveau, Marché Ave du President Wilson, bourgeois residential, Palais de Chaillot, Parc de Prince (PSG stadium)|
|17th: Batignolles-Monceau||Ternes & Plaine-de-Monceaux districts (chic), Batignolles & Épinettes districts (hip)|
|18th: Buttes-Montmartre||Montmartre, Sacré-Cœur, Place du Tertre, Cabaret Au Lapin Agile, Moulin Rouge, Porte de la Chapelle|
|19th: Buttes-Chaumont||La Villette, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont|
|20th: Ménilmontant||Belvédère de Belleville, Père-Lachaise cemetery, lively Belleville|
Along the outer Bd. Périphérique (ring boulevard) in 12th–20th are several sports complexes and fields.
One of the world’s best public transit systems, the extensive and user-friendly Metro tightly connects the inner city, creating a walkable center, while RER trains extend service into Grand Paris and continue into the greater Île-de-France region.
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