How to know which Paris neighbourhood suits your personality
Ah gay Paris. We all want to be that girl in the red beret and striped top, chic boots and baguette underarm, trailed by an effortlessly handsome Frenchman singing sweet nothings as we frolic along the banks of the Seine, right? Or is that just me? Well, you CAN be that in Paris, bien sur, but you need to know where to go (Montmartre or the Latin Quarter most likely). However, Paris is home to an intricate patchwork of very unique neighbourhoods and the locals and tourists change to match.
So whether you’re off to the City of Light for the very first time, back again for you’ve fallen head over heels for the croissants, or moving here because just really want to be a Parisian yourself (and eat croissants on the daily), you’ll need to be clued in to which areas suit your style, and more importantly match your budget. (Disclaimer: you can buy bloody delicious French wine in the store for about 3 euro everywhere, thank god.)
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Now, which Parisian quartier will you fit in best?
The Marais (3rd/4th) – Hipsters, Jews and gay men
If you’re the kind of person who is ahead of the trend, always in the know of the latest bar opening or retail hot spot, you’ll want to hang out in the Marais. Straddling the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, this neighbourhood is home to quite the eclectic crowd. You’ll find trendy art galleries, cafes that rival Melbourne for a flat white, a rabbit warren of vintage shops, and food literally from around the world. This is where the first Chinese community settled in Paris, but it’s also home to a large Jewish community, and thanks to these guys this is where you’ll find hands down the best falafel in the world (well, in France at least). This area was one of the only parts of Paris not demolished under General Haussman (the guy responsible for making all those beautifully but obnoxiously wide avenues), meaning it’s full of old buildings and narrow streets. The locals in this area are seriously trendy, worldly, and a good section of them are gay too, as this is also home to the gay party district.
Saint-Germain-des-Pres (6th)– New money
Are your Parisian dreams filled with the idea of emanating a totally chic, intelligent young Parisian with not a care in the world? This is the place to do it. Saint Germain, in the heart of the left bank, is where you’ll find both intellectual types and high fashion. This is where many fashion houses have their flagship stores, where you’ll find impossibly chic courtyard hotels, and foreigners following in the footsteps of Hemmingway and Sartre. Famous literary cafes like Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots are pricey, so rather than lounge on their terrace with a $20 cafe crème, head to a smaller joint around the corner for a fraction of the price.
Latin Quarter (5th) – Students and authors
If you’re a financially-challenged back-packer with a love for la vie Parisienne, or heading to Paris on university exchange, this area will answer all of your Parisian dreams. Right beside Saint-Germain-des-Pres, this is the oldest quarter in Paris (history = tick) and ruled by students and aspiring authors (pompous intellectual debates here we come). The La Sorbonne University was founded here in the 12th century and has seen through many famous Frenchies including Simone de Beauvoir and Marie Curie. To soak up the fun (read: cheap) student vibe, head to Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue Mouffetard, lined with eateries and bars of all culinary sorts. If you need some fresh air to blow away a hangover, head to the Jardin des Plantes or the Jardin du Luxembourg and join the locals reclining in the green garden chairs scattered about.
16th – Old Money, Nan and Pop
In short, this is where the rich people live. Whereas in the rest of the city buildings are crammed with tiny apartments, in the 16th you’ll find entire floors as one home, or in some pockets, hotel particuliers (town houses) that are still entire homes. If you want to marry into a wealthy Parisian family, hang around here, though TBH there’s not much more to do than take pictures of the pretty buildings, or fork out for a drink with a view at the rooftop bars of The Peninsula Hotel or Hotel Raphael.
NB. Just across the river, the neighbourhood around the Eiffel Tower and Invalides is much the same. Maybe not quite as snooty, but still pretty mild on the things to do, recognisable by the long, wide avenues, and light on the affordable eats.
Louvre/Opera (1st/2nd) – Tourists and the occasional local
While you’ll defs want to explore the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, for they’re jam-packed with stuff to see, they’re not really somewhere to live. The Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, the Palais Royal and the Bourse (old Paris Stock Market) are all here, as well as a long chain of covered passages called Les Passages Couverts, which are filled with charming boutiques and bistros. Angelina’s tea house, which ironically makes the best hot chocolate in Paris, is here too. Stay here if you want to pay a lot of money and have a seriously enviable view of the Tuileries Gardens.
Montmartre (18th) – Artists and tourists mostly
Probably the most famous Parisian neighbourhood, Montmartre is the place for you if you love the quintessential Paris of old. Nutella crepes, quirky cafes, talented artists painting in the street and views for miles. If you’re a Francophile like me and Amelie is your favourite film, you can re-enact a serious portion of the film here, from riding the merry-go-round, to the cafe she worked in to the famous windmill of the Moulin Rouge. Sunset from here is super pretty, but you will have to tackle hoards of others doing the exact same thing.
Canal Saint Martin (10th) – Bobos (bohemian-bourgeois)
What the hell is a bohemian-bourgeois you ask? Well, they’re a breed of 30 to 40-somethings who are the new upper class. Think artistic bohemian vibes but not without ambition and corporate prowess (ie. they make good money but act all free spirited and hippie). SO, now you know who generally LIVES in this neighbourhood, don’t write it off. In fact Canal Saint Martin is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Paris – filled with bars in warehouses, cool new eateries and kids picnicking along the banks of the canals late into the evening before cycling home. This could be you too.
NB. Oberkampf, the neighbourhood next door is a seriously hot nightlife district. With terribly trendy eateries that are reinventing the traditional bistro, and cocktail and beer bars galore.
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