Which arrondissement would you choose?

Mark Hill - 08/07/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Paris is separated into 20 arrondissements starting with the 1ème around le Louvre and then slowly coiling itself around the city until reaching the city limits, La Périphérique.

Deciding on which arrondissement in which to live is one of the most difficult but yet important decisions you’ll make during your time in Paris. Do you chose a quiet corner away from the tourists or would you rather the action be on your doorstep. Then there are practical considerations for example work, transports, schools and costs.

The decision may appear daunting at first but with some careful thought your decision will be made easier.

One of the most pleasurable things to do in Paris is simply to stroll through the city streets. If you have a free weekend simply find a comfortable pair of shoes and let the adventure begin!

When I first came to Paris that’s exactly what I did. After a hearty breakfast and armed with une carte de Paris, a handful of metro tickets and a rough itinerary I set out to find my quartier. It was a beautiful spring day and I felt in an optimistic mood. I’d been to Paris a couple of times so I’d had some experiences of Montmartre and the Latin Quarter, I now wanted to see what the rest of Paris had to offer. I’d received some recommendations from friends living in Paris that le rive droit was better suited to having fun as a young Englishman in Paris than le rive gauche so that’s where I started.

Walking around le Marais (3ème) on a Saturday morning through the crowds of milling shoppers was a great start. Lovely boutiques and cafés on either side of the street. A hectic scene but one that brought me hope and excitement.

After battling through the crowds of style conscious people I stumbled upon what would become one of my favourite areas le Canal Saint Martin. The canal begins its journey close to République and runs through the heart of the 10th arrondissement. It’s a Boho’s dream (see more about Bobo & Boho) with hip cafés like Chez Prune, cool bookstores like Artazart and nightlife like Point Éphémère. The area is about the relaxed lifestyle along the canal. Amateur fishermen casting their rods, young families with pushchairs and young Parisiens picnic along the banks.

After the cobbled streets, stylish fringes, galleries, terraced cafés and streams of tourists I felt the need to discover something more, a less bourgeois and gentrified side of the city.

Mark Hill - 08/07/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Then suddenly I came across rue Belleville and this was when my weary legs got their reward. An area full of life, the metro station the focal point where people congregate to discuss, sell and drink exotic tea in the nearby cafés. I had a thrust and needed to discover more, so I ventured off the main boulevard to find incredible street art, old churches and much more.

It’s now been eighteen months that I’ve had the pleasure of calling the 20th my home and I’m continually surprised by what I find and learn.

I now use tu with my local Boulanger, with the staff at my Carrefour who scan my shopping, even in my local Kebab shop where I get a warm welcome with a little broken English! I very rarely hear English spoken in the streets, occasionally German but generally it’s all French which is great, I can listen and absorb and améliorer.

Choosing the right arrondissement really does add something tangible to your experience in Paris. So the key ingredients are a pair of comfortable shoes, a weekend to explore, lots of energy, enthusiasm and perhaps a sprinkling of luck.

Bonne chance!

About the Contributor

Mark E Hill

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  1. Judy MacMahon Mar 24, 2011 at 10:11 PM - Reply

    Great article Mark. What are the 2 things that you love most about living on the 20th?

  2. Mark E Hill Mar 26, 2011 at 4:40 AM - Reply

    I love that the bars of Ménilmontant are just a short stroll away and that there are a plethora of specialist artisan shops dotted throughout the quartier!

  3. Opal Taylor Mar 30, 2011 at 6:19 AM - Reply

    Belleville is a new discovery for me, I find it so gritty and full of life.

  4. Judy MacMahon Mar 30, 2011 at 8:31 AM - Reply

    Is someone able to compare NYC lower east side to Belleville? or am I on the wrong track?

  5. jader Jul 20, 2011 at 6:09 PM - Reply

    10eme! Close to Opera and Blvd Haussmann, as well as Gare du Nord and de l’Est. Great bistros, and just the little bit away from the Golden Triangle so you save a bit of cash.

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