Do you like to eat snails? Chances are you’re NOT one of the escargot 1%-ers. Don’t worry. Parisians won’t notice your foreign fear/bizarre attraction (it’s an either/or situation) of this (sadly) adorable, garlic-spiked (once on a plate) land mollusk.
They will, however, notice you looking completely lost and desperate while turning your smartphone in circles to find the right way to proceed to the correct neighborhood on your map app. That’s when you might hear “ouais ouais, par là-bas” or “aucune idée”, accompanied by a look of dismissive irk if you ask a Parisian for help.
To spare you the shame, enter this handy article to explain to you just what an arrondissement is, and where they lie in Paris. Remember the snails we mentioned above? You thought we were off-topic, but no. Paris comprises 20 districts, or arrondissements — administrative zones comprising several, sometimes distinct, neighborhoods. The first district is smack in the middle of Paris, on the right bank north of the Seine river and pinned down to the map by none other than The Final Boss of all Museums — Le Musée du Louvre. Then the districts succeed each other in numerical order, coiling clockwise like the shell of the aforementioned yummy mollusk, until you reach the outlying district 20 (Le Vingtième) to the east, after having made three full turns of the slimy, mortal (in the case of the food snail, hopefully, not the district) coil to create the entire area of Paris intramuros (French for Paris proper, comprised within the peripheral highway, affectionately dubbed the “périph’ ”).
Each of these 20 Paris districts is locally known as an arrondissement (French for “encirclement”), and abbreviated on all Paris signs as “arr.” or “arr.t.” Within each arrondissement, there is also a grouping of quarters, or quartiers. AKA Neighborhoods to you dirty fascinating foreigners. Here at PARIS » D E F I N E D Magazine , we’re all about these quarters, because each one has much more of its own vibe than an entire arrondissement does. Thing is, the quarters are not indicated on Paris signs. Those, you just have to know and feel. So grab the Adderall and keep reading…
Let’s review. Repeat after us: the 1st arrondissement is in central Paris, just north of and touching the Seine, is classy AF, and includes the Louvre. Due north of the 1st is the 2nd, and just to the east of the 2nd is the 3rd. Below the 3rd is the 4th (it also touches the Seine). Cross the Seine due south and you hit the 5th. Then the 6th is just west of it. And so on until you’ve made a snail-shaped coil 3 times around the city.
Ready for some escargot? Neither are we, and that’s ok. (Only Mamie is, anyway…). Like you, we mostly subsist on pizza, burgers, and random Asian food. BUT! You’re practically a full-fledged Parisian now. (Or at least you will be when you’ve been invited to the vaunted 20/20 bar crawl — a day-long bacchanal of visiting one bar in each arrondissement…)