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WHAT'S AN ARRONDISSEMENT?

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There are 20 arrondissements (pronounced ahr-run-deese-mont) in Paris and they refer to the individual geographic districts within the city. In the late 1790s, Paris was composed of only twelve.

Nine of them were on the Right Bank (the North side of the River Seine) and three were on the Left Bank (South of the river). This seemed to work fine until the mid-1800s came along, bringing an influx of both entrepreneurs and laborers to the city.

It was the era of Emperor Napoleon III and the Second Empire. Paris was clearly bursting at the seams and suffering from the lack of a proper sewage and water delivery system.

Streets were too narrow and congested with traffic and too easily breached by insurgent groups fighting to overthrow the monarch. Along came the very controversial figure, Baron Haussmann, who was named Prefect of the Seine.


That job would be comparable to that of a city mayor today, and Haussmann was entrusted with the renovation of Paris.

Napoleon III had big plans for the ailing city. In 1832, 39,000 residents contracted cholera and over 18,000 of them died. Included in that number, was the Prime Minister. Another epidemic hit Paris in 1848, as deadly as the first. It was essential that Parisians be provided with clean water. Up until that time only one in five households had running water and sewage was flowing down the streets. The city's water came from a contaminated source, the Seine. Pockets of slums dotted the city.

A period of non-stop demolition of whole Medieval neighborhoods began. Construction of broad avenues leading to major train terminals kicked up dust for months on end. Sewers were dug, and Paris was beginning to be transformed into the modern city we know today.

That did come with a price, however and many argue, too high a price. Paris lost a good deal of its history, as Baron Haussmann's machines mowed down everything in their paths. On the positive side, Paris came out of the Dark Ages, into a period of prosperity and growth, with a beautiful new opera house, parks, tree-lined boulevards and a burgeoning public transportation system. The arts were flourishing and a new class of privileged denizens, referred to as the bourgeoisie, was taking root.

To be part of the bourgeoisie meant that you had a good amount of money, derived from being a successful merchant, or skilled professional, but that you had none of the perks of royal descent. In the end, that didn't seem to matter, for absolute monarchy was coming to an end.

So it was that in 1860, the population was swelling, and the number of arrondissements was augmented to reach beyond the boundaries of the city walls. There were now 20 arrondissements, spiraling out from #1, in a clockwise direction. That system is still in use today and every arrondissement has its own mayor.

Why is it useful to learn where each of the 20 arrondissements are located? First of all, each arrondissement has its own character, and its own claim to fame. Getting to know the flavor of the different arrondissements, is a delightful process of discovery. Most importantly, when you are trying to get to a particular place in Paris, if you are familiar with its arrondissement, it is easy to narrow down the search, and you have a picture in your head, of the general location.

The following is a list of all 20 arrondissements, accompanied by a fact to aid you in remembering what part of Paris they occupy.

1st Arrondissement: Borders the River Seine and includes the Louvre
2nd Arrondissement: The Bourse (Financial Center)
3rd Arrondissement: Picasso Museum (Le Marais)
4th Arrondissement: Places des Vosges
5th Arrondissement: The Latin Quarter, The Sorbonne
6th Arrondissement: Saint Germain
7th Arrondissement: Eiffel Tower
8th Arrondissement: Champs Elysees
9th Arrondissement: Printemps Department Store
10th Arrondissement: Gare du Nord
11th Arrondisement: Place de la Bastille
12th Arrondissement: Gare de Lyon
13th Arrondissement: Place d'Italie
14th Arrondissement: Montparnasse
15th Arrondissement: Pont de Bir Hakeim
16th Arrondissement: Marmottan Museum, Place Victor Hugo
17th Arrondissement: Park Monceau, L'Arc du Triomphe
18th Arrondissement: Montmartre, Sacre Coeur
19th Arrondissement: Buttes Chaumont
20th Arrondissement: Pere Lachaise Cemetary, Belleville



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