Living Better in Paris

Choosing between Left Bank and Right Bank: an expat's guide to Paris

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Paris is famous for its cultural diversity; moreover, the River Seine divides the city of lights between the Left and Right Bank, each offering its unique atmosphere and neighborhood characteristics. The Left Bank boasts an intellectual and artistic atmosphere. At the same time, the Right Bank is full of energy and sophistication, with its grand boulevards, world-famous shopping malls, historical neighborhoods like Le Marais and Montmartre, as well as hip "bobo" areas like Canal Saint Martin, Pigalle, and Oberkampf.

If you're an expat looking for an apartment to rent in Paris, it's essential to understand the differences between these two areas before starting your research. This guide explores the Left Bank and Right Bank areas, from their characteristics, cultural differences, housing options, and international school choices to entertainment and leisure activities. It aims to help expatriates make lifestyle decisions and choose between the Left and Right Banks when relocating to Paris.

The Divide of Paris: Exploring the Right and Left Banks of the Seine

The right bank of Paris comprises the arrondissements north of the Seine, including 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20, covering around two-thirds of the city's surface area. The left bank area contains the arrondissements south of the Seine: 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, and 15.

division of left bank and right bank

Characteristics of the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) in Paris

The Left Bank of Paris, or Rive Gauche, has that classic old-school Parisian cool and a unique bohemian atmosphere. The area oozes history with its cobblestone streets and charming cafés around the neighborhood for centuries, making you feel like you've stepped into a Hemingway novel.

The Left Bank district has other dimensions. The 13th arrondissement is home to the largest Asian community in Paris, and the 14th and 15th arrondissements are known for their quiet, residential atmosphere.

Characteristics of the Right Bank (Rive Droite) in Paris

The right bank of Paris offers a mix of commercial and vibrant, hip, and cosmopolitan atmosphere. And there's something for everyone. The 8th and 16th arrondissements exude upscale elegance, while proximity to the Opéra gives a more commercial ambiance. In the 2nd arrondissement, the Sentier and Bourse neighborhoods are becoming the new Silicon Valley of Paris, home to several tech companies and new start-ups. The Marais is the center of fashion and trends in Paris. For nightlife lovers, the 10th and 11th arrondissements offer exciting experiences. The 12th, 18th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements are popular new uprising areas in Paris for young residents and families. In the 20th arrondissement, Belleville is known for its vibrant Asian community and trendy scene for younger residents. In addition, the 19th and 20th arrondissements also offer a unique country atmosphere, with picturesque housing in the Quartier de la Mouzaïa and La Campagne in Paris.

Panoramic view of Seine River in Paris

Top Neighborhoods to Live on Paris's Left and Right Banks

Best Neighborhoods to Stay on the Left Bank:

Saint-Germain-des-Prés: A Literary Oasis in the 6th Arrondissement

Welcome to Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, a legendary district in the heart of the Parisian Left Bank. Rich in history and renowned for its intellectual and artistic heritage, Saint-Germain-des-Prés exudes a timeless Parisian charm that appeals to locals and foreigners, particularly popular with expatriates relocating to Paris. With its chic, picturesque streets, historic cafés, and emblematic monuments, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has long been a haven for writers, artists, and philosophers, and today remains one of the most sought-after districts in Paris to rent or to invest and represents some of the highest Real Estate prices in Paris.

Its café culture, highlighted by iconic cafés such as Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, was one of the most popular places for literary and philosophical discourse among figures like Hemingway, the Surrealists and Sartre. 

Beyond its history, artistic and literary appeal, Saint-Germain-des-Prés offers a wealth of attractions, including the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Église Saint-Sulpice, Pont des Arts, Place Furstenberg, the picturesque Jardin Luxembourg, etc. 

The Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood is also full of energy and life, offering an array of chic bars, restaurants, and cafes where you can experience the authentic Paris' lively atmosphere. Some of the best streets for hanging out in the 6th district of Paris are Rue de Buci, Rue de Seine, Rue Mazarine, and Rue Saint-André des Arts.Café de Flore in Saint Germain des Près in 6th district Left Bank of Paris

Café de Flore - 172 Bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris

Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement): 

Renowned for its rich history and vibrant atmosphere, the Quartier Latin in the 5th district of Paris, attracts local Parisians and expats with its cobble-stoned streets, lively market, diverse dining scene, cozy cafés, beautiful green spaces like Jardin des Plantes, and iconic monuments such as the Panthéon, Rue Mouffetard, Grande Mosquée de Paris, etc. Named after the Latin language once spoken by local scholars, the Quartier Latin has long been an intellectual and academic center in Paris, home to some of the best schools in France, including Sorbonne University, Collège de France, Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Lycée Henri-IV, making Quartier Latin highly sought-after neighborhoods for uni students, and families.

Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris - Quartier Latin

Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris - Quartier Latin

Paris 7th arrondissement: The ultimate Parisian Elegance

The 7th arrondissement of Paris is renowned as one of Paris' most prestigious and sought-after neighborhoods. Some of the most famous monuments in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, the Champ de Mars, the Musée d'Orsay, the historic Hôtel des Invalides, the Ecole Militaire, and the Assemblée Nationale de Paris, the 7th arrondissement is a treasure trove of cultural and architectural wonders. Its tree-lined grand boulevards, picturesque squares, and impeccably preserved Haussmann buildings create the ultimate Parisian chic vibe and offer a pleasant upscale living environment for local Parisians and expats relocating to Paris, especially those with their families.

Beyond its architectural assets, the 7th arrondissement offers numerous facilities and amenities, from the upscale Bon Marché shopping center, chic boutiques and gourmet restaurants to renowned museums and art galleries.

With its central location, rich history, and unrivaled beauty, the 7th arrondissement truly lives the essence of Parisian luxury and refinement, making the 7th district the best place to live in Paris for expatriates wishing to immerse themselves in Parisian chic.

Hôtel des Invalides, 75007 Paris

Hôtel des Invalides, 75007 Paris

Best Neighborhoods to Stay on the Right Bank:

3rd arrondissement (The Upper Marais - Haut Marais): 

The 3rd arrondissement of Paris, also known as the Haut Marais area (the Upper Marais area), is one of Paris's most popular places to live, hang out, and enjoy nightlife among expatriates and locals. The trendy Haut Marais district is known for its charming cobblestone streets with fashion boutiques, unique thrift shops, art galleries, specialty coffee shops, hip restaurants, cocktail and wine bars, and nightclubs.
Expats also love the dynamic LGBTQ+ scene, the lively food and drink scene, and the proximity of cultural landmarks such as the Musée Picasso and the Centre Pompidou in the Marais area.

Place des Vosges - Haut Marais 3rd District of Paris

Place des Vosges - Haut Marais

8th Arrondissement (Champs-Élysées): 

The 8th arrondissement of Paris is synonymous with business, luxury and elegance, making it a desirable location for expatriates seeking an upscale living in Paris. The iconic Champs-Élysées Avenue, Avenue Montaigne, Avenue George V, and Rue François-Ier are lined with designer boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and luxury hotels, catering to a sophisticated international clientele. Expats enjoy the area's proximity to cultural institutions like the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Pont Alexandre III, Jardins des Champs-Élysées as well as its easy access to transportation hubs like the Gare Saint-Lazare.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris

9th district  (Pigalle, Saint-Georges, Martyrs):

The 9th arrondissement of Paris offers a diverse range of neighborhoods with their unique charm, making it a great area to stay on the Right Bank. Pigalle, Saint-Georges, and Martyrs are three of the best neighborhoods to stay in the 9th district of Paris. Pigalle, known for its lively nightlife, is home to iconic landmarks such as the Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir nightclub, making it perfect for those seeking a vibrant atmosphere. Conversely, Saint-Georges exudes a calm, cozy, and romantic vibe with its colorful streets, lovely boutiques, 19th-century architecture, and charming squares, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Martyrs district, on the border of the 9th and 18th arrondissements, provides a lively atmosphere and culinary delights, with the Martyrs Market (Rue des Martyrs) and historic monuments such as Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church, for those who enjoy a vibrant, authentic Parisian experience.

Rue des Martyrs - 9th District of Paris

Rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris

17th Arrondissement (Batignolles): 

The 17th arrondissement of Paris, particularly the Batignolles neighborhood, offers a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere that appeals to expatriates seeking a sense of community. This charming Batignolles neighborhood is characterized by tree-lined streets, local markets, cozy cafes, trendy restaurants, and lovely parks, creating a village-like vibe within the city. You will love the neighborhood's parks, such as Parc Clichy—Batignolles Martin Luther King.

Parc Clichy - Batignolles Martin Luther-King - 17th district of Paris

Parc Clichy - Batignolles Martin Luther-King, 75017 Paris

11th district (Oberkampf, Bastille):

The 11th arrondissement of Paris, which includes the Oberkampf and Bastille neighborhoods, is one of the most lively and dynamic areas on Paris's right bank. It is renowned for its bustling nightlife, trendy cafés, and diverse dining options, making it a popular area among young Parisians and expats. Home to iconic landmarks such as the Place de la Bastille, cultural venues such as theaters and art galleries, and several trendy bars and nightclubs, the 11th district offers a perfect blend of energy, style, and contemporary flair. If you want to be close to the dynamic and trendy Parisian lifestyle, the 11th arrondissement is the right Place to be.

Place de la Bastille - 11th district of Paris

Place de la Bastille, 75011 Paris

Cultural and Social Activities: Left Bank vs. Right Bank

The Left Bank is typical Paris, with its brasseries, bistros, Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants, jazz clubs, and independent cinemas.

The right bank is more contrasted. You'll find a mix of upscale Parisian neighborhoods, hip and artistic areas, uprising neighborhoods, and village neighborhoods, such as Montmartre, the Campagne à Paris, or the Mouzaïa district. The right bank is historically more modern, but offers many trendy boutiques and bars with original concepts, such as "fusion" or "healthy" and "vegan" restaurants.

Museums: 

Left Bank: The Left Bank boasts several renowned museums, including the Musée d'Orsay, home to extensive Impressionist masterpieces, and the Musée du Luxembourg, which showcases temporary exhibitions in a historic setting.

Right Bank: On the Right Bank, you'll find the Louvre Museum, the world's largest art museum, housing thousands of works from antiquity to the present day. Additionally, the Centre Pompidou offers a diverse range of contemporary art exhibitions and cultural events.

Le Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris

Le Centre Pompidou

Theaters & Concert Venues:

Left Bank: The Left Bank is home to numerous theaters, especially in the Montparnasse area, such as Théâtre Montparnasse, Bobino, Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse. Besides, if you are a jazz fan, the Left Bank is the right place to be, with numerous fantastic jazz venues, such as Caveau de la Huchette, Tabou, Club Saint-Germain, Petit Journal Montparnasse, etc.

Right Bank: On the Right Bank, prepare to be dazzled by the grandeur of theaters like Opéra Garnier, Opéra Bastille, Théâtre du Châtelet, and Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. These venues, along with concert halls like Bataclan, Salle Pleyel, and Philharmonie de Paris, host diverse performances, from classical plays to musicals and dance shows, captivating both locals and tourists.Philharmonie de Paris - 19th district of Paris

Philharmonie de Paris - 19th district of Paris

Green Spaces:

Left Bank: The Left Bank is dotted with picturesque parks and gardens, including the Luxembourg Gardens and Jardin des Plantes, which are favorites among locals for leisurely strolls, and picnics.

Right Bank: On the Right Bank, the expansive Tuileries Garden offers breathtaking views of the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is another popular green space worth exploring with its hilly terrain and tranquil atmosphere.

Jardin des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries

Restaurants:

Left Bank: In Paris, the Left Bank, especially in the Saint Germain des Prés area, has that effortlessly chic Parisian vibe. Many charming bistros serve up classic French dishes, and cozy brasseries are perfect for sipping café while you people-watch. And if you're up for something fancy, head to the upper left bank near the Seine for fine dining spots like Arpège and Restaurant Guy Savoy, where fine dining takes you to a whole new level.

Right Bank: Now, if you're looking for a culinary adventure with a side of trendiness, the Right Bank is where it's at. Picture this: hip new cuisines, international flavors, and fancy upscale dining experiences. Areas like the 8th and 1st arrondissements are the best places for sophisticated, classy Michelin-starred restaurants, so you know you're in for a treat. But if you want to stay at the avant-garde of the food world, dive into neighborhoods like Le Marais, the 9th (Pigalle), the 10th (Canal Saint-Martin), and the 11th district (Oberkampf). They're buzzing with new, hip, trendy eateries waiting to be discovered. And guess what? More and more talented young local chefs are opening up several delicate, innovative fine dining restaurants in the 11th district of Paris, featuring cozy, intimate settings and organic, eco-friendly, and plant-based ingredients.

Le Marais

Le Marais

Shopping:

In Paris, the shopping experience on the right and left banks offers various options but different vibes. On the Right Bank, the iconic Champs-Élysées avenue boasts luxury boutiques and flagship stores, like the luxurious Avenue Montaigne with luxury boutiques and haute couture houses. Boulevard Haussmann is another shopping paradise on the Right Bank, with high-end department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and a wide choice of fashion and beauty boutiques. If you want a more unique shopping experience, the trendy Le Marais area offers a more eclectic mix of hip boutiques, vintage, and designer stores.Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

On the left bank, Saint-Germain-des-Prés exudes chic Parisian elegance, with designer boutiques and concept stores on boulevard Saint-Germain. In addition, the iconic Le Bon Marché department store on the Left Bank is famous for its beautiful shopping environment and wide selection of luxury fashions, beauty products, gourmet foods, and home décor, making it a must-visit destination for discerning shoppers.Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche - 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris

Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche - 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris

Housing and cost of living: Left Bank vs. Right Bank

Housing options in Left Bank of Paris:

Historical Parisian Apartment:

The Left Bank is known for its historic charm, especially in central neighborhoods like Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter. Here, you will find unique Parisian apartments with historical architectural features such as wooden beams, original walls, and loft/duplex floor plans. 

Modern Cosmopolitan Buildings

There are several modern developments and architectural landmarks in the left bank area, particularly near the Seine, such as the Front de Seine in the 15th district and Paris Rive Gauche in the 13th district of Paris, characterized by its high-rise buildings, office complexes, and residential towers, making it one of the most contemporary areas in Paris.

Paris Rive Gauche - 13th district of Paris

Paris Rive Gauche - 13th district of Paris

Residential buildings from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s

In the Left Bank area, particularly in the 15th, 13th, and 14th arrondissements of Paris, many residential buildings were constructed during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. These 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Parisian residential buildings are functional, efficient, and straightforward. It features modernist architectural elements such as clean lines, geometric shapes, minimalist aesthetics, and modern amenities such as elevators, parking, bicycle rooms, and cellar. Moreover, some of these complexes feature community amenities such as courtyards, gardens, and leisure facilities, fostering a sense of community among residents and enhancing the quality of urban life.

Upscale Haussmann apartments

On the Left Bank of Paris, particularly in upscale neighborhoods in the 7th arrondissement, you'll find a wealth of upscale Haussmann apartments. These apartments are renowned for their elegant architecture, spacious interiors, and prestigious addresses, embodying the quintessential Parisian lifestyle.

Family House & Villa

If you're in search of a family house in Paris, the Left Bank offers an ideal setting with several neighborhoods known for their village-vibe, spacious mansions, and family-friendly atmosphere, such as Butte-aux-Cailles (13th district), nearby Montsouris Park (14th district).

Butte-aux-Cailles - 13th district Paris

Butte-aux-Cailles

Housing options in Right Bank of Paris:

Haussmannian Apartments:

The Right Bank is renowned for its elegant Haussmannian apartments, characterized by their classic architectural features such as high ceilings, ornate moldings and ceilings, marble fireplaces, and spacious rooms. These apartments are often found in prestigious neighborhoods like the 8th arrondissement (Champs-Élysées) and the 9th arrondissement (Opera), offering a refined urban living experience.

Haussmannian Apartments

Belle Époque Buildings:

In addition to Haussmannian architecture, the Right Bank boasts many Belle Époque buildings, particularly in areas like the 16th arrondissement (Trocadéro) and the 17th arrondissement (Batignolles). These buildings feature ornate facades, wrought-iron balconies, and grand entrances, offering a blend of historic charm and modern comfort.

50 avenue Rapp -  Architecture Belle Époque

50 avenue Rapp -  Belle Époque Building in Paris

Townhouses and Villas:

While less common than apartments, the Right Bank does offer some townhouses and villas, particularly in uprising neighborhoods like Quartier de la Mouzaïa (19th district) and the Campagne à Paris (20th district).

Campagne à Paris -  20th district of Paris

Campagne à Paris, 75020 Paris

Authentic historical Parisian Apartment:

The Right Bank is home to historic buildings in Paris, especially in the Le Marais area. Here, you will find plenty of 17th, 18th, and 19th-century buildings with unique historical features such as exposed brickwork, wooden beams on the ceilings, etc.

Historical apartment in Le Marais with wooden beams on the ceilings

Historical apartment in Le Marais, Paris

Cost of living: Left Bank v.s Right Bank:

The cost of living in Paris varies depending on the neighborhood, amenities, and accommodation type. Generally, the Left Bank and Right Bank offer similar cost-of-living considerations, and differences depend on specific neighborhoods and lifestyle choices.

Some of the most upscale neighborhoods on the left bank are Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Luxembourg Gardens area in the 6th district, the 7th Arrondissement (Invalides / Eiffel Tower), and the 5th Arrondissement (Latin Quarter). Neighborhoods on the left bank that are more affordable are the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th districts.

The more prestigious neighborhoods on the right bank are the 8th Arrondissement (Champs-Élysées, Parc Monceau, Triangle d'or area), Le Marais area (3rd and 4th districts), Triangle d'or area), 1st Arrondissement (Louvre / Palais Royal), 16th Arrondissement (Trocadéro, Victor Hugo, Passy), 17th Arrondissement (Ternes, Wagram), 2nd Arrondissement (Opéra, Place Vendôme). Some of the more affordable areas in the right bank are the 10th, 11th, 18th, 19th, and 20th districts. 

Public Transportation on Right Bank:

The right bank of the Seine has the best transport links. It boasts five railway stations (Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare Saint-Lazare, Gare de Lyon, Gare de Bercy) and 13 metro lines. The left bank has two stations (Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse) and nine metro lines.

Public Transportation in the Right Bank

Metro: The Right Bank has a dense network of metro lines, including Lines 1, 2, 3, 9, and 11, which traverse the right bank area the bank from east to west and north to south, as well as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, and 14 crossing the right bank to the left bank.

Tramway: Tramway Line T3b runs along the northern edge of the Right Bank, connecting neighborhoods like Porte de Vincennes, Porte de Pantin, and Porte de la Chapelle. The tramway offers a modern and efficient way to travel within the area.

Public Transportation on Left Bank:

Metro: The Left Bank has numerous metro lines, including Lines 6 and 10, which run east to west, and Lines 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, and 14, which traverse the banks of the Seine and go from north to south.

Tramway: Tramway Line T3a runs along the eastern edge of the Left Bank, offering connections to neighborhoods like Porte de Versailles, Montsouris, and Porte d'Italie. The tramway provides a convenient and scenic way to travel within the area.

Expatriate Communities and Support Networks in Paris: Left Bank & Right Bank

Left Bank: Wide choice of International Schools and international women's clubs

The 7th arrondissement of Paris, located on the Left Bank of the Seine River, is well known for its sizable American community. The presence of institutions like the American University of Paris, the American Church in Paris, and the American Library in Paris further contributes to the neighborhood's appeal for Americans living in Paris. Additionally, the 7th arrondissement offers a range of amenities catering to English speakers, including international schools such as EIB Grenelle, the Bilingual Montessori School of Paris - Quai d'Orsay, cultural organizations, and expatriate-focused businesses. 

Paris' 15th arrondissement also welcomes expatriate families relocating to Paris with some of the best bilingual international schools, such as École Internationale Bilingue de Paris (BISP), École Jeannine Manuel, and ICS Paris.

Various international women's clubs, such as the American Women's Group in Paris and the British Women's Association, organize social activities, networking events, and support services for female expatriates living on the Left Bank.

Right Bank: The Vibrant Expat Community and Diplomatic Hub

The Right Bank is known for its lively and diverse atmosphere. Some of the most popular neighborhoods among expats are Le Marais, Bastille, Canal Saint Martin, and Pigalle. Therefore, on the Right Bank, you will find many expatriate meetup groups that organize social gatherings, language exchanges, and cultural outings catering to diverse interests and nationalities. Popular platforms like Meetup.com facilitate connections among expatriates across Paris.

Areas with concentrations of international schools, such as the 16th arrondissement, often have active expatriate communities where expat families can connect, share resources, and navigate the challenges of living abroad. Some of the best bilingual schools on the right bank are École Bilingue Galilee Paris - International Bilingual School and International School of Paris.

The right bank is known for its many embassies and consulates, mainly in the 8th and 16th districts. These embassies and consulates frequently organize international events, receptions, and cultural programs to foster connections among expatriates from their respective countries and provide opportunities for networking and support.

Whether it's the Left Bank's artistic charm or the Right Bank's vibrant energy, every corner of Paris offers a unique charm and neighborhood characteristics. If you're looking for your perfect apartment, Paris Rental is here to help you rent an apartment in Paris in the best location possible. 

Editor: Siyi Chen

Photo credit @Unsplash+

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