1st Arondissement – Louvre & Les Halles

Paris has not been constructed on the basis of a rational design, any more than any other major city in the world. Instead, a rational order – 20 arrondissements, spiraling from the inside out – has been superimposed on it at a later stage. While some arrondissements respect ancient frontiers – not a single arrondissement spans the Seine to embrace territories on either side of the river, for example – others have been drawn up in completely arbitrary fashion.

And while the number of any arrondissement can tell you only so much, it is fair to point out that the 1st arrondissement is indeed Number One in many ways: the most ancient, the one most densely packed with sights – the Louvre, Les Halles, Notre Dame Cathedral – and the most bustling. Few people live there (the population numbers for all four central Parisian arrondissements peaked before 1860), but if you are a tourist, there is a good chance that you will spend more time here than in any other arrondissement.

For a walk, I recommend the Ile St Louis, a genteel residential neighbourhood almost untouched by any urban regeneration craze from the last 2 centuries and full of the understated elegance that only old money can buy. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie indeed. 

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