4th Arondissement - Beaubourg, Le Marais & Ile de la Cité (Nôtre-Dame)

Paris is largely a 19th century city, but in the narrow streets of the 4th arrondissement, you could easily forget that. This is where Old Paris comes to life, the only downtown area where pre-revolutionary buildings provide more than a splash of period colour in the Belle Epoque cityscape and instead create a closed ensemble.

Rue Rivoli dissects the Marais, the city's only district with many manors of the pre-revolutionary aristocracy. The area to the north of Rue Rivoli is much the livelier – where you can find both the ancient Jewish quarter and "gay Paris" – while the South is much more, well,  Catholic. (Jim Morrisson died here in his flat on 17 Rue Beautreillis.)

For a walk, I recommend the neighbourhood of the Rue des Jardins St. Paul with its medieval courtyards that are filled with art galleries and restaurants. Ironically, the historic 4th also houses the city's most famous building of cutting-edge modernism, the eccentrically styled Centre Pompidou which hosts exhibitions of anything from modern art to cinema. The big plaza in front of the building is a popular location for musicians and other street performers – or even to have a picnic.

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