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Getting around Paris

While nothing compares with visiting Paris in person, the next best thing might be to take a virtual visit through our Yabla videos and through this lesson. Here, we will focus on the general layout of the city, which will help you find your way around Paris and appreciate its unique features.


Paris is divided into twenty administrative areas or districts known as arrondissements, as our trusty guide Daniel Benchimol explains in his video:


Je ne pense pas vous en avoir déjà parlé

I don't think I have mentioned this to you already,

mais Paris est divisé en vingt arrondissements.

but Paris is divided into twenty arrondissements.

Captions 35-36, Voyage dans Paris - Le Seizième Arrondissement de Paris

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In fact, the numbers of the twenty arrondissements are included in the postal codes. They are such an integral part of Parisian life that most people only mention the number—as in le onzième (the eleventh)—and skip the word arrondissement altogether:


Nous sommes actuellement

We are currently

à l'intersection de la rue Saint-Maur

at the intersection of Rue Saint-Maur [Saint-Maur Street]

et de la rue Oberkampf,

and Rue Oberkampf [Oberkampf Street],

en plein quartier du onzième...

in the heart of the neighborhood of the eleventh [arrondissement]...

Captions 16-18, Lionel L - L'art éphémère à Paris

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The arrondissements are arranged in a unique clockwise spiral or snail-like pattern, as Daniel Benchimol explains: 


Les arrondissements parisiens sont construits comme des escargots:

The Parisian arrondissements are shaped like snails:

on part du numéro un et on progresse jusqu'au numéro vingt.

we start from number one and we progress up to number twenty.

Captions 37-38, Voyage dans Paris - Le Seizième Arrondissement de Paris

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Daniel goes on to mention that the city of Paris is split into two banks, la Rive droite (the Right Bank) and la Rive gauche (the Left Bank), as the river Seine traverses the length of the city:


Nous sommes ici dans le seizième arrondissement.

We are here in the sixteenth arrondissement.

C'est la Rive droite.

It's the Right Bank.

Et si l'on traverse la Seine, on passe donc Rive gauche...

And if we cross the Seine, we then pass then to the Left Bank...

Captions 39-40, Voyage dans Paris - Le Seizième Arrondissement de Paris

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Interestingly, by simply crossing the Seine, you can jump from the 16th arrondissement to the 7th. If that doesn’t seem logical, it’s because of the city's snail-shaped arrangement, as shown on this map. on passe donc dans le septième arrondissement.

...and we arrive then in the seventh arrondissement.

Caption 41, Voyage dans Paris - Le Seizième Arrondissement de Paris

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In any case, the Seine is never far away. Not only is it an important geographical feature but also an integral part of Parisian culture. In her video, Patricia invites you to stroll along les quais de la Seine (the banks of the Seine), among other things:


Et on peut aussi bien naviguer sur la Seine

And one can just as well sail over the Seine

en bateau-mouche

by "bateau-mouche" [tourist boat, literally "fly-boat"]

que flâner au bord de ses quais.

as stroll along its banks.

Captions 44-45, Le saviez-vous? - Le romantisme français

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Indeed, the Seine is a permanent fixture along with its many bridges—thirty-seven of them. In Daniel's opinion, le pont Alexandre Trois (Alexander the Third Bridge) is one of the most beautiful of them:


Et vous aurez... devant vous, bien sûr, la Seine,

And you will have... in front of you, of course, the Seine,

et aussi la vue sur un des plus beaux ponts de la capitale,

as well as the view of one of the most beautiful bridges in the capital,

le pont Alexandre Trois.

the Alexander the Third Bridge.

Captions 6-7, Voyage dans Paris - Le Pont Alexandre III

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But there are many other interesting ponts, such as le Pont-Neuf (New Bridge), which incidentally no longer lives up to its name, as it's the oldest bridge in Paris. You can learn more about le Pont-Neuf and Paris's many other bridges in Daniel's video on the subject:


À quelques centaines de mètres du pont des Arts,

A few hundred meters from the Pont des Arts,

voici le Pont-Neuf,

here is the Pont-Neuf [New Bridge],

qui malgré son nom, est le plus ancien pont de Paris.

which, despite its name, is the oldest bridge in Paris.

Captions 11-12, Voyage dans Paris - Ponts de Paris

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As you stroll along the Seine admiring its bridges, you will come across two islands: l'île Saint-Louis (Saint Louis Island) and l'île de la Cité (City Island). On l'île de la Cité, you will discover the iconic cathédrale Notre-Dame:


Sur l'île de la Cité vous trouverez bien sûr

On the Île de la Cité you will find, of course,

la cathédrale Notre-Dame.

the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Caption 4, Voyage dans Paris - L'Île Saint-Louis

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Thank you for taking this quick stroll through Paris with us. You can explore many more sites in our Voyage dans Paris series.


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