La Rive Droite

Paris’ Rive Droite (Lit. Right Bank), formerly a marshland between two arms of the Seine river, remained largely uninhabited until the early 11th century. Once growth began there it soon eclipsed that of both the island and its Rive Gauche combined, and has remained Paris’ densest area ever since.

Locations

Châtelet-Les-Halles / Hôtel de Ville
“Le Châtelet”, a stronghold/gatehouse guarding the northern end of a bridge from the Cité island, was the origin of Paris’ first real Rive Droite growth. Where the Les Halles quarter starts and ends is debatable, but for the average Parisian, it surrounds the former Les Halles marketplace, today a shopping mall centre for a highly commercial district whose many “trendy” boutiques are geared to tourism. As Les Halles is a Metro and RER hub for transport connecting all suburban regions around the capital, the stores closest to the station reflect the rap and hip-hop trends common there. Fast-food is the restaurant staple of this quarter’s most central region, but more traditional fare can be found to its north-west.

One of the region’s most prominent landmarks is the 1976-built Centre Georges Pompidou. Built in a highly colored modern style greatly contrasting with its surrounding architecture, it houses a permanent modern-art museum exposition and has rotating expositions that keep to a theme of the post-pop art period. Recently renovated, it also houses the BPI, one of the city’s largest libraries and places of study. The wide square in front is a preferred place for street performers, as its location is ideal for drawing a mix of both tourist and student spectators.

Just to the east of the Place du Châtelet lies Paris’s Hôtel de Ville (city hall). It stands on the almost exact location of a 12th-century “house of columns” belonging to the city’s “Prévôt des Marchands” (a city governor of commerce), then a later version built in 1628 whose shell is still the same today. Just across the street to the north of rue de Rivoli is the large 1870’s-built BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville) household shopping centre.

Le Louvre / Palais Royal
The Louvre, once Paris’ second Royal Palace, is today a museum, garden (Tuileries), and, more recently, a shopping mall and Fashion show centre (Le Carrousel du Louvre). The Palais Royal just to its north, at its origin a residence of the Cardinal Richelieu, is a walled garden behind its rue de Rivoli facade, with covered and columned arcades that house boutiques forming what could be considered to be Paris’ first “shopping arcade”. This quarter in general has many 17th and 18th century buildings of large standing, as well as some of Paris’ more grandiose constructions, namely along the avenue de l’Opéra, from the Haussmann era. The long perspective of massive buildings that make the northern side of the rue de Rivoli, with their covered and columned arcades, are a result of Paris’ first attempt at reconstruction in a larger scale in the early 1840s, and today house the quarter’s most tourist-oriented shops, boutiques and night-clubs.

Opéra
Centred around Paris’ Opéra Garnier, completed in 1882, this quarter houses at once central Paris’ largest shopping centres (the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps) and is an important banking centre (Crédit Lyonnais, BNP and American Express just to name a few). The streets behind both sides of the avenue de l’Opéra have many Japanese restaurants, and most of the avenues in this area “duty-free” stores selling luxury brands.

Saint-Honoré / Place Vendôme / Concorde
The rue Saint Honoré (and rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré) is known for its luxury boutiques selling all fashion labels of international renown. The Place Vendôme, around its famous Hôtel Ritz, is the centre of the Paris “Triangle d’Or” of jewellers. There are many major banks and offices in this area as well. The Place de la Concorde, to the western end of the Louvre’s Jardin des Tuileries, is a major stop for tourists (for its vista, fountains and Egyptian obelisk) and a panoramic introduction to the Champs-Élysées that begins at its western extremity.

Les Champs-Élysées
Easily Paris’ most touristic avenue, and almost every commerce along its entire length between the rond-point des Champs-Élysées and its Arc de Triomphe is geared to nothing else. The buildings above the street-side boutiques are for the most part Paris offices or residences for businesses the world over. The streets behind the Avenue and in the neighbourhood surrounding are filled with Haussmanian buildings of large standing that host some offices, but are largely residential.

Montmartre / Bas-de-Montmartre
Montmartre is Paris’ highest hill, and second most-visited tourist area. Formerly town of wine growers and plaster miners centred around a 15th-century monastery, it began from the late 20th century (namely around the time of the construction of its Sacré-Coeur Basilica in 1919) to become a tourist attraction. Much of Montmartre’s windmills and “old village” charm had already been destroyed when Paris’ tourist boom began, but investors and speculators rebuilt it anew. All the same, Montmartre is a very picturesque place to visit, and has one of the best views of the capital. Some of its former charm can be found to the rear of the hill, as well as a windmill or two, and it has even the remains of its former vineyard topping.

The boulevards below Montmartre, also called “bas-de-Montmartre”, were once highly popular with mid-19th century Parisians for their cabarets, as at the time they were in an open-air scenery that was almost countryside. The Moulin Rouge is all that remains of the once many such saloons and dance-halls that lined the north side of the boulevard, but today this establishment is but a gaudy tourist-tailored mirror of what it once was. The boulevard surrounding, especially to its east towards Pigalle, is filled with establishments offering shows of a slightly “warmer” nature than can-can.

Gare de l’Est / Gare du Nord
To the north of Paris’ textile “sentier” quarter, this area is fascinating for its myriad of clothing stores and hair salons whose owners are largely of African origin. These stations mark the northernmost limits of Paris’ “Sentier” textile industry district.

La Bastille
La Place de la Bastille is named for a former castle/dungeon guarding Paris’ 17th-century eastern gate. Aside from this place’s central column, its most prominent landmark is its Opéra-Bastille, an opera-house with a style of architecture and repertoire more modern than its classical Opéra-Garnier counterpart. The north-westerly boulevard Beaumarchais is known for its music and camera stores. To the north of the place stretches its narrow rue de la Roquette with its many small bars, restaurants and night-clubs, a street that ends to the north-east at the Père Lachaise cemetery.

Le Marais

To the west of the place de la Bastille extends the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, a street running through the centre of what was once a village of furniture-making artisans. To the north and north-west from there, across a map of narrow streets remaining unchanged from this 17th-century time, lies Le Marais. The rue du faubourg Saint-Antoine still has many furniture stores.

Today Le Marais is most known for its square and uniformly-built Place des Vosges. Inaugurated as the “Place Royale” in 1612, much of the land surrounding was built with vast and luxurious “hotels” by those seeking closer relations to royalty, and many remain today. This area fell out of royal favour when the King’s court left for the Louvre then Versailles, and was in a state of almost abandon by 19th century. It became a largely Jewish quarter around then, and has remained so ever since. It is also the heart of gay Paris, with many gay cafés, bars and clubs.

La Rive Droite

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