Each of Paris's 20 arrondissements possesses a unique style and flavor. You'll want to decide which district appeals most to you and then try to find accommodations there. Later on, try to visit as many areas as you can so you get the full taste of Paris. 1st Arrondissement (Musee du Louvre/Les Halles) "I never knew what a palace was until I had a glimpse of the Louvre," wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Perhaps the world's greatest art museum, the Louvre, a former royal residence, still lures visitors to the 1st arrondissement. Walk through the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris's most formal garden (laid out by Le Notre, gardener to Louis XIV). Pause to take in the classic beauty of place Vendôme, the opulent home of the Hotel Ritz. Zola's "belly of Paris" (Les Halles) is no longer the food-and-meat market of Paris (traders moved to the new, more accessible suburb of Rungis); today the Forum des Halles is a center of shopping, entertainment, and culture. 2nd Arrondissement (La Bourse)-- Home to the Bourse (stock exchange), this Right Bank district lies between the Grands Boulevards and rue Etienne-Marcel. From Monday to Friday, brokers play the market until it's time to break for lunch, when the movers and shakers of French capitalism channel their hysteria into the area restaurants.
Much of the eastern end of the arrondissement (Le Sentier) is devoted to wholesale outlets of the Paris garment district, where thousands of garments are sold (usually in bulk) to buyers from clothing stores throughout Europe. "Everything that exists elsewhere exists in Paris," wrote Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, and this district provides ample evidence of that. 3rd Arrondissement (Le Marais)-- This district embraces much of Le Marais (the swamp), one of the best-loved Right Bank neighborhoods. (It extends into the 4th as well.) After decades of decay, Le Marais recently made a comeback, though it may never again enjoy the prosperity of its 17th-century aristocratic heyday; today it contains Paris's gay neighborhood, with lots of gay/lesbian restaurants, bars, and stores, as well as the remains of the old Jewish quarter, centered on rue des Rosiers.
Two of the chief attractions are the Musee Picasso, a kind of pirate's ransom of painting and sculpture the Picasso estate had to turn over to the French government in lieu of the artist's astronomical death duties, and the Musee Carnavalet, which brings to life the history of Paris from prehistoric times to the present. 4th Arrondissement (Ile de la Cite/Ile St-Louis & Beaubourg)-- It seems as if the 4th has it all: Notre-Dame on Ile de la Cite, Ile St-Louis and its aristocratic town houses, courtyards, and antiques shops. Ile St-Louis, a former cow pasture and dueling ground, is home to dozens of 17th-century mansions and 6,000 lucky Louisiens, its permanent residents. Seek out Ile de la Cite's two Gothic churches, Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame, a majestic structure that, according to poet e. e. cummings, "doesn't budge an inch for all the idiocies of this world."