The 9th arrondissement of Paris: a love story
Ever since I first starting coming to Paris, I have always been enchanted by the North. At first, it was Montmartre that drew me in, with the old-school romanticism of the Place de Tetres and the steep iron-railed staircases of Buttes de Montmartre.
I have always backed the underdog (it is a typically Australian trait) so to a certain extent my fascination with Montmartre lay in the alternative it presented to the “typically” Parisian Champs Elysées or Saint Germain.
But after my first couple of visits, and in particular after I started to see Paris through the eyes of RESIDENT rather than a visitor, not even Montmartre could cut it for me. I was repulsed by the constant throng of selfie-sticked tourists that lingered around Sacré Coeur; I resented the garish souvenir stores with their neon signs and tacky wares; and the restauranteurs that desperately beckoned passersby seemed a caricature of the Parisian serveur who practically needs to begged in order to bring you the bill.
The next time I came to Paris I decided to try something new, and I stumbled across a loft apartment AirBnb in the 9th. I couldn’t tell you exactly where it was (how strange, given that I must live just around the corner from it now) but I think it must have been somewhere around the Boulevard Haussmann. This was the first time I discovered the delights of the 9th: the charming Rue des Martyrs with it’s old-world, village feel; the elegant Place St George; the lively Place Gustave Toudouze; the flashy Folies Bergères; and the imposing stained-glass wall of the private street Avenue Frochot — all of this overlooked by my adored Sacré Coeur. I was still far away from “knowing” the 9th (maybe I still am now!), but I was hooked.
What is your favourite arrondissement of Paris? 🤔 . I guess it's no secret that I'm a 9eme girl (always have been, always will be - they can drag my dead body out of my current apartment, and good luck with the five flights of stairs btw 😜). . Why? I feel that the 9eme combines a bit of everything that Paris has to offer. The tradition and charm of the Rue des Martyrs and the Place Saint George 🥖✨; the romance of Montmartre and Sacré Cœur visible in the distance 😍💕; the dynamism of the bobo layer that has encrusted itself through the organic juice bars and the hip restaurants with enormous queues snaking onto the streets 🌮🍸; and then the sheer weirdness and incongruousness of the guitar stores, strip clubs and sex shops 👩🏻🎤👯. . Bref, I can't get enough of the 9eme. Pigalle 4 lyf ✌🏼😎 . #paris #parisienne #75009 #pigalle #parisjetaime #paris9 #parismaville #parismonamour #parisexpat #topparisphoto #parisigers
From then on, every time I came to Paris I would stay in the 9th. On one occasion I even managed to find an AirBnb right on the Rue des Martyrs, which had since officially become my favourite street in Paris. I guess I should have known to move there from the outset. I was originally looking in the 9th (the first apartment viewing I went to was, strangely enough, several streets across from where I have ended up), but a combination of difficulty finding a place, plus disparaging reviews from Parisian friends, steered me towards the 6th. I don’t regret my Rive Gauche initiation into Paris, but it didn’t take me long before I returned to where it all began: the 9th.
The love story got off to a rocky start. I found an apartment in a great area of the 9th (still one of my favourites in terms of restaurants and bars) on the Rue de Rochechouart. But several months later I also found a mould problem. It began in the corners of the lounge room before spreading across the walls and behind my furniture. I knew it was time to leave when I started having nightmares where I myself was covered in mould.
The discovery drove me out of the apartment but not out of the 9th. I rebounded, and ended up finding the best property I have ever lived in, located in South Pigalle. I will, however, forever nurture a soft spot for the Rochechouart / Poissonieres area.
I think I fell in love with the 9th before I fully understood why. Now that I have called it home for 8 months I can describe to you precisely why it is my favourite arrondissement of Paris, and yet the first time I climbed its steep streets I could never have explained it.
I feel that the 9th combines everything that is good about Paris in one single quartier: the history of the elegant places and theatres, and the artists and poets who once frequented them; the tradition of the rue des Martyrs and its village-feel fishmongers, florists and fromageries; the modernity of SoPi with its artisan cocktail bars, organic green grocers, and hip restaurants; the spirit of rebellion underlying the dive bars, the cabaret halls and the sex shops; and finally the sheer randomness of a quarter that combines the largest selection of guitar stores in Paris with a basketball court that has been repainted entirely in pink, as well as the oldest miniature train store in France (seriously, what more could you want?).
Have you guys ever heard of the Pigalle basketball court? 🏀 . I'm always on the hunt for things to do in Paris that are a little bit off the beaten track (mostly to avoid going to the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysées every time someone visits me 🙈😂 hate, hate, hate!!) . I always get a kick out of showing people this gem (which happens to be just down the road from my apartment). It's always been a colourful little guy, but the pink makeover was recently effectuated in honour of new-kid-on-the-SoPi-block #pinkmamma 💕💓 . #Paris #Pigalle #PigalleBasketball #Pigalloise #BestFromParis #parisjetaime #parismaville #parisienne #topparisphoto #parisigers #parisexpat
There are some who would malign the 9th for having “sold its soul” to green-juice swigging, taco-nibbling hipsters. In 2013, Thomas Chatterton Williams wrote an infamous opinion piece for the New York Times entitled How Hipsters Ruined Paris, which basically focuses on my beloved South Pigalle. In it, Chatterton Williams juxtaposes the “Paris of Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Gustave Moreau and Pierre-Auguste Renoir” with the “Organic grocers, tasteful bistros and an influx of upscale American cocktail bars” which, he laments, “are quietly displacing the pharmacies, dry cleaners and scores of seedy bar à hôtesses that for decades have defined the neighborhood.”
What I love most about Paris is its ability to combine layer upon layer of history and cultural influence, giving in to (sometimes propelling!) the inexorable momentum of modernity, while never quite relinquishing its history and tradition. Although I sometimes question this fetishistic attachment to the past it is clear that it creates a fascinating and compelling cultural conversation. It is this dynamism which I believe has attracted artists and creatives to Paris throughout the years. It is what has drawn me here and convinced me to stay, and there is nowhere I feel it more strongly than in the 9th. But the green-juice bars and the streetwear boutiques are just as much a part of this “palimpsest” as Chatterton Williams’ cherished theatres and massage parlours (which, by the way, I’m sure offended the historical purists of the 9th at the time of their opening).
Fun fact about me ☝🏻 I was actually Vegan for several years after I read the book "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer 🙌🏼 . It was great while it lasted, but then I moved to Germany, and pork became an unavoidable everyday reality that was somehow at odds with my vegan lifestyle 😂🐷 . Im pretty sure veganism would be even harder here in Paris, where butter, cheese and cream are pretty much inscribed in the Droits de l'homme 🤦🏻♀️ . But this healthy green-grocer (just down the road from me! 💁🏻) brings me back to my vegan, biodynamic days 😇. Especially love the veggie chips available en vrac, as well as the straw shopping caddies 😍✌🏼 . #paris #healthy #healthyparis #pigalle #75009 #parismaville #parisjetaime #parismonamour #parisigers #topparisphoto #parisfoodie
When I lived in the 6th I felt like a tourist who was looking into Paris through a window. I don’t feel like a tourist in the 9th. I don’t even feel like an outsider (or if I do, it doesn't matter, because there is no standard culture to fit in with here - we are all outsiders)!
The 9th is far away from the Paris cliché of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysées. It’s too complex, it’s too real, it’s too malleable. Could it be that I see myself in the 9th? I feel more at home with the rebels and the misfits, the randoms and the undefinables than I ever have elsewhere. And at least for the time being, I have a hard time imagining myself anywhere else.
What's your favourite arrondissement of Paris? Do you share my love for the 9th?