Choosing between the Left and Right Banks of Paris is like picking a favourite child. Tough, but often necessary.
But of course, there’s no real answer. There’s no scientific equation, no data mining, no possible way to find the “best”.
Or is there?
I’ve spent this week talking to experts, surveying Earful Tower followers, and churning through stats to figure out which side of the river is “officially” the best. And I have an answer.
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Before we even get into the result and the methodology, here are the facts and a helpful map.
The Right Bank (Rive Droite)
The Right Bank of Paris is essentially everything to the north of the Seine River. There are 14 arrondissements (districts) and it’s perhaps known for the Marais and Montmartre neighbourhoods.
The Left Bank (Rive Gauche)
The Left Bank of Paris has six arrondissements, is known for jazz, the Latin quarter, and a long and historic string of writers, artists, and philosophers. In fact, it’s where they say that Paris “learned to think”.
Here’s a map if you’re still unclear.
But which is the best for tourists? If you’re a sensible person and enjoy reasonable insights from intelligent people, be sure to listen to the podcast version of this story, where I discuss the topic with two authors, Right Banker Lindsey Tramuta and Left Banker John Baxter. Click play below to hear it.
But if you want to see my answer in written form with all its methodology, read on.
So, I figured I had to start with what a tourist wants – and that’s pretty easy. They want the best: museums, restaurants, cafes, landmarks, and neighbourhoods.
Then I mined through the data from TripAdvisor, where tens of thousands of travellers have reviewed all of the above, essentially giving us a traveller’s guide to the best of the best.
I took the top ten ranked establishments for all five of these categories – based on visitor reviews – then noted which side of the river the actual spots were located. Then I scored them accordingly.
For example, the top-ranked Paris museum is the Musée d’Orsay (pictured below), giving the Left Bank ten points. The second-highest ranked museum is the Musée de l’Orangerie, so nine points to the Right Bank. And so on until the tenth place museum, which earns one point for its respective riverside. Everything after tenth spot has been ignored.
This scoring system sometimes proved problematic. For example, the Pont Alexandre III bridge ranks as the number four landmark in Paris… but it’s a bridge between the two river banks. So even though it’s administratively listed in the 8th arrondissement on the Right Bank, I simply shared the points between both banks.
And what about landmarks on the islands between the two banks, the Ile Saint Louis and the Ile de la Cité? They’re technically both part of the arrondissements of the Right Bank, but I thought it was fairer to divide their points between both banks.
One last note before we get into the juicy stats and the even juicier result: This is all based on traveller reviews on the TripAdvisor website. I am very aware that these rankings can be manipulated by voters – especially for restaurants and cafes – but I think it still gives us a much better idea than if I based it all on my own opinions 🙂
You get the picture? Good.
Here’s the overview, with my hope being that, like me, you will find some intriguing additions for your Paris to-do list.
There are 255 museums in Paris, with the art at Musée d’Orsay hitting top spot thanks to over 60,000 gleaming reviews. Below are the ten best museums in Paris, with the full list of 255 here (scroll down a bit).
- Musée d’Orsay (Left)
- Musée de l’Orangerie (Right)
- Musée du Louvre (Right)
- Musée Rodin (Left – and pictured below)
- Musée Nissim de Camondo (Right)
- Musée des Arts Forains (Right)
- Musée Marmottan (Right)
- Memorial de la Shoah (Right)
- Mundolingua (Left)
- Atelier des Lumieres (Right)
For all you culture vultures out there, it seems the best bank is the right bank, at least if you’re looking for a high concentration of great museums.
Result: 19 points for the Left Bank, 36 for the Right.
One thing that’s crucial to a good experience in Paris is a solid walk. Preferably of the aimless, flaneur variety. With this in mind, I searched for the best neighbourhoods, according to the reviews.
- Marais (Right)
- Montmartre (Right)
- 1st arrondissement (Right)
- Ile-Saint-Louis (Island)
- Saint Germain (Left)
- Left Bank (Left)
- Ile de la Cité (Island)
- 7th arrondissement (Left)
- Trocadero (Right)
- 6th arrondissement (Left)
Note: The two islands in the Seine River both made an appearance, so the points have been divided equally as mentioned above.
Result: 18.5 points for the Left Bank, 36.5 for the Right.
A good walk deserves a good coffee – and the following are the best places to drink one. I’d personally not heard of several of these places, but I’m glad to have them on my radar. Note: There are apparently 843 cafes in Paris.
- Strada Cafe (Right)
- A. Lacroix Patissier (Left)
- Dose (Left)
- Matamata (Right)
- Aux Cerises (Left)
Kozy Salon Urbain (Left)
Cafe Francoeur (Right)
Fragments Paris (Right)
Le Peloton Cafe (Right)
Result: 30 points for the Left Bank, 25 for the Right.
There are a whopping 15,543 restaurants in Paris. That’s just crazy, isn’t it? But where are the best ones, according to TripAdvisor reviewers? Click here to browse through the full list (and scroll down a little), or below are the top ten.
- Hebe (Left)
- Petit Boutary (Right)
- Signature Montmartre (Right)
- 1000 & 1 Signes (Right)
- Les Apotres de Pigalle (Right)
- ASPIC (Right)
- Le Gabriel (Right)
- Epicure (Right)
- Il Etait un Square (Left)
- L’Acolyte de L’Insolite (Right)
So, in short, the Right Bank wins that round with 43 points to 12. If you want actual recommendations for restaurants, check this very popular Earful Tower article as well.
Result: 12 points for the Left Bank, 43 for the Right.
There are 1,543 landmarks in France. How many do you think you’ve seen? Here’s how the top ten plays out, or click here to see the full ranking. I was quite surprised to see the Eiffel Tower all the way down in 7th place.
- Saint Chapelle (Island)
- Opéra (Right)
- Notre Dame (Island)
- Pont Alexandre III (Neither)
- Louvre (Right)
- Le Marais (Right)
- Eiffel Tower (Left)
- Sacre Coeur (Right)
- Arc de Triomphe (Right)
- Champs-Elysées (Right)
Quite frankly an embarrassing outing there for the Left Bank.
Result: 5 points for the Left Bank, 50 for the Right.
So, there are the five lists, from the above five categories, we have 275 points.
The final tally:
Left Bank: 84.5 points
Right Bank: 190.5 points
In other words, the Right Bank is more than twice as good as the Left Bank for a tourist, according to this ranking, anyway.
Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.
And in case you want to hear the episode, here’s that link again, be sure to subscribe wherever you find your podcasts. The episode features a lot of extras, including how Lindsey and John would spend their last day on the Left and Right banks of Paris.
PS: Here’s the intro to the video we did for Patreon supporters. Get a taste below.