Paris can not be approached without expectations and preconceptions. For some, it represents a city of romance, with the celebrated photographer Doisneau's lovers clinched in an eternal embrace. For others, the French capital is a sparkling mix of writers and artists or an unhealthy concentration of proud Parisians. While the first visit to the French capital may surprise, it is unlikely to disappoint. On all sorts of levels ? historical, architectural, cultural ? this is a fascinating city.
The River Seine splits the city into the Rive Droite (Right Bank) north of the river and the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) south of the river. Orientation is facilitated by the 20 arrondissements (designated here as 1st to 20th, in French as 1er to 20e), which spiral outwards in a snail-shell from the central Ile de la Cité to Porte de Montreuil on the eastern edge of the city.