At the geographic and historical heart of Paris, the 1er (the French abbreviation for "premier") arrondissement is a neighborhood that offers a microcosmic view of the city through the ages. From the Gothic spires and stained glass splendor of the Sainte Chapelle (13th century) to I. M. Pei's controversial glass Pyramid in the forecourt of the Louvre Museum (late 20th century, and incidentally one of many fascinating event venues in Paris); from the Right Bank to the Ile de la Cite (the small natural island in the center of the river), both of which are connected by Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, groups are sure to be fascinated by this history-laden area.
Event venues in the 1er arrondissement are spectacular. The Louvre, once the royal palace of Louis XIV and today is one of the world's greatest art museums (the Tuileries, once the Sun King's private royal gardens are a public park). The Louvre offers event space, several cafes for hire, and private museum visits. Both it and the Tuileries can host receptions. Nearby, la Comedie Francaise was commissioned by Louis XIV and is now perhaps the most renowned theater in France. Three theaters and three reception areas are available as venues for galas and private events.
Also in the 1er, Place Vendome is at the epicenter of chic Parisian shopping. The Ritz, Paris is directly on the Place, along with the other smart hotel venues in 1er arrondissment, including l'Hotel le Meurice, The Westin, Paris-Vendome and, most recently, the Mandarin Oriental, Paris (which made its debut in June 2011).
New dining and entertainment venues in 1er arrondissement includes O Chateau, a wine bar now installed in the former residence of Mme. De Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV. In addition to a carefully chosen selection of open bottles at the comfortable bar (open all day, with free Wi-Fi!), it offers wine-tasting workshops and other wine-related events. Another "bonne adresse" in the 1er, Angelina is a fashionable tea salon once frequented by Marcel Proust, Coco Chanel and other Parisian luminaries.
In the 1er arrondissement, it's still possible to have a bowl of Au Pied de Cochon's famous onion soup at 3:00 AM, where the restaurant has been open 24/7/365 since 1947. The restaurant is part of the famous les Halles, the traditional central food market for all of Paris. Now a vast underground mall, a few old-time establishments remain in the quartier, awaiting discovery.