The Canal St. Martin attracts its fair share of flaneurs - a French term for dawdlers and strollers - who wander aimlessly down along the banks of this 4.5 km long canal built during the Napeolonic era.
In the early 19th century when diseases like dysentery and cholera were rampant, this artificial waterway was built to supply Paris with fresh water. After its completion in 1825, the canal also served as a way to transport food and other goods into Paris, with two ports dedicated to unloading boats: the Bassin de la Villette and the Port de l'Arsenal.
When the sun is out, the neighborhood comes alive. People head on over to the canal's tree-shaded quais for an afternoon of lounging around, which eventually stretches to late night drinks by the canal's edge. Its growing popularity and bohemian reputation has seen a boom in the number of new bistros and boutiques - making the area around Canal St. Martin a place to see and to be seen in.
Curiously, despite its popularity, the Canal St. Martin remains relatively calm and peaceful, attracting more Parisians than tourists. Its romantic iron footbridges and tree-lined streets make it an ideal place to savor the truly authentic Parisian atmosphere this district has to offer.
A walk around the neighborhood reveals an irresistible mix of independent shops and high-end boutiques. Pop into one of the three Antoine et Lili shops (95 quai de Valmy), a trio of colourful stores selling endearing pieces of home decor and furniture, children's and women's clothing. Lovers of haute couture can while away the hours at Thanx God I'm a V.I.P. (12 rue de Lancry), a two-level, 200m2 vintage store selling Hermes, YSL, Burberry, and Lanvin items at a steal. Open 7 days a week, Artazart (83 quai de Valmy) is crammed with art and design books, Lomo cameras and other hip arty paraphernalia. Flip through the racks of Centre Commercial (2 rue de Marseille), a loft-style boutique featuring brands chosen for their thoughtful impact on social and environmental issues. A few steps down the street is the boutique A.P.C. (5 rue de Marseille). And if you're on the lookout for cute and cheery trinkets stop by Pop Market (50 rue Bichat).
With all the restaurants in the neighborhood, it's safe to assume that one will never go hungry here. Meet up with friends for drinks and a meal at the legendary Hotel du Nord (102 quai de Jemmapes), around since 1885 and immortalized in the 1938 Marcel Carné film. Du Pain et des Idées (34 rue Yves Toudic) is a well-known bakery in the area, frequented by Parisians and tourists for its traditional pastries with innovative twists (matcha green tea croissants, anyone?). Elbow your way through the crowds for a seat at the terrace of bistro Chez Prune (71 quai de Valmy), or have a gluten-free meal at Helmut Newcake (36 rue Bichat). If you're on a budget, the locals of the area swear by Le Cambodge (20 rue Alibert), which serves delicious Cambodian cuisine in a canteen-like setting.
If you choose to picnic instead of sitting in a restaurant, grab your sunglasses and claim a patch of grass in Jardin Villemin (14 rue des Récollets). You can also head over to the renovated 18th century convent Maison de l'architecture en Ile-de-France (148 rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin) to marvel at the architecture-related expositions held in this old chapel. Once you're there, make sure to drop by Café A, it's terrace is a popular hangout in the summer.
If you're too lazy to walk along the quai by foot, book a Canauxrama boat cruise (2 hours and 30 minutes), which takes you through four double locks and two swing bridges before ending at the Bassin de la Villette area.
Romain was AMAZING!!! I will 100% be recommending him to our friends! Our Louvre tour was one of my kids favorite things we did and they said it was because of Romain.
Highly recommend. Private tour is a great way to get more personalized insights on Paris history. Guide was very knowledgeable. Will definitely use again.
We have done several tours with Localers and they are definitely worth the money! We are pretty independent travelers, but there is no substitute for local knowledge. Localers has the best guides!
I did 2 tours with Localers and would enthusiastically do more when I return to Paris. The main reason is the quality of the tours themselves, the fact they are authentic experiences, and you learn so much!
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