Taking a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Seine is a Parisian’s favourite activity. Come summer, with the fresh and sunny weather, people flock to the banks of the river: couples take romantic strolls, friends enjoy having a picnic and families having fun. One trendy area for such a stroll is the Canal Saint Martin. Taking a stroll in the Canal Saint Martin is like a breeze of fresh air, you can enjoy a picturesque Paris and enjoy a peaceful moment away from the busy streets.
Canal Saint Martin is located in the 11th arrondissement and connects the Bassin de la Villette with the Canal de l’Ourcq and Port de l’Arsenal. You can join by the southside from several metro stations like République, Jacques Bonsergent, Oberkampf, Richard-Lenoir, Quai de la Rapée or Goncourt. If you prefer to explore the northern end, you can access it from Louis Blanc, Jaurés or Stalingrad stations. I started off my stroll from République and caught the metro at the other end from Stalingrad.
Stroll in a trendy Canal Saint Martin
Canal Saint-Martin has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last 15-20 years. Once a run-down, neglected area famous for drug dealing and petty crime, Canal Saint Martin has reinvented itself as a trendy, family hang out spot favoured by locals. The canal was constructed in 1802 under the order of Napoleon to aid the urban development of Paris. Now, the canal and its surrounding banks are part of some of Paris’ trendiest neighbourhood.
Over the recent years, cool coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques have set up around the canal. In the warmer months, it’s the place to sit, eat, drink and chat. People, especially students can be found chilling on the banks till late.
Although I lived close to the area, I never ventured there during my youth as it wasn’t very safe. Now, I have been to there a couple of times within the last couple of months. The first time was at the end of my self-guided tour of Le Marais. The pictures, I took did not come up right. The second time, I ventured there, I was again unable to make a single good photo. I was lucky on my last visit as you can see, the day was great and sunny.
The canal is a perfect spot for a stroll. It provides a relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Because the area is not a touristy area, it is quieter than the Seine. Therefore, it makes for an ideal afternoon stroll destination.
Things to do near Canal Saint Martin
Check out the street art
More like most of Paris’ popular neighbourhood, Canal Saint Martin is “decorated” with street art and graffiti. Thanks to its past as an abandonned spot, street artists and graffers have made the walls that run along the canal their canvas. From simple tags to elaborated street art, you can admire a lot of them during your walk. If you enjoy street art, you might even want to continue along the Canal de l’Ourcq or visit Rue Denoyez in Belleville.
Grab something to eat or shop
Around the Quai de Jemappes and opposite Quai de Valmy, there are plenty of places to go for something to eat or drink. Most of them have a terrace which makes them the ideal rendezvous point for the locals of all age. Some of the restaurants favoured by the locals are the Valmy and Chez Prune.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes around the canal. The two places mentioned above are very popular meeting places for the locals, students or seniors alike. Hôtel du Nord, is a nice café where locals come for a drink after work or for Sunday brunch.
Quai de Valmy with its modern boutiques Antoine & Lili and other French brands like Maje, Agnès B, A.P.C., The Kooples has become the fashion district of the boho (bourgeois Boheme).
Explore the Bassin de la Villette
The Bassin de la Villette is reached after crossing place Stalingrad. The first thing you will see is the Rotonde de la Villette which is now a lovely restaurant. After a much needed “clean up” by the city of Paris, it is a more enjoyable place. There are lots of summer activities like pétanque (bowling), kayak, swimming pools etc…. After all, this is the second location of Paris Plages. The area around La Villette is becoming more and more popular, and it was refreshing to see young people enjoying a game of pétanque.
“Alors, tu tires ou tu pointes?” This sentence is usually heard during a game of petanque and refers to whether a player will be pointing or shooting.
Once you reach the Bassin de la Villette, you have lots of choices. You can either sit down and enjoy a refreshing diabolo menthe (made with mint cordial and lemonade) or wander further in La Villette. Explore the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Europe’s biggest science museum with an incredible kids section), watch shows at the Géode (cinema in the shape of a giant steel globe) or enjoy a movie at the open-air cinema.
There was a swimming competition organised Open Swim Stars. If you are looking for some green spaces, you can head to the Parc de la Villette or Parc des Buttes Chaumont. The possibilities are endless.
Board a barge
Paris Canal offers a tour called “La Croisière du Canal Saint Martin” where you can discover another side of Paris. They can take you further to La Villette which will be a change from the tours around the Seine River. You can explore la Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (“City of Science and Industry”) with a fantastic kids section; watch shows at la Géode (a cinema in the shape of a giant steel globe), outdoor movies or concerts.
The area is accessible via the following stations
- Gare de l’Est (lines 4 & 7)
- Republique (lines 3, 5, 8, 9 & 11)
- Goncourt (line 11)
- Jacques-Bonsergent (line 5)
If you are looking for an offbeat, more cooler side of Paris, spend a lazy strolling the Canal Saint-Martin.
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