A stroll along the Canal Saint Martin & Bassin de la Villette

Last Updated on 30/12/2019 by secretmoona

Quai de la Seine, Canal St-Martin, Paris

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.

View of Canal St-Martin, Paris

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

Assainissement de Paris - Canal St-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.

Banks of canal saint martin - Canal saint martin
Banks of canal- Canal St-Martin
Banks of Canal St-Martin
Nice building - Canal St-Martin

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 an afternoon 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 destination for those wanting to explore Paris’ off the beaten path. .

Things to do near Canal Saint Martin

Check out the street art

Afro girl graffiti on a wall in Canal St-Martin
Mosaic - Canal St-Martin
Tag on the banks' cement - Canal St-Martin
Swimming pool in Canal St-Martin

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. 

Colourful facade in Canal St-Martin, Paris
Antoine and Lili - Canal St-Martin

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

Mk2 cinema with its outside terrace - Canal St-Martin
Mk2 cinema with its outside terrace

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.

Bassin de la Villette, Paris
Looking at water - Canal St-Martin
Petanque players - Canal saint martin

“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.

Game of petanque - Canal St-Martin

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.

Bassin de la Villette - Take a stroll in the Canal St-Martin, enjoy exploring this picturesque and trendy district. Explore the banks of the canal, restaurants, bars, shops and other things to do and see.  #Paris #CanalStMartin #France

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.

Bassin de la Villette - Take a stroll in the Canal St-Martin, enjoy exploring this picturesque and trendy district. Explore the banks of the canal, restaurants, bars, shops and other things to do and see.  #Paris #CanalStMartin #France

Board a barge

Boats in bassin de la Villette - Canal St-Martin
Cruise boat in Bassin de la Villette - Canal St-Martin

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.

Getting there

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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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

40 thoughts on “A stroll along the Canal Saint Martin & Bassin de la Villette

  1. I was in Paris for the first time in 30 years last month and stayed in the 10th arrondissement. Your photos brought it all back to me. In fact I have a photo of that same wall mural with the girl in overalls and the ‘rainbow’ hair near Antoine & Lili. I enjoyed the canal quite a bit. We took the canal cruise which was cool as I have never been through canal locks before. I enjoyed the area quite a bit in fact and the canal was especially a pleasant surprise. I’m glad its making a comeback

    1. Thank you Robert, I’m glad you had a lovely time in the area! I love mural art and especially pieces like “the girl with the rainbow hair”. It’s such a masterpiece!

  2. I’ve seen the mural with the girl and the balloon hair already on Instagram and was wondering where I could find it! Thanks for sharing. This walk along the canal looks really nice!

  3. Looks like there is so much to see and do around here! I would definitely love to walk these streets! It looks much greener than I would have thought! Great photos 🙂

  4. I always love reading post about my own country 😉 Your photos have perfectly captured the beauty of Paris city ! The Canal St Martin is very popular with tourists: it’s a splendid area that attracts visitors from all walks of life.

  5. All photos tells how cool is this place! A boat ride along the canal might be so interesting and relaxing. Loving the street art of the girl with the rainbow Afro hair. Too cute!

  6. I love to take self-guided walks around cities I’m visiting for the first time, to see what’s around me and to hopefully find some charming sights and interesting art. I think this area would be perfect for me in Paris! Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a wonderful alternative to the usual routes in Paris. Being completely honest, I’ve never really liked Paris. Not sure way but I always end up in the same spots and doing the same things. This is right up my street. Seems like a perfect place to do a photowalk and stop for a bite. Thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely keep this in mind.

  8. Canal St Martin is my favorite area in Paris! I’m not even a big shopper (actually, I kind of hate shopping) but I loved wandering through the shops there. It’s the perfect place to grab a beer or meal outside on the canal and people watch. Now I’m wanting to go back!

  9. Oh so beautiful, I love walking besides bodies of water and this Canal looks especially peaceful. Would you believe I’ve not yet been to Paris, but certainly hoping to soon and I’ll try to visit this Canal.

  10. I love those places and neighborhoods in the famous cities which transforms themselves. Though I’ve never heard of it and missed this beautiful stroll but I wasn’t in Paris for a long stay, I wish I had more time. Thanks for sharing such insights.

  11. What a lovely neighbourhood! So leafy and green. Would you recommend this as a good place to stay? I have a friend who’s going to Paris soon and trying to decide which area is best!

    1. Thanks Emily. I would totally recommend the area. It’s walking distance from the trendy Bastille and Oberkampf without the high price tag. There are lost of Airbnb or hotels like Libertel Canal St Martin or le Robinet d’Or.

  12. From few weeks I want to plan for my next vacation in France. I have not know about this amazing thing about Paris. It is a wonder and every visitor will love to explore the Canal Saint Martin and the Parc de la Villette. To read your post I am studying it. The Parc de la Villette is the third-largest park in Paris. As soon as I want to find myself in this canal. keep writing and inspire us 🙂

    1. Thank you very much Evelyn! I hope you will be able to add both the canal and park within your itinerary. Enjoy your trip in France!

  13. This is one of my favorite parts of Paris and still not super crowded as it isn’t that well known (except for a few certain spots). I love to walk in this area!

    1. It’s maybe a good thing that the area is less visited by tourists. I grew up near that neighbourhood and see how much it has changed over the years, specially Bassin de la Villette. It offers a lovely walking route.

  14. This looks like such a gorgeous area. Like you, we love to view the local street art while visiting an area, so I love that you included some of this in your post!

  15. I’ve been to Paris a few times now and discover something new with every visit. I had heard of locals and tourists having picnics and wine along the canals, but never looked much into it. This neighborhood looks like the perfect spot to do this though. I love all the street art too, it gives the neighborhood so much character.

  16. I love how some places overcome their notorious past to create something absolutely creative and positive on the world stage. It is important that such places gain a place on the world travel map. Thanks for sharing. The graffiti with the rainbow hair is one stunning piece of work!

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