10th Arrondissement: Around Faubourg St-Denis & the Gare
M° Strasbourg-St-Denis, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord, Magenta, Poissonnière, Bonne Nouvelle, and Château d’Eau
The 10th arrondissment is one to watch. Normally known for its traffic-clogged boulevards, train stations and dilapidated quarters, Parisians are coming to appreciate the ethnically diverse communities, village-like quarters, and the tranquility along the Canal St-Martin. Inexpensive lofts are being snatched up by youngish bobo’s (bourgeois bohemians), with the requisite cafés, bistros, and boutiques that cater to them. If you’re looking for urban authenticity, the 10th has it. If you’re looking for cute and comfortable, give it another decade (or two).
Boulevard de Strasbourg to the Gare du Nord
Begin at the Métro Strasbourg St-Denis, facing the Gare de l’Est at the far end of Boulevard de Sebastopol. One block to the left is the Porte St-Denis, to the right is the Porte St-Martin. These mini triumphant arches designate the city’s 17th-century fortified gateways, torn down to create the Grands Boulevards in the 19th century.
The Boulevard de Strasbourg is lined with discount stores, hairdressers’ supply shops, and street entrepreneurs offering to weave your hair into tresses (braids). A hidden gem is the Musée de l’Eventail ( 2 Boulevard de Strasbourg, 10th M° Strasbourg-St-Denis Tel 01 42 08 90 20), a museum featuring over 800 fans dating back to the 17th century, displayed in a wood-paneled exposition room built in 1867. The museum is run by the Atelier Houguet, the last traditional fan-making and repair workshop in France . Open Monday-Wednesday 2pm-6pm. Closed August. Entry €5.
Take a left into the Passage Brady, a slightly dilapidated covered passage built in 1828. Indian and Pakistani restaurants, shops and hairdressers slowly took over the passage in the 1970s, giving it the nickname Little Bombay. Stop into the Bazaar Velan for incense, spices, and kitsch souvenirs.
Continue up the bustling market street Rue du Faubourg St-Denis to the Cour des Petites Ecuries (at #63), a quiet, cobblestoned passageway where the original Brasserie Flo retains its 1910 décor. Turn right at the end of the passage, continuing up Rue Martel to the Rue de Paradis. This was once the center for arts de la table manufacturing. Today the quarter is better known for its high-tech and film industry firms, but the street is still lined with boutiques selling well-known brands of cutlery, porcelain and glassware. Note the ceramic mosaic façade at the Galerie Paradis (#18), formerly the location of a faïence (earthenware) shop, Magasin de Faïences Boulanger (the passage is closed to the public). Behind the modern façade at #30bis is a Second Empire building formerly home to the Baccarat Museum (now located in the 16th) and closed since the premature opening of the private Pinacothèque de Paris in 2004.
Take Rue d’Hauteville, known for its fur coat shops, up to the Eglise St-Vincent-de-Paul. Dedicated to the French patron of charity who worked with the city’s poor in the 17th century, the church has some beautifully-painted woodwork. Continue to the corner of Boulevard de Magenta and Rue de Chabrol to visit the delightful Marché St-Quentin (open Monday-Saturday 8am-1pm, 3:30pm-7:30pm, Sunday 8am-1pm), a beautiful covered market with everything from flowers and produce to antiques and candies.
Much like the Brittany crêpe restaurants around the Gare Montparnasse, Alsatian brasseries opened around the Gare de l’Est to welcome immigrants arriving by train from Strasbourg and Alsace. Stop by the famous Schmid Delicatessen (76 Boulevard de Strasbourg, 10th) for an authentic soft pretzel (called bretzle in French).
The somewhat dingy neighborhood between the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est is known as Little Jaffna for its prominent Tamil community from Sri Lanka. The Rue du Faubourg St-Denis, Rue Cail, and Rue Perdonet are lined with shops selling colorful saris, brass Buddha statues and exotic groceries. The adventurous will find some true bargains here!
Around Canal St-Martin & Sainte-Marthe
M° Jacques Bonsergent, République, Belleville, Colonel Fabien, and Goncourt
From the Gare de l’Est, take the Rue des Recollets past the Jardin Villemin to the tree-lined Canal St-Martin. Napoléon had the canal built to bring drinking water to Paris, but it was essentially used for transporting building materials. Today its nine locks between the Seine and the Bassin de la Villette are mostly used for sightseeing cruises. The Canal is at its best on warm summer weekends, when Parisians of all ages come here to stroll, picnic and even fish along the calm waters.
The length of the Canal from the Square des Recollets up to the Parc de la Villette is better explored in the comfort of a cruise boat, or along the smooth cycle paths on bike or skates. The streets along the Canal are completely closed off to traffic every Sunday from May through October.
On foot, head down the Quai de Valmy past the candy-colored facades of the Antoine & Lili boutiques (95 Quai Valmy, 10th), and cross the iron footbridge to the historic Hôtel du Nord (102 Quai Jemmapes, 10th). This was where the actress Arletty shouts her famous line “atmosphère, atmosphère…” in the film Hôtel du Nord by Marcel Carné. Fans of the recent French hit Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, will also recognize the Canal St-Martin as the place where Amélie came to skip stones.
Follow the Quai Jemmapes to the Avenue Richerand, which leads to the Hôpital St-Louis. One of the oldest hospitals in Paris, it was built in 1607 under Henri IV, with same brick, stone and dormered slate rooftop architecture seen at the Place des Vosges. Walk around the south side of the hospital to the corner of Rue Alibert and Avenue Claude Vellefaux, where the Carré St-Louis offers a few benches for quiet contemplation under the trees. There’s an open market here on Sunday mornings.
Make a detour to the Sainte-Marthe Quarter. This is the kind of place you’d never find unless you were looking for it, made up of just a handful of streets around the Place Sainte-Marthe. Its narrow rues are lined with colorful wooden facades faded with time, hidden artist ateliers, and crumbling balconies decorated with flower pots and the day’s wash hanging out to dry. Combine these humble surroundings with a lively, international population of immigrants from North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Far East and South America, and it’s easy to see why many Parisians who live here find it reminiscent of the old quarters of Marseilles.