A largely industrial area in former times, these days the 11th arrondissement is one of the liveliest and most alternative neighbourhoods in Paris. It is made up of a number of quiet mini-districts with a village feel and charmingly old-fashioned shops. The district is creative and dynamic, with numerous craftsmen’s workshops and works of street art, which are everywhere you turn in the Oberkampf area. The 11th also has a wide variety of restaurants, bars and leisure venues. A walk from Bastille to Père Lachaise via République and Charonne takes you through a non-touristy part of Paris.
1/ Port de l'Arsenal
Port de l’Arsenal is near to Place de la Bastille, but it wouldn’t look out of place by the seaside or along the Canal du Midi. It makes for an unusual walk in the middle of the city, with pleasure craft moored along the quay and seagulls hovering. It is the perfect place for a game of boules with friends and the starting point for a walk along the Coulée Verte.
Port de l’Arsenal - Boulevards Bourdon et de la Bastille, Paris 4e et 12e
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Coulée verte René-Dumont - Avenue Daumesnil, Paris 12e
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2/ Place de la Bastille
The Bastille, a fortress built in the Middle Ages to defend Paris, is an imposing château with eight towers, moats and fortifications. Louis XIV – the Sun King – turned it into a prison where he arbitrarily jailed his enemies. A symbol of the monarchy’s dictatorial rule, the prison was stormed and plundered by revolutionaries on 14 July 1789. Place de la Bastille is now a pedestrian-friendly square and one can stroll around the pedestrian plaza connecting the opera to the July Column, the ground floor of which is to be opened to the general public.
Did you know? Stones from the Bastille can be found in various parts of France. Some were used to build the Pont de la Concorde and others were used to make scale models of the fortress, which were then sent to different parts of the country to symbolize the fight against the monarchy.
Place de la Bastille, Paris 4e
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3/ The Opéra Bastille
Now that the square has been pedestrianized, one can stand well back to admire the Opéra Bastille in all its splendour. Built to commemorate the bicentenary of the Revolution in 1989, it is one of the biggest opera houses in the world, with a seating capacity of 3,000. The work of the architect Carlos Ott, it is the modern counterpart of the Palais Garnier. Visitors can take a tour of this venue known for its acoustics with a guide by prior appointment. The programme features the greatest operas and ballets.
Opéra national de Paris - Opéra Bastille - Place de la Bastille, Paris 12e
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4/ The Cour Damoye
If you would like a quiet moment, slip inside the Cour Damoye before closing time (7pm or 8pm, depending which day of the week it is). This magnificent cobbled alley tucked away between Place de la Bastille and Rue Daval was once lined with craftsmen’s workshops, which were plentiful in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine district. Sip a coffee on the terrace of the Atelier de Torréfaction, one of the few coffee roasteries in Paris, and admire the industrial architecture of the buildings in the area.
More info about walks in courtyards and passages in Eastern Paris
5/ The Roquette and Charonne districts
Bastille is a hub of nightlife and alternative shopping. Here are some good places in Rue de la Roquette, Rue de Charonne and around:
Galerie Arts Factory - 27 rue de Charonne, Paris 11e. Exhibitions of illustrations, silkscreen prints, postcards and fanzines at affordable prices.
Patate Records - 57 rue de Charonne, Paris 11e. Reggae record shop.
Café de la Plage - 59 rue de Charonne, Paris 11e. Friendly atmosphere and concerts in the basement.
Septime - 80 rue de Charonne, Paris 11e. Neo-bistro with minimalist decor recommended by several guides.
Holycake - 36 rue Keller, Paris 11e. Peaceful tea room also serving brunch where the pastries taste as good as they look.
Pop Culture - 23 rue Keller, Paris 11e. Bookshop selling comic books, records and superhero merchandise. An institution.
Chez Aline - 85 rue de la Roquette, Paris 11e. Ultra-fresh sandwiches, perfect for lunch on the go. Their ham and butter sandwiches are among the best in Paris.
Les Marcheurs de Planète - 73 rue de la Roquette. Wine bar and restaurant serving simple, flavourful dishes.
Mécanique ondulatoire - 8 passage Thiéré, Paris 11e. A longstanding rock concert venue.
Badaboum - 2 bis rue des Taillandiers, Paris 11e. The headquarters of electro parties in the Bastille. The first floor resembles an apartment with armchairs and sofas.
Come on Eileen - 16-18 rue des Taillandiers, Paris 11e. Vintage clothes shop. Wide range of 1970s and 1980s evening dresses in the basement.
6/ Village Popincourt
Tucked away between Boulevard Richard Lenoir, Boulevard Voltaire and Rue de la Roquette, the Popincourt district is a genuine little village. There used to be many antique dealers in the six streets – Rue Popincourt, Rue Sedaine, Rue Bréguet, Rue Chemin Vert, Rue Froment and Rue Boulle – making up the district. These days, they are lined with the shops of young designers, craftsmen’s workshops and food shops selling locally sourced, high-quality products. There are some nice cafés too, like the Paul & Rimbaud, where you can listen to jazz while reading, and Les mauvais joueurs, where people play board games.
7/ Place de la République
It was in the 19th century, during Baron Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, that the Place de la République became the huge size it is today (3.4 hectares). It also became a transport hub (tramways, metros, the Belleville funicular tramway and, later on, cars), and Parisians soon made it a mandatory stop along the itinerary of events such as the carnival parade and political rallies. These days priority is given to pedestrians, as car traffic has been significantly reduced. The square is dotted with tables and chairs so that people can sit down and rest or chat with friends. The Monument à la République, a monumental statue in the centre of the square and the focal point of marches and demonstrations, has also been renovated. The square is a popular meeting place for night owls heading to one of the many nearby venues – bars, show venues, discotheques, theatres etc.
Place de la République, Paris 3e, 10e et 11e
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8/ Canal Saint-Martin
A stone’s throw from the square, you can enjoy a pleasant stroll along the Canal Saint-Martin. The canal is covered between Bastille and République, but emerges again starting from Rue Léon Jouhaux north of Place de la République. The sidewalks along this section of the canal are lined with cafés that fill up fast on sunny days (Chez Prune, le Comptoir Général, Marcel, Bizz’art, La Taverme de Zhao and the legendary Hôtel du Nord). The Quai de Valmy section is a good place to have a bite to eat away from the traffic.
Canal Saint-Martin, Paris 10e
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Chez Prune - 36 rue Beaurepaire, Paris 10e
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Le Comptoir Général - 80 quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10e
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Marcel - 90 quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10e
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Bizz’art - 167 quai de Valmy, Paris 10e
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La Taverne de Zhao - 49 rue des Vinaigriers, Paris 10e
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Hôtel du Nord - 102 quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10e
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9/ The Oberkampf district
Rue Oberkampf, Rue Saint-Maur and Rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud are among the liveliest streets in the capital after nightfall. Here are some good options for dining and entertainment.
Café Charbon - 109 rue Oberkampf, Paris 11e. Legendary brasserie with vintage decor and a dance floor at night.
Alimentation Générale - 64 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Paris 11e. Welcoming decor with vintage touches; lively themed parties and world music.
Le Ciré Jaune - 112 rue Saint-Maur, Paris 11e. A pint costs €5 in this relaxed little bar.
La Mercerie - 98 rue Oberkampf, Paris 11e. The perfect place for a drink with friends. Good, no-frills, affordable food.
La Fine Mousse - 6 avenue Jean-Aicard, Paris 11e. A good place to sample craft beer.
Udo - 4 bis rue Neuve-Popincourt, Paris 11e. German bar with a Berlin vibe.
Pierre Sang in Oberkampf - 55 rue Oberkampf, Paris 11e. The Franco-Korean chef concocts subtle yet colourful recipes.
10/ Atelier des Lumières
At the Atelier des Lumières, visitors are offered an immersive art experience. In this former foundry, images of paintings by great artists (Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Claude Monet, Yves Klein, etc.) are projected on to the walls, from floor to ceiling, using 140 video projectors. Music is played over a spatialized sound system. You get the feeling you are stepping into the painting, as if in a dream, and experiencing rather than merely seeing it. This is a chance for people of all ages to admire some famous modern art paintings in a totally unique way.
L’Atelier des Lumières - 38 rue Saint-Maur, Paris 11e
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11/ Square Maurice Gardette
Located a short distance from Avenue Parmentier, Square Maurice Gardette is a quiet garden cordoned off by a number of trees. It is a good place to take a break in the heart of the city, seated amid irises, horse chestnut trees, birches, pine trees and a giant sequoia. Thanks to the equipment provided, the whole family can play boules or table tennis and roller skate.
Square Maurice Gardette – 2 rue du Général Blaise, Paris 11e
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12/ Musée du Fumeur
This unusual little museum brings together plants, artworks and objects related to an ancestral practice: smoking. The collection bears witness to the evolution of behaviours over the centuries and is designed to encourage reflection on the act of smoking, which was originally brought back from the Americas by Christopher Columbus and, in five centuries, has become a global phenomenon.
Musée du Fumeur - 7 rue Pache, Paris 11e
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13/ Père Lachaise cemetery
The famous Père Lachaise cemetery is one of the most pleasant places in Paris to take a nature and history-focused stroll, at any time of year. Although there are a lot of visitors, it is always peaceful. It provides an opportunity to admire a variety of styles of funerary art, from Haussmannian burial vaults to antique-style mausoleums and one-of-a-kind tombs of both famous people and unknowns. Frédéric Chopin, Honoré de Balzac, Molière and Jean de La Fontaine are among the many famous people buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery.
Did you know? One of the most visited tombs is that of Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, who was buried here in 1971. And there is an unusual legend attached to the tomb of the 19th-century journalist Victor Noir. It is said that rubbing the penis of his statue will boost fertility. It has been rubbed so often that it is worn down and discoloured.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise - Face au 21 boulevard de Ménilmontant, Paris 20e
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14/ Pavillon de l'Ermitage
The only surviving remnant of the Château de Bagnolet, the Pavillon de l’Ermitage is a folly built in the early 18th century and intended for use in spring and summer alone. This unique Regency-style building is a Parisian gem and definitely worth visiting.
Pavillon de l'Ermitage - Square Debrousse - 148 rue Bagnolet, Paris 20e
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