Walk along the Saint-Martin Canal to La Villette

Vibrant waterfronts, spacious parks, street art and culture – enjoy a leisurely stroll in this unique cityscape

Built in the early nineteenth century, the canals of Paris have become a vibrant part of the city. As soon as the first rays of sun touch the water, a certain ‘douceur de vivre’ takes hold. Join us for a gentle stroll between the Saint-Martin Canal and La Villette or Buttes-Chaumont Parks, where a combination of nature and urban culture creates a holiday atmosphere. The walk starts at Jacques Bonsergent metro station.

1 / The Saint-Martin Canal

© Barbaud

When you come out of the metro, walk down Rue de Lancry towards the Saint-Martin Canal, then follow Quai de Valmy, where the colourful frontages of the Antoine et Lily shops set the tone. Soak up the lively atmosphere emanating from the little bars and bistros alongside the canal. With a bit of luck you might see the Récollets lock opening and be able to admire the lock mechanism. Continue your walk to the Villemin Garden, created on the site of the former hospital of the same name, which itself replaced the Récollets Convent. The monumental convent door was rescued and can be seen at number 8 rue des Récollets. The garden, with its lawns, bandstand and play areas, is an ideal spot for a picnic. You can also do this walk on the other side of the canal. Quai de Jemmapes has a number of points of interest, including the Hôtel du Nord, which inspired Eugène Dabit’s novel of the same name and Marcel Carné’s film.

Did you know? The Saint-Martin Canal connects the Port de l’Arsenal to the La Villette canal basin. It extends over 4.5 km, of which 2 km are underground. Its numerous structures include four bridges (two fixed bridges and two swing bridges), five wrought-iron footbridges and nine locks.

Canal Saint-Martin, Paris 10th et 11th

Jardin Villemin – 14 rue des Récollets, Paris 10th

Ecluse des Récollets – 86 quai de Valmy, Paris 10th

Hôtel du Nord – 102 quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10th

2 / Le Point Éphémère

© Laurent Guedon

Still on Quai de Valmy, take a look inside Point Éphémère, an arts centre proposing a varied programme of concerts, art exhibitions, meetings and talks. You can also grab a bite to eat here, or relax in a deckchair on the rooftop in the summer. It’s a well-known and popular waterfront venue!

Le Point Éphémère - 200 quai de Valmy, Paris 10th. Open every day from 12.30pm to 2am and on Sundays until 10pm.

3 / The Stalingrad Rotunda

© Paris je t'aime - Amélie Dupont

When you reach the end of the canal, cross the junction and walk towards the Stalingrad Rotunda to reach the Villette canal basin on Quai de la Seine. The rotunda was one of the tollgates placed around the wall of the Farmers General which until 1860 delimited the borders of Paris. At that time, La Villette was just an adjacent village and the tollgate was where taxes were collected on goods entering Paris. The building now houses an art gallery, café and Trattoria restaurant.

La Rotonde Stalingrad – 6-8 place de la bataille de Stalingrad, Paris 19th

4 / La Villette canal basin

© Paris je t'aime - Marc Bertrand

Take a few minutes to admire the attractive perspective that seems to stretch endlessly towards La Villette Park. This is where Parisians come to play petanque or table-tennis, run, jog or work out on the open-air sports facilities, before meeting up with friends for a drink in one of the little cafés around the basin. You can walk alongside the water or hire a small motorboat. In summer, the basin is part of the Paris Plages (Paris beaches) initiative. Various events are organized and temporary installations set up, including floating swimming pools.

Did you know? La Villette canal basin is the largest artificially-created stretch of water in Paris. It was built in 1808 as the city’s drinking water reservoir. A few years later, it developed into a busy commercial area.

Bassin de la Villette – quai de la Seine, Paris 19th

5 / Le Centquatre-Paris

© Paris je t'aime - Amélie Dupont

Turn left into Rue de Riquet and walk up to Rue Curial. You will find yourself in front of the Centquatre-Paris – a community arts centre housed in the former municipal funeral services, built in 1874. The industrial style of the building, with its glass roof, brickwork, cast-iron and wrought-iron, is reminiscent of Paris’s great Gare d’Orsay and Gare de Lyon railway stations. Covering an area the size of Place de la République, the two large halls are today used for exhibitions, workshops, and art competitions, and also house a library and several cafés. You might well see some salsa dancers, acrobats or circus artists making use of the floor space and natural light for a practice or rehearsal.

Le Centquatre - 5 rue Curial, Paris 19th. Open from Tuesday to Friday from 12h to 19h and on weekends from 11h to 19h.

6 / The Ourcq Canal

© Philippe Levy

Come back to the canal basin, cross the bridge and continue your walk on the opposite side of the Ourcq Canal, along Quai de la Marne. Just like at La Villette canal basin, the quays here are a popular leisure area with Parisians and an ideal picnic spot. Take a short detour through the surrounding streets to see some of the finest examples of street art in Paris. Don’t miss Rues de l’Ourcq and Rue Germaine Tailleferre, favourites with local artists. Come back to the waterside by Rue des Ardennes and cross to the other side of the canal; then just cross the other branch of the canal and you’ll find yourself in the north side of La Villette Park.

Canal de l’Ourcq, Paris 19th

7 / La Villette Park

© Marie-Sophie Leturcq

With its 55 hectares, La Villette is the largest park in Paris. It is situated on the site of the former slaughter-houses of the village of La Villette, which was absorbed into Paris in 1860. This vast green space has 3,000 trees, plenty of grassy areas, themed gardens, an orchard, and beehives. But what makes this park special is the variety of cultural venues: concert halls, museums, and a cinema. This is a walk with a few surprises!

Did you know? The Grande Halle de la Villette, a repurposed former slaughterhouse, was the venue in 2019 for the most visited exhibition in the history of France – Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharoah. It attracted around 1.4 million visitors!

Parc de la Villette – 211 avenue Jean-Jaurès, Paris 19th

8 / The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie and the Géode

© La Géode

At the heart of La Villette Park, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie stands out with its imposing concrete architecture that plays on the contrasts between glass, water and sheer volume. This ‘museum’ aims to demystify science by proposing a fun, hands-on approach, including live experiments and innovative ways of explaining science. The Cité des Enfants (children’s area) offers fun ways for children to learn about science.

The Géode is also an eye-catching feature: a giant sphere of polished steel, 36 metres in diameter, in which the Cité des Sciences and the landscape of the park are reflected in a way that blends modernity and nature. It’s a cinema, currently closed for refurbishment, with a 1000-square metre hemispheric screen. From here, walk towards Allée du Canal then cross over the canal by the footbridge to explore the south side of the park.

Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie et Cité des Enfants - 30 avenue Corentin Cariou, Paris 19th


La Géode - 26 avenue Corentin Cariou, Paris 19th

9 / La Philharmonie de Paris

© Gil Lefauconnier

La Villette Park is home to a number of well-known Parisian concert halls. From the bridge you can see the Zénith and the Trabendo.

In 2015, a new venue was added to the musical landscape: the Philharmonie de Paris. Together with the adjacent Cité de la musique, it forms an ensemble, intended as a ‘living space’ for music, offering a programme of concerts, workshops and exhibitions. This remarkable building, designed by architect Jean Nouvel is well worth a closer look. Its façade, rooftop and terrace are covered with 340,000 aluminium birds that evoke a flock taking flight. Climb up to the look-out point for a breathtaking view over the city.

La Philharmonie de Paris – 221 avenue Jean-Jaurès, Paris 19th

10 / Saint-Serge de Radonège Russian Orthodox Church

© Paris je t'aime - Amélie Dupont

Continue along Avenue Jean-Jaurès and turn left into Rue de Crimée. Open the gate at number 93 and you’ll discover a red house decorated with an icon of Saint-Serge de Radonège, indicating that this is the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint-Serge de Radonège. Dedicated to the popular Russian saint, the church has an unusual decorative carved wood frontage, painted red and turquoise. Go inside and admire the beautiful wall paintings, in particular artist Dmitri Semionovitch Stelletsky’s iconostasis. If you can time your visit to coincide with a service, you’ll be transported to the land of the Tsars without having to leave Paris.

Église Orthodoxe Saint-Serge de Radonège - 93 rue de Crimée, Paris 19th

11 / Buttes-Chaumont Park

© Paris je t'aime - Marc Bertrand

Carry on along Rue de Crimée and you’ll arrive at Buttes-Chaumont Park. This delightful hilly garden is full of surprises – its 25 hectares feature a lake, grottoes and even waterfalls. Cross over to the Île du Belvédère, either by the hanging walkway or the Suicides’ bridge, and climb to the viewpoint on top of the island where you’ll find the ‘Temple of Sybil’, a copy of the temple of Vesta in Tivoli. After an enjoyable break in this oasis of green, come out of the park into Rue Manin and climb the stairs by number 17.

Did you know? Buttes-Chaumont Park was built on the former gypsum quarries on the ‘Mont-Chauve’ hill. The park was created during the major urban development works carried out by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann. The landscaping – with its rocky outcrops, torrents, lake and waterfalls – is entirely man-made. A million cubic metres of earth was needed to turn the site into a park!

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont - 1 rue Botzaris, Paris 19th

12 / Butte Bergeyre

© JO

It’s a bit of a steep climb up the Butte Bergeyre (to an altitude of 100 metres), but it’s worth the effort. Picturesque little streets, colourful houses, lush vegetation – there’s a unique village atmosphere here, but that’s not the only asset of this luxuriant mini-district; it also offers a fantastic view over the whole of Paris, and in particular of the Sacré-Cœur at Montmartre. A perfect and unforgettable souvenir of your walk.

Butte Bergeyre - 76, rue Georges Lardennois, Paris 19th

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