Cosmopolitan, welcoming, vibrant and innovative, but also working-class, the 13th reflects a new, more youthful and affordable Paris. It is an eclectic and multi-faceted arrondissement bursting with culture.
A happy blend of modern architecture and quaint little streets, the 13th arrondissement has retained its village feel.
Wander around Butte-aux-Cailles to the southwest of the arrondissement with its cobblestone streets, quiet greenery-filled lanes and picturesque passages and soak up the peaceful countryside atmosphere that reigns here. There are some very pretty things to see on this hilltop.
Rue du Moulins-des-Près has a collection of stone houses with façades decorated with bricks and mosaics. Villa Daviel and Square des Peupliers have a succession of brick and gritstone houses with flower-filled gardens. Rue Dieulafoy is lined with elegant townhouses with façades in pastel colours, while in the Cité Florale, where every street is named after a flower (Rue des Glycines, Rue des Orchidées, Rue des Iris, Rue des Liserons, Rue des Volubilis etc.), there are colourful little houses with charming gardens. Number 10 Rue Daviel offers a glimpse of Little Alsace, formerly a workers’ housing estate, where there are half-timbered houses with gable roofs like houses in the Alsace region. On Place Paul Verlaine, the red brick Butte-aux-Cailles swimming pool in the art deco style, a listed monument, is one of the oldest pools in the capital.
The Gobelins district also has plenty of surprises in store. The Manufacture des Gobelins, which has bas-relief sculptures of weavers adorning its façade, has been devoted since its inception to the art of tapestry weaving. It still produces tapestries to decorate institutions in France and around the world and is today administered by the Mobilier National. Temporary exhibitions are organized in the Galerie des Gobelins. Nearby, the Square René-Le Gall with its rose garden and gazebos is the perfect place for some respite from the hustle and bustle. At one end, the Tour Albert looms over the area. The 67-metre-high building was the first skyscraper built to provide housing in the 1960s. On Avenue des Gobelins, the Fondation Jérome Seydoux-Pathé, a research and exhibition centre devoted to the cinema, is located in a former theatre entirely covered by an aluminium shell, the work of the architect Renzo Piano. Only the façade sculpted by Auguste Rodin has been preserved. The foundation hosts screenings and temporary exhibitions.
The south-east is the ultra-modern section of the 13th – the Seine-facing ‘Paris Rive Gauche’ district. A large-scale redevelopment of former industrial sites has made it possible to develop ambitious architectural projects here. Avant-garde buildings such as the Tour Home, the biodiversity-focused Tour M6B2, the Tours Duo and the T8 and Fulton buildings combine housing, shops, offices and restaurants. The futuristic building representing a bridge that now houses the French daily Le Monde on Avenue Pierre Mendès is also worth going out of your way to see.
The most iconic building in this new district is the François Mitterrand site housing the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Its four 79-metre-high tower blocks are designed to resemble open books. Its vast esplanade contains a forest garden that can be visited once a year during the ‘Rendez-vous au jardin’ event. Another architectural innovation is the Simone de Beauvoir undulating steel footbridge leading over the Seine to the Parc de Bercy. The area’s creative hub, the Cité de la Mode et du Design with its instantly recognizable bright green façade, is entirely given over to new developments in fashion and design. The building has a huge rooftop offering a spectacular view of the Seine.
Street art is everywhere in the 13th – on the streets and broad avenues and on the façades of buildings. It’s a true open-air museum.
Street art must-sees in the 13th include: stencils by Miss Tic; on Boulevard Vincent Auriol, the creations ‘Turncoat’ by D*Face (at N. 155), ‘Étang de Thau’ by Maye (at N. 131) , ‘Étreinte et lutte’ (embrace and struggle) by Connor Harrington (at N. 85) and ‘La Madre Secular 2’ by Inti (at N. 81); ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’ (at 186 Rue Nationale) and ‘Delicate balance’ (at 60 Rue Jeanne d’Arc) by Shepard Fairey and, at 98 Rue Jeanne d’Arc, ‘Et j’ai retenu mon souffle’ by Faile.
Many galleries such as Agnès B.’s La Fab, Yellow Cube Gallery, Itinerrance, Mathgoth, Le Lavo//Matik and L’Aiguillage exhibit works by French and international street and contemporary artists. Les Frigos located in a former refrigeration station has 87 workshops of painters, sculptors, photographers and stylists. Visitors can explore this one-of-a-kind creative space during the annual open day. Bétonsalon, located in the Halle aux Farines, a former flour storage site, is a centre for contemporary art and research where artists, scientists, architects, sociologists and people from many other walks of life are given prominence through an eclectic programme of events.
A leading cultural institution, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France holds nearly 30 million documents including 14 million books. Temporary exhibitions, live performances, conferences and talks are organized here all year round. Nearby, Le Petit Bain moored at Port de la Gare is a floating concert venue and restaurant with a plant-filled terrace. A number of cultural activities are organized here.
Multi-faceted and open to the most innovative projects, the 13th is a vibrant and thriving arrondissement.
The vast esplanade of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France at the heart of the Paris Rive Gauche district is a hub of urban life frequented by students in a hurry, young skaters and executives on their lunch break.
Another lively place in the 13th is the Joséphine Baker swimming pool. Located on a barge moored at Quai François Mauriac, it seems to float on the Seine. In fine weather, without the retractable roof, the experience is even more amazing.
Station F a short distance from the Bibliothèque is also worth visiting. Created in 2017 by Xavier Niel, this start-up incubator focusing on digital technology located in the Halle Freyssinet extends over 34,000 m². La Felicità, the biggest branch of the Big Mamma group of restaurants, serves Italian cuisine here. There are three bars, a covered market, DJ sets, live events and workshops in this space where people can meet and mingle.
The Cité de la Mode et du Design has several bars, restaurants and clubs (Wanderlust, Café Oz rooftop, Dad, Garage) where you can have lunch, dinner or a drink, and dance and party until the early hours.