The 19th arrondissement in the north-east of the capital is a vibrant cultural crossroads with classical and contemporary music venues, cinemas, theatres and art galleries. It boasts large and beautiful green spaces that are ideal for walking, and many unexpected curiosities.
The north of the 19th is home to the capital’s biggest cultural and artistic centre, the Parc de la Villette. Besides expansive lawns and themed gardens, it has exhibition spaces and museums, concert and show venues, leisure activities for children and a cinema. There is a packed programme of events throughout the year, including festive events, exhibitions, open-air film screenings, music festivals and the Little Villette workshops for children.
The Cité de la Musique-Philharmonie de Paris architectural ensemble, designed respectively by Christian Portzomparc in 1995 and Jean Nouvel in 2015, is devoted to classical music, chamber music, world music and jazz. The 2,400-seat auditorium of the Philharmonie de Paris provides good visibility and has outstanding acoustics. The Cité de la Musique offers additional programming, while the museum hosts permanent and temporary music-related exhibitions.
The Grande Halle de la Villette, where the Villette slaughterhouses were formerly located, now hosts shows, cultural events, trade shows and festivals. The large Zénith de Paris puts on rock and French music concerts and entertainment shows. With wood and velvet decor, the Cabaret Sauvage and Le Trabendo, topped by one of the architect Bernard Tschumi’s ‘follies’, round off this very eclectic musical offer.
The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, a La Villette must-see, takes an educational and entertaining approach to science and technical subjects. The planetarium is well worth visiting. In the Cité des enfants, children can enjoy two interactive spaces. A curiosity to be discovered here is the Argonaute, a genuine 1950s hunter-killer submarine that you can visit with an audio guide.
The Géode, a spherical steel structure 36 mm in diameter, houses a cinema where films are projected on to an extra-large hemispherical screen.
Urban art can be seen along the Canal Saint-Denis on Street Art Avenue, in Rue de l’Ourc and Rue Germaine Tailleferre and on Place Monselet. Some amazing street art is to be admired here – works by Invader, Bansky, Percheye, Matt Sitou, DaCruz, Marko 93, etc.
Further to the west of the 19th, the Centquatre-Paris is the other cultural attraction of the arrondissement. Devoted to contemporary art, this former location of the city morgue extending over 39,000 m² is a one-of-a-kind artists’ collaborative platform, hosting shows, concerts, exhibitions, screenings and urban and digital art.
Several contemporary art galleries round off the cultural offer. Claudia Cargne and Frédéric Bugada’s multi-disciplinary Cosmic Galerie housed in a 1930s garage displays work by French and international artists. The Atelier 40 and the Galerie Suzanne Tarasiève focus on spotting young talent. Le Plateau, one of the two exhibition spaces of the Île-de-France regional contemporary art fund, is a must-see, hosting solo, collective and themed exhibitions.
The vast Parc de la Villette extending over 35 hectares is the biggest green space in the capital. Its expansive lawns are popular places to relax, have a picnic with friends or family, play sport or make the most of the children’s play areas.
The park has twelve themed gardens (the bamboo garden, the trellis garden, the garden of shadows, the garden of the dragon, the garden of islands etc.) as well as the Jardins Passagers (seasonal gardens) with different ecosystems – in all, 3,000 m² to encourage biodiversity. Many workshops are organized in the gardens to raise awareness of environmental issues among children and adults.
In summertime the Bassin de la Villette is a cool oasis. People come to stroll along the quays and step into one of the barges hosting cultural activities. On either side of this artificial body of water (the largest in Paris), two cinemas (MK2 Quai de Seine and MK2 Quai de Loire) draw film buffs.
The Canal de l’Ourcq adjoining the Bassin de la Villette is one of the best-known canals in Paris. It was originally built to supply Paris with drinking water. Cruises and walks along the canal are very popular.
The Petite Ceinture, a disused train track that once circled Paris, has been reclaimed by nature and is now a greenery-filled trail – a space rich in biodiversity where one can see plenty of wildflowers and animals. The 230-metre portion between Rue de Thionville and Rue de l’Ourcq is a haven of peace in the midst of the city. There are three entry points – from 30 Rue de Thionville, 177 Avenue de Flandre and 95 Rue Curial.
Facing the 19th arrondissement town hall built in the Louis XIII style, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is the steepest park in the capital. It is unique, with a lake, grotto, waterfall and suspension bridge. The Temple de la Sybille looms like a lighthouse over the Île du Belvédère. The park also has the lively guinguette-style café Rosa Bonheur on Avenue des Cascades. It is a good place to enjoy a drink and some tapas while listening to music.
Not far from the Buttes Chaumont is another smaller park, the Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge. This popular and timeless park perched on a hilltop offers a spectacular view over the whole of eastern Paris. Built in 1939, it is famous for its large concrete statues. The biggest one is a statue of Eve in the art deco style by Raymond Couvègnes.
Originally a working-class arrondissement, the 19th is a very lively area with many curiosities.
Its industrial and working-class past resurfaces in highly original urban regeneration projects happening throughout the arrondissement. One of the most spectacular transformations is that of Boulevard Macdonald, including the reconversion of the Macdonald warehouse. This landmark building of extraordinary dimensions – a 5.5-hectare floor area with 142.000 m² of storage, more than 615 metres long – has been repurposed by fifteen architects into a complex with housing, offices and shops.
Some working-class housing can still be seen, together with picturesque houses with flower-filled gardens, along the cobblestone streets of the Mouzaïa and the Butte Bergeyre. Situated at an altitude of a hundred metres, the latter even has a small vineyard with 230 vines.
Behind the gate of Number 93 Rue de Crimée is the amazing Saint-Serge-de Radonège church. This Orthodox Russian church is instantly recognizable because of its carved wooden porch and bright colours.
1 Avenue Corentin Cariou is home to La Gare – a former train station along the Petite Ceinture which has been transformed into a jazz club. Also situated along the disused track is the Ferme du Rail, the capital’s first polyculture site, with a kitchen garden and a greenhouse supplying the restaurant with fresh produce. This urban farming location runs a work integration programme and is open to the general public.
Near to the Buttes-Chaumont park, the Halle Secretan, historically a covered market, has been renovated and now houses a brasserie, a restaurant, a cultural venue and a gym. The elegant metallic structure designed by the architect Victor Baltard is very eye-catching.
The intriguing glass and concrete building with a white dome on Place du Colonel Fabien is the Espace Niemeyer – the headquarters of the French Communist Party, designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. This place representing the class struggle is so attractive and unusual that it has become trendy in the worlds of fashion and culture.