Off the beaten track: the Canal Saint Martin

31 Oct

Take a trip along the old Canal Saint Martin in one of Paris’s up-and-coming areas.

For most Brits, visiting Paris is seen as a chance to hop from one iconic landmark to the next, taking a photo in each location. Yes, you actually were standing under the Eiffel tower – congrats. Many people don’t think outside of the traditional tourist route and remain unaware of the opportunities that lie in less traditionally beautiful or popular areas.

The canal runs from the bassin de la Villette to the bassin de l’Arsenal, through the 10th and 11th arrondissements. Here’s the bad news: it’s a relatively dilapidated area, the water is a strange murky green and refugees sleep on its banks at night. Yet it’s also a really interesting walk alongside one of Paris’s lesser known historic monuments.

The 4.5 km (that’s 2.8 miles) stroll along the canal is extremely manageable by foot or by bike… take this from an exercise-phobe. Watching barges and tourist boats navigate the series of quaint locks is a highlight.

Napoleon originally created the canal in 1802 to provide Parisians with drinkable water. Please don’t try and drink the water today though. The scenic route offers a great little selection of upcoming bars and restaurants to quench your thirst, as well as quirky shops as you journey from Republique metro station towards la Villette.

La Villette in itself is worth a visit. This up-and-coming area is now a nautical experience in its own right with sailing and kayaking lessons on offer. The canal has been fantastically renovated in this part, and as it widens out you can stop off for a picnic on its edges or watch the alternative cinema’s latest offerings. The open spaces and bustling atmosphere here mark an interesting contrast with the previous more  intimate and leafy surroundings. Enjoy!


One Response to “Off the beaten track: the Canal Saint Martin”


  1. Paris according to Sedera « British girl in Paris - January 31, 2011

    […] the 16th arrondissement for example, which is very fancy, but in my experience, rather dull. The Canal St Martin is a very nice area as well, especially during the summer time when you can hang by the water. […]

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