Paris Differently: Visit little-known districts
These visits to little-known districts are a way to rediscover a calm, old-style Paris. Le Vrai Paris (the real Paris)… or at least one of them, because far from the bustle and frenzy of the centre, these more residential districts offer a more authentic community life. It’s very pleasant to stroll around here and meet the locals. When you look up from the pavements, which are quieter than elsewhere, you’ll see houses or villas nestling together and you’ll realise just how diverse Parisian architecture is outside of the Haussmann-style buildings.
Tour of the 19th arrondissement
This is probably the most working-class of Paris’ arrondissements (administrative districts). Perched on a hill, it boasts a park, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which is unique in that it is undulating.
The 19th arrondissement is home to Belleville, which some might say is becoming Paris’ second Chinatown. Belleville has a cosmopolitan atmosphere, yet doesn’t attract many tourists.
Among the distinguishing features of the 19th arrondissement are the small houses in the Mouzaïa neighbourhood, but also a Russian Orthodox church hidden at the end of an alley.
The Canal de l’Ourcq and its basin provide an oasis lined with cinemas and neighbourhood bars which are very lively in the summer, when the Provençal culture is strictly applied: pétanque + Ricard (an anise and liquorice-flavoured alcoholic drink) in the afternoon, then chilled rosé wine in the late afternoon along the edge of the basin, which joggers share with families and students here to enjoy themselves for little to no cost.
The 19th arrondissement and its canal are definitely among my favourite spots in Paris.
Tour of the 13th arrondissement
The 13th arrondissement has two faces. First, Chinatown – the big brother of the one in Belleville. Chinatown is home to shops selling exotic fruits and products with mysterious names, but also to restaurants to which the local Asian community flocks because the Asian food served is typical and better than that found elsewhere in Paris. 716 is one of the food blogs that has recommended the most typical, delicious and cheap restaurants in this part of Paris. You can also find churches and Asian temples here. A visit to the 13th arrondissement is like taking an exotic trip without leaving France.
But the 13th also has another face: there used to be a high concentration of tanners here, working leather on the banks of the Bièvre, which has now dried up. And there are the housing estates and villas.
Hidden from the rest of the 13th arrondissement, La Butte aux Cailles is a small village within the city. Its tiny streets leading to a kind of village square give it a unique atmosphere.
Tour of the 16th arrondissement
With its reputation as a chic and rather dull arrondissement, it’s probably the least working-class and the most little-known of Paris’ arrondissements. But did you know that it’s also the greenest? It is home to the Bois de Boulogne, a vast wooded area located beyond the Paris Périphérique (ring road), which actually runs underground at this location.
And yet, the 16th arrondissement, which covers a large area and extends right up to the city limits, is a source of surprises: Art Nouveau architecture, former vineyards, a spring, quiet squares, unusual houses, and no tourists whatsoever once you move away from the Trocadéro. The 16th arrondissement is bound to surprise you.