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Canal Saint-Martin Paris. It’s the perfect mix of lively, cool and tranquil. It’s where the hipsters hang. It’s totally French “bobo.” Let’s get this straight. I’m no hipster and I had to google what on earth French “bobo” is and why le Canal Saint-Martin Paris even qualifies.
Boboïsation, or gentrification, is the mix between bourgeois and bohemian. Ohh.. I like the sound of that. Perhaps that is why I love the Canal Saint-Martin area so much. You can enjoy the nicer things that Paris has to offer, seasoned with a dash of bohemian flare, just that little bit of unconventional spice. Canal St Martin is my kind of neighbourhood.
It was a short stay last summer that introduced me to le Canal Saint-Martin Paris. This time I came back to live by le Canal St-Martin for a month drawn by the memories of lively streets, hundred-year-old chestnut trees arching over the Canal, sharing a bottle of champagne by the water and the permission to laze away time watching the locks fill and barges pass through. I knew that the Canal Saint Martin and I would be a good match and that scooting over the iron footbridges would bring me joy.
Canal St-Martin Paris – here is what I found during my stay.
FAQ Canal Saint-Martin Paris
Where Is The Canal Saint-Martin Paris?
The Canal Saint-Martin in eastern Paris is a 4.5 km long canal that connects the Canal de L’Ourcq with the river Seine. It has nine locks and two swing bridges.
How Do I Get To The Canal-Saint Martin Paris?
By Métro, there are many options to get to Canal St Martin. It is an easy walk from all of these stations.
- République: Lines 3,5,8,9 & 11
- Gare de l’Est: Lines 4 & 7
- Goncourt: Line 11
- Jacques Bonsergent Line 5
What Is The History Of le Canal Saint-Martin In Paris?
In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned the building of the canal to bring more freshwater and food to Paris. The Canal St Martin in eastern Paris opened in 1825.
When Baron Hausmann was redesigning Paris in the 1850s, the Canal Saint-Martin was sent underground. The canal was lowered and almost half of it was covered over to create wide grassy boulevards. If you find yourself walking on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and Jules Ferry, you are walking over the Canal St-Martin. The Paris canal goes underground near Place de la République. Boats navigate out to the Seine through a series of tunnels.
Is It True They Drain The Canal Saint-Martin Periodically?
Yes. About every fourteen years the canal is drained. Canal Saint-Martin was last drained in January 2016. A dam was created at the top of the canal by Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad to stop the water flow and drain the water into the Seine. What was found at the bottom of le Canal St Martin Paris? Lo and behold there were dozens of bicycles, cell phones, scooters and even a gun. Read more about it here.
Where Can I Eat Around Canal Saint-Martin?
The area around Canal Saint-Martin in Paris is hopping with restaurants, cafés, bakeries and many tiny shops that Paris is famous for. If you are looking to grab a few things for a picnic on one of the quays, there are cheese shops, veggie shops and French and Italian charcuteries that will have your picnic basket bursting in no time! Get all the details here in this post in Restaurants by Canal Saint-Martin: Eat Well in Paris.
Things To Do By Canal Saint-Martin Paris
1. Picnic By Canal Saint-Martin
Swing your legs over the edge of the Quai and you might forget, as the boats go by and the ancient trees sway overhead that you are in Paris.
Create The Perfect Picnic
It’s not hard to find an assortment of delectable, delightful and delicious ingredients for a picnic by le Canal Saint-Martin Paris.
Get off at the metro Jacques Bonsergent or République. Walk down rue de Lancry to La Crèmerie (41 rue de Lancry). It won’t disappoint. Cheeses, wine, deli offerings and more await.
Pick up some fruit and vegetables at Les Halles Lancry (42 rue de Lancry) and swing ’round the corner to Du Pain et des Idées (34 rue Yves Toudic). Grab a baguette and a tartine aux Pommes and you are all set for a brilliant picnic canal-side.
2. Stand On A Bridge And Watch The Barges
While away some time by the locks. There is something mesmerizing about watching a large barge squeezed into a lock on the Canal St-Martin. The water rushes in and there’s nothing to do but wait while the water level adjusts and the gate slowly swings open. Don’t be in a hurry.
Position yourself by one of the ancient swing bridges. All pedestrian and vehicular traffic stops as the swing bridges pivot to 90 degrees to let the boats pass.
3. Stroll Quai de Valmy & Quai de Jemmapes
Facing north, the Quai de Valmy is on the left side of the Canal St Martin and the Quai de Jemmapes is on the right. Plan for a picnic but also allow for some time to stroll alongside the Canal crisscrossing over the iron footbridges as your heart desires. An added bonus? There aren’t as many stairs here as in Montmartre, but climbing up the stairs to cross the bridges is a decent little cardio workout!
4. Cruise The Canal Saint-Martin
Enjoying le Canal Saint-Martin from the water is another way to get up close and personal with this waterway. Decide on where you want to start (cruises are one-way) and end. Canauxrama Paris and Vedettes du Pont Neuf are two companies to check out. I have not yet done this unusual Paris cruise but I definitely will – mostly to experience the underground tunnels and the vault under the Place de la Bastille. It’s hard to imagine what is going on under those grassy boulevards. I need to see for myself!
5. Join The Crowds At Chez Prune
36 rue Beaurepaire
This corner cafe is a hot spot by le Canal Saint-Martin Paris. As with all French cafés, it is open for a coffee and croissant in the morning, serves a proper lunch from 12 -14:00 and is buzzing all evening once the aperitif hour sets in. Pull up a chair curbside and just listen and watch.
Lunchtime is a classic window into French life. Guests arrive and are greeted by the waiters with les bises (kisses on each cheek, even in coronavirus times). Don’t worry. They aren’t kissing strangers, just neighbours and regulars. It’s rather like you are dining in someone’s home. It’s bustling with a convivial vibe and the food is delicious.
How community-oriented is this café? One of the barmen a few years ago saw somebody drowning in the Canal St-Martin. He dashed from Chez Prune to the canal, jumped in and saved the drowning victim.
6. Partake In A Little Retail Therapy
Indulging in some boutique browsing is always a fun way to spend a few hours in the Cana Saint Martin neighbourhood. Don’t miss the collections at Antoine et Lili with their colourful facades and be sure to wander down rue Beaurepaire and rue de Marseille. There are also end of the season outlets for Sandro and Karl Marc John.
7. Smell The Flowers In le Jardin Villemin
14 rue des Récollets
Le Jardin Villemin is a quiet and lush garden in this busy neighbourhood. Sit on a bench and watch young families at play or wander through the park along the pathway. You’ll find the Canal St Martin community garden that’s blooming even in early March, a pond, a toddler playground and a bandstand. Chestnut trees and cherry blossoms add to the ambience.
8. Stock Up At Le Marché Couvert Saint-Martin
31 – 33 rue du Château-d’Eau
This small covered market, le Marché Couvert Saint-Martin, has been around since the 1850s. It is bursting with stalls selling delectable goods that will set you salivating. My favourite is the Fromagerie Saint-Martin where over 100 local cheeses completely entice the imagination and the taste buds. Along with cheese they also sell yoghurt and wine. And to top it off, the service is great! It’s a one-stop-shop to fill your picnic basket for an evening by the Canal Saint-Martin.
9. Set Foot On Movie Sets
The 1938 movie, Hôtel du Nord, directed by Marcel Carné was filmed right facing the Canal St Martin. The elegant Hôtel du Nord, 102 Quai de Jemmapes, is a charming and tranquil place to dine, have a coffee, a nightcap or a drink in the garden. I need to return to explore the library upstairs! On a recent visit, the bartender, stationed behind the zinc counter, recounted how Eugène Dabit, son of the owners of the Hotel du Nord, wrote the original story in 1929.
The Canal Saint-Martin Paris has been used as a movie set more than once! Do you remember the movie Amélie, the 2001 romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet? In a lovely scene, Amélie Poulain, the charming heroine, is skipping stones along the still waters of the canal. Pick up a stone and follow suit.
10. Find The Garden Of l’Hôpital Saint-Louis
1 ave Claude Villefaux
Would you like to sit and relax in a quiet and ancient courtyard? A few minutes walk from le Canal Saint-Martin Paris there is a beautiful garden in the l’Hôpital Saint-Louis.
In 1607, Henry IV decided to have l’Hôpital Saint-Louis built to house contagious patients. You will feel as though you have found the twin sister of Place des Vosges. This courtyard, albeit not nearly as polished as Place des Vosges, is a tranquil and shady refuge that many people don’t know about. Open: Weekdays from 11 – 15:00; Open on weekends from April 1 – October 31
11. Visit The Rainbow Of Façades On Rue Sainte-Marthe
This tiny street tucked away like a quiet rainbow in the historic area of Sainte-Marthe is lined with colourful façades and interesting shops, some of which seem to be rarely open. The area is struggling but it is well worth a wander. Stop in at La Tête dans les Olives (2 rue Sainte-Marthe) to taste and stock up on spectacular olives, olive oils and other products from Sicily. It is the tiniest of shops with a warm and delightful owner.
Further up rue Sainte-Marthe, stop at Dixième Degré for an apéro and continue up the street to Place Sainte-Marthe. You are in lower Belleville by now and truly off the beaten path in Paris here.
12. Stroll Along rue Legouvé
This narrow laneway near Canal St. Martin is full of graffiti and worth a wee peek. While examining the graffiti, try to imagine the building that used to exist between the two red brick walls.
I say, “What’s not to love about a slice of Parisian “bobo” in le Canal Saint-Martin Paris quartier?” It’s got something for every kind of traveller. What do you think?
HOT TRAVEL TIP: In April the chestnut trees are blooming making for the perfect photo opportunities!
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If you love that village feel in Paris these areas might interest you:
Montmartre, much like Ile Saint- Louis, feels like a small village. This post on Montmartre leads you to the most popular sites as well as some lesser-known places on the hill.
Le Marais is one of the oldest areas of Paris. Once marshland, it is hopping with boutiques, cafés, gorgeous old mansions and museums. Read my full guide to le Marais and also insider Marais tips from a local.
Ile Saint-Louis is still one of my favourite spots in Paris. On Pont Saint-Louis, you’ll almost always find some street music.
And Montparnasse. Most people think of the tall black tower looming over the Paris skyline or the train station. This guide on Montparnasse uncovers some marvellous things to discover in the 14th arrondissement.
If you like being by the water, Ile aux Cygnes in the Seine might be for you! The Statue of Liberty, views of the Eiffel Tower and locals walking their dogs!
If you are looking for food suggestions, read about where to find the best croissants in Paris. And, if you have a sweet tooth like me, check out these best pâtisseries to try. There are also plenty of café suggestions for the Marais area in this post: Tips from a Local. And if you are exploring the area around Canal Saint-Martin, here are the best places to stop for a bite or to find the fixings for a picnic.
Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller.
This page has all my articles on Paris that will help you plan out your trip, including day trips from Paris. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter to get my free download – An Amazing 2-day Itinerary in Paris.
If you are going further afield in France, make sure to check out my page on France.