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I don’t think when I first visited Paris that Paris 12 or the 12th arrondissement of Paris was on my radar. I had heard of Gare de Lyon and rue Crémieux and added them to my list of things to see. With subsequent visits and eventually living in Paris, I have come to discover that Paris 12 holds some real treasures.
Does anyone else get the Paris arrondissements mixed up? Here is my guide to the arrondissements which will help you plan your trip to Paris.
13 Best Things To Do In Paris 12
1. Peruse Marché d’Aligre In Paris 12eme
Marché d’Aligre, also known as Le Marché Couvert Beauvau (the Beauvau Covered Market), is one of the best market experiences in Paris. This bustling outdoor market in Paris 12 has over 200 vendors and the most affordable prices in Paris. Stroll down rue d’Aligre where vendors shout out their prices, through the covered market with the best fromagerie, and peruse the flea market where treasures of all sorts are to be found.
A trip to Marché d’Aligre is not complete without a look through the boutiques that line the square. Don’t miss the Merveilleux de Fred, one of my favourite pâtisseries and then stop for a coffee or meal at the corner café, Café Charlette. It’s the perfect place for people watching!
Location and Hours:
Location: 25-11 rue d’Aligre
Outdoor Market: Tuesday – Friday 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Closed Monday
Covered Market: Tuesday – Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m to 1 p.m. and 3.30 to 7:30 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m Closed Monday
2. Get Back To Nature In Le Bois De Vincennes
Situated on Paris’s eastern edge, the Bois de Vincennes is Paris’s largest green space. Historically a hunting ground for the kings of France, the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissement of Paris is a fun stop for every traveller. Its four lakes (try boating on Lac Minimes or Lac Daumesnil), botanical garden (Parc Floral de Paris), world-class zoo where animals live as close to their natural habitat as possible, and horse racing track (the Hippodrome de Vincennes) are just some of the highlights of Paris’s largest public park. Oh, and there’s a castle, the Château de Vincennes at the park’s edge.
Le Bois de Vincennes has extensive trails for walking and riding. It’s a wonderful place to have a picnic and relax.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the Paris Jazz Festival that runs from June 29 – September 7, 2022, in the Parc Floral.
Figure out where you want to start your visit to the Bois de Vincennes.
Line 1 Saint-Mandé – and then a few minutes walk to Lac Mandé
Or take Line 1 to Château de Vincennes – follow signs ot the park entrance with the Château on your right
Line 8 Porte Dorée, Porte Charenton
3. Visit Colourful Rue Crémieux In Paris 12
In the 19th century, Baron Haussmann redesigned Paris and still today the architectural style is recognizable worldwide. Stone buildings with wrought iron railings line the boulevards in Paris. Quintessential Paris. Tucked away are also many unique streets and rue Crémieux is one of those hidden gems in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. Located near the Gare de Lyon, rue Crémieux has become popular with Instagrammers so go early and enjoy this colourful, cobblestone street in Paris.
Residents are tired of all the action on their street and have requested gates at both ends.
Location: between rue de Lyon and rue de Bercy; 12th
Métro: Gare de Lyon, Quai de la Rapée
4. Take A Train From The Gare de Lyon In Paris 12th
The Gare de Lyon, the Paris train station where trains head southeast to destinations such as Dijon, Lyon, Marseille, Switzerland and Italy, is in the heart of Paris 12. You’ll know it straight away from its stunning bell tower designed by Charles Garnier, the same man who designed the Opéra Garnier.
There’s been a train station here since 1855 but it was redesigned by the Toulon architect Marius Toudoire for the Universal Exhibition in 1900.
As with all train travel from Paris, arrive early for your train as there are three large halls. Hall 1, the historic hall, is where you will find the famous and historic restaurant le Train Bleu, which literally glitters with gold. It is still on my bucket list to dine here.
Location: Gare de Lyon, Place Louis Armand, Paris 12
5. Walk The Coulée Verte In Paris 12
Stroll along Paris’s ancient and abandoned railway line, La Coulée Verte, that inspired New York’s Highline. You’ll pass interesting architecture, rose gardens, parks perfect for a picnic, and street art. Walk all the way from Paris 12 to the Bois de Vincennes for a wonderful adventure. La Coulée Verte, also known as La Promenade Plantée, is a true treasure of the 12th arrondissement of Paris.
Find out all the details of the Coulée Verte in Paris 12.
6. Sip Wine In Paris 12eme At Le Baron Rouge
Le Baron Rouge is an unmissable destination in Paris 12, especially if you are at the Marché d’Aligre. Just a few steps from the market, the tiny Baron Rouge, its walls lined with barrels and bottles of wine, is buzzing with activity. Stand at the counter or take a spot on the sidewalk while you sip local wines and share a charcuterie board or a platter of oysters.
When I lived in the 11th arrondissement, I made it part of my routine to buy my wine in bulk. I felt so Parisien arriving with my empty wine bottle, asking for samples from the barrels and then having my bottle(s) filled with my preferred wine.
Le Baron Rouge, 1 rue Théophile Roussel, Paris 12
Pro Tip: If Le Baron Rouge is full to the brim head on over to Les Caves de Prague. This natural wine bar is another favourite.
Les Caves du Prague, 8 rue de Prague, Paris 12
7. Explore Bercy Village At Cour Saint-Emilion
What initially drew me to the Cour Saint-Emilion was the umbrella project, a creative art installation. In the evening at Christmas time with mini-lights galore, the umbrellas created a warm ambience in the Cour Saint-Emilion. What I didn’t know was that the Cour Saint-Emilion is all that remains of the Bercy storage areas where the largest wine market in the world was held for over one hundred years.
Today in Bercy Village, there are 42 storehouses used as restaurants and shops in a paved courtyard.
Location: Cour Saint-Emilion, Paris 12
Métro: Cour Saint-Emilion
8. Relax In Paris 12 At The Bassin de l’Arsenal
The first time I discovered the Bassin de l’ Arsenal I was thrilled to discover where the Canal Saint-Martin empties into the Seine, to find a marina for pleasure boats right in central Paris, to explore the gardens, and most of all to sit in the bustling Le Grand Bleu on the rooftop terrace with its unobstructed views over the water.
There are multiple possibilities of what to do here. Stop by the Port de l’Arsenal for an apéro after exploring the 11th arrondissement, take a cruise up Canal Saint-Martin, or stand and watch boats passing through the lock between the Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin. Have a rest in the gardens and then wander down to the Quai de Rapée on the Seine. You’ll find you are right across from the quays where the tango and salsa dancing are happening. You might just have to cross the Seine and join in the fun.
9. Step Into A Magical World At The Museum Of Fairground Arts
For some reason, I was never that curious to visit the Musée des Arts Forains. What a mistake! This privately-owned museum is a true taste of Paris off the beaten path and a marvellous step back in time to the Belle Epoque.
Step into a magical world where old fashioned carousels, curiosity cabinets, magical gardens, and merry-go-rounds sweep you away to another world.
Visiting This Museum in Paris 12:
Throughout the year: by guided tour only. The tours are in French with an English handout.
European Heritage Days: The Musée des Arts Forains opens its doors, without a tour, on the 3rd weekend in September
Christmas Outing in Paris, Le Festival de Merveilleux: I visited the museum during Le Festival de Merveilleux which runs for 10 days after Christmas. I stepped into an enchanting world with trapeze artists, dancers, singers, magicians, vintage games, and antique merry-go-rounds whirling about that left an unforgettable impression. If you are planning to be in Paris over Christmas, Le Festival de Merveilleux runs from December 26 to January 2, 2022.
Pavillons de Bercy, 53 Av. des Terroirs de France, Paris 12
Métro: Cour Saint-Émilion
10. Watch A Film At La Cinémathèque Française, Paris 12
In a building designed by Frank Gehry is the Cinémathèque Française, a place for true cinephiles. The museum is a journey through the history of cinema and cinematography techniques. The Cinémathèque Française holds regular screenings, exhibitions, talks, and has a film library.
In 1936, Henri Langlois created the Cinémathèque Française to save all things related to the cinema such as films, costumes, sets and other items from being destroyed. It holds one of the most important collections of cinema-related treasures in the world.
Location: 51 rue de Bercy
Métro: Bercy (line 6 and 14)
11. Opéra Bastille – See An Opera In Paris12eme
You can’t miss the soaring green-bronze Colonne de Juillet at Place de la Bastille at the intersection of the 4e, 11e, and 12e arrondissements. At Place de la Bastille once stood a 14th-century fortress built to protect the city gates. The fortress became a prison which was stormed on the 14 of July 1789 starting the French Revolution.
Right at Place de la Bastille at the edge of Paris 12eme is a gorgeous modern building with curved glass walls. It’s the Opéra Bastille which was inaugurated 200 years after the storming of the Bastille on 13 July 1989.
It was French President François Mitterand who took on the great project of building a more modern venue for opera in Paris and one that was more accessible to all people. And thus the “people’s opera house” was created. With its 2700 seats and unrestricted views, the Opéra Bastille is the place to see an opera!
Guided tours of the building are available.
Location: Place de la Bastille, Paris 12
Métro: Bastille (lines 1,5, and 8)
12. Bite Into The Best Baguette Of 2021
Every year there is a “Best Baguette in Paris” competition. In 2021, the boulangerie, Les Boulangers de Reuilly, in the 12th arrondissement of Paris was the winner. On a fall day with driving rain, I decided to go straight to Paris 12 and sample this best baguette.
It really was divine. Not only did this best baguette look amazing, but it also smelt incredible. It didn’t disappoint. Crunchy on the outside. Soft on the inside. It was rather perfect.
With the win, the baker Makram Akrout supplies the Elysée Palace (the President of France) with baguettes for an entire year. Stop by and bite into the same baguette as the French President!
Les Boulangers de Reuilly, 54 Bd de Reuilly, Paris 12
13. Pay Respects At Picpus Cemetary In Paris 12eme
Picpus Cemetery is a small cemetery in Paris that holds a rich history. This tranquil oasis in Paris 12 is the final resting place of 1,306 people who lost their lives to the guillotine during France’s Reign of Terror in 1793-1794.
Don’t be surprised to see the American flag flying in Picpus Cemetery. This historical place is where the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) who fought both in the American Revolution under George Washington and the French Revolution was laid to rest.
Picpus Cemetery, 35 Rue de Picpus, Paris 12
I hope you enjoy exploring Paris 12 as much as I have. What else would you suggest doing in Paris 12eme?
Until next time,
More Paris Info…
After exploring the 12th arrondissement, you might want to add these areas of Paris to your list of places to visit!
Get mixed up with the arrondissements of Paris? This guide to the Paris arrondissements will help you plan your best visit to the City of Light!
This post on Montmartre leads you to the most popular sites as well as some lesser-known places in Montmartre.
Another of Paris’s most-loved areas is Saint-Germain des Prés. Here are my best tips on things to do in Saint-Germain des Prés.
Le Marais is one of the best areas of Paris to flâner. Here are 23 tops things to do in le Marais.
La Butte aux Cailles, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement, is another place in Paris that has retained its village-like charm. My article on La Butte aux Cailles will lead you to discover some of the area and its visually enticing street art.
Canal Saint-Martin is another place full of small restaurants, boutiques and plenty of character. Stroll the bridges of the canal under the chestnut trees and feel like a true Parisian. All the details on this “bobo” district are in this article on Canal Saint-Martin.
Here are all the things to do on Ile Saint-Louis, one of the oldest villages in Paris.
Don’t forget that the 7th arrondissement has lots to see and do once you have seen the Eiffel Tower.
And the 11th arrondissment of Paris? Authentic and full of great restaurants and shopping (like a local).
Other Paris and France Travel Tips:
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.