A Guide to Paris' Best Neighbourhoods
The Chinatown of Paris. (There is actually a bigger one in the 13th arrondissement, but it’s far). The French colonisation of Indochine (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) and the early Chinese trade and importation in France has led to the rich Asian culture in Belleville, many of whom started their business in the 1980s due to low rent prices in the neighbourhood. You can grab drinks at specialty beer and wine caves, or pop into one of the many supermarkets, and head to Parc de Belleville to watch the sunset over the rooftops of Paris. If you’re there during the day there are also several up-and-coming galleries. Once the park closes for the night, you can try Chinese food from the province of Zhejiang at Le Grand Bol, but there are also Vietnamese, Korean and Thai restaurants (if you’re looking for more Japanese and Korean restaurants, bakeries and specialty stores, check out Rue Sainte-Anne in the 2nd arrondissement). Not hungry? Head to the many bars and terraces to cure your soif (thirst).
Okay so the 11th arrondissement is huge, it’s many neighbourhoods in one district. But, you could very possibly just stay in this area and leave Paris with a suitcase full of books, vintage clothes, cheese, wine, etc. A fresh, young food and wine scene is thriving from Goncourt all the way to Bastille, especially around Oberkampf, Saint-Ambroise and Ledru-Rollin. The best record stores and bookshops of Paris are sprinkled around this district. Wander a bit north near Menilmontant, a primarily Middle Eastern neighbourhood, for the best falafel wraps and kebabs. If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris during Ramadan, the sidewalks are full of queues for the most beautiful Middle Eastern pastries laden with dates, almond paste and rose. Keep your eyes open for the many small parks and squares that sow foliage into the cream-hued Haussmanian landscape.
This neighbourhood is… how do you say?… très à la mode. So many galleries. So many (expensive) vintage stores. You can google “Paris Gallery Map” and a regularly updated map will show you what’s going on this week. If you have a designer vintage budget you can check out Nice Piece, (for a medium budget walk across Republique for Thanx God I’m a VIP) and for a small vintage budget you can look for Emmaus, Kilowatch or Guerrisol (there are several of each around Paris). Don’t forget to stop in Square du Temple and check out the pond (including a mini waterfall, for a big waterfall go to Buttes-Chaumont in Northern Paris). In the south of Le Marais there is a queer district with a thriving LGBTQ+ nightlife (but honestly you will find queer people in all areas of Le Marais).
If you want to go dancing or spend the night hopping from bar to bar, Pigalle is a good bet. But, be careful. On the main boulevard, filled with sex shops and cabarets, there is a huge influx of tourists going to see the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, thus many pickpockets. If someone tries to sell you €5 cigarettes, you’re better off buying cigarettes in a tabac and avoiding the risk of getting your phone stolen in the process. Rue des Martyrs has a host of cafes, restaurants and epiceries and there are several vintage stores around (head to Rue Victor Massé for Irregular, one of Pigalle’s best vintage shops).
Strasbourg Saint Denis
Another spot for drinks and dancing. There’s usually a crowd spanning from Chez Jeannette to Mauri 7 to La Chope des Artistes. There’s probably a party going on at Le Palace, a club nearby. Depending on the night, the door might be tricky between 11pm and 4am. If you’re already drunk, there are many late night food spots - cheese and veggie crepes (or nutella if you’re that way inclined), falafel wraps, kebabs and chorbas (Middle Eastern soups) if you can still hold a spoon.
This canal is actually almost five kilometres long, spanning from Canal de L'Ourcq to the Seine, but most of it is covered by pavement. I’m specifically talking about the neighbourhood cradling the canal in the 10th arrondissement. It is known for its many specialty coffee cafes (Ten Belles, Caoua, Radio Days) and natural wine bars, like Early June, which also has a rotating roster of international chefs every few weeks. There are also many delicious restaurants where you can dine in or if it’s a beautiful day, do take-away and eat along the canal. I’m going to spill the best kept secret of Canal Saint-Martin: there is a Franco-Iranian cultural centre where you can have traditional Iranian tea, pastries and food, while sitting on floor cushions in a rug-filled interior and look at their library of Iranian books.
If you’re romantic, love history, ardently wish you could have drank wine with surrealists in the 1920s at five in the morning, or all of the above, then Saint-Germain-des-Pres is for you. Yes, there will be many tourists, at least closer to Notre Dame. Yes, there will be many students. But you will be so infatuated with the view of Paris from one of the many bridges over the Seine that you will walk right past all of that with dreamy eyes and make your way closer to the Pantheon where you can see a movie in one of the iconic small cinemas of the Left Bank. They are usually playing international movies (Le Champo, Reflet Medicis, La Filmotheque) so you are bound to find a movie in your language. Walk the small, winding streets at night and you can stumble across some perfectly charming bars, cafes and restaurants that make you feel like you’ve just time travelled to another era.