Ask any Parisian you know about Paris 13e and they will immediately tell you that it belongs to the Asian district. While there is some truth here you might feel a bit sad that they don’t really know about the hidden places and different feelings that this district has compared to the rest of Paris.
I had been living there for a few years and enjoyed my time there more than any other place in Paris. Why? Because there is an atmosphere that makes you feel that this place is more about living rather than sightseeing, because it is stress free compared to the crowded center of the city, and because while it is still Paris you might sometimes feel like being in another city.
As we will take this little trip to the south east of the capital, we will discover new faces and obviously famous ones of the not so well known Paris 13e, a place now famous for its street art, little streets and lovely houses, tall buildings, Asian flavour; a mixture of culture, people and contrasts architecture.
In the 19th century the aspect of the Center of Paris was quite the same as it look like today but what is known now as the 13e was completely different. It was still very rural and empty. By the early 20th century it became an industrial zone for Paris and so was inhabited by the blue collar population. There were lots of factory and the district was a no place to visit neither for the tourists and neither for the Parisians also.
The second half of the twentieth century saw a significant drop of the industrial production in the capital and little by little the factories started to close one by one. In fact, the district was one of the less attracted places to go to. But all of sudden, by the end of the 1960’s, there were plans to destroy factories and rebuild the district. Some preeminent architects took this opportunity to rethink the city as a more modern one, change the aspect of Paris and have a look ahead the 21st century. In just a few years, tall buildings appeared in the skyline of the capital but the French hated them. Some said those kind of buildings shouldn’t exist in Paris, that they destroyed the harmony of the Haussmann style and so on. The project was left unfinished with empty towers and a failure in disguise.
What brought life back to this district was the arrival of South East Asian population who was escaping their countries because of war. They came from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and were war or political refugees. Later, in the 1980’s, Chinese people also arrived and what is known now as the triangle of Choisy, became an Asian district by its own.
There are many ones in the French capital but the one from 13e is the biggest and most populated one. If you want to eat some good dishes or buy special foods or goodies you might enjoy pass the day there. It is arguably the most important site of the 13th district of Paris.
Now let us introduce you some less known places of 13e that will make your trip there an enjoyable one.
while the ” butte Montmartre” is worldwide known and famous by its Sacré cœur, the 13e arrondissement of Paris also has his own “butte” (little mountain). The butte aux cailles is not very high and there is no panoramic view of the capital. It is just a combination of little streets where mostly young people like to gather to have a drink on weekends. By walking there you will feel like in the old Paris but if you look up to the sky you will see those towers that belongs to the 13th district. The contrast of architecture between the old and the modern is what makes the 13e a place so special. Let’s have a look at the butte aux cailles.
No matter where you look, you’ll always find some street art on the walls.
Asian district is the most known place of Paris 13e. Butte aux cailles must be the second one but you’ll be surprised to see that many Parisians don’t know it. Obviously most of them would prefer to have a drink in the more famous “quartier” at the North of Paris or in the “quartier latin of st Michel” but if you visit 13e you’ll have to go there. Have a drink or eat in one of those little and crowded restaurants where you can taste some French cuisine, have a walk on the little and quiet streets, look at the houses and check out the street art.
Now, if you go down the “butte” and walk and few hundred meters to the south, you will arrived at the quartier of the poterne des peupliers. This one is a real hidden place of Paris. You will find some really lovely and colourful houses that you will never believe it to exist inside Paris. It is a quiet place, village atmosphere, but surrounded by the crowded avenue d’Italie and close to the Asian district. Many years ago I just found it by surprise just by having a promenade and since that day it is always a pleasure to walk throughout those streets.
The most recent and decidedly important aspect those past years at Paris 13e is the fact that the street art has invaded the district. Some famously and respected artists have contributed to make the place a real special one. There is even some touristic guide to see all the street art of 13e.
Those ones are just a small portion of what the 13e has to offer about street art.
To conclude we will tell you that the 13e is a mixture of old and new architecture, that the culture is alive and well, that its population comes from so much different countries of the world and that while it may not be the most visited place in Paris, whether you are a tourist or not this district has so much to offer that we highly recommended to you.
If you come from the 12e district of Paris by walking, you can also cross the Seine by the “Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir” and you will arrive directly at 13e where you can see the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (picture above) another architectural and recent construction the 13e has to offer to you.