By the warm reception I received to Part 1 of this series, it is avec plaisir that I present Part 2 of Exploring the Extraordinary Exterior Arrondissements of Paris.
In this part, we will take a look at neighborhoods of the 13th, 14th and 15th.
These areas, just like the 10th, 11th and 12th arrondissements that we explored in Part 1, were barely mentioned in travel guidebooks years ago. Even today, they get a little short shrifted, but that’s good news for the intrepid traveler that you are – you’ll have many of the charming streets of these neighborhoods to yourself!
What I am most struck by in these three arrondissements is the volume of hidden lanes and cute homes that are the complete opposite of the grand apartment buildings of the single-digit neighborhoods. In the 13th, 14th and 15th, you’ll find shady areas overflowing with beautiful flower and foliage that might make you forget you are indeed still in Paris.
Read on to discover these delightful areas and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city ensconced in a café with a glass of wine and among only the locals.
The 13e Arrondissement (left bank)
The 13th today still takes a back seat to the more popular arrondissements. However, there are some nice treasures in the 13e, so I think it’s perfectly suited for someone who wants a bit of quiet. Do note that if you lodge in the 13e, you will spend more time on transportation to get anywhere.
Technically the 13e is bordered by boulevard de Port Royal and boulevard Saint-Marcel in the north; the Périphérique (which separates Central Paris from Greater Paris) in the south; various quays: d’Austerlitz, de la Gare, Francois Mauriac and Panhard et Levassor in the east and rue de la Santé and rue de l’Amiral in the west.
The 13e is cool but not necessarily oozing with Parisian charm. It’s also very local, with few tourists. A Chinatown (but not like San Fran or NYC) gives the area multicultural flare. The tucked-away streets, with little houses, offer a refreshing change from large Haussmann-type apartment buildings.
Perhaps the loveliest part of the 13e is known as Butte aux Cailles.
This “provincial” area is characterized by hilltop streets flanked by low-rise buildings and freestanding houses. It’s also close enough to the Place d’Italie Metro, which has good connections. It’s a very unusual area and has a peculiar charm about it that is worth a peek even if you choose not to stay in the 13e.
There are adorable back streets and garden homes just south of the Glacière and Corvisant metros in the central western part of the 13e. Two worth visiting are La Petite Alsace and Villa Daviel.
La Petite Alsace consists of about 40 or so brick-and-timbered homes set around a courtyard dotted with trees. It was built in 1910 by an Alsatian architect, Jean Walter. Then at number 7 rue Daviel is the Villa Daviel with its small working-class houses with yellow and red brick and tiny little yards. The streets around rue Daviel are definitely worth a stroll.
Chinatown is spread over two avenues, avenue de Choisy and avenue d’Ivry in the southeastern part of the 13e. Here you’ll find many lovely Asian restaurants and there are also stores selling Asian products. A famous one is Tang Frères on avenue d’Ivry. Still, there are other arrondissements that are more central that serve excellent Asian food from different countries.
If you want to rent an apartment in the 13e:
Although Chinatown offers good and inexpensive meals, the area is not very charming and contains many ugly buildings. I’d opt for something a little more appealing, so I wouldn’t lodge here. I also would not recommend the southern end of the 13e near the Périphérique. It’s just too far away from everything.
For something a little more central, choose to be right over the southern border of 5e. The area known as Les Gobelins is similar to the 5e, and you are close enough to the end of the 5e to walk to more central sites. Do note that in Part 1 of this two-part series I did not necessarily recommend an apartment at the southern end of the 5e because it is a bit out of the way. You will find yourself using public transportation rather than being able to walk everywhere. But still, the Les Gobelins area would be a good choice.
As noted above, I think the Butte aux Cailles area is quite unusual, and you would be lodging in an area not frequented by tourists. If the price is right, a small apartment around this area would work well.
Additionally, the streets south of the Glacière and Corvisart metros as described above would be very tranquil for an apartment.
Avenue de France
42 rue Daviel
54 boulevard de l’Hopital
83 avenue d’Italie
23 Bis rue Arago
The 14e (left bank)
It’s amazing how with just a few steps over the border of one arrondissement and into the next things change! The 14e is adjacent and south of the mostly tony 6e or Saint-Germain des Près.
Crossing over from the 6e to the 14e prices drop for almost everything, tourists dwindle and noise subsides. Overall the 14e is an unpretentious, lovely arrondissement that would make a great base for your stay in Paris.
The 14e was once a hotbed for artists in residence after WWI. At number 27 rue Fleurus, Gertrude Stein held court with her partner Alice B. Toklas. Although now something of a tourist trap, in the 1930s La Coupole brasserie at 102 boulevard Montparnasse was the favorite brasserie of Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin among many other writers and artists. After WWII, the arty crowd moved northward to Saint-Germain des Près.
Technically the 14e is bordered by boulevard du Montparnasse in the north, the Périphérique in the south, rue de la Sainte in the east and rue Vercingetorix in the west.
Beyond the first impression given by the rather business-like boulevard Montparnasse (which separates the 6e and 14e) the 14e takes on a residential personality. You will find bevy of restaurants, shops, outdoor markets and a few museums, as well as a park worth taking a stroll in. Many streets are lively, but there is also plenty of quiet areas to be found.
Although most tourists use Tour Eiffel as the tower in which to view the city, I think a far better panorama is from the Tour Montparnasse.
You enter this modern structure on the rue de l’Arrivée and the high-speed elevator takes you to the top 59th floor where you will be rewarded with Paris at your feet. So, don’t fret if you can’t get to the top of the Tour Eiffel. I think Tour Montparnasse is an excellent, if not better, alternative without all the crowds (and the annoying touts!)
As you leave the boulevard Montparnasse and head south, you will be rewarded with the liveliness of a little area next to the Denfert Rochereau metro. The rue Daguerre is a pedestrian shopping street that has a twice-weekly market. All the surrounding streets are small and would be perfect for an apartment rental.
The avenue Général Leclerc is filled with shops, restaurants, movie theaters and more, yet it never gets too noisy or rowdy. Immediately to the north of this little enclave is Cimetière du Montparnasse where you can pay your respects to Alfred Dreyfus, Simone du Beauvoir and Baudelaire. Although it’s less popular cemetery than the famous Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, it’s more serene and certainly more manageable to walk.
In the 14e, the metro isn’t the only thing underground. In fact, one of this arrondissements’ attractions is Les Catacombs, located at 1 Place Denfert-Rochereau, which offers a trip into the underworld of bones and skulls – including those of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. There are lots of stairs and the floor can be damp, so just be careful. It’s quite the sight and, if you can fit into your schedule, it’s well worth the visit.
Are you a contemporary art lover or a bit of a photog? Then visiting the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain with its high-quality exhibitions of contemporary art will certainly intrigue you. It’s located at 261 boulevard Raspail. The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson has been supporting contemporary photography since 2003 at 2 impasse Lebouis. Considering that the famous photographer Man Ray lived and worked in Montparnasse, this space is sure to delight those interested in the art of photography.
Although Cité International Universitaire is located at the most southern end of the 14e, if you lodge in the arrondissement, it might be worth the walk. This big open space is almost like a city within a city. A vast park of forty hectares, it is home base to almost 7,000 people, most of them foreign students representing approximately 100 countries. Walk through and then find a spot to stretch out and enjoy some scholarly peace. The entrance is at 19 boulevard Jourdan.
In a little cul de sac at 21 avenue de Maine, right near Tour Montparnasse, artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine and many others rented in a tiny little enclave called the Cité des Arts. Take a stroll down the quiet and leafy road all the way to the end and you’ll find a small museum celebrating the glory days of Montparnasse.
Like the Butte aux Cailles in the 13e, the 14e has its own secret villa areas. However, the 14e is more artsy and perhaps more bourgeois. In the area just south of rue Daguerre you’ll find the sweet Villa Halle (36 rue Halle) and the Villa Adrienne (19 avenue du General Leclerc).
Here there are low-rise homes in a mix of styles, wrapped inside small gardens. If you can find an apartment for rent (or even one near here), you will be rewarded with such a different experience than you would have staying in a typical high-rise Parisian apartment building.
If you stay close enough to the 6e while lodging in the 14e, you can also enjoy Jardin Luxembourg in the 6e. But if you are in need of a park and Luxembourg is not convenient, Parc Montsouris might be more so.
Dotted with statues, sloping lawns and large trees, Parc Montsouris is one of the city’s largest parks and sits at the edge of the Cité International Universitaire. Truly pleasant, the park provides a peaceful respite from the bustling city. Have a crèpe at La Bonbonniere on the eastern side of the park as you ponder the stillness of the lake.
If you want to rent an apartment in the 14e:
There isn’t much I wouldn’t recommend here, except for apartments at the far eastern or western south end which would put you far away from most of the sites and have you relying on public transportation quite a bit. Still, to lodge near Parc Montsouris might suit those in need of a city escape at the end of a long sightseeing day. The southeastern area would definitely be my choice over the southwestern part of the 14e.
The triangle formed by avenue General Leclerc and rue du Maine, with all the little streets within these two major arteries would be great for an apartment. You would be near the rue Daguerre pedestrian street and all its fabulous food stores. Rue Edward Cresson, rue Lalande and rue Mouton Duvernet are also worth consideration.
The Plaisance metro area on the western side of the 14e is also a nice area to choose. The rue Raymond Losserand is a lively street, and the northwest part of the 14e, on the western side of the Cimetière du Montparnasse, is also a good place to consider renting. Rue du Maine and the little streets around it are also very nice and the rue de la Gaîté has many restaurants. Even though you are right across the border from the 6e, I’ll bet you could get an apartment for less than you’d pay in the 6e.
92 rue d’Alesia
117 rue de Losserand
8 avenue du Général Leclerc
54 avenue du Général Leclerc
Outdoor Markets: Rue Daguerre and Edgar Quintet
In addition to being a pedestrian, food-filled street, Rue Daguerre also has a twice-weekly market.
The Edgar Quintet is one of the oldest markets in Paris and runs in a double bank along the central part of the boulevard Edgar Quintet, just north of the cemetery. It is flocked with locals and is open Wednesdays from 7am to 2:30pm and Saturdays from 7am to 3pm.
The 15e (left bank)
The 15e is the southwestern most arrondissement on the left bank. It’s adjacent to and south of the posh 7e. It’s also similar to the 6e/14e combination in that just few steps past the border of the 7e and into the 14e, prices drop and the neighborhood becomes more residential.
The 15e is also one of the largest arrondissements in Paris, and there are many choices for an apartment rental. If you have your heart set on staying near the Eiffel Tower, you might find apartments close to the 7e, but those in the 15e will be less expensive. You might even get a view of the lady from your apartment!
The 15e is bordered by avenue de Suffern in the north, the Périphérique in the south, rue Vercingétorix in the east and the quays (on the Seine) – André–Citroën and de Grenelle – in the west.
While residential, many parts of the 15e can be lively and you’ll find lovely and inexpensive cafés and restaurants there. There are also nice shopping areas and a pleasant park called Parc André–Citroën. The 15e is close enough to the 7e in the northern part to enjoy the Tour and is not too posh or too bohemian, with buildings ranging from very traditional to very modern.
There are really no tourist attractions to speak of in the 15e, but a few public spaces are worth a look, such as:
Villa Santos Dumont: This little enclave on the rue Santos Dumont is located east of the Convention metro and is a combination of stone houses and workshops. The rue Santos Dumont itself is a charmer of a street with little red-tiled roof homes and tiny gardens. You won’t want to miss this most peaceful and hidden area.
Square Blomet: Just north of rue Vaurigard (one of the longest streets in Paris, stretching from the 15e all the way to the 5e) is the tiny Square Blomet at 43 rue Blomet. Have you ever tried your hand at petanque? It’s a form of boule that is very popular in this square. Sit right down and enjoy watching the game in Mediterranean-like surroundings. Pastis anyone?
Musée Bourdelle: Close to the 14e and the 6e are the tranquil gardens of the Musée Bourdelle at 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle. Outside the museum, the city hums loudly. Yet here in these gardens it’s serene and it’s easy to just close your eyes among the acacia trees and relax a bit. The museum itself houses a collection from sculptor Antoine Bordelle (1861-1929) that includes his most monumental works.
Rue du Commerce: Although some of the stores are ubiquitous, the rue du Commerce is just that – a street filled with commerce. Here you’ll most certainly find what you are looking for, even if you would likely find the same items in your own hometown.
Parc André-Citroën: On the banks of the Seine on the western border, Parc André-Citroën is a modern park that sits where the Citroën car factory once stood. Spacious lawns, a wild garden and spurting fountains make this park a delight. It is mostly manmade (as are so many Paris parks) and while it’s not one of the most elegant parks, it has a relaxed vibe.
Do you want to see Paris from up above? And I don’t mean by climbing the Tour Eiffel! Well, on the weekends in Parc André-Citroën you can ride in the tethered Eutelsat hot air balloon that lifts you 135 meters into the air. It doesn’t rove since it’s tethered, but it’s still a fun activity.
If you want to rent an apartment in the 15e:
I would avoid the southernmost areas of the 15e as they are simply too far from where you’ll want to go in Paris. The 15e is so large, however, there are many better choices.
The closer you get to the 7e, the more you’ll find areas that have that big city feel but also pockets of streets that are more residential. Look south of avenue Suffern for plenty of small streets that won’t make you feel like you’re on a large boulevard.
There are also some small streets that would be great for a rental further south below boulevard Grenelle, on the western side of the 15e around the Charles Michel metro. Also try the entire area around avenue Emile Zola and rue Saint-Charles.
Toward the eastern side of the arrondissement is a popular area enclosed by rue Vaugirard and rue de la Convention. It’s lively and close to good metro connections. All the streets along this area would be good choices.
19 rue Linois
2 rue du Commerce
105 rue de la Convention
76 rue Lecourbe
340 rue Vaugirard
Outdoor Market: Convention
Convention is a wonderful market with all the usual suspects of fresh produce and prepared foods. It’s on the busy rue de Vaugirard, but right at the Convention metro. It’s open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7am to 2:30pm and Sundays from 7am to 3pm.
Want to learn about the other Arrondissements? See Part 1 (10 through 12) and Part 3. 16 through 20).