From Bastille to the Mouzaïa district, eastern Paris is home to countless courtyards and passageways, away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. These bucolic, unusual and hidden spots are delightful gems to explore on a walk in the 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th arrondissements.
Around Faubourg Saint-Antoine
Formerly, a district for woodworking crafts, cabinetmakers and carpenters worked and lived here from the 15th century onwards. The Faubourg Saint-Antoine is right at the heart of the lively Bastille area. Its courtyards and passages hide an unsuspected tranquility. In these peaceful places with their charm of yesteryear, old workshops from the 18th and 19th centuries remain intact amidst flowers and shrubs.
Situated just off Place de la Bastille, the Cour Damoye is an enjoyable spot to stroll. Characteristic of the courtyards and passages of the Faubourg, this cobbled alley is lined with old workshops now housing art galleries, a coffee roasting shop and offices. A charming place with old world Parisian charm, with lamps, fountain and metal signs, and an abundance of wisteria.
Nearby, giving onto the streets of La Roquette and Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Passage du Cheval Blanc houses 19th-century workshops in a series of courtyards named after the months of the year. The architecture varies from one facade to another and plants are plentiful! It leads to the Cité Parchappe, which bears the name of a family of owners who enabled major renovations of the Passage to be carried out.
A little further, along the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, you cross the Cour du Bel-Air protected by a gate, and the Passage du Chantier, where cabinetmakers, restorers and furniture manufacturers still offer their services. This pretty cobbled alley, with pavements strewn with armchairs and chairs, offers a step back into another era.
Across the street, the Cour des Shadoks is named after one of its inhabitants, Jacques Rouxel, the creator of the Shadoks. The passageway is topped by a lovely glass roof, whose apex is decorated with a medallion featuring one of the little creatures invented by the famous French cartoonist. It is adjacent to the Cour de l'Etoile d'or, which merits a pause, and which protects a 17th century mansion.
Hidden away just a few minutes up the Rue de Charonne is the Passage Lhomme, an enchanting little cobbled street, lined with neat workshops and vegetation, and a brick chimney. Continuing along Rue Léon Frot, the Passage Alexandrine offers a refreshing break with its cafes, shrubs and lush planting. Then, on Rue Oberkampf, in the Cité du figuier, admire the line of colorful facades framed by greenery.
Duration of walk: approximately 1 hour.
Some courtyards and passages may be protected by a door with a code.
From Place de la Nation to the Campagne à Paris
After the 11th arrondissement, head to the 12th, 20th and 19th arrondissements, to explore flower-filled passages, far removed from the buzz of the city.
Just ten minutes or so from Place de la Nation, giving on to the lively Rue du Rendez-Vous, the Cité Debergue immerses passers-by in a peaceful atmosphere, with its small two-storey houses and shady garden. This countryside atmosphere is heightened by the Villa du Bel Air, located a ten minutes’ walk away on the smart Avenue Saint-Mandé. On the edge of the old disused railway track, the walk takes you past elegant buildings with small gardens protected by wrought iron gates. Nearby, you can take a walk along the picturesque Sentier des merisiers (cherry trail), the narrowest way in Paris!
Your discovery tour continues in the 20th arrondissement around the Rue des Pyrénées, with the flowery Villa de l'Ermitage and Cité Leroy, with a beautiful shared garden. On the way to Place Gambetta, the Passage des Soupirs, so called because of the staircase that must be climbed to access it, offers a welcome dose of freshness and nature.
After this effort, head to the Campagne à Paris district, a quiet ‘village’ of working-class houses from the early 20th century. It is a haven of charming houses, and workshops, shaded by magnificent wisteria. Opposite the church, the Square Chauré with its brick houses decorated with bow-windows, adds a touch of London to the neighbourhood.
The 19th arrondissement offers other discoveries for the walker. Around Rue Mouzaia, a multitude of villas, cobbled streets with houses and flowery gardens, are a lovely peaceful place to stroll. Villa Marceau, Villa Claude Monet, Villa Arthur Rimbaud ... names to make you dream. A poetic and bucolic parenthesis in the heart of the city.
Duration of walk: approximately 3 hours.
And in other districts of Paris?
Although courtyards and passages are important features in the east of the city, it is also possible to discover very charming ones in other neighbourhoods such as the Cité florale (13th) with its small houses, the Cité mondaine (17th) with its curved forms, the Cour Saint-Pierre (17th) with its lush vegetation or the green and labyrinth-like Villa Dietz-Monin (16th).
And in bad weather, Paris’s glass-covered shopping galleries offer walks with timeless charm.