Cosmopolitan Paris

Belleville, Pyrénées, La Villette, Les Buttes-Chaumont, Ménilmontant, la Seine Saint-Denis : Paris is cosmopolitan

Taking flight from the end of rue des Envierges, on the high terrace of Belleville Park, above Maison de l’Air, you fly over four-storey Chinese restaurants, city gardens and a schoolboy’s huge blackboard on which Ben has written that we shouldn’t trust in words.

Next stop, the Canal Saint-Martin, where a blue barge passes through a green lock – it’s a lengthy process. On the Ourcq, a rowing boat races a kayak, and a graffiti-covered van overtakes them on the quay. Call in at the CENTQUATRE, rue d’Aubervilliers, for a novel cultural adventure. Next stop, a 3,000 sq.m. bamboo plantation, surrounded with lawned areas – you are in the Parc de la Villette. Zigzagging your way through the Jardin des Voltiges then the Jardin des Dunes and Vents, you’ll find pedal-driven windmills, weather vanes, kites … before you reach an enormous ball that reflects the clouds – the Géode !

A spatial odyssey on a giant screen – it definitely gives you an appetite. Choose your menu: Mafé in place Sainte-Marthe and a Technicolor film? A slam session, soup and kebabs at 'Ménilmuche'? Curry, capoiera dances and ragga hip hop performances? Chilli with bird’s beak pepper and a theatre bar? Tagine and a pop-electro concerto?!

1 Le quartier de la Mouzaïa

Rue piétionne du quartier de la Mouzaïa, Paris I © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Built around the rue Michel Hidalgo and rue de la Mouzaia, the La Mouzaïa district, with a so-called Algerian place name, is just the type of place you look for when visiting a city. The small houses were originally built for working class people and were built on the former gypsum quarries. It is full of plants and flowers.

2 A walk in the Belleville district

Open Days at the Belleville artists’ studios, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Until recently this area was home to working classes from many different countries: a veritable melting pot of different nationalities. It has undergone great changes and a more affluent population has moved in, leading to the opening of designer shops and trendy addresses. Quite a makeover for this typically Parisian faubourg!

3 Le Plateau - Exhibition centre

Cntre d'Art Contemporain Le Plateau, Paris © DR

Immaculate walls showcase contemporary art to the public with exhibitions and an experimental space that presents the works of artists in residence in Paris. 50 metres away (at 22, cours du 7th Art), the Antenne organizes educational events linked to contemporary creation.

4 Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes Chaumont, couple, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

The romantic garden par excellence. Created in 1864, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the steepest of Paris’s 426 parks and gardens. It is laid out like an Anglo-Chinese garden, whose irregular design was the opposite of so-called French-style gardens.

5 Église Saint-Serge

Eglise Saint Serge, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

This former Lutheran temple was bought at auction in 1924, on Saint Serge Day, to welcome faithful Russian orthodox worshippers, whose numbers had become too large in rue Daru. Behind the gate, visitors admire its red vermillion walls, filigree wooden staircase and icons.

6 Bassin de la Villette et canal de l'Ourcq

Pêcheurs au Bassin de la Villette, Paris © OTCP - Marc Verhille

Until the industrial decline of La Villette, after the Second World War, wood, coal, fodder, and sugar passed in transit along its long quaysides. Today, they are the location for attractive cinemas, petanque players, cosy cafes to warm up in, benches in the fresh air looking on to the lapping water, fishermen, barge-theatres, a water sports centre in a reconverted 19th-century warehouse, etc. In the background you’ll hear the cries of gulls and the referee’s whistle.

7 La Cité des enfants

Paris, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Parc de la Villette, peinture d'enfants © OTCP - David Lefranc

It offers two exhibitions (2-7yrs and 5-12yrs) in the form of interactive learning activities: building a house, playing with water … a fully-renovated centre. Even parents will love it!

8 104 / Centquatre

Le Centquatre, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

The CENTQUATRE is a new Paris city council artistic establishment and a unique place devoted to production and innovation. Located in the 19th arrondissement on the site of the former Municipal Funeral Services, this 39,000 m² space is an ensemble of unique architecture and a place where art meets the general public. Artists regularly hold meetings with the public. These are a great occasion to get an inside view of an artist’s work through talks, presentations of works, readings, public rehearsals, etc. These meetings require an admission fee. The CENTQUATRE organizes sports activities and dance classes (some of these are free of charge).

9 Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie - Universcience

Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie © OTCP - Marc Bernard

Behind its steel and glass exterior, this futuristic giant, surrounded by water, offers a multitude of activities that make science and technology fun and accessible. Talks, aquarium, 3-D cinema, Cités des Enfants, des Métiers, de la Santé, exhibitions, media library, planetarium, workshops, etc. Difficult to fit everything in at one go!

10 Sous-marin L'Argonaute

Hall de la Géode © Thinkstock

L’Argonaute, located within the Parc de la Villette, is a real submarine used in the war in the 1950s and disarmed in 1982. With the help of an audio-guide, discover the interior of the submarine from the crew station to the torpedo launching area. This exhibition space presents the history and the technology behind submarines.

11 La Géode

La Géode, Parc de la Villette © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Behind its steel and glass exterior, this futuristic giant, surrounded by water, offers a multitude of activities that make science and technology fun and accessible. Talks, aquarium, 3-D cinema, Cités des Enfants, des Métiers, de la Santé, exhibitions, media library, planetarium, workshops, etc. Difficult to fit everything in at one go!

12 La Philharmonie, architecture with a French touch

Philharmonie de Paris, extérieur, Paris © Atelier Jean Nouvel

Inaugurated in 2015, the Philharmonie is a new concert venue for symphony music. Located in the Parc de la Villette, the venue is an extension of the Cité de la Musique, designed by Christian de Portzamparc in 1995 (and now called 'Philharmonic 2'). The composer of this ambitious project is none other than the great French architect Jean Nouvel, awarded the ‘Nobel of architecture’, the Pritzker Prize, in 2008. He also designed the Institut du Monde arabe, the Musée du quai Branly and the Fondation Cartier! From the outside, the Philharmonie resembles a steep hill on which aluminium birds have come to land. Inside, the main concert hall boast architectural and acoustic prowess and is well worth a visit.

13 Parc de la Villette

Parc de la Villette, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

The Parc de la Villette has become a popular place to walk for fans of wide open spaces. Stretching over 55 hectares, of which 35 are outdoor, this huge area can be discovered on foot or by bicycle. Its two immense grassy areas dotted with 26 ‘follies’, contemporary red-coloured structures are an ideal place to relax or play. Built on the site of the former municipal slaughterhouses, this huge park open 24/24 combines nature, architecture, play areas, exhibition areas, shows and debates. It is home to the Grande Halle, the Cité de la Musique, the Conservatoire, the Théâtre Paris-Villette, the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, the Géode, the Zénith, the Trabendo, the Cabaret Sauvage and an equestrian centre.