The Marais, the area around the Louvre and the Faubourg Saint-Denis are impacted by global cultures, from Eastern Europe to the Far East.
In the 10th arrondissement, a short distance from Porte Saint Denis, Rue d’Enghien, Rue d’Hauteville, Rue de Paradis and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis make up a Little Turkey so authentic you’ll feel you’re wandering the streets of Istanbul. Small businesses, food shops, restaurants and bookshops deal in merchandise straight from Anatolia. This is the place to enjoy a typical meal of döner kebab while listening to Turkish music, or watch a Turkish film in the original language.
In Passage Brady and the adjoining streets, you can literally set off on a passage to India. Paris’s Little India has plenty of Indian and Pakistani restaurants, while statues of the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu adorn many a shop window. A succession of little shops – more than a hundred in all – dot this area, selling colourful saris, groceries, spices, flowers and more.
A short distance from here, the area around Château d’Eau metro station is the African district on Paris’s Right Bank, with salons for Afro hair, nail salons and shops selling beauty products. On the Left Bank, African culture is on display in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where more than 30 art galleries have specialized in African tribal art since the 1930s. And Rue des Ecoles in the nearby 5th arrondissement is home to publishing houses and bookshops focusing on African literature.
Narrow streets, striking façades and private mansions characterize the Marais in the 4th arrondissement, which is also home to one of the oldest Jewish districts in Paris. Traditional restaurants, pastry shops, delicatessens, bookshops, monuments and boutiques are dotted all along Rue des Rosiers, Rue Roi de Sicile and Rue Vieille-du-Temple. The district extends into the area around the Pompidou Centre, where you’ll find the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme and the Jardin Anne Frank. At the Saint-Paul end, the picturesque ‘Pletzl’, meaning ‘small square’ in Yiddish, has a village feel to it. For over a century, the street food stalls in the area have dished up classics such as falafel, shawarma and bagels to hungry passers-by.
Fancy a trip to Japan and South Korea? Tucked away between the Opéra Garnier and the Louvre, the Sainte-Anne district is the Parisian hub for Japanese and South Korean culture. This is the place to tuck into ramen and udon noodles with lots of different flavours. And while you’re here, why not have a browse in the local bookshops, food shops and cheesemongers, not to mention the Franco-Japanese bakery Aki Boulanger.
Cultures from around the world meet and mingle in the north of Paris.
In the area going from Barbès metro station to the Goutte d’Or in the 18th arrondissement, you’ll feel you’ve been transported to Northern Africa. Life is lived out on the street, so it’s no wonder street food is so popular here. You’ll also find any number of pastry shops, cheap restaurants, bazaars, cultural venues and cafés.
Many different African cultures rub shoulders in the stretch between Château-Rouge and Goutte d’Or. The Marché Dejean – the biggest market in the Ile-de-France region – offers visitors the chance to shop for food specialities from Western Africa. On Rue Polonceau, wax print fabrics and traditional African clothing enliven the neighbourhood with their bright colours and geometric patterns. And to browse even more African prints, head to the Marché Saint-Pierre in Montmartre, a treasure trove of fabrics.
Passage Brady is not the only place where you’ll encounter the vibrant culture of the Indian subcontinent. North of Paris, in the town of La Courneuve, Bollywood songs can often be heard along Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, which is lined with shops and establishments run by the local Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Indian communities.
La route des Indes à La Courneuve, a walking tour with food tastings, provides many insights into subcontinental culture
Explore the culture, cuisine and plants of many places around the world in eastern Paris.
In the 19th arrondissement, head for Rue Petit, where kosher food shops bearing Yiddish names stand alongside synagogues. This area of Paris is often referred to as Little Jerusalem.
One truly cosmopolitan district is Belleville, with its sizeable Chinese and Vietnamese communities. Physical fitness enthusiasts meet up each morning to do Tai-Chi-Chuan in the Parc de Belleville while the cooks at the Chinese food joints in Rue de Belleville get busy in the kitchen. If you feel like a change of scenery, this is the place to go!
Exotic plants too can be found in eastern Paris. The Jardin d’agronomie tropicale in the 12th arrondissement provides an extraordinary display of plant life, with lush vegetation amid the relics of the 1907 colonial exhibition. It is well worth going on a guided tour to discover the site’s many unusual features, such as the Khmer bridge, the Indochina pavilion and the Dinh esplanade.
Further north, the town of Bobigny has many sites linked to cultures from around the globe: the first-ever Franco-Muslim hospital with its Moorish Revival entrance covered in gorgeous mosaics, the Franco-Muslim cemetery and the imposing gurudwara – the biggest Sikh temple in France, where you find yourself in northern India as soon as you step over the threshold.
Many different cultures have taken root in the history of Greater Paris. The Italian community in Nogent-sur-Marne, the Portuguese in Champigny-sur-Marne and the South Americans in Fontenay-aux-Roses add an international flavour to life in these towns with their festivities, shops and markets.
Some parts of western Paris have an East European vibe.
Issy-Les-Moulineaux is the place to learn about Armenian culture: this inner suburb has an Armenian evangelical church and apostolic church in addition to the Maison de la Culture Arménienne (cultural centre).
Nearby Boulogne-Billancourt has a substantial Russian community. This town was once known as ‘Billankoursk’ after Russian exiles came to live here following the 1917 revolution. The Russian Orthodox church, Saint-Nicolas-Le-Thaumaturge, bears witness to this slice of Paris history.
The cosmopolitan spirit of Paris also extends into the city’s southern districts.
The stretch of the 13th arrondissement between Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry and Rue de Tolbiac is Paris’s Chinatown. From Peking duck hanging in shop windows and Vietnamese canteens to Chinese tea rooms and Buddhist temples, there is much in this area that is reminiscent of Far Eastern countries.
Chinese life and culture can also be sampled in Ivry-sur-Seine and Vitry-sur-Seine, with their Tang Frères Asian supermarkets, and in Alfortville, where the design of the Hotel Huatian Chinagora was inspired by Beijing’s Forbidden City and Imperial palace.
Brittany natives escaping poverty in the countryside came to Paris by train in the 19th century and set up shop in the area around the Gare Montparnasse. A genuine Little Brittany gradually sprang up here. Even today you’ll see ‘Welcome to Brittany’ signs at some shops and crêpe places, and hear the sound of bagpipes.
More info on the Bretons in Paris
Also in southern Paris, the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris in the 14th arrondissement is a place like no other. It comprises 40 student residences, each built using the architectural traditions of the country it represents. Buildings designed by famous architects and artists like Le Corbusier, Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand stand alongside others with Japanese, Italian or Dutch façades. This extraordinary heritage can be explored in the course of several themed tours focusing on the architecture and art of the place as well as biodiversity in the park in which it is set.
In Alfortville, the Eglise apostolique arménienne Saint-Paul et Saint-Pierre is a gathering point for the Armenian community. Many of the grocery stores, shops, and restaurants in the area bear Armenian names, as do some of the town’s streets.