When the weather breaks in the winter with some sunshine, I grab my coat and walk. And walk and walk. (I'm not kidding - this walk ended up being close to three hours long by the time I was done.)
This past Sunday was one such day. I decided to switch it up and instead of walking near the Seine through the center of the city, I opted to walk up the often overlooked Canal St. Martin.
When I was a tourist in Paris, I never knew there was another body of water besides the Seine to seek out in the city. The Canal St. Martin connects to the Seine river just south of Bastille, and runs underground until it emerges again near République. That's where I start my walks, at rue du Faubourg-du-Temple in the 10th arrondissement, heading north along the canal.
The canal goes through residential neighborhoods sprinkled with plenty of restaurants, cafés, and shops as it continues up to Parc de la Villette.
When the weather is mild and the sun is shining, the banks of Canal St. Martin become a communal backyard for the neighborhoods. Even in February, friends, families, and pets were all out enjoying a restful afternoon. Now and even more so in the spring and summer months, this is a prime picnic location.
Near the Jaurès and Stalingrad metro stations, the canal widens a bit.
This stretch docks many boats, and some of the larger boats are commercial, serving food and drinks. This also seems to be a popular area for older French men to play bocce ball (pétanque in French).
Finally I made it to the beginning of Parc de la Villette! This is one of Paris' larger parks, tucked away in the northeast corner of the city.
The design of the park is very modern; it was completed in 1987. This area used to house slaughterhouses and a meat market. After they were closed down, the area was redeveloped.
When I am in this park, I feel miles away from Paris since it gives a totally different feel from the rest of the city.
I should also mention that it is possible to take a boat tour of the canal instead of walking it. Canauxrama runs cruises in both directions on Canal St. Martin, lasting two and a half hours in duration. It is a slow ride with all the locks boats must navigate through, but if you are seeking a leisurely tour this is worth considering.
However you choose to do it, get off the beaten tourist track and enjoy a slice of local Parisian life by discovering Canal St. Martin and Parc de la Villette!