One of Paris' lesser-known neighborhoods that's beloved by locals but overlooked by tourists, the Butte aux Cailles district is a village-like oasis in Paris' otherwise ultracontemporary, stark 13th arrondissement.
With its narrow cobblestone streets harboring quirky restaurants, cafes and boutiques but lacking global chain stores, its art deco architectural heritage, and its throwback Paris ambiance, The Butte aux Cailles is definitely a place to come if you're looking for something relatively uncharted.
This historically working-class district has, to no surprise, become a favorite spot for artists and affluent hipsters in recent years, evident in the area's abundant street art, lofts with leafy rooftops, and gourmet shops.
Orientation and Transport
The Butte aux Cailles neighborhood is a hilly area in Paris' 13th arrondissement, wedged between the city's biggest Chinatown district at Metro Tolbiac and the sprawling Place d'Italie. Bring a good Paris district map to help orient yourself.
Main streets around the Butte aux Cailles: Rue des Cinq Diamants, Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, Place Paul Verlaine, Rue Daviel.
Getting There: Get off at metro Corvisart (Line 6) and walk up Rue des Cinq Diamants until you hit the heart of the neighborhood at the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles juncture. From here, exploring the neighborhood's many nooks is easy.
A Little Neighborhood History
La Butte aux Cailles was originally a fenced-in village outside of Paris that overlooked the (now underground) Bièvre river. Limestone mining was a primary activity in the area during the 17th century, and the area remained working class until recently.
In 1783, François Pilâtre de Rozier was the first in history to go up in a hot air balloon-- floating above the Butte aux Cailles.
The area was annexed into Paris in 1860. It was the center of an important battle in the civil insurrection known as the Paris Commune of 1871. A memorial to the commune is found at the Place de la Commune de Paris.
Places of Interest in the Neighborhood
Place Paul Verlaine: This square features a decorative 19th-century well sourcing natural spring water. Visitors can fill bottles with the very-drinkable water, which is used to fill the art-nouveau style swimming pool just behind the well. If you thought ahead and have a swimsuit handy, also feel free to go take a swim in the pool: the entry fee is reasonable.
Alsacian Villa: On rue Daviel, Little Alsace and Little Russia are worker's villas built to resemble traditional buildings in Northern France and Russia. Their intimate interior courtyards are open to the public during the day.
Art-nouveau houses: From Rue Daviel, explore the adjoining Villa Daviel and nearby streets for quaint examples of art-nouveau architecture.
Places to Eat, Lounge and Shop in the Butte aux Cailles
Rue de la Butte aux Cailles and Rue des Cinq Diamants is the center of dining, shopping and nightlife in the neighborhood. Particularly recommended spots include:
Le temps des Cerises: Right across the street from Chez Gladines, this quirky restaurant with a vaguely Spanish theme serves delicious, reasonably-priced favorites including steamed mussels. Wine is very decent and not too expensive.
Tea and Sweets
L'Oisive Thé: An intimate little tearoom at 8 Rue de la Butte aux Cailles that plays on the French word for laziness/listlessness (l'oisiveté) and tea (thé). An ideal spot for a mellow afternoon reading or chatting.
Les Abeilles: Honey aficionados will love this boutique at 21 rue de la Butte aux Cailles, which peddles some 50 varieties of honey and countless other honey-laced goodies.
Nightlife in this district is a bit on the quiet side, but it's also pleasant and authentic. A few addresses we recommend include: