In the spring and summer, locals come in droves to the banks of the Saint-Martin Canal to picnic, strum guitars waterside, and bask in the lazy long evenings as dusk settles over the photogenic area. Cafes and quirky boutiques flank the water and iron footbridges. On Sundays, two streets running parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes, are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists—perfect for renting a bike and seeing the city from a fresh angle. Another possibility is to take a tour of the canal by boat. In short, there's something for nearly everyone on its charming banks.
Orientation and Transport
The Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique in Northeastern Paris, in the 10th arrondissement. The canal feeds into the Seine River in the South and the Bassin de la Villette and the Canal de l'Ourq in the North.
Main streets around the canal: Quai de Valmy, Quai de Jemmapes, Rue Beaurepaire, Rue Bichat.
Nearby: République, Belleville.
Getting There and Metro Stations
- Gare de L'Est (Lines 4 & 7)
- Republique (Lines 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11)
- Goncourt (Line 11)
- Jacques-Bonsergent (Line 5).
History of the Area, in Brief
Napoléon I ordered the construction of the Canal Saint-Martin in 1802. It was originally built to link to the Canal de l'Ourq, further north, to supply fresh water to the city.
In the 19th century, the area was mostly occupied by working-class laborers. Only recently has it started to attract well-to-do professionals eager to take up residence in apartments with views of the canal. As a result, it's come to be known as an area frequented by bohos; new restaurants, cafes, and fashion boutiques are continually springing up in the neighborhood.
The canal and its surroundings were entirely reconstructed on set for Marcel Carné's 1938 film, Hôtel du Nord. A restaurant and bar of the same name stand at 102 Quai de Jemmapes (see below for details).
Boat Tours of Canals and Waterways
Consider taking a cruise of the Canal Saint-Martin and Paris' underground waterways for a memorable experience. Particularly intriguing are the canal's lock systems, which fill certain stretches of the canal up with water at record speeds to allow passage of boats through otherwise too-low areas.
Eating, Drinking, and Shopping around the Canal Saint-Martin
Hôtel du Nord
102 Quai de Jemmapes
Phone: +33(0)140 407 878
The filmmaker Marcel Carné immortalized the Hôtel du Nord by reproducing its facade for his 1938 movie of the same name. Originally built in 1885 as a hotel serving mostly manual laborers, the Hôtel du Nord is now a bar and restaurant.
Ambiance: A zinc bar, velvet curtains, low lamplight, and an extensive upstairs library give the former hotel a distinctly 1930’s charm.
Highlights: You can nurse a drink on the garden patio, play chess, browse the library, or enjoy a simple meal prepared with fresh ingredients and conceived by celebrated chef Pascal Brébant. Guaranteed nostalgia.
Lunch: around 15-25 Euros (approx. $16-26).
Dinner: Between 18-30 Euros (approx. $19-$32).
71 Quai de Valmy
Phone: +33(0)142 413 047
Ambiance: Chez Prune is where trendy young Parisians go to see and be seen. This cheerful plum-colored bar and restaurant is constantly abuzz with chatter and music. The oddball deco includes objects made from recycled junk. A large terrace outside offers top-notch views of the canal during the spring and summer.
To eat: Chez Prune’s bistro-style fare, if a bit expensive, is always tasty and includes artful salads, quiches, cheese plates, and plats du jour.
Drinks: 4-10 Euros (approx. $4-$11)
Lunch: around 15-20 Euros (approx. $16-$22) per person.
The Pink Flamingo
67 rue Bichat
Tel.: +33(0)142 023 170
Indulge in a favorite neighborhood treat: get your pizza delivered canalside! A Franco-American couple co-owns the Pink Flamingo, a stylish joint where the pizza is reminiscent of some of the best New York-style slices.
The bonus: You can order your pie to go, take a pink balloon as proof of purchase, and relax on the banks of the canal. The delivery person will find you via the balloon.
Prices: Around 10-15 Euros (approx. $11-$16) per person.
Antoine et Lili
95 Quai de Valmy
Tel.: +33(0)142 374 155
This quirky fashion boutique's bright yellow and pink facade is now an icon. Don't miss Antoine et Lili for the latest in kitschy urban fashion and campy "ethnic" threads. The "village" also includes a restaurant, bakery, and tearoom.
Please note that the prices and descriptions cited here were accurate at the time this article was published and updated but may change at any time.