Top (Semi) Secret Paris Neighborhoods

  • 01 of 09

    Venture Off the Postcard Track

    Graffiti in Belleville, Paris
    ••• The streets of Belleville are covered in street art. Owen Franken/Getty Images

    Have you basked to your heart's content in sights like The LouvreNotre Dame, and the Champs-Élysées? Are you hoping for a bit of the unexpected, and the authentically local, in the French capital? You're in luck. While Paris remains the world's single most-visited city, there are plenty of semi-secret nooks awaiting those willing to venture off the postcard track.

    Read related feature: Paris Off the Beaten Track (Unusual Things to See and Do)

    The neighborhoods profiled in the following slides are so well-loved by Parisians, you can bet they're reluctant to share with the likes of you! Too bad for them...

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  • 02 of 09

    The Canal St-Martin Neighborhood

    Alfred Sisley's 1870 painting depicts the lovely canal St Martin and banks in Paris.
    ••• Alfred Sisley's 1870 painting depicts the lovely canal St Martin and banks in Paris. Public domain

    With its footbridges arching gracefully over a canal that feeds into the Seine River, the Canal Saint Martin area offers equal parts greenery, lyricism, and urban grit. Don't miss the Canal Saint-Martin for activities like strolling, picnics, offbeat shopping, and scenic biking.

    This unusually relaxed corner of Northeastern Paris is a hotspot for fashion-conscious bohos and parents in search of a little repose. It has also made famous appearances in movies like Amélie and Hôtel du Nord.

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  • 03 of 09

    Rue Montorgueil and Sentier

    Stohrer bakery on Rue Montorgueil, Paris
    ••• Rue Montorgueil boasts many excellent bakeries and food vendors, including the oldest patisserie in Paris, La Maison Stohrer. Courtney Traub

    Right in the city center, only minutes from the Saint-Eustache Cathedral and the Centre Georges Pompidou, is a quaint, marble-paved pedestrian area whose main thoroughfare is Rue Montorgeuil.

    One of Paris' oldest streets, Rue Montorgueil is a vibrant, cheery quarter bursting with some of the city's finest food markets and pastry shops, not to mention a good mix of ultrahip and old-world bars, cafes, and eateries. Impressionist painter Claude Monet depicted the street in an 1878 painting. The nearby Sentier area (continuing from Rue Montorgueil with Rue du Sentier), once a major textile district, offers plenty of cafes, wine bars, and unpretentious, residential streets to get lost in.

    SEE MORE: Our Complete Guide to the Montorgueil District (What to See & Do)

    Read related: 5 Quaint Paris "Villages" You Probably Haven't Heard Of

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  • 04 of 09

    La Butte aux Cailles, Quaint "Village" in Southern Paris

    Street art and hidden corners abound in the Butte aux Cailles in Paris.
    ••• Street art and hidden corners abound in the Butte aux Cailles in Paris. Courtney Traub

    Nestled between Montparnasse and Chinatown on the left bank is a hilly, well-hidden quarter whose narrow, winding streets, tiny houses, and art nouveau architecture recall a Paris of another era. 

    La Butte aux Cailles is one of Paris' best-kept secrets, and for good reason. It is one of the only Paris neighborhoods where chain stores have not set up shop and where you can stumble on ivy-covered art deco townhouses. Come explore the Butte aux Cailles for gorgeous ambling, convivial dining and drinking.

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  • 05 of 09

    The Grands Boulevards Neighborhood

    The Grands Boulevards districts counts many historic passageways or
    ••• The Grands Boulevards districts counts many historic passageways or "arcades". Courtney Traub

    Dotted with theaters, classic cabarets, clubs and cafes, the wide sidewalks in this lesser-known Parisian neighborhood are perfect for people-watching, strolling and leisurely nursing cafés crèmes on heated terraces.

    Meanwhile, browsing the area's many 19th-century passageways, or "arcades", is a must for shoppers looking for that authentic and chic French gift-- and for admirers of architecture and city planning history. 

    READ MORE: Exploring the Grands Boulevards (What to See and Do)

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  • 06 of 09

    La Chapelle & Little Sri Lanka

    The Ganesh Festival is a popular summer event in Paris's La Chapelle district.
    ••• The Ganesh Festival is a popular summer event in Paris's La Chapelle district. ©2008 Luigi Morante. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

    Sometimes referred to as “Little Jaffna,” this neighborhood is bursting with activity, culture and color. Here, you’ll not only find shops and restaurants reflecting the prominence of Sri Lankan and South Indian culture; you’ll hear the Tamil language bouncing around you on the streets. Being in La Chapelle feels like getting out of Paris, and you’ll be very glad to have done so once you get to know the city well and are looking for unusual jaunts. Make sure to save time for chai tea, samosas and sari window-shopping.

    READ MORE: All About La Chapelle (Shopping, Dining, Sightseeing)

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  • 07 of 09

    The Père-Lachaise/Gambetta Neighborhood

    The Charonne Church looms over the Village St Blaise district.
    ••• Countryside charm: The Charonne Church looms over the St Blaise district. Groum/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Tucked in a little-trampled stretch of northeast Paris, the Père-Lachaise/Gambetta neighborhood is protected from the hullabaloo of the city center, but remains in close enough reach of major attractions. In the area loosely defined by the metros Gambetta, Pere Lachaise, Porte de Bagnolet and the Rue de Menilmontant, you’ll find quirky, family-owned cafes and bars, Birkenstock-donning couples pushing strollers, and an authentic residential feel.

    During the day, the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery is worth a half-day trip, while a smattering of bars and clubs in the surrounding Gambetta and Menilmontant area are packed at night, home to a dynamic independent music scene. If you’re taxed out from power touring, reward yourself with a relaxing stroll or nightset in the Père Lachaise/Gambetta quarter, or explore the quiet, village-like streets around Rue Saint-Blaise, with its pedestrian cobbles and quiet church (Eglise de Charonne, pictured here). 

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  • 08 of 09

    Belleville

    The Belleville neighborhood in Paris in around 1900.
    ••• The Belleville neighborhood in Paris in around 1900. Public domain

    Welcome to Belleville – home to one of Paris’s lively Chinatowns, a burgeoning artist quarter and a dizzying array of cultures. Belleville has always been a working class neighborhood, with immigration generating much of the area's zest. What started in the 1920's with Greeks, Jews and Armenians led to waves of North Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans and Chinese immigrants settling here.

    Cheap rents have also led artists to flow into the area, making it an ideal spot for their ateliers (many of which open to the public once a year). It's also one of the city's hotspots for innovative and elaborate street art. 

    Belleville may not provide a typical experience of Paris, but its energy and diversity are certainly worth checking out.

    READ MORE: All About Belleville (What to See and Do)

     

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  • 09 of 09

    Passy, Tranquil Haven in West Paris

    Passy combines quiet elegance with nearby modernity.
    ••• Passy combines quiet elegance with nearby modernity. RGS2008/Some rights reserved under Creative Commons

    Visitors often get close to this charming nook of the 16th arrondissement, hitting sights like the Trocadero Gardens and the Palais de Tokyo, but never experience its quiet elegance firsthand. Get off at metro Passy and explore the verdant, residential district, boasting some of the city's best small museums, fine dining, and top-rate shopping. 

    READ MORE: Complete Guide to Passy (What to See and Do)