Paris' colorful Marché d'Aligre is one of the city's most popular markets—and it also lies at the center of a vibrant neighborhood that offers visitors a variety of interesting and unusual things to do. Situated between the Place de la Bastille to the north and the Seine river to the southwest, the neighborhood surrounding the Aligre market is at once traditional and stylish, quietly residential in some corners, and bustling with renewed energy in others.
Located in the 12th arrondissement (district), the area isn't exactly secretive or little-known, but many tourists never venture to explore it. This makes it an ideal district to consider spending some time in if you're looking for off-the-beaten-path ways to see Paris. Read on for eight places in the neighborhood worth visiting and exploring, such as walking paths, shops, restaurants, markets, and bars. The list starts with some of the more traditional and timeless things to do in the area before turning to a few of the up-and-coming addresses that are worth checking out.
Visit the Artisan Shops at the Viaduc des Arts
Take time to explore the complex of artisan shops and pleasant cafes known as the Viaduc des Arts, located right below a part of the promenade at Avenue Daumesnil. The viaduct, which had a train running over it during the 19th century, has been repurposed to accommodate several local artisans and their workshops.
The viaduc's 64 vaulted arches house shops and workshops as varied as art galleries, woodworker's ateliers, antique shops, weavers, and porcelain painters. If you're after an original and non-cliche gift from Paris, this is certainly a place that may be worth perusing. There are several pleasant cafes and restaurants situated in the same complex, so stopping for a decent coffee or lunch in between shopping and strolling is a good possibility.
How to visit: The shops begin at 1, avenue Daumesnil. Take lines 1 or 8 on the metro to Ledru-Rollin or Gare de Lyon.
Composed of semi-permanent stands open every day except for Monday, as well as the Marché Beauvau covered market (which dates to the late 18th century) and permanent shops lining the surrounding streets, this area is collectively referred to as the "Marché d'Aligre" by residents that frequent the area.
This is the place to head if you're after seeking heaping stands of delicious fresh produce, from eye-catching purple artichokes to juicy berries, summery melons, and fragrant wild mushrooms. There are also numerous excellent cheese stands and shops around the market, as well as fishmongers, butchers, top-notch bakeries, wine shops and flower vendors.
How to visit: If you're after the full Paris market experience, complete with crowds, buskers playing guitar or old-fashioned accordions and sellers yelling out discounted prices over the merry din, go on a weekend morning. For a quieter vibe that will allow you to visit without feeling like you're getting pushed along, go during the weekdays. Generally, stands open in the early morning around 8 to 9:00 am, and close around 1:00 to 1:30 pm. It's located at Place d'Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. Take the metro line 8 to Ledru-Rollin or Faidherbe-Chaligny.
Drink at One of the City's Best Wine Bars
Situated on a corner of the Place d'Aligre, Le Baron Rouge (1, rue Théophile-Roussel) is a favorite and unpretentious bar that's gained the favor of both wine aficionados and casual neighborhood patrons. Offering a large variety of wines, from inexpensive reds and whites to prized vintages, it's also a wonderful place for a casual, relatively inexpensive meal of cheese and charcuterie, or fresh oysters with a hunk of baguette and salty butter. These staples taste much better, of course, accompanied by a delicious glass of Sauternes or Cotes de Nuit.
Another bar we strongly recommend is Le Siffleur des Ballons (34, rue de Cîteaux), lauded by foodies for its excellent but accessibly priced wines by the glass and satisfying French specialities (from pates and artisanal sausages to crunchy roasted potatoes and creamy cheeses).
How to visit: Le Baron Rouge doesn't stay open very late, and their opening times have been known to be inconsistent, so plan on a before-dinner drink or an early dinner here.
Stroll Along the Promenade
Built along a defunct railway above the ground, the Promenade Plantée (literally, Planted Promenade) is a pedestrian-only path that stretches for a little under a mile from nearby the Place de la Bastille in the north to the Jardin de Reuilly in the southwest. The world's very first above-ground pedestrian walkway, the Promenade—also referred to as La Coulée Verte (The Green Corridor)—is especially pleasant in the spring and early summer months, when dozens of varieties of trees and plants bloom.
Lavender, cherry, and maple trees, shaded corridors of tall bamboo, roses, and countless other fragrant and beautiful varieties of flora are planted alongside the path. You'll also spot some intriguing Parisian architecture along this route. Smatterings of street art and colorful murals also grace the walls of certain buildings on the promenade.
How to visit: There are access points nearby the Place de la Bastille on the Rue de Lyon, at Avenue Daumesnil (Metro: Daumesnil) and from the Jardin de Reuilly (Metro: Reuilly-Diderot). Look for signs and walk up the stairs from street level to access the path. (The promenade ends at the Jardin de Reuilly, but for a longer stroll, walk another 1.8 miles to the enormous Bois de Vincennes park at Paris' far eastern edge.)
There's been something of a Renaissance in the French capital when it comes to cuisine from Naples, Rome, Bologna, and elsewhere in Italy. Young restaurateurs in search of opportunity have established exciting new Italian eateries around the city, and many of them happen to be concentrated in the neighborhood surrounding the Aligre market.
For mouthwatering Neapolitan-style pizza made in wood-fired ovens, head over to East Mamma. It's hip but friendly, and the prices are accessible. In addition to delicious pizzas, pastas, and Italian-style desserts, the restaurant offers a wine list composed of 180 (mostly Italian) varieties, all bought directly from vintners.
Or head to Retro Bottega to try the delectable recipes of Pietro Rusanno, a native of Rome who opened the tiny wine shop and bar that transforms into a restaurant at lunch and dinnertime. Homemade ravioli and tortellini stuffed with creative and traditional ingredients such as ricotta, crab, sesame, and sea asparagus are among the delights. All the wines sold at the restaurant are Italian, and many are biodynamic, but wine by the glass isn't an option. As a result, your bill is likely to be on the pricey side if you want wine to accompany your meal.
Sample Delicious Baked Goods
A relatively new arrival in the gourmet-endowed Aligre district is Farine et O. Headed by Olivier Magne, an award-winning local baker, the bakery's delights are numerous. Magne marvels with orange-laced pains au chocolat and spiral-shaped viennoiseries filled with chocolate and pistachio, as well as a large variety of eye-pleasing and delicious tarts.
One of the best bakeries in the French capital, this is an address that's constantly humming with customers. Try the scrumptiously oily focaccia and the multiseed baguette, equal parts crusty and chewy. For dessert, the lemon tart is tangy and not too sweet, not to mention beautiful. Like we said, it's hard to go wrong here.
How to visit: Be prepared to wait, as there's often a line before and after work when locals stock up on bread for their evening meal. Find it at 153 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 11th arrondissement. Take line 8 of the metro to Ledru-Rollin or Faidherbe-Chaligny.
Have a Creative Cocktail
Paris has witnessed an influx of speakeasy-style cocktail bars over the past few years: places whose old-school brand of cool and intimate settings bring together hipsters in search of rarefied settings, and cocktail purists who won't settle for anything less than an excellent drink.
Moonshiner is one of the very best of this new crop. Nestled behind a blank door at the back of a pizzeria, it's in reality an "open secret," but the process of getting there is still novel and fun. Inside, a team of talented bartenders mix creative and palate-surprising drinks amid low, vintage lamplight, comfy couches, and ambient music.
How to visit: It's immensely popular, even on weeknights. Aim to get there on the early side if you want to sink into the deep couches and chairs at the back with your stylish drink in hand. The bar is located at 5 rue Sedaine, 11th arrondissement. Take line 8 of the metro to Ledru-Rollin or Bastille.
Eat at a Local Eclectic Cafe
Assuming you aren't averse to checking out some of the neighborhood corners that feel distinctly hip, head to Mel, Mich & Martin: a concept cafe, gallery, shop and lunch place that offers a mix of good food and coffee, free wifi, and eclectic wares for sale or onsite enjoyment.
This is a cafe that feels about as far from the traditional Parisian cafe as you can imagine. Less interested in tradition for the sake of tradition, it still adheres to high French standards of quality: the coffee is delicious (but here you can order all manner of American-style barista drinks, from lattes to dessert-like iced coffees). The food menu is similarly North American-inspired: from bagels to muffins and cookies oozing with melted chocolate, this is definitely a good place to come get your fix if you're craving that kind of thing.
On the walls and around the large premises, there's art and design objects for sale, vintage furniture that lends a cozy and laid-back feel to the place, music and movie memorabilia and various knick-knacks. The internet connection is solid, so if you need to work for a couple of hours using free wi-fi, this is a good choice.
How to Visit: It's at 8 rue Saint-Bernard, 11th arrondissement. Take line 8 of the metro to Ledru-Rollin or Faidherbe-Chaligny.