Paris: Places to Explore

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Eastern Paris

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The Bastille used to be the star of this area, and a stop here—at the epicenter of the French Revolution—was a must. The small streets forking off Place de la Bastille still buzz at night, thanks to bars, music clubs, and the top-flight Opéra Bastille. But today the neighborhoods farther afield are the real draw, having evolved into some of Paris's top destinations. The Canal St-Martin, once the down-and-out cousin on the northeastern border, is now trend-spotting central, brimming with funky bars, cafés, art galleries, and boutiques. The scene is similar to the south, on rues Oberkampf, St-Maur, and Jean-Pierre-Timbaud, where artists and small designers have set up shop, and where a substantial slice of the city's bobo (bourgeois-bohemian) contingent is buying up the no-longer-so-affordable apartments.

The areas to the north and east of the canal are also flourishing, around the rougher streets near Ménilmontant and Belleville, home to a small Chinatown (watch your purse and avoid wearing attention-getting jewelry). The city's largest cemetery, Père Lachaise, is here, with a roster of famous tenants. Not far away is the impressively wild Parc Buttes-Chaumont, with grassy fields, a small Greek-style temple, and sweeping hilltop views of Paris. It's the perfect place to eat a picnic lunch and let museum-weary kids work off some steam. There is a pair of other notable parks to the east: Parc de la Villette, where you’ll find the city's science museum, and the Bois de Vincennes.

Not far from the Bastille opera house, the Viaduc des Arts is a much-admired urban-renewal project that transformed an old elevated rail line into arcaded design-focused studios and shops. Along the top, the Promenade Plantée makes for a lovely stroll through the 12e arrondissement, a nice middle-class neighborhood with stately apartment buildings and the pretty Square Trousseau, gateway to the Marché d'Aligre (one of the city's best covered markets). Come on Sunday morning with a shopping basket—or just your camera—when the vendors spill over into neighboring streets.

To the south of Bastille, the old wine warehouses at Bercy have become a veritable village of shops and restaurants bordering Park de Bercy. Directly across the Seine is the Bibliothéque National François Mitterand, the National Library of France, a sprawling complex of modern glass towers opened in 1998.

Eastern Paris at a Glance

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