This former abattoir is now a 130-acre ultramodern park. With lawns and play areas, an excellent science museum, a music complex, and a cinema, it's also the perfect place to entertain sightseeing-weary kids. You could easily spend a whole day here.
The park itself was designed in the 1980s by postmodern architecture star Bernard Tschumi, who melded industrial elements, children's games (don't miss the dragon slide), ample green spaces, and funky sculptures along
the canal into one vast yet unified playground. Loved by picnickers, the lawns also attract rehearsing samba bands and pickup soccer players. In summer there are outdoor festivals and a free open-air cinema, where people gather at dusk to watch movies on a huge inflatable screen.
In cold weather you can visit an authentic submarine and the Espace Chapiteaux (a circus tent featuring contemporary acrobatic theater performances) before hitting the museums. The hands-on one at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie is a favorite stop for families and a must for science fans. Its 3D Omnimax cinema—La Géode —is housed in a giant silver ball. The postmodern Cité de la Musique is a music academy designed by noted urban architect Christian de Portzamparc. It has a state-of-the-art concert hall and houses the excellent Musée de la Musique . The park will have even more in store for music lovers in 2015, when the curtain rises on a striking 2,400-seat philharmonic concert hall designed by Jean Nouvel.
As for the abattoir that once stood here, all that's left of the slaughterhouse is La Grande Halle, a magnificent iron-and-glass building now used for exhibitions, performances, and trade shows.
Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. This ambitious science museum, in a colorful three-story industrial space that recalls the Pompidou Center, is packed with things to do—all of them accessible to English speakers. Scores of exhibits focus on subjects like space, transportation, and technology. Hands-on workshops keep the kids entertained and the planetarium is invariably a hit. Temporary exhibitions, like a recent exploration of the human voice, are always multilingual and usually interactive. 30 av. Corentin-Cariou, La Villette, 75019. 01–40–05–70–00. www.cite-sciences.fr. €8; €11 with planetarium or temporary exhibits. Tues.–Sat., 10–6; Sun. 10–7; closed Mon. Porte de la Villette.
Musée de la Musique. The music museum inside the Cité de la Musique contains four centuries-worth of instruments from around the world—about 1,000 in total, many of them exquisite works of art. Their sounds and story are evoked on numerous video screens and via commentary you can follow on headphones (ask for a free audioguide in English). Leave time for the excellent temporary exhibitions, like 2013's show about the marriage between cinema and music. 221 av. Jean-Jaurès, La Villette, 75019. 01–44–84–44–84. www.cite-musique.fr. €7 permanent collection; €9 with temporary exhibits. Tues.–Sat. noon–6, Sun. 10–6; closed Mon. Porte de Pantin.
Café de la Musique. Across the plaza, the outdoor terrace at Café de la Musique is an inviting place to have a drink on a sunny day. 213 av. Jean-Jaurès, La Villette, 75019. 01–48–03–15–91. Porte de Pantin.