This quiet Paris neighborhood bordering a tree-lined, Napoleon-era canal is far in body and spirit from the more touristed high-rent quartiers, and draws a young, creative crowd that appreciates its picturesque atmosphere, hip boutiques, lively wine bars, and well-priced eateries. As the area gains popularity, tantalizing new boutiques, cafés, and restaurants keep cropping up on both sides of the canal.
The main shopping streets include rue Beaurepaire, rue Yves Toudic, rue de Marseille, and rue de Lancry. Stroll along the Quai de Valmy for its wonderful cafés and bistros, then cross the arching bridge over to the Quai de Jemmapes, where you’ll find the old Hotel de Nord, the historic Hôpital Saint-Louis, superb dining spots, and myriad hidden gems.
We suggest spending a few days exploring the neighborhood’s best haunts, from shiny new shops and chic just-opened cafés to old favorites. You’ll be strolling the rues like a local in no time.
Boutique Renhsen: Fashion cognoscenti flock here for perfectly cut jeans in high-tech fabrics, along with fashion-forward separates, jewelry and some great shoes. 22 rue Beaurepaire
The Kooples: This popular French chain features beautifully tailored, up-to-the-second fashions ranging from snazzy leather to casual hipster. 32 rue Beaurepaire
APC: Low-key, high-style clothing in natural fibers for a cool, distinctive, yet understated look. 5 rue de Marseille
Agnes B: The doyenne of French streetwear, these streamlined separates never go out of style. men’s boutique at 1 rue Dieu; women’s at 13 rue de Marseille
Liza Korn: A pioneer of the area, Korn’s iconoclastic designs are a hit with confident Parisiennes with a great sense of style. 19 rue Beaurepaire
Les Petits Haut: Chic and functional clothes in silk, merino and cashmere, plus chic shoes and accessories. 21 rue Beaurepaire
La Comédie Humaine: The newest boutique on the block features a small line of exquisitely designed shirts, trousers, T-shirts, jackets, scarves, and accessories for the well-appointed man, all handmade in France. 24 rue Yves Toudic
Balibaris: Opened last month, these comfortable, stylish and timeless men’s separates; shoes and accessories are made by la crème de la crème of European manufacturers. 14 rue de Marseille
Thanx God I’m a VIP: A handpicked selection of vintage men’s and women’s clothing from the 60s-80s. 12 Rue de Lancry
Art, Design, Movies
Idé & Co: Superchic small housewares, jewelry, and accessories in vibrant colors with a spunky sense of fun. 19 rue Beaurepaire
Artazart: The very best in books on all things design, along with sophisticated bags, watches, bike accessories, and more. 83 Quai de Valmy
Potemkine: Looking for that hard-to-find French classic film? The best of French and foreign DVDs, along with books and artworks. 30 rue Beaurepaire
Medecine Douce: Beautiful baubles in whimsical styles that go seamlessly from day to evening. 14 rue de Marseille
Vivicka Bergstrom: Guaranteed showstoppers for the wild at heart. 23 de la Grange aux Belles
Where to Eat
Philou: French bistro classics made from fresh, seasonal ingredients, like succulent squab pâté en croute or crispy cod filet with flageolets and parsley pesto with superb natural wines by the bottle or glass. The spacious outdoor terrace is a neighborhood favorite. Reservations. 12 avenue Richerand
Verre Volé: One of Paris’s most popular wine bars features artisanal charcuterie, yummy small dishes, seafood tapas, and French comfort food, along with natural and biodynamic wines. Reservations. 67 rue de Lancry
La Cantine de Quentin: A cozy lunch spot where you’ll find dishes your (French) grandma might have made, like creamy brandade de morue (potatoes and salt cod) and an excellent confit de canard. A perfect spot for Sunday brunch. 52 rue Bichat
Epicerie Musicale: This new, canal-side café specializes in gourmet artisanal products from Italy. Superb (and well-priced) salads, sandwiches, charcuterie, cheese, desserts, and wine can be had in or out. Perfect for any meal of the day, a quick snack, or an excellent cup of coffee. Open nonstop from 9 am-9 pm. 55 Quai de Valmy
Bob’s Juice Bar: Need a fresh organic juice fix? Bagel sandwich? This place might be tiny, but it packs in the nutrients in a pleasing range of veggie sandwiches, luscious soups, and other light snacks. Open for breakfast and lunch, weekdays only. 15 Rue Lucien Sampaix
Du Pain et des Idées: Baked in a wood-fired oven, the crusty bread, sinful croissants, chaussons aux pommes, and sublime orange-flower scented brioche draw gourmands from far and wide. 34 Rue Yves Toudic
Hôpital Saint-Louis: Founded in 1607 by Henry IV, this architectural gem, with its serene internal gardens and elegant chapel, it is an oasis in the heart of the city. Entrance rue Richerand or rue de la Grange aux Belles
Canal Cruise: For a unique view of the Canal St. Martin and the La Villette basin, this two-and-a-half hour cruise across ancient locks and under historic bridges is just the thing. Starting at Musée d’Orsay, daily at 9:30 am or the Parc de la Villette at 10:15.
Photo credit: Canal St. Martin via Shutterstock; all other images courtesy of Jennifer Ladonne