Guide to the 13th arrondissement of Paris: Hidden gems

When it comes to the 13th Paris district, let’s be honest: It’s mostly for residents. Yes, there’s the lovely Butte-aux-Cailles neighbourhood (pictured above: imagine a tiny Montmartre). But after that, there isn’t really anything for a tourist, right?

WRONG!

From the bustling streets and disorienting high rises of the Asian Quarter to a delightful riverside promenade, from a modern library with untold worldly wonders to an exceptional antique map shop… we found plenty of hidden gems during our 24-hour visit. Here’s how you can find them too.

The Earful Tower podcast episode

Here’s the podcast episode on the 13th district of Paris, featuring me and my wife Lina discussing our findings. There’s also an interview with Pierre Joppen, the owner of antique map and book shop Librairie Loeb-Larocque, and our final ranking on the district out of 100. 

Video guide to the 13th arrondissement

Here’s our visit, in video format, from our YouTube channel. We’ll be making one of these travel vlogs every week, so be sure to subscribe (you can do it in one click via this link). 

The Earful Tower’s guide to the 13th arrondissement

Where to stay? A floating hotel!

OFF Paris Seine How often do you get the chance to sleep on the Seine River?! Well here’s how to do it. The Off Paris Seine is a boat hotel, featuring a built-in swimming pool. We booked the orange room. It was surreal to wake up and see the river so close, and quite relaxing to watch the trains run over the nearby bridge. Address: 86 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013 @offparisseine

A good restaurant in Chinatown

The locals told us that you can’t really go wrong in the Asian Quarter, but then several people also recommended Impérial Choisy, so apparently you can go right! Good for a quick Chinese food fix. @imperialchoisy Address: 32 Av. de Choisy, 75013

Best place for a drink in the 13th

Bateau El Alamein: This old boat features a bar downstairs and a lovely botanical display on the deck. On Monday nights it’s amateur hour – where people can change the lyrics to famous French songs and sing to a very patient and friendly crowd. This phenomenon is called a goguette, a kind of playful singing society, popular in France and Belgium. @bateauelalamein Address: 10 Port de la Gare, 75013

The best cafe in the 13th

Bob’s Cafe in MK2 Bibliothèque was the only cafe we found! They didn’t really do specialty coffee, but it does the trick if you need a sit down. Address: MK2 Bibliothèque, 128-162 Av. de France, 75013

More things to find in the 13th

Stroll through the Butte-aux-Cailles

Imagine Montmartre, shrunken down to just a few streets, and placed on the other side of the city. Well, now you’ve imagined the Butte-aux-Cailles. Charming, lovely, and perfect for a walk. We’ve got loads more pics from here, you can see them in our full guide for how to visit the neighbourhood.

Explore the street art in Butte-aux-Cailles

If you’re into street art, the place is practically covered in it, so bring your camera too! Rue de l’Esperance is good place to start (pictured below).

Apéro en terrace in Butte-aux-Cailles

Les Tanneurs de la Butte: There are plenty of places for an evening drink or meal on the main drag of Butte-aux-Cailles. We picked this one because of the lovely interior and welcoming terrace. The staff members were super friendly too. @lestanneursdelabutte Address: 22 Rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles, 75013

Visit the antique map shop

Librairie Loeb Larocque – maps & books: You can only visit this shop by appointment, so plan accordingly. Untold treasures are within, including a rare example of the enormous map known as “Turgot’s monumental plan of Paris”. You can hear more about this map in the episode, which features an interview of the owner Pierre Joppen, and you can see it in the upcoming YouTube video. There are many more pics and my full interview with the owner here. @librarie.loeb.larocque Address: 31 Rue de Tolbiac, 75013.

Track down traces of the Bievre river

Centuries ago, the river Bievre flowed through the 13th arrondissement and into the Seine. As Paris grew, the river was gradually built over, so much so that you can’t find it in the city anymore. But traces of its path do still exist. You can find medallions on the footpaths marking out its path (pictured below), and some park and street signs bear the name Bievre. I became quite fascinated by this river, and I hear Parisians want it to flow through the 13th again. Watch this space, I’ll explore this again one day.

See the magnificent globes

This was the highlight of the whole district. If you head into the François-Mitterrand Library you can find the enormous Globes of Coronelli, seemingly suspended in a dark room. Each is about four metres in diameter (over 13 feet!). One shows the Earth as far as it had been explored in the 17th century, the other shows celestial star formations. The globes were a gift to Louis XIV. We share more about these globes here. Address: Quai François Mauriac, 75706

Trip map created with Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

That will do for now! I hope you enjoyed episode eight for this new season. This week I’ll be taking you for a closer look at the 13th arrondissement, so bookmark this page. Then next week it’s the 12th. A big thanks to Emily Jackson for the Butte-aux-Cailles photos, Charlotte Pleasants for the additional reporting, and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here.

Can you support this work? Buy one of our books below, or even better, become a Patreon member and unlock loads of bonuses on the way. This entire season is brought to you by these Patrons, there’s no other sponsors, no adverts, and we’re accepting no freebies 🙂

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