What does a hidden river, street art, hot air balloons, and quails all have in common? The Butte-aux-Cailles of course!
Dubbed by some as “Mini Montmartre”, the Butte-aux-Cailles is a small and charming neighbourhood at the top of a hill in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
The Butte-aux-Cailles was a big part of The Earful Tower’s 24-hour visit to the 13th arrondissement of Paris, which you can read about right here.
But first, why’s it called the Butte-aux-Cailles?
Butte-aux-Cailles directly translates to “hill of quails”, but contrary to its name, the neighbourhood has nothing to do with quails. It was actually named after Pierre Cailles who ran a vineyard on the hill in the 15th century.
What’s the history of the Butte-aux-Cailles?
Originally the Butte-aux-Cailles was a fenced-in village outside of Paris, atop a hill. Its location made it an ideal spot for the first successful landing of a hot air balloon. In 1783, the hot air balloon designed by Montgolfier brothers landed on the current Place Verlaine.
The Butte-aux-Cailles overlooked the now underground Bièvre river (pictured above). 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 in the neighbourhood. You can find medallions on the footpaths marking its path and some park and street signs bear the name Bièvre!
Speaking of flowing water, at Place Paul Verlaine, you can find the recently renovated water fountain that is more than a century old, originally the water that flowed from this fountain was naturally warm and so it was used to supply the nearby swimming pool. The Butte-aux-Cailles swimming pool (pictured below) is now a listed National Heritage site.
What to do at the Butte-aux-Cailles?
The Butte-aux-Cailles is a well-loved neighbourhood – so the best thing to do here is to act like a local! Here’s how we advise you visit.
Explore the streets
The main thoroughfare is the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles. Start your walk here and head in whichever direction takes your fancy.
You can find pleasant corner brasseries, sweet traditional houses and cute alleyways tucked away in each direction.
Find the street art
Street art in the 13th arrondissement was popularised in the 1960s in an effort to embellish the more industrial parts of the neighbourhood. The artistic movement spread into the Butte-aux-Cailles and has become a staple of the neighbourhood.
You can find all sorts of examples of street art around the Butte-aux-Cailles, do keep your eyes peeled for the artist Misstic (artwork pictured below) who is particularly celebrated by the locals.
If you keep within a few streets of the main drag you’re likely to come across more examples of street art. The picture above, right, of the children on the lamppost show how the permanent architecture have become part of the art. You can find this colourful corner on Rue de l’Esperance.
If you’re interested in finding more street art in the 13th, walk down Boulevard Vincent Auriol to find huge street art murals (but note: this isn’t part of Butte-aux-Cailles, but is in the same arrondissement).
Spot the cherry blossoms
If you time it right, you might just catch sight of some stunning cherry blossoms. We were lucky enough to stroll under some magnificent examples. There are a few locations around the butte where you can find the blossoms.
Relax on a terrace and watch the world go by
Along the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles there are several pleasant restaurants to dine en terrasse. We decided to eat at Les Tanneurs de la Butte, because of the lovely interior and welcoming terrace. The staff members were super friendly too. Address: 22 Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, 75013
Getting to the Butte-aux-Cailles
Essentially, head to the 13th and then just keep going up. The main thoroughfare is rue de la Butte aux Cailles so aim to start your exploration here. Otherwise you can reach it by these public transport routes:
Metro: Line 6: Corvisart, Line 5/7: Place d’Italie
Bus: 57, 47, 67
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 are also interviews with experts and locals. At the end of the episode we give our final ranking on the district out of 100.
Video guide to the 13th arrondissement
And that’s it! A big thanks to Emily Jackson for all the photos above and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here.
You can find all our tips for the 13th district’s best restaurants, cafes, and attractions here. Otherwise see you next week for our trip to the 12th arrondissement.
Want more? You can support our work by buying one of our children’s books, or our PDF guide, below. Merci!
Article by Charlotte Pleasants