At the southern east end of Paris, lies the 13eme arrondissement. Some would say an unlucky number 13, with its tall and closely-built residential buildings. But 13th arrondissement of Paris has its own charm and reasons to attract visitors and the locals.
Historically located next to the bustling Latin quarter, prices, this district of Paris has always offered options slightly cheaper in price compared to the 5th arrondissement, while remaining within walking distance.
Along with Belleville in the 10th arrondissement, this area has a vibrant asian community with a high number of Chinese, Vietnamese, And other Asian businesses, restaurants and grocery stores.
The story of 13th arrondissement that we see today dates back to the 1970s. City planners at the time decided that they needed to increase the amount of housing in Paris, and so authorized a bunch of tall residential buildings in the 13th (along with the office tower Montparnasse in the 15th arrondissement.)
These buildings probably wouldn’t be remarkable in New York or Toronto, but amongst the gorgeous 18th-century Hausmannian buildings of Paris, they stood out like a sore thumb.
Construction permits for future skyscrapers were veto’ed leaving this area of Paris as the only one with these types of buildings. Tall office buildings were banished to the La Defense area outside of Paris.
Nonetheless, much of the charm of Paris remains. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes, as well as accommodation options that are much cheaper than other parts of the city.
There is also plenty so see and do here, so let’s explore the 13th, shall we? Allons-y!
Buttes aux Cailles
The 13th arrondissement is home to the very quaint Buttes aux Cailles neighborhood, which is a village onto itself. The village that was once outside of Paris is named after its former owner Pierre Caille who had a vineyard here in 1543.
Even after the vineyards disappeared, the Buttes aux Cailles has the air of a small and peaceful village even though it is now very much a part of Paris.
The reason for this is because the area used to be well known for its limestone quarries, and the ground today is much too unstable for large buildings to be built without concrete support injected into the terrain underneath.
It remains a beautiful area to explore, a quiet hidden gem in the corner of a bustling large metropolis.
Les Gobelins is an area in the 13th arrondissement that gets its name from the famous Les Gobelins Factory. Weaving carpets and tapistries, it used to weave and make products for the French Royal family and other nobility.
It still makes tapestries that decorate many public buildings and châteaux in Paris and around France.
The area Les Gobelins became famous for its tapestry industry dating back to the 15th century, using waters from the Bièvre river (from Latin ‘Beaver’) that once ran through the area.
Many tanneries and factories existed along the Bièvre as late as the 19th century. In the early 20th century, much of the river was covered and still runs underground through drain water, connecting to the Seine.
These days the Gobelin factory is part of the French Ministry of Culture and the Mobilier National (the state furniture collection). It still makes and repairs tapestries and you can take a tour to watch the artisans at work.
In terms of shopping in Paris, there are plenty of small boutiques in the area, but there are also two rather large malls in the 13th arrondissement. The larger one is Italie 2 which is at Place de l’Italie and has just about every mainstream brand there is.
The smaller La Galerie Massena is in the heart of the quartier asiatique and has a variety of shops that are more specialized that you will not find anywhere else.
And if you are looking for outdoor farmers’ markets, head to Marché Jeanne d’Arc at Place Jeanne d’Arc, which runs every Sunday and Thursday mornings.
What to eat: Restaurants, Brasseries, and Bistros
The 13th arrondissement of Paris is quite renowned for its Asian food, but like any large multicultural city, there are plenty of other options as well. Some of the top restaurants and places to eat in the area are:
- Moonlight Restaurant – elegant African fare at
- Ta-Dam Paris – Michelin recognized French bistro at 14 Rue du Jura, 75013 Paris
- Chào Bà – Vietnamian restaurant at 14 Rue Coypel 75013 Paris
You can find more ideas and ways of spending an evening in Paris here.
Bars and Nightlife
There are several bars and pubs in the 13th, but the most popular nightlife options are along the Seine.
With real estate at a premium along the Seine, several bars and rooftop terrasses have opened along the Seine River in Paris. Most of these bar péniches (barges) don’t move anywhere, so you can get on and off as you wish. In the summertime, they are quite packed so go early.
- Wanderlust – 32 Quai d’Austerlitz, trendy nightclub with a roof terrace on the Seine
- Le BateauPhare – 11 Quai François Mauriac, peniche club on the Seine
- Café Oz Rooftop – 34 Quai d’Austerlitz with Aussie vibe
You can find more bars and nightlife options around Paris here.
Where to stay: Hotels and other accommodation
Much of the northern part of the 13th is very walkable to the Latin Quarter, so many tourists choose to stay here. There are many wonderful hotels in the area that offer a bit more peace and quiet compared to other areas of Paris. Some recommended hotels are:
- €€€€ – Hotel B55 (with small pool)
- €€€€ – Mercure Paris Place d’Italie
- €€€ – Urban Bivouac Hotel
You can find more accommodation options for the 13th arrondissement here.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about the nearby 5th, 6th and 14th arrondissements. A bientôt!