When most tourists visit Paris, places like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Moulin Rouge are often on the itinerary. There’s nothing wrong with that — especially if it’s your first time in the City of Light. But, those of us who live here know that there is so much more to discover.
Many of those places can be found in one neighborhood in particular: the 11th arrondissement. Located to the east of the Seine River, it’s nestled between the Place de la Bastille, Père Lachaise, Belleville, and Place de la Nation. Lots of locals hang out in the 11th (read: good restaurants, few tourists) as opposed to, say, the 1st. The crowds are young, cool, and possess an actual je ne sais quoi that everyone’s always going on about.
Known amongst Parisians for its nightlife, concert venues, and restaurants, there is much to see and do in the onzième.
There are small quartiers (quarters) within every arrondissement in Paris. Don’t get confused just yet — it’s similar to the American practice of designating separate villages within certain cities or towns.
Let’s begin with the most well-known quarter of the 11th arrondissement: Bastille. Home to the Place de la Bastille, a square that once held the famous Bastille prison. Said prison was stormed on July 14, 1789, an event that would mark the official beginning of the 18th-century French Revolution, a topic that will get my fellow TAIP author Stephen going, if you’re up for a coffee or a whiskey.
Today there is a monument called the Colonne de Juillet in the center of the place. After you’ve admired it up close, turn to see the Opéra Bastille, but know that the opera house is technically in the 12th arrondissement.
From there I recommend heading to the Marché Bastille if it’s a Thursday or a Sunday — the market is open from 7am on both days. Take a shortcut through the picturesque cour Damoye to head to the rue de la Roquette. Continue to wander the small, winding cobblestone roads until you get lost.
When I was an au pair, Oberkampf was the place to go out. Drinks and food are cheap, there are a ton of young people, and there are several venues for live music. If that sounds like your vibe, head to the rue Oberkampf to start.
Keep your eyes peeled for street art as there is plenty of that in the area. The Bataclan is amazing for live shows — you likely recognize the name as it was unfortunately the target of a terrorist attack in 2015. Don’t let that keep you from buying tickets for a show. There is now a small memorial out front that’s dedicated to those who were lost if you’d like to pay your respects before you go inside.
My favorite Italian restaurant of all time is located in the Oberkampf area. It’s unassuming and very easy to miss and you must make a reservation if you hope to get in. No, it’s not the ultra-Instagram-famous Ober Mamma. It’s called L’Osteria Dell’Anima and the quality of the meals I’ve enjoyed there rivals actual Italian food I’ve eaten in Italy. Yes, it’s that good.
If you do want to go out and hit the town running, head to Oberkampf any time after 9pm and you’ll find students, au pairs, and other young people bar hopping. Follow the sound of laughter and the smell of cheap beer — you’re in the right place.
Charonne holds a special place in my heart. I spent a lot of time there with my now-husband when we first got together, as in a former life I frequently cleaned an Airbnb property there. It’s quaint, lively, and full of terraces that are perfect for people-watching.
It’s another Parisian neighborhood that’s made up mostly of locals. Duke, a café on the corner of rue de Charonne and Boulevard Voltaire, is located just outside the Charonne metro station and is a great option for coffee.
Le Palais de la Femme further down the street is a homeless shelter for women that often hosts large vintage sales and other indoor markets to raise money. Waly Fay on rue Godefroy Cavaignac is one of my favorite places for West African food in the city. Septime La Cave, just a few minutes away on rue Basfroi, is my go-to wine bar in the 11th. If you want to get fancy, you can go to the Michelin-starred Septime (same owners, different location), but keep in mind reservations are weeks out, so you can’t just rock up and hope to get a table.
On the other side of the Boulevard Voltaire there’s Comets, a café and vinyl store that I’ve spent many a rainy afternoon in. Bar Outland, on a small side street, specializes in beer on tap and natural wines — it’s a fun place for a first date.
When you’re done, continue to stroll down rue de Charonne until you reach the Père Lachaise, and officially cross the border into the 20th arrondissement, which is also full of sites to see. But, that’s another neighborhood for another blog article.
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