The Canal Saint Martin slices through the north eastern section of Paris, connecting the Seine with canal systems further to the north. Its southern end is alongside the Boulevard de la Bastille, where it is open, but it then disappears below the Place de la Bastille and continues beneath the parks and gardens in the centre strip of Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Finally it emerges beyond the rue du Faubourg to continue its journey north. Along the way are various locks, as it climbs away from the Seine.
Apparently the covering of part of the canal (photos 2 and 3) was one of Baron Haussmann's 'city planning' moves. When I see the pleasant parks I must say that I found the outcome quite successful. It was interesting to see many Parisians relaxing in these pleasant surroundings. Then again, the open canal is delightful also.
I'd certainly suggest that the Canal is worthy of a visit, especially if you can find the time to walk alongside it (or along the parks of the covered section). I imagine it must be marvellous to travel on it in a canal boat: somewhere I recall hearing of a tourist trip doing that, so it might warrant some research if you have the time.
This is very lovely especially in the spring when the trees are in full leaf. There are steel bridges which cross the canal and places to sit along side it. You can find some cute shops and restaurants on the streets that run along side the canal.
Scenes from a famous French movie, Hotel du Nord, were shot in the Hotel du Nord, which is located at 102 quai de Jemmapes.
CORRECTION 4/21/07 from Beatchic@vt.com: "Hôtel du Nord was not filmed at the actual hotel, it was all studio. :( I'm writing a book about film sites in Paris and came across that tidbit myself. However, you have to admit they did a great job of making it look like the original!" Thanks for that info, Mary.---Forestqueennyc
Website for the hotel is http://www.hoteldunord.org/.
It's a very cute website, even if you don't want to stay there.
For barge trip and informations about the movie see the weblinks.
An excellent walk through Northeastern Paris, just follow the canal. Perhaps if you are lucky there will be a canauxrama cruise boat going by and you'll be able to see all the locks and moving bridges. Otherwise, there are cafés and parks along the route where you can relax, have a picnic or people watch.
Once again, not overly touristy, just a nice walk.
One of the pleasant walks in Paris, especially at the weekend when you're not stifled or agressed by the pollution of the traffic, as the canal does follow a very busy thoroughfare. The quai de Valmy and quai de Jemmapes are reserved for pedestrian traffic on Sundays.
The canal was originally constructed in the early 1800's as a link with the Canal de l'Ourq to bring fresh water into the city, now running into the Seine after passing under the place de la Bastille.
Consider taking a cruise on the canal as an alternative. See website below for cruises. Site is in French or English.
Good starting points for the walk are the Jaures at the north end or Republique in the south, metro stations
Canal Saint-Martin is a 4.5 km long canal in the eastern suburbs of central Paris that links Canal de l'Ourcq to the Seine. It was constructed in the early 19th century by order of Napoleon (the one who didn't need a number) with the intention of providing a transport link and additional freshwater source for a burgeoning Paris. The lower reaches of the canal (at Port de l'Arsenal and Bassin de la Villette) were constructed as port facilities to offload goods transported from upstream.
In these days of high speed travel, we tend to discount canals as anachronistic modes of transport whose main significance is as backdrops for tourist photo opportunities. Yet we forget that canals were one of the keys that served to unleash the Industrial Revolution in a pre-engine era, and hugely significant to the evolution of Europe as we now know it.
The advent of the 20th century, when the rise of rail, road and ultimately air travel eclipsed other more traditional forms of transport did not bode well for canals, and Canal St Martin slipped into inner city decay. At one point, the possibility of infilling the canal to construct a highway was seriously mooted, and it was not until the turn of the millenium that a renewed focus on urban upliftment lead to the 'gentrification' of what had become a sadly neglected and rundown area.
Today's Canal St Martin is a far cry from its former dilapidated self. Lined with slightly bohemian cafes, bars and restaurant, it is laid back and vibey, cosmopolitan and slightly edgy, its cool credentials endorsed by its inclusion as a location for the movie 'Amélie'. The canal is flanked by pedestrian paths (which sometimes incorporate cycle paths) and the lower reaches are punctuated by a series of well maintained public spaces incorporating small parks, playground and recreational facilities (see my sports tips on petanque and table tennis). And whilst it doesn't quite have the same picturesque quality or venerable antiquity of, for example, the canals of Amsterdam, it is somewhere that offers something for virtually everyone and a place where you'd have to try very hard not to have a good time.
And finally, a word of practicality. Much of the canal path - particularly the upper reaches - is cobbled rather than smoothly paved, so walking or pushing a pram or pushchair (stroller) is not quite the relaxing experience you may be anticipating!
The canal makes for a quite nice walk if you want to see something different. There are a couple of bars to get a drink in and on sunny Sundays there is often street entertainment a long with loads of people sat along the edges of it.
The canal dates from 1825. Barge traffic has almost disappeared, but the canal is still a very pleasant location for a stroll (it is about 2 miles long).
The canal narrowly escaped being turned into a boulevard during the barbaric modernization of Paris in the 1960s.
Two famous movies take place near the canal, Hotel du Nord, and Amélie.
La Grisette is a charming sculpture in Jardin Jules Ferry, which is one of the string of parks which overlie the tunnel linking Canal St Martin with Place de la Bastille.
If the poodle hairdo and raised skirt look like an illustration by Toulouse-Lautrec, then that's because that's exactly the era she's evoking. A 'grisette' is a term for an independent, working class woman who often engaged in liaisons with artists and other bohemian types. This statue was sculpted by Jean Descomps in 1909, and was placed in the area that would historically have been frequented by the original grisettes.
Easy, romantic and comfortable half-day, covering just 4.5 km (3 miles). There are two boat-providers: canauxrama (with modern, plush boats) go from the Arsenal (09.45 and 14.30); pariscanal leave from Musée d'Orsay (09.30 , 14.30). Both boats finish (and return from) at le Parc de la Villette. Both have commentaries in French and English.
We chose pariscanal because it starts on the Seine and passes several landmarks en route to the Canal St Martin. On the canal, you go through 19th century locks and swing-bridges; and also through a 1 km long tunnel, directly under the Place de la Bastille; arriving just 26 m higher than from where you started. The commentary described the many local areas (Parisians' Paris) through which we passed (lots of popular history): some neat stories in the English version, and jokey ones in the French! We passed folks strolling on the canalside under the chestnut trees, pretty boutiques and retro-style cafés; plus a bit of Paris-plage (deck-chairs and sand!).
The kids found the first few locks exciting (but got bored with them afterwards!) but thought the tunnel was the best bit. They got interested again when we arrived at the Parc de la Villette (Musée des Sciences, la Cité de la Musique, cafés, and modernist play-area). We grown-ups just enjoyed the intimate peacefulness of it all.
There are a series of five locks (about one a kilometre) along the Canal St Martin, which were built to allow barges to negotiate the height difference between Canal de l'Ourcq in the north and the Seine in the south.
Locks are effectively small compartments along the canal which are isolated by gates. Once the gates have been closed, water can be pumped into (or can be released from) the lock in order to equalise water levels with the surrounding canal, thus allowing barges to gain or lose altitude along the canal in a series of 'steps'.
Lock operation takes some time - usually about 15 minutes from entering to leaving - which makes barge travel on this section of canal a leisurely (some would say 'slow') process.
Paris Arsenal - also known as Bassin de l'Arsenal - is a port at the southern end of Place de la Bastille which links Canal St Martin to the canal to the Seine. Originally designed as a commercial port facility, it fell into decline in the 20th century and has since been redeveloped as a marina, housing both pleasure boats and permanently moored houseboats.
It is a very pleasant spot to loiter on a sunny day, watching people at play on their boats.
I haven't done it yet, but I've thought of doing it for years.
you may see Paris far from the polluted streets
There's also a restaurant on the bank of the canal, and a nice walk to do along the canal as well.