Most visitors to Paris are no strangers to La Seine, the river that runs through the City of Lights and boasts beautiful views, including those of the Notre Dame and the Musée d’Orsay. Many are, however, a degree (or many) less familiar with Canal Saint-Martin, a body of water that meets La Seine at the Quai de la Rapée in the 4th arrondissement and runs north.
Indeed, a walk along Canal Saint-Martin is a walk into uncharted territory for the many visitors who like to stay central, detouring only to see the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœur. This canal, however, is filled with an undeniable charm that manages to delight those who venture to it and is a definite hot spot for many of the more long-term residents of the city. On the sunny days of Spring and Summer one can find groups of French and internationals alike sprawled out on the grass (or more likely, seemingly sitting ever so comfortably on the concrete), drinking wine out of plastic cups and cutting into the sausages and cheese they picked up from the local supermarket.
The most frequented part of the canal would likely be the Quai de Jemmapes in the 10th arrondissement, just walking distance from République. Go around this area in the evening of any beautiful day and you would be something beyond lucky to find a place to sit. However, if you’re not immediately discouraged by the number of people and continue your quest farther along the canal, you’ll notice the crowd thinning out and spots emerging, generally among those from “Paname” (as some Parisians may refer to their city), who enjoy escaping the crowds from time to time.
The canal, though, offers more than a place to stroll or picnic on those sun-filled Parisian days; it is home to many of Paris’ hidden treasures waiting to be dug up come rain or shine. One of my personal favorites is Café Craft, a concept café located immediately before the canal on Rue des Vinaigriers. The café is a refuge for job hunters or freelancers who seek solitude in the company of others. The idea behind this work sharing café is that at a cost of 3€/hr. there is unlimited internet access, food, and drink. (Eg. If you buy a cappuccino at 4.5€ you get an hour and a half of internet use). Moreover, the baristas, who are some of the warmest in the city, have excellent English skills and can clearly explain the concept if need be.
Just over the canal from Café Craft is another charm of Paris: Le Comptoir Général. This museum/bar with its airy, outdoor vibe and offbeat vintage style is well worth a look around. My personal advice would be to go during the day and grab a drink from the bar (they are famous for their ginger juice if you’re not in the mood for alcohol) because as evening moves closer so do the crowds.
Lastly, a trip to this fashion capital wouldn’t be complete without at least a peek into some of its many shops, but a glimpse at some of the prices might send you running for the hills. This is where a small street called Rue de Marseille (in the vicinity of both Café Craft and Le Comptoir Général) comes in handy. It offers well-known brands from Maje to A.P.C. at half the price. Though the items in these stock stores are from past seasons, they often still manage to capture that ethereal and effortless French beauty.
Written by our Paris Network Developer, Krystal Kenney
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