What to See and Do in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris?
Paris’ 13th arrondissement (district) is located on the Left Bank, at the south-east side of the city. It’s not known as one of Paris’ most touristy areas, due to its many high-rise buildings and perceived lack of traditional Parisian charm. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see or do in 75013. In fact, when you start writing down all the places of interest in the area (like I just did) you end up with a rich and varied list…!
Also known as the Triangle de Choisy, Paris’ Chinatown district actually initially consisted of Vietnamese refugees who arrived during the late 1970s following the Vietnam war. This wave was later followed by ethnic Chinese immigrants fleeing Communist regimes, who now represent the majority of Asian immigrants. Overall, it is estimated that the area contains 50,000 inhabitants of Asian descent, making it Europe’s largest Asian community.
‘Chinatown’ is loosely defined as the area within the Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry and the Boulevard Masséna. It is a fascinating place to walk around, with everything written in Chinese, even the store signs! We highly recommend you stop by the enormous Asian superstore Tang Frères, and have dinner at one of the excellent eateries in the district, such as Délices de Shandong (88 boulevard de l’Hôpital) or La Mer de Chine (159 rue du Château des Rentiers).
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France is where every single book, magazine, pamphlet – basically anything that has been published in France – is archived. The library now contains over 14 million books and printed documents, available to the public for consultation. There are two levels to the library: the Haut-de-Jardin, accessible to anyone with a BnF library card, and the Rez-de-Jardin, which is reserved for students of at least Masters level or professors.
The library offers guided tours of the building for only 3 euro per person (less for groups), and you can find a list of times on their website. There are also several interesting exhibitions well worth a visit, which you can check out here.
Buttes aux Cailles
Those who say the 13th arrondissement consists only of characterless tower blocks have never been to the Buttes aux Cailles neighborhood. Located on a hilltop, and accessible from the Corvisart metro stop, this picturesque area feels like a village thanks to its cobbled streets and charming passages. Head to the rue de la Butte aux Cailles to meet the hip and trendy southern Parisian crowd. Tourists are still relatively few here.
Around the Gare d’Austerlitz
Not a tourist attraction in itself, the Gare d’Austerlitz is the train station where you’d leave from if you wanted to visit to the charming nearby towns of Blois, Tours and Orléans, or to go further south to the cities of Nice and Toulouse. Next to the train station is the popular bar/club Wanderlust, which has one of Paris’ best open-air terraces. A little further on is the famous piscine Josephine Baker, a swimming pool on a boat, bobbing peacefully on the river Seine.
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