Guide Tour of the 13th arrondissement of Paris, France

The 13th arrondissement of Paris, also known as arrondissement of Gobelins, is one of the 20 arrondissements of the capital city of France. The 13th arrondissement is the reflection of a new young and accessible Paris. Eclectic and bubbling with culture, it reveals multiple facets. Cosmopolitan, resolutely innovative and dynamic, but also popular.

Best known for the China town in Paris, the 13th arrondissement home to Paris’s principal Asian community. The Quartier Asiatique, contains many high-rise apartment buildings. The 13th arrondissement also hosts the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand and the newly built business district of Paris Rive Gauche.

The 13th arrondissement of Paris is primarily a residential and business district in the southeast of Paris, on the Left Bank of the Seine. The heart of the arrondissement is the Place d’Italie. Circular in shape, it is the meeting point of the main avenues and boulevards of the borough, as well as the metro lines. This is where the districts of the arrondissement meet: Butte-aux-Cailles, Les Gobelins, Asian district. The Paris Rive Gauche area, being built along the Seine.

Due to the lack of well-known attractions, the 13th arrondissement not usually as a recommended tourist destination, But the increasingly rich Parisian culture has gradually filled the streets, such as bourgeois neighbourhoods and gardens, and dazzling graffiti and murals, makes the area full of sence of Parisian life.

The 13th arrondissement is a part of new development of the Paris rive gauche district, the second large-scale urbanism project which will bring a new gradually emerging Paris. To the west of the PRG, along avenue de Tolbiac is the first of these urbanism projects, Les Olympiades, with its raised esplanade and the latest of the Paris Meteor (high-speed metro) stops, Les Olympiades.

The 13th arrondissement is also full of historic and hidden places. Along the old route of the Bièvre, discover a Paris with village accents, through picturesque alleys and old factories. From the 14th century, the district became the center of Parisian manufacturing thanks to the waterways of the Bièvre which then criss-crossed the south of the capital. Stroll around the route of the Bièvre river, from the Manufacture des Gobelins to Petite Alsace via the preserved district of Butte aux Cailles, take the typical alleys sometimes flowery, sometimes decorated with street art and enjoy a moment steeped in history.

The Butte aux Cailles is a countryside in the heart of the capital, ideal for strolling, undoubtedly one of the most charming corners of all of Paris. Its village-like appearance, its small houses, its cobbled streets, its lively bars, its colorful storefronts, its street-art… The Chinese community of the 13th arrondissement being numerous. Restaurants, exotic supermarkets, red lanterns… To dive a little deeper into Chinese culture, every year an impressive parade is organized on the occasion of the Chinese New Year.

The charming Cité Fleurie with all the possible and imaginable species of flowers there, but 29 pretty workshops spread over 2000 m2 around a superb central garden. The district is a veritable open-air museum for Street-art, a real curtural journey with monumental frescoes painted on entire walls on many building.

Administrative quarters
Each Parisian arrondissement is administratively divided into four districts. For the 13th arrondissement, these are the following districts:

Quartier of Salpêtrière
The Salpêtrière district is the 49th administrative district of Paris located in the 13th arrondissement.The Hospital de la Salpêtrière, an old hospital founded in the seventeenth century and now part of the hospital complex of La Pitié-Salpêtrière.

Quartier de la Gare
The Gare district is the 50th administrative district of Paris. After the First World War, the district began to experiment with new urban planning policies aimed at making Paris a modern city. The major works of the 1960s that will profoundly change the face of the district, to make way for sets of blocks of buildings and high-rise towers open onto green spaces. The process of modernizing the district is still in progress with the Paris Rive Gauche operation. The establishment of the National Library of France in 1996, the arrival of line 14 (opening up the district) made it possible to restore a certain dynamism to this area.

Maison-Blanche district
The Maison Blanche district is the 51st administrative district of Paris located in the 13th arrondissement. At the first half of the 20th century then saw the completion of the urbanization of the district, marked in particular by the complete coverage of the Bièvre, the destruction of the fortifications, the construction of vast sets of low-cost housing (HBM) in brick orange and the erection of the Charléty stadium. In recent years, commercial area like the place of Italy, it took on its current appearance with the construction of the vast Galaxie shopping complex, topped by several tall towers.

Quartier Croulebarbe
The Croulebarbe district is the 52nd administrative district of Paris, located in the 13th arrondissement. This suburb was annexed to Paris under Louis XV. Its wealth was due both to its industrial character, linked to the Bièvre, upholsterers, dyers, tanners, brewers and butchers in particular, and to its still rural character, vineyards and meadows, and the ubiquitous limestone quarries to the south. The annexation of 1860 give the 13th arrondissement its present appearance. The lower part of rue Mouffetard was widened, which became the current avenue des Gobelins, and how the boulevards of Port-Royal, Arago and Saint-Marcel were laid out. Many other streets and squares in the district took on their present appearance.

Main Attractions
The 13th arrondissement mix with different atmosphere in terms of the architecture of the neighborhoods. Modern architecture near the François Mitterand library, small cobbled streets in the Butte aux Cailles district, a very pleasant stroll along the banks of the Seine, the ambient bustle of Place Italie and its shops.

Butte -aux-Cailles
Butte -aux-Cailles is a district of Paris, a former working-class district that has become trendy. The bucolic Butte-aux-Cailles deserves to be lost in its cobbled streets, its secret green alleys and its picturesque passages to soak up its rural and peaceful atmosphere. More and more guides recommend this area for its village atmosphere with cobbled streets, small parks and sunny terraces, also because of its many restaurants and cafes.

Rue du Moulins-des-Près is a collection of stone houses with facades decorated with bricks and mosaics. Villa Daviel and Square des Peupliers follow one another pavilions in brick or millstone with abundantly flowered gardens.

Rue Dieulafoy offers a beautiful perspective on elegant townhouses with pastel facades, while the Cité Florale, each street of which evokes a flower (rue des Glycines, rue des Orchidées, rue des Iris, rue des Liserons, rue des Volubilis…) is home to colorful little houses with charming gardens.

At 10th rue Daviel you can see the Petite Alsacewhich is a working-class town with half-timbered houses and pointed gables, inspired by Alsatian dwellings. Place Paul Verlaine, the swimming pool of the Butte-aux-Cailles in red brick and in the art deco style, classified as a Historic Monument, is one of the oldest swimming pools in the capital.

Télécom ParisTech (formerly École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications), which occupies the space between rue Barrault, rue Vergniaud, rue Tolbiac and rue Daviel, on the western slope. At the time of the École Supérieure des Postes & Télégraphes (ESPT), in 1934 it joined the premises vacated by the Noblet glove factory, as evidenced by the logo consisting of an N and two Cs inverted several times repeated on the facade of Barrault street.

On the main facade, at No.46 rue Barrault, there is a bas-relief dated 1962 and due to the sculptor Félix Joffre (1903-1989) and the architect Marcel Chappey. It bears the following inscription: “Man throughout the ages uses the elementary forces for transmissions. Six characters each symbolically use a form of transmission at a distance: sight, carrier pigeons, a trumpet, fire—probably in the form of smoke signals—clapping the hands and shouting.

Two steps away, still on the main facade, at no.42, another smaller bas-relief, by the same sculptor, bears the inscription “From the earth to the cosmos” and represents footprints humans as well as several stars.

La Butte aux Cailles is also picturesque streets preserved from major Parisian works. Its underground quarries made it a fragile territory that modernization projects like those of Baron Haussmann preferred to avoid. Stroll through its cobbled streets with village charm, Old workshops, workers’ houses and flower gardens dot the walk.

Asian districts of Paris
The Asian districts of Paris are Parisian districts where a significant proportion of the population of Asian origin is represented with shops and restaurants linked to their cultures of origin. The largest is the “Choisy triangle”, located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris between the avenues of Choisy, d’Ivry and the boulevard Masséna, as well as on the slab of the Olympiades and in the surrounding streets. Asians businesses is all around this area: restaurants, trinket shops, hairdressers and food stores, including the two large supermarkets Tang Frères (owned by a Laotian Chinese) and Paristore. On Chinese New Year’s Day, a large parade takes place which crosses the streets animated by the dances of lions and dragons.

Gobelins district
Gobelins district is situated on the left bank of the River Seine. It is home to Paris’s principal Asian community, the Quartier Asiatique, located in the southeast of the arrondissement in an area that contains many high-rise apartment buildings. Near the factory, the square René-Le Gallwith its rose garden and gazebos is ideal for a short break away from the hustle and bustle, with the Albert Tower in the background which dominates the district. This 67-meter building was the first skyscraper built to accommodate housing in the 1960s.

The Manufacture des Gobelins, whose facade is decorated with bas-reliefs representing weavers, has always been dedicated to the art of tapestry. It still produces pieces for the greatest palaces in France and around the world and is now affiliated with the Mobilier National. Avenue des Gobelins, the Jérome Seydoux-Pathé foundation, research and exhibition center for the seventh art is located in a former theater entirely covered with an aluminum shell signed by the architect Renzo Piano. Only the facade, sculpted by Auguste Rodin, has been preserved. The foundation offers screenings and temporary exhibitions.

Recognizable thanks to the bas-reliefs of its facade representing weavers, the Manufacture des Gobelins has been producing tapestries for French palaces for more than four centuries. Created in 1601 under the reign of King Henry IV during the rise of Flemish tapestry, it was a few decades later that it became the Manufacture royale des Gobelins.

In 1290, the widow of Saint Louis, Marguerite de Provence, then in traditional white mourning dress, had a residence built on the banks of the Bièvre. His name is then given to the whole islet. The Gobelin family later built their home and a set of manufacturing buildings there.

Paris Rive Gauche district
To the south-east, the 13th reveals an ultra-modern facet with the “Paris Rive Gauche” district located along the Seine. The Paris Rive Gauche district, or François-Mitterrand Library district, is a development operation in Paris which occupies the part of the 13th arrondissement located between the railway tracks of the Paris-Austerlitz station and the Seine, up to the peripheral boulevard. A large-scale urban planning operation has made it possible to rehabilitate former industrial land and carry out ambitious architectural projects. Avant-garde buildings such as the Home tower, the M6B2 biodiversity tower, the Duo towers, the T8 and Fulton buildings mix housing, The futuristic project for the bridge building, commerce, office, restaurant…

Cultural space
With its many facets and its openness to the most innovative projects, the 13th is a dynamic, booming district. Street art is everywhere in the 13th, in its streets, its main avenues or even on the facades of its buildings. A real open-air museum.

Many galleries such as La Fab. d’Agnès B., Yellow Cube Gallery, Itinerrance, Mathgoth, le Lavo//Matik or even L’Aiguillage exhibit the creations of French and international urban or contemporary art artists. Les Frigos installed in a former refrigerated building concentrates 87 workshops of painters, sculptors, photographers, stylists… The open days organized once a year allow you to discover this unique place of creation. Installed in the former Halle aux Farines, Bétonsalon is a contemporary art and research centerwhere artists, scientists, architects, sociologists and many other stakeholders express themselves through a varied artistic program.

A cultural institution par excellence, the National Library of France has nearly 30 million documents, including 14 million books. Temporary exhibitions, live shows, conferences and readings are organized there throughout the year. Nearby Le Petit Bain, moored at the port of the station, brings together a concert hall, a restaurant and a green terrace on the water. It programs many cultural activities.

The immense esplanade of the National Library of France, the heart of the Paris Rive Gauche district, is a real place of life that concentrates students in a hurry, young skateboarders or dynamic executives who take their lunch break there. A stone’s throw from the library, Station F is worth a detour. Created in 2017 on the initiative of Xavier Niel, in the Halle Freyssinet, this start-up incubator dedicated to digital technologies covers 34,000 m².

Initiated by the Galerie Itinerrance in partnership with the town hall of the 13th arrondissement, among the urban frescoes of the 13th not to be missed: the stencils of Miss Tic; boulevard Vincent Auriol the creations: “Turncoat” by D*Face, “Étang de Thau” by Maye, “Embrace and struggle” by Connor Harrington and “La Madre Secular 2” by ‘Inti; “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” and “Delicate balance” by Shepard Fairey or even Jeanne d’Arc “And I held my breath” by Fail.

Natural space
The little belt as in the majority of the arrondissements bordering Paris, are portions of the Petite Ceinture. Like today’s ring road, these train tracks circled the capital. Built in the 19th century and then abandoned, it is now gradually rehabilitated into green spaces and various gardens and gives the walks of Parisians a rural feel. Built in 1928, the floral city is made up of six alleys with amply flowered houses. The names of the streets are reminiscent of the horticultural identity of this little corner of paradise. Square René-Le Gall is very quiet with its rosebushes and four gazebos typical of the 1930s.