A Walking Tour of the Hippest Neighborhood in Paris
A Parisian High Line, a buzzy restaurant with a cocktail paring, a vibrant morning market, and the best pain au chocolat in Paris... How is the 12th arrondissement not on the top of every traveller’s to do list? Here’s how to spend an entire day walking Paris’ most vibrant neighborhood without missing a beat!
Start your morning in the heart of the neighborhood at charming bakery Blé Sucré, which sits on a lovely square filled with happy locals and children. You can’t miss it, thanks to the queue of hungry neighbors and the waft of freshly baked bread, which both span the entire block! Sit outside and sip un petit cafe and enjoy the best croissant in Paris (a bold statement, but trust me here), and watch the world go by... Don’t forget to grab a financier to go!
Now that you’ve had a small (or if you’re doing it right, large) breakfast, it’s time to walk it off! A couple minutes east of the bakery, down Avenue Ledru-Rollin, you’ll find Marché d’Aligre, one of the largest and most vibrant markets in Paris. Peruse the stalls of colorful produce and hawkers selling their fare. Grab some apricots or strawberries from the French countryside, if they’re in season... and save them for a picnic at the next stop.
Walk all the way down rue d’Aligre and take a left - you’ll run into an elevated park called La Coulée Verte, which some consider to be the High Line of Paris. You’ll understand the comparison, but will appreciate France’s counterpart, boasting far less foot traffic and gorgeous landscaping. A short walk to the west toward central Paris will bring you to the end of the promenade, at Bastille, and a much longer walk to the East affords secluded gardens, parks, plaques detailing the history of the area, and a peek or two into some stunning private courtyards.
A long walk along La Coulée Verte might leave you a tad peckish, so head to lunch at a quaint new spot tucked away off of the bustling Avenue Ledru-Rollin, headed by a Omar and Moko, a couple who oversee the entire (tiny!) space: Omar takes care of the vegetables and meats, while Moko, a former pastry chef at Michelin-starred yam’Tcha, assembles the desserts! They design the menu every morning based on what’s fresh from the market, so you’re always in for a wonderful surprise.
After a bite to eat at Mokonuts, you’re a stone’s throw from one of Paris’ best (and actually affordable!) shopping streets. Rue de Charonne is home to a bevy of local French designers, offering pieces you won’t find anywhere else. Start at the southern end of the street at Avenue Ledru-Rollin, and work your way up. Highlights include La Botte Gardiane and Pete Sorensen, French shoemakers known for their beautiful handmade leather and suede boots. You’ll also find recognizable brands like French cool girl label Isabel Marant and Cos, whose rows of fairly- priced basics will entice you for hours. Don’t miss French labels Sessun and FrenchTrotters, as well as Belgian label Bellerose.
Be sure to check out some of rue de Charonne’s surrounding streets, especially rue de Lapse and rue des Taillandiers, where you’ll find Alain Ducasse’s temple to chocolate, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, and Come on Eileen, a gorgeously curated vintage shop with one of a kind pieces dating back to the early 1900s.
If you need a break from shopping, check out Galerie Patrick Seguin, a contemporary gallery and exhibition space that’s always showing cutting-edge art and design. Or, if you’re in need of some true relaxation, duck into Maison Dr. Hauschka, one of Paris’ finest day spas, offering facials, massages, and a break from it all... Just be sure to book in advance!
Once you’ve explored rue de Charonne and hopefully found a few special pieces to bring home, it’s time to unwind. The neighborhood boasts two of the best natural wine bars in Paris: La Cave Septime, a cozy den next to famed neo-bistro Septime, and open-air La Cave du Paul Bert, both of which offer a depth of natural wines and fantastic small plates to snack on. Whichever you choose, save some room for dinner!
One of Paris’ most creative kitchens can be found on the quiet rue Saint-Denis. Taiwanese chef Taku Sekine serves a five-course dégustation with cocktail pairings. The marriage of Japanese flavors and French composition that Taku creates are unlike anything else. Book a set of seats at the bar to watch the young chef at work.
After a long day of walking, shopping, and eating, you’re likely ready for a snooze, but if you’re in the mood for a nightcap, walk over to Moonshiner, a speakeasy hidden in De Vito pizzeria near Bastille. Ask Tony for a Moonshiner, and he’ll guide you into one of Paris’ coolest cocktail parlors to cap off your night.