Budget Paris: 12 things to do in the 12th arrondissement

Posted in: Paris Sights

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Promenade Plantee
Strolling along the Promenade Plantée is one of the free highlights of the 12th arrondissement. Photo: Fiona C.

Paris has 20 arrondissements, and there is at least one reason to visit each. Well, sometimes there’s only one…

But the 12th, to the east of the city and on the Right Bank (north of the river), is one of the lesser-visited districts that still has plenty of reasons to spend a day. You don’t need to add it to the top of your list, but if you’re coming back to Paris or have found a hotel there that you like, you’re in luck—we’ve mustered up 12 things we like about the 12th.

Funny how that worked out, right?

Related: Best cheap hotels in the 12th arrondissement

1. Promenade Plantée

This old elevated train track runs from the Bastille and has a path that leads to the edge of the city. Renovated in the 1990s, the gardens are an oasis of green that offer a unique experience strolling or jogging through Paris.

2. Bercy Village

Old wine warehouses have cleverly been converted into a shopping center, complete with a movie theater, cafés and restaurants. Bercy Village isn’t the place to be, but it’s a change from the tourist-heavy center of Paris.

Marche Aligre

With an array of food and flea market items, Marché d’Aligre is a great place to shop in the 12th. Photo: Heather Cowper

3. Marché d’Aligre

An outdoor market that’s open every day but Monday, the Marché d’Aligre has it all. You’ll find fresh produce, cheese, charcuterie and a covered market that houses an olive oil vendor, a beer seller and fresh seafood among others. In the middle, there is often a flea market for other odds and ends.

Related: 10 tips for budget shopping at Paris outdoor markets

4. Blé Sucre

A bakery that is on the map, even if the location is a bit off the beaten path, everyone loves the croissants and pastries from Blé Sucre (7, rue Antoine Vollon). David Lebovitz has called their Madeleines the best in Paris. The owner used to work at the Bristol hotel (not a budget hotel) before opening this pastry shop.

5. The Bastille

The French Revolution started here in 1789, when, on July 14th, the people stormed the prison called the Bastille. While they succeeded and the uprising lives on in history books, the Bastille was dismantled. The column in the middle of the square where it once stood commemorates another uprising several decades later.

Gare de Lyon

Gare de Lyon is one of Europe’s grand stations to explore–even if you aren’t getting on a train. Photo: David M.

6. Gare de Lyon

One of the most beautiful train stations in the city, the Gare de Lyon is a point of pride in the 12th. And the best part is that its trains will whisk you down south to the waters of the Mediterranean, so you can either buy a ticket or watch the tanned Parisians coming off the trains and dream.

Related: Budget hotels near Gare de Lyon

7. Bois de Vincennes

One of the two enormous “green lungs” of the city, the Bois de Vincennes is a giant park that is districted into the 12th arrondissement. The historic chateau is a focal point of the woods, but it’s also good for wandering, row boating, and generally enjoying the nature you won’t find in the rest of Paris.

8. Zoo de Vincennes

Finally open after more than two years of renovations, the zoo adjacent to the Bois de Vincennes is a highlight of any animal-lover’s trip to Paris. It’s a great option for kids!

Port de l’Arsenal

Take a lovely walk and stop for an afternoon picnic along the canal at Port de l’Arsenal. Photo: Edhral

9. Port de l’Arsenal

The pleasure boats that line the end of the Canal St-Martin before it empties into the Seine is the perfect spot for a picnic on a lazy afternoon. Grab some food at the nearby market on boulevard Richard Lenoir (Thursday and Sunday) and settle down with some wine along Port de l’Arsenal.

10. Parc de Bercy

This little park next to the Bercy Village is unlike most other gardens in Paris. It’s divided into three parts and is full of little ponds, fountains, walkways and alcoves that are both wild and romantic.

11. Sparkling water in the Jardin de Reuilly

When Paris offers water fountains, of course they have a sparkling option to go with the still. In an effort to cut down on plastic bottles used for Perrier and other sparkling waters, the city opened the first public bubbly water fountain in Paris in this garden. Have a taste, fill up a bottle and save yourself a few euros.

Related: Why you should never buy water in Paris

12. Aquarium de la Porte Dorée

Built for the Colonial Exposition of 1931, this aquarium now houses 5,000 animals including crocodiles. It’s right next to the Bois de Vincennes, making it a great afternoon activity after exploring the greenery.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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