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Paris Canal Saint Martin

Updated on June 8, 2015


The Canal Saint-Martin is entirely located in Paris, with a length of 4.5 kilometers and passes through the 19th, 10th, 11th, 4th and 12th districts.

The boring of canal St Martin was first thought by king Louis XIV "le Roi Soleil" (Sun king!) and decided in 1802 by Napoléon 1st, in order to supply out Paris of water and to cut a loop of the river Seine. The Canal Saint Martin connects the Seine river in Paris to the Canals de l'Ourq and Saint Denis, and then goes into the Seine again. This shortcut allows boats a 12 km saving. Work is started in mai 1822 . The canal is inaugurated in november 4th 1825.The canal is 4,5 km long, and connects Villette basin to the Arsenal harbor. The canal becomes underground when the Quai de Jemmapes is crossing the faubourg du Temple street. It appears again in free after the place de la Bastille, to constitute the harbor of the Arsenal. The banks of Canal Saint-Martin are classified by Unesco since 1990. Today, the canal is a popular destination for Parisians and tourists who watch the barges navigating the series of locks (9) and road bridges. There are also a number of popular restaurants and bars all along. The area is popular with students.

We offer a journey into two stages : first from Arsenal harbor to place dela Bastille, second from Place de la République to bassin de la Villette.

Canal Saint-Martin
Canal Saint-Martin | Source

From the river Seine to place de la Bastille

You can take a cruise on Canal St Martin from Paris Arsenal Marina to the Parc de la Villette or inversely. You have a romantic trip of around 2.30 hours to do. On most of boats, you can hear comments about the history of the districts as you cruise along the canal, lined with hundred year old trees and spanned by elegant footbridges. You will be taken through four double locks with swirling waters and two swing bridges.
Since 2007 Paris plage takes place on the banks of the canal, from 21th of july to 21th of august, with sandy beaches, dances, activities ....

Along the banks, lined with hundred year old trees, pretty boutiques and charming retro style cafés, you can see peaople strolling on the banks.

Coming from port de l'Arsenal you go in the tunel under la Bastille, Bd Richard Lenoir. Then, you arrive in canal St Martin. The part outdoor of Canal St Martin extends from place de la République (not far away) to the bassin de la Villette, with the Rotonde, formerly pavilion guards for town dues granting of General Farmers built by Ledoux in 1784. The bassin was refurbished

Opera Bastille

The Opera Bastille, designed by Carlos Ott and inaugurated in 1989, is devoted to opera. It is located Place de la Bastille in Paris. Its architecture is marked by transparent façades and by the use of identical materials for both the interiors and the exteriors. With its 2,700 acoustically consistent seats, its unique stage facilities, its integrated scenery, costume and accessory workshops, as well as its numerous work areas and rehearsal rooms, the Opera Bastille is a great modern theatre. Opera Garnier, located on the Place de l'Opera is the other place assigned to the National Opera of Paris.

The Column of July

You can see that column in the center of place de la Bastille, where was a medieval fortress, which became an infamous prison, taken by parisiens on july 14th 1789. That date is the National day for french.

The July column was erected in 1839, it is made of bronze, 46.3 m high. Contrarily to what people often, think it has not been raised in honour of the storming of the Bastille, but in commemoration of the 3 days of the revolution. This revolution led to the downfall of King Charles X and the absolute monarchy and the establishment of constitutional monarchy, with the reign of Louis-Philippe I, Duke of Orleans. These days are named "les 3 glorieuses" (3 glorious). The bronze drum of the column bears the engraved names of 504 victims of the revolutionary days of July.On the bottom of the column, it is written: "At the glory of french citizens who took arms and fought for the defence of public freedoms in the memorable days of 27, 28, 29 July 1830. "

The foundations of the column include burial vaults that shelters the spoils of 504 victims of the revolutionary days of 1830. After the revolution of 1848, the ossuary received 200 new bodies of the victims of that period.
The top of the column is decorated with a gilded bronze sculpture of Auguste Dumont: the "Genius of Liberty", commonly known as "Génie de la Bastille".

Plan canal Saint Maritn
Plan canal Saint Maritn | Source

From Place de la République to La Villette

During your trip, you will pass in front of he Hotel du Nord, 102 quai de Jemmapes (metro east station,) made famous by Marcel Carné's film, with Louis Jouvet and Arletty, with her famous " Atmosphère, atmosphère". From the hotel of the beginning, stays only the frontage. But we know that Marcel Carné's film was made in studio, with Trauner's stage sets. One advice : if possible go to the canal on sunday, beacause between 11h am to 6h pm, part of banks are free of cars (and boutiques, cafés, restaurants are opened).

In June, the festival Voice over banks meet on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, in the garden Villemin and around 120 a capella choir, which represents nearly 3,000 singers. You can hear both a classical repertoire that jazz, soul ...

Hôpital St Louis

The King Henri IV of France ordered the construction of this hospital in May 19, 1607, following a new pest fever (at the same time than the place Dauphine or the Place des Vosges, one of the courtyard was built on the model of the Place des Vosges).
Built with white stone blocks, red brick and blue slates, the whole building is one of the first classic buildings . At the time of its construction, the buildings were located outside the walls of Paris to isolate patients with pest. Classified as a historic monument, the hospital has received major restoration work.

Square Villemin and ancient Couvent des Recollets

Quai de Jemmapes, bording the canal, there is a nice garden. It takes place where was the couvent (convent) des Recollets. The convent was founded in the early 17th century by Marie de Medici, to house unordre begging. In the 19th century, the convent becomes a military hospital. In 1926, when the extension of the Gare de l'Est, the cloister was half destroyed. It was closed in 1968 due to dilapidation. In 1973 an extension of Saint-Louis hospital was created, dedicated to military. Since 2004, is installed the "House of Architecture" belonging to the order of the architects of the Ile-de-France, and a International lodging center. It is possible to take a drink in the small garden which is on the side of the building and which is a small haven of peace in two steps away from the east railway station.

The place whereabouts the ancient gibbet of Montfaucon

Facing the canal you can see an interesting block of buildings. You must visit this place surrounding a sports field. It is very interesting to enter this city, which overlooks the Place du Colonel Fabien and the canal St Martin. It has a fine example of popular housing that does not neglect the quality of life ... This set was erected in 1981, under the auspices of the architects Robert Locre, Pierre Chaussade. and Jacques Labro

At this place was the "gibet de Montafaucon" mentioned by the poet François Villon. The gibbet was built during the reign of king St Louis. At first wooden gibbet , on two floors, succeeded in masonry construction, during the reign of king Charles IV the Fair. After the construction of the hospital St Louis, the gibbet fell into desuse.Il was finally destroyed in 1760.

The Canal in Arts


Canal St Martin by Eric Vançon
Canal St Martin by Eric Vançon | Source


  1. The canal is featured in the 1938 movie Hôtel du Nord, directed by Marcel Carné .
  2. In Les malheurs d'Alfred (1972), Pierre Richard and Anny Duperey meet at the beginning of the movie, trying to commit suicide in the canal (comedy).
  3. The canal is featured in the 2001 movie in Amélie of Montmartre (le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) , by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, with Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain who enjoys skipping stones at the locks of the canal (comedy).

© 2015 Discover the World


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