The Canal Saint-Martin, a place to relax and stroll in Paris

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The banks of the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris

With its locks, peaceful waters and shady quays, Paris is the perfect place to relax or stroll in a romantic atmosphere.


The idea of diverting the waters of the Ourcq and Marne rivers to supply the capital dates back to the 16th century. Dreams of François 1er, studies under Henri IV, decree in 1790 by the National Assembly, the projects never came to fruition. Bonaparte embellished the quays, planted trees and built bridges. But it wasn't until 1802 and 20 years of work, between 1805 and 1825 (the inauguration date), that the Canal Saint-Martin and its economic activity were born.

The town bought 168 properties along the canal route. Initially open to the public, it was later partly covered to build a bridge and create arches, which required the installation of a lock.

The aim, initiated by Haussmann and Belgrand, was to make it underground to avoid splitting Paris in two. Home to warehouses, factories and industries, it was for a long time a veritable dumping ground, with a bad reputation due to its potential for being a dangerous and unfriendly place to live.

The departure of industry to the suburbs and the decline of the barge business in favor of automobile freight will change the environment and open the door to recreational boating and a new landscape.

Canal Saint-Martin, a meeting place

The canal

The canal links the Bassin de la Villette to the Bassin de l'Arsenal, a 4.5 km stretch of water embellished by two swing bridges and nine locks (four double and one single). It joins the Seine at Place de la Bastille. The famous footbridge overhanging the Récollets lock is a poetic and humorous reminder of Arletty and her famous line: "Atmosphère, Atmosphère, est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'Atmosphère?" in Marcel Carné's film Hôtel du Nord, starring Audrey Tautou and Amélie Poulain. Hôtel du Nord was actually shot in a studio, but it left its very Parisian mark on the canal.

Bichat footbridge and Récollets locks, Canal Saint-Martin, Paris.

The surrounding area has become one of the hottest spots in Paris (galleries, boutiques, restaurants and cafés), but nothing can really take away from the picturesque beauty and atmosphere along the canal.


The Canal Saint-Martin is cleaned every eight years. The water is completely removed, the fish are netted out and then exiled to the Canal de l'Ourq. The bottom of the canal is then dredged. A sight well worth seeing.

How do I get there?

10th and 11th arrondissements. Metro Bastille, Bréguet-Sabin, Richard-Lenoir, Saint-Ambroise, Jaurès. Here's a place of retro charm, where barges, fishermen and onlookers are part of the décor, as are the banks, which host a host of popular and seductive little activities. Go for a relaxing stroll!

Where to sleep nearby

A charming, comfortable hotel just a few steps away: The Taylor Hotel