Canal Saint Martin Paris

Guide to the Beautiful Canal Saint-Martin Area of Paris

The Canal Saint-Martin and its surrounding areas are, for me, some of the most authentically Parisian quarters of the city. It’s a part of the city where real Parisians hang out, shop and eat and drink.

It stretches about 2.8 miles or about 4.5km in length and runs from the Bassin de la Villette all the way down to the the Bastille and then finally joins the Seine.

canal saint-martin guide Paris

By following the canal and exploring the surrounding areas, you’ll pass through diverse and eclectic parts of the city. It’s a fantastic way to see areas that are way off the beaten tourist path and experience another, underrated part of the city.

As someone who has lived in Paris for 8 years, I personally think it’s a great way to see the other, authentic side of Paris. This guide has my recommendations on what to see, do and where to eat and drink.

Quick History of the Canal Saint-Martin

Envisioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Canal Saint-Martin was primarily built to bring additional drinking water into the city.

Construction started in the 1822 was opened 3 years later in 1825. The majority of the canal is open but interestingly about 2km of it is underground. This was intentionally designed in order to aid police and troops access the north arrondissements to quell political unrest.

history canal Saint Martin

The canal saw increased commercial traffic in the 19th and 20th centuries as the demand for goods import in the city grew. Nowadays the canal is mainly used for pleasure craft and boat tours.

What to See and Do

Walk Along the Canal

A large part of the 3 mile canal is open and it makes for a lovely walk way far from the tourist crowds. Starting from the Bassin de la Villette, you can walk down to close to the Place de la République to the Passerelle des Douanes where the Canal goes underground.

summer in Paris canal Saint Martin
lock canal Saint Martin

Tip: I’d suggest starting from the Bassin de la Villette which you can reach easily on Metro line 2. The walk down to central Paris is fantastic and you’ll go through many different areas of the city.

The walkable section takes around 25 minutes to complete at a medium pace and passes through a diverse part of the city. I’d advise stopping off at the section around the Square des Recollets as this is where the majority of shops, bars and cafés are.

locals next to canal Paris

Go Shopping!

The area around and close to the Place de la République is great for shopping. There’s plenty of independent boutiques, French fashion houses and lots of vintage clothing and furniture stores.

Antoine et Lili is independent women’s clothing shop which is very of the area (Parisian bobo chic).

Just down from Antoine et Lili there’s a fantastic bookstore, Artazart, which mainly has French books but they do stock plenty of art, photography and food coffee table books.

artazart book store Paris

Walk down Rue Beaurepaire and you’ll find plenty of great independent shops including:

  • Agnés B – both mens and women’s fashion
  • Octave – liquor and wine shop
  • Limousine – vintage clothes
  • Debongout – vintage and up cycled furniture

Have a Picnic Next to the Water

When in the trendy 10th arrondissement, do as the locals do! On any sunny, warm day the Canal becomes buzzing with locals who meet to socialise, have apéro and after work drinks.

canal saint-martin picnic

The canal is lined with ledges which is the perfect spot to sit down right next to the water’s edge.

Good to Know: During the warmer months there are temporary toilets put in place and there’s plenty of small supermarkets on the canal to get food and drinks.

Take a Boat Tour Down the Canal

One of the best ways to see the Canal Saint-Martin and the section that’s inaccessible by foot is by taking a boat tour down the canal.

boat tour

The tour goes down through Bastille to the River Seine allowing you to see parts of the city that even a lot of the locals don’t know about.

You can buy tickets in advance (recommended during the summer) here:

Explore the Marché Saint-Martin

When in Paris you have to explore the city’s incredible markets and the Marché Saint-Martin is a gem of a market.

Popular with locals, the covered market has some great cheese, charcuterie, fruit and vegetable stands to discover. There’s also a great wine stand where you can pick up an excellent bottle for a picnic.

Where to Eat & Drink


You’re spoiled for choice in terms of cuisines and price ranges in the area. There are so many good restaurants but here’s a round up of my personal favorites.

Gros Bao is a great spot for some modern Chinese cantine style cuisine. They serve up Chinese roast meat (pork belly and Peking duck) as well as some incredible Bao buns (including Char Siu pork and Chicken & Mushrooms).

canal saint Martin restaurant gros bao

Early June is a foodie favourite in Paris. The small intimate bistro hosts chefs from around around the world for short duration residencies. The format is small sharing plates but the food is always great.

After modern French food? Check out Le Verre Volé which is right next to Early June. They serve some killer plates inspired by classical French food but with some international twists.

If you’re wanting a quick lunch then you can’t go wrong with a crépe from Briezh Café. They do the best crépes in the city and add some delicious, subtle Japanese touches.

breizh cafe canal saint-martin

If you’re wanting other options, check out:

  • SAaM – for great Korean street food
  • Sur Mer – for oysters and small seafood sharing plates
  • El Guacamole – for tacos and Mexican food

Check out my list of the best restaurants in Paris and best bistros in Paris for more options in the city!

Cafés & Bars

I love the Canal Saint-Martin area for coffee and drinks – it’s as good if not better than the 11th arrondissement.

My favourite café/bar has to be Chez Prune which is right next to the canal. It’s authentic as it gets and you’ll be hanging out with a cool local crowd.

If you’re after craft cocktails in a cool setting check out Le Comptoir Général.

On the hunt for craft beer? BBP Canal Paris is a great spot for Belgian beer.

FAQ: Canal Saint-Martin

Where is the Canal Saint-Martin?

The Canal Saint-Martin is principally in the city’s 10th arrondissement which is in the north of the city, on the right bank.

Is It Safe?

Yes the area is relatively safe although from personal experience there are always some sketchy characters at night. I’ve never had any problems and it’s an area that’s always full of people.

How to Get to the Canal Saint Martin

You can access the north of the canal by taking the Metro Line 2 to the Jaurès station.

Alternatively you can go to République on lines 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11 and walk around 7-10 minutes to reach the middle of the canal.

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