- October 24, 2018
- All things Paris
- Rupert Comer
Often disregarded as a sleepy, residential neighbourhood and playground for Paris’ snooty super rich, the 16th arrondissement has in reality much to offer while remaining firmly outside of the tourist trap. Here you can find some of the city’s best art, one of its biggest parks, and all within a unique Art Nouveau architectural setting. Comparable to London’s Kensington and Chelsea or New York’s Upper East Side, the 16th may be one of Paris’ most affluent areas but it retains the relaxing and charming feel of a village within a city. In fact, much of the area was originally composed of villages before being absorbed into the city of Paris. Don’t be fooled by the relaxed atmosphere, the 16th is a vibrant melting pot of food, art and nature. Take a look at our guide below to discover the best on offer in this underrated neighbourhood.
The best of contemporary art - Palais de Tokyo
While it doesn’t have its own permanent collection, Palais de Tokyo is easily one of the best places in Paris to catch contemporary art exhibitions. As well as celebrating emerging French and international talent, the gallery has in the past also hosted exhibitions from big stars in the art world such as France’s JR and New York’s Guerilla Girls. Always forward-looking, its exhibitions often place an emphasis on technology and interactivity, whilst remaining accessible to those unfamiliar with the world of contemporary art. The building itself features impressive Neoclassical architecture, and the court at the back has a trendy bar with views of the seine and the Eiffel Tower.
Views of the Eiffel Tower - Trocadéro gardens
The Eiffel Tower may stand in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, but the best views of this iconic landmark are without a doubt across the river in the 16th. Don’t waste your time in the absurdly long queues to climb the monument and instead take it in from the Trocadéro Gardens, with its beautiful fountains and sculptures, right in front of the majestic Palais de Chaillot. The best time to go is after nightfall, when you can enjoy a five minute lightshow from the tower every hour on the hour. This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy a picnic on the grass. Or, during the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14th, you are ideally placed to take in the fireworks display around the Eiffel Tower.
More than just a park - Bois de Boulogne
Often referred to as the “lungs” of Paris (alongside the slightly larger Bois de Vincennes), Bois de Boulogne is a massive park in the west of the 16th, and is more than twice as large as New York’s Central Park. With 15 km of cycle routes and the possibility to hire wooden rowing boats on the Lac Inférieur, the park offers much more than just a nice spot to have a picnic. Several restaurants can be found in Boulogne (including the Michelin-starred Le Pré Catalan), and there is even the Jardin Shakespeare, a beautiful green garden, transformed each spring into an outdoor theatre, where plays from the famous English playwright are put on.
Art and Architecture - The Fondation Louis Vuitton
Protruding out of the scenic Bois de Boulogne like a sort of futuristic giant glass sail, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is a striking piece of modern architecture. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry (best known for his titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao), it is worth a visit just to see the building even if you don’t venture inside to take a look at the art. The gallery tends to focus on artists from the 20th century, and past exhibitions include a deep look into the artistic scene of South Africa. At the moment two greats are showing, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Egon Schiele. With entry to both exhibitions for the price of one ticket, spectators can compare the classic Expressionism of Schiele with Basquiat’s more modern take. Take a look at their website to find out more about current exhibitions, guided tours and evening openings.
An intimate look at the life of a French author - Maison de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac was a hugely influential French realist writer, whose famous series of novels known as La Comédie Humaine provides an extensive portrayal of French society after the fall of Napoleon. Balzac spent much of his time writing in his house in the heart of the old Passy village, now part of the 16th arrondissement. The last existing residence of a famous author in Paris, you can visit this house turned museum to see old manuscripts, paintings and relics, bringing life to Balzac and his family’s time there. Here Balzac wrote some of his most celebrated works in a coffee-fueled frenzy. Often writing throughout the night and sleeping during the day, he claimed to have once even worked for a 48 hour stretch, with just a three hour break in the middle. Plan your visit to Maison de Balzac here.
Tour the Neighbourhood’s Art Nouveau Architecture
The 16th is also home to the majority of Paris’ beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. A style taking inspiration from natural forms such as the curved lines of flowers, it was most popular between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Hector Guimard, the architect behind Paris’ iconic metro signs, made his mark on the area with a splattering of buildings all in the Art Nouveau style. On Rue Jean de la Fontaine you can take a look at his masterpiece Castel Béranger, before taking a coffee at Café Antoine, sticking out from another of his famous facades. This is just the beginning, as the 16th is full of impressive architectural works by Guimard, as well as many other modernist architects. Follow this link for a more comprehensive trail.
Classic French Theatre, English Subtitles - Théâtre Ranelagh
Once part of the old Château de Boulainvilliers, an estate that was knocked down to make way for the expanding city of Paris, Théâtre Ranelagh survived and is listed as one of the city’s ‘historical monuments’. Stepping into the auditorium (which seats 300) you will be amazed by the impressive looking ceiling and ornate wood panelling. Designed in the typical French style, seats at the Ranelagh all face the stage directly giving the auditorium a rectangular shape. Putting on French classics from famous playwrights such as Victor Hugo and Molière, the Ranelagh is a much loved Paris institution. However, do not be put off by the language barrier as much of its programme is accessible to English-speaking audiences thanks to surtitles provided by Theatre in Paris. To see what classic French shows are currently playing with surtitles, take a look at this link.
Pay your respects to France’s famous - Passy Cemetery
While smaller and not as well known as the famous Père Lachaise and Montparnasse cemeteries, Passy cemetery has its own unique charm, and plenty of notable figures have been buried within it gates. Here you will find the graves of some of France’s most influential artists, from the painter who inspired the impressionist movement, Édouard Manet, to the composers Claude Debussy and Gabriel Fauré. Alongside artists and musicians, Passy cemetery also houses some more obscure figures. Take for example, the Renault family, founders of the multinational car manufacturer, and Bảo Đại, the last emperor of Vietnam, both of whom have a resting place here. These figures and many more can be located on the map of the cemetery; follow this link.
Grab some Parisian treats - ROY Chocolatier
A veritable Parisian institution, the chocolatier ROY has been providing the 16th arrondissement with exquisite chocolates and confections since 1948. Famous especially for its macarons and chocolate tiles, a trip to ROY chocolatier is the perfect opportunity to buy an incredible, albeit pricey, gift. An extra bonus is that ROY deliver all over the world, and offer beautifully wrapped gift boxes.
Incredible French Produce - Marché Président Wilson
A typical Parisian open air food market, head over to Avenue Président Wilson on Wednesday and Saturday to shop like a local. Whether you’re looking for meat, fish, cheese, flowers, or even Foie Gras, Marché Président Wilson has it all, and good quality is assured. The French love to have a strong connection with their food and its producers, and that’s why you will see many of them come to markets like this for the weekly shop rather than heading to the supermarket. Bring plenty of shopping bags, and expect to hear shouting across the stands as vendors try to sell you their goods.
A piece of New York City in Paris - Statue of Liberty Replica
As well as being a symbol of freedom and a welcoming sight to generations of immigrants who made their way to New York, the Statue of Liberty also represents the close relationship between France and the US. Many people know that the statue was a gift from France to the US, but few have heard of the replica that was gifted in return. Right by the Pont de Grenelle on the artificial island known as Île aux Cygnes, on the Seine, the statue was donated by American citizens living in Paris, in 1889, three years after the inauguration of the original. Looking at the statue you will see the imposing Eiffel Tower in the background and you may feel as though you have been transported to a bizarre hybrid between New York City and Paris. Plenty of photo opportunities to be found here!
Bonus locations in the 16th arrondissement of Paris
- The birthplace of French writer Marcel Proust
- Visit the last residence of Victor Hugo himself (explore all his Parisian haunts here)
- The Paris Aquarium is one of the first aquariums in the world, a visit to Cineaqua is perfect for the whole family
- Discover Paris' national museum of Asian art at the Musée Guimet
- Explore the origins of mankind at the Musée de l'Homme
So there you have it, a collection of must-see locations in Paris' often forgotten 16th arrondissement. Care to explore some more Parisian neighbourhoods? Check out some other Paris Neighbourhood Guides in the series!