- November 19, 2018
- All things Paris
- Rupert Comer
A few steps away from the picturesque Canal Saint-Martin and the hip Belleville district, République is much more than a well-connected métro station. The surrounding area remains a favourite among Parisians, and whether you are looking for a drink, museum, or night out at the theatre, you won’t have to walk far to find something brilliant. Not only a local cultural hub, the central square of République is a major meeting point, the starting and ending point of many parades and gatherings. From concerts to food festivals to humanitarian organisations, there’s always something going on under the beautiful statue of République! Once you’ve had a chanc to admire her, take a deeper dive into this bustling Parisian neighbourhood to discover its many hidden secrets. We’ve compiled a list of all the best hidden places and activities in the République neighbourhood, so next time you need to change at the busy République metro, get off instead and see what it has to offer!
The heart of Paris - Place de la République
The heart of République and arguably the heart of the city itself, this symbolic square features the iconic “Monument to the French Republic”. The statue on top of this monument depicts Marianne (the personification of France) holding an olive branch, as well as a tablet engraved with the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man, from the French revolution. Nowadays it serves as a venue for various food festivals and events, and is often the final destination for political demonstrations and marches in the capital. Come and sit down here on a summer’s evening and you’ll be sure to find plenty of Parisians chatting and drinking with friends.
An iconic venue - Palais des Glaces
This iconic venue has been home to circus, concerts, cinema and theatre in the past, and has even seen the likes of Nina Simone and The Clash perform on its stage. Today the Palais des Glaces puts on a range of plays with a particular emphasis on comedy. Named after its famous original facade composed entirely of mirrors, you’ll now see the equally distinctive elephant sculpture at the front. Currently Speakeasy is showing there until January 2019. The show combines circus acrobatics and cabaret dancing, all set within the world of clandestine New York speakeasy bars. Transport yourself to the 1930s gangster underworld and grab your Speakeasy tickets here, and see if anything else is playing at the Palais des Glaces.
Watch a comedy in English - Théâtre BO St Martin
Théâtre BO St Martin was born out of a collaboration between two television professionals who needed a venue for their new live show, eventually deciding to transform a comic book shop into this intimate theatre. The BO most frequently puts on comedy plays and stand-up, and always manages to attract a young audience. There is also good choice here for an English-speaking audience. Julie Collas’ one-woman show Oh My God She’s Parisian is entirely in English and will have you in stitches as she recounts her day-to-day struggles living in Paris. You can find your Julie Collas tickets here.
Laundrette or bar? - Lavomatic
This bar might not be as secret as it claims to be, with queues and a bouncer outside. However, The Lavomatic is still undeniably a unique experience. At first glance it appears to be just another ordinary laundrette, but inside is a secret door disguised as a washing machine, leading to a bar upstairs. Small yet chic, Lavomatic sells wine, cocktails and small plates, with swings and floor cushions serving as seating.
Drinks, tapas and antiques - Le Comptoir Général
Le Comptoir Général manages to emulate the feel of a flea market, warehouse and museum all in one. A cocktail bar that also serves food, both the decor and drinks here are bound to impress, but beware, it can get extremely busy during the weekends. More than just a bar, Comptoir also organises weekly brunches, special events and concerts, Alicia Keys even performed here! Just be aware that the entrance is very discreet, from the street there is only a small black door, so don’t be afraid to venture through the courtyard to make your way in.
A cinephile’s paradise - Potemkine
If you happen to be looking for an obscure black-and-white Hungarian documentary from the 1950s, then Potemkine is probably the place to go. Stocking just about every film you could think of, from just about every country you could think of, this quirky DVD shop on Rue Beaurepaire is heaven for film buffs. Alongside the DVDs you will find posters and books all to do with cinema, and there is even a café within the shop, so you can enjoy an espresso while you browse.
Take a stroll along the Canal Saint-Martin
With its cobbled banks, iron footbridges and paddlings of ducks, the Canal Saint-Martin is the perfect setting for a picnic or a stroll. During the summer you will see plenty of Parisians sat by the water in the evening enjoying an “apéro” (a pre-meal drink). The surrounding streets have also become Paris’ prime hipster district, and are lined with trendy cafés, bars and boutiques. To fully take it in, you can even take a cruise along the water, all while tasting some delicious French crêpes. Interestingly, the canal is drained every decade and Parisians delight in discovering treasures that have been dumped in the water.
Street Art around Canal Saint-Martin
Another great attraction of the Canal Saint-Martin is the wealth of street art to be found all around the area. An iconic work by Toulouse-born artist Vinie Graffiti plasters the facade of a building on Quai de Valmy, and a huge wall further along is always covered in tags and paintings competing to take up the space. Take a stroll through the side streets by the canal and you won’t find it difficult to stumble across something interesting.
The best escape game in Paris - Lock Academy
Escape games are becoming more and more popular and are an excellent way to celebrate a birthday or to do some team building with your colleagues. Lock Academy is located on Boulevard de Sébastopol and has seven escape games on offer of different themes and difficulties, in both French and English! Voted the best escape room in Paris in 2017, they offer an incredibly immersive experience, whether you’re solving a murder mystery or embarking on a treasure hunt.
An alternative museum experience - Musée des Moulages
One of Paris’ less conventional museums, Musée des Moulages is attached to the Saint-Louis hospital and displays almost 5,000 medical casts. Used in the past as aids to students of dermatology, the casts depict thousands of different skin conditions and diseases, allowing physicians to improve their diagnoses. Not for the squeamish, this museum may be slightly surreal but proves an intriguing insight into old ways of teaching medicine. While you're there, check out the hospital’s garden, which has been called a miniature version of the wonderful Place des Vosges.
The old city gateways - Porte Saint-Martin and Porte Saint-Denis
Back in the Middle Ages when Paris’ city walls only extended as far north as the modern-day 10th arrondissement, these two great “Portes” (gateways) served as entrance points into the city where taxes could be collected. The ancient fortifications were destroyed long ago as the city expanded, but in the 17th century King Louis XIV ordered the construction of Porte Saint-Denis and Porte Saint-Martin to replace the old medieval gates. Walking down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, a bustling street with a bizarre mixture of hipster brunch venues and run-down épiceries, you will see one of these majestic arches poking out awkwardly at the end of the street, a strange but impressive sight.
The best brunch in Paris - Holybelly
One of the coolest spots to get a brunch in Paris is right by République, better come hungry to Holybelly! WIth a menu to die for, Parisians and travelers alike have been flocking to this location for weekend feasts and midday meals. Victim of their own success, they do not take reservations and usually have a line out the door, so get there early and get there hungry!
So there you have it, our collection of must-see locations in Paris' République neighbourhood. Care to explore some more Parisian areas? Check out our Paris Neighbourhood Guide series: