Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

Dedicated to Peter O.

The place is relaxed, peaceful, with a real neighborhood life and feel: Bienvenue aux Batignolles. This was my home for a few days during a recent visit when I rented an apartment rue Truffaut. We are in the northeastern section of the 17th arrondissement in Paris, just west of Montmartre. Once a humble village, the neighborhood attracted Parisians seeking dépaysement (a change of scenery) and fresh air away from the French capital in the early 19th century. Le village des Batignolles grew quickly, and was eventually annexed to Paris in 1860, under Napoleon III, when it was split into two sections, les Batignolles and Monceau. In the late 19th century, the area became popular with artists and friends of Edouard Manet. They formed “le groupe des Batignolles,” and would eventually make their mark with the Impressionist movement. Their old ateliers have been replaced by art galeries.

Batignolles
Le Sacré-Coeur, from le Boulevard des Batignolles

Today, it is easy to remember les Batignolles once was a village. It is a delightful neighborhood with a mixed personality, where past, present and future live side by side, fairly harmoniously, but for how long (*)? Strolling along peaceful streets lined with shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafés, one is reminded of the reasons why so many people around the world have fallen in love with Parisian street life. Many of the small village houses where retirees, artists, white-collar workers once lived, are still here today.

Batignolles
Cité des Fleurs, Batignolles

This is the type of neighborhood where there are so few tourists, locals will stop by and proudly point out architectural and historical details when they spot a visitor sightseeing. This lady noticed I was admiring the old boulangerie at the corner of rue des Dames and rue Biot. She insisted on showing me the beautiful ceiling inside the boulangerie. It was not to be missed, you see! Another passer-by took me to an ornamented façade.

Batignolles
A friendly local, les Batignolles

Batignolles

At the heart of les Batignolles is a beautiful park, designed by Jean-Charles Alphand in the naturalistic English garden style prevalent during the Second Empire. In sections, le square des Batignolles, with its grotto and small waterfall, reminds visitors of les Buttes-Chaumont, another Alphand creation. This is the perfect place to observe the evolving socio-demographics of the neighborhood: Young families rub elbows with retirees, Parisian Bobos (Bohemian-Bourgeois,) pétanque players, joggers and others. I walked the park’s scenic pathways at different times of the day, every day. It is impossible to take a bad picture of le square des Batignolles, its magnificent old platanes (plane trees,) and bird population. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the accordion music and the laughter of former Batignollais and Batignollaises who met here each summer on August 15 (when it was still an empty field,) to dance and celebrate. This was before Alphand, when working classes entertained themselves outdoors and at the local guinguettes. 

Batignolles

Batignolles
Batignolles

Batignolles

Outside the park, a village scene awaits, featuring Sainte Marie des Batignolles church. Around it, a sleepy square, at least in the early morning, with empty café terraces, and a few shops. The area turns into a lively scene in the evening, restaurants sprawling on the sidewalks.

Batignolles

Batignolles

Batignolles

Just like any French village, les Batignolles is anchored by a small square, Place du Dr Felix Lobligeois. From there, one can follow the main street, la rue des Batignolles, lined with shops and real estate agencies showcasing sky-rocketing property prices. The secret is out: Les Batignolles is a desirable place to be!

Batignolles

 

Batignolles

If you are interested in Parisian landmarks, museums and chain stores, this is not the place for you. If you are looking for an authentic neighborhood, where you can experience a slice of French life; purchase your baguette and chouquettes in the morning; stroll in the streets; enjoy an affordable lunch en terrasse, away from the commotion of downtown Paris, then you should consider staying here. Several Metro stations are located nearby, and you are but a few minutes away from major tourist attractions.

Batignolles
Morning ritual: les Chouquettes

Batignolles

Batignolles
Chez moi: The view from my 25 square meters (270 sq. ft.) studio.

 

A bientôt.

All photos by French Girl in Seattle. Please do not use or reprint without permission. 

(*) Batignolles: the old and the new. Change is coming to the Batignolles neighborhood, and it is coming fast. This article explains why. You can see the giant cranes looming over the new Martin Luther King park in some of my photos of the Square des Batignolles.

Square des Batignolles: Video

32 Responses to Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

  1. Hello or Bonjour,
    I love your blog! It has been my dream to visit Europe, with France being my first choice of countries to see.

    My husband & I are planning a 3 month trip to Europe in 2018 & I would love to have your ideaʻs of where, how we should go about seeing France. Not as a tourist so much, but more like a local/tourist.

    I love history & feel like somewhere in time I was living in France.

    I would love to invite you to visit us in Arizona sometime in the next year, where we could spend time relaxing & discussing your love of travel to France.

    We rent our home on Airbnb so it is set up for guests & it would be the guest room that you would stay in. You would be welcome to bring a friend. Of course, there would be no charge to you for the stay. I may even be able to provide airfare (for 1). We are book solid through the end of March but there are some days in April open. Another idea would be to meet me in Wenatchee, WA where I will be house sitting in May. You would be welcome to stay a few days there in the guest room.

    Feel free to contact me through my email. Even if it is something you arenʻt interested in, I want to tell you how much I appreciate all your hard work keeping your blog current & fun to read.

    Cheers to you in 2017

    DiAnn

  2. I love the video of Ducks crossing. Just so cute.
    The area you reviewed seem quite nice. The photos were wonderful with such preey areas to enjoy. The quiet tranquility would be welcome. I can only imagine the crowds seeing all that the grand Paris has to offer. This would be a welcome retreat. I shall keep that in mind. Keep writing. I learn new things each time and I love it. Merci beaucoup.

    • Thank you for your visit, and for your support, as always, Debra. My only new-year resolution is 2017 is precisely to “keep writing,” in particular on the blog, in spite of a demanding work life. It means a lot that people like you follow French Girl in Seattle and appreciate the time, effort and passion I put into it. Merci.

  3. The secret is out: Les Batignolles is a cool place to be!

    Sssshh! We’ve really got to keep some (nice) parts of Paris free of tourist hordes (as a former decade-long resident, I consider myself a Parisian). The Parisian Bobos are bad enough!
    One has to hope that the lack of major “attractions” listed in Guides etc will prevent the hordes descending. Though let me immediately correct myself and this cliche (for your first two posters): though Paris gets more visitors (about 45m each year!) than any other city in the world, and certainly some areas get crowded, in fact I reckon it handles such crowds much better than similar cities–eg. London and Rome (not to mention Florence & Venice which are unbearable in peak summer) are awful from this point of view. Perhaps because the city is so walkable, the Metro is so terrific (highest density of lines and stations than any other) and in reality there are always calm or calmer refuges close by no matter where you are. The compactness of the city helps hugely; for example (dare I reveal) Sq des Batignolles is approx. a mere 1.5km walk from the Arc de Triumph (only ≈600m from Parc Monceau en route). And you must never be afraid to walk in Paris.

    I see that you were right in the centre of the Batignolles old/new artist district that has undergone a recent regeneration. It might be worth mentioning the huge zone that begins literally on the other side of the street to Square des Batignolles: ie. the western side of rue Cardinet. I’ve not seen this since the works began (and am not sure of its current status) but it is very interesting from an urbanist’s point of view, and on how to create more and affordable housing in an already built-up city area, without going hi-rise. Here is an extract from Wiki:

    Batignolles was supposed to be the Olympic village for the Paris Olympic Games in 2012, but Paris lost its bid to London. In its place, ancient SNCF rail fallows are redeveloped into a new 4.3-hectare district centered around new Martin Luther King garden. By 2015, it is foreseen that 3,400 apartments, 30,000 square meters of shops, 140,000 square meters of office buildings and many public facilities (school, nursery…). will be completed. Moreover the Palais de Justice court, along with the Police judiciaire (Quai des Orfèvres), currently located in the Île de la Cité in central Paris, will move to the new Cité judiciaire de Paris in a new building north of the garden.

    For map see:
    http://www.clichy-batignolles.fr/carte-interactive

    • Dear {former?} Aussie-on-Ile-St-Louis. Thank you for your visit, and the thoughtful comment. You make a few good points. After spending a few days in les Batignolles last month, I would surmise the neighborhood has less to fear from “hordes of tourists” (many tourists are creatures of habit, and are too lazy, or too fearful, to venture out to the perceived “outskirts” of the city,) than from the hordes of Parisians about to descend upon the area once the construction you mention has been completed. A friend took me to the newer sections. I saw the giant cranes, the Martin Luther King park and some of the new buildings. I was not impressed. I chose not to discuss les Batignolles’ future here other than with the statement “It is a delightful neighborhood with a mixed personality, where past, present and future live side by side, fairly harmoniously, but for how long?” I also chose to ignore that change is, indeed, coming to this lovely neighborhood of Paris. It is a fact Inspector Clouseau and his friends from le Quai des Orfèvres, (not to mention their colleagues from the Paris courthouse,) are about to leave their current offices on Ile de la Cité to move to their new, modern digs outside le square des Batignolles. It is a fact public transportation to the area is about to get ramped up, making les Batignolles much more accessible. I feel for longtime residents (like the lady pictured outside the boulangerie.) Soon, I fear, they will start feeling like the heroes of Asterix and Obelix, their small village “surrounded,” with the world madly speeding up around them. This article documents life in le Village des Batignolles as it is today, evolving, certainly, (old streets and beautiful buildings lined with a few trendy boutiques and restaurants, and a popular “bio” outdoor market,) but still peaceful, still lovely, and easy on the eye. La vie est belle, aux Batignolles, and I hope it remains that way for a long time. I did add an article about the “future of the Batignolles/Clichy neighborhood” at the end of the story following your remarks. Merci, et à bientôt.

      • Thanks for the NYT article which I had not seen. The things I had read previously about the new developments did not mention that they are allowing buildings of 50m height, which is approximately twice the Haussmannian height. The thing is that they’ve tried this before in the 13th (eastern half) and the Front-de-Seine/ BeauxGrenelles, and it was not exactly a success. I lived briefly in one of those hi-rises next to Place d’Italie in the 13th and even the buildings don’t work so well; they haven’t aged well. But then that stuff was built in the 60s and 70s which is almost the nadir of building (worldwide), both in style and quality.

        The thing is that it doesn’t even achieve higher housing density because, as the pics/drawings show, they have spaced those taller buildings. So, not at all Parisian. Of course there has been pressure from modern planners and some (deluded) urbanists for a long time to do this kind of thing. They want to turn Paris into some identikit of every other city in the world!
        I should reserve judgement until I see it in the flesh but not impressed …

  4. A wonderful look at a charming neighborhood. Les Batignolles is really more representative of what people idealize in their minds about Paris, vs. the more typically touristy center.
    Great photos!

    • Thank you for stopping by. Actually, if people think of Paris in terms of impressive architecture and landmarks, les Batignolles may surprise them. This is still (at least in sections,) the Paris of the past, in the pre-Haussmann/2nd Empire days. Things are changing fast, however. See the article quoted at the end of my story, above the video.

  5. I enjoyed this especially the ducks! I have always…as many others only stayed in the city center of Paris. You have given me food for thought. Maybe staying on the outskirts would be much more peaceful, and a new place to investigate.

    As for DiAnn who wants to go and feel like a local. Do what you are doing in Arizona…lease a place, use public transportation when you can, shop the little local food markets and try and blend in with the locals. We have done that several times in France and they have been my favorite trips.

    • Merci de votre visite Janey. It pays off sometimes to stay in a quieter place, away from the crowds. I walked all day (hardly used the Metro, in fact,) as les Batignolles get you to Montmartre and other areas very quickly. It was lovely to return to my peaceful studio at night. Good tips for DiAnn as well. Thank you.

  6. This was a wonderful read. I enjoyed living with my French family in les Batignolles on rue Truffaut. My suite in a penthouse apartment was great but not over the top. The term ‘Bohemian-bobo’ is fun. Never knew this. I used to take a trolley at Cardinet to Etoile, then walk or take RER C to classes. It does not exist anymore. But I believe the tracks are still there below ground. Yes, it was a very quiet neighborhood with easy access to Montmartre, Pigalle, Clichy, Parc Monceau and over to aveue Champs Elysees and Trenes were so Paris imaginable. I adored the park in Square Batignolles and strolls through narrow streets. My host was a faithful member at St Mary’s and her grandson also attend every weekend on his returns home from boarding school in north of Paris. I was always treated like a part of the community. An unforgettable experience coming out of Harlem and Virginia. Thanks.

    • Thank you for your visit, Marvin. I *lived* on rue Truffaut too! Thank you so much for sharing your memories of your time in Paris. It sounds as if you had a very special stay in les Batignolles. It reminded me of the “best year in my life,” the year I spent in Atlanta, GA as a foreign exchange student. I, too, was treated like a part of the community. One never forgets such special experiences and the international friendships forged along the way. A bientôt.

  7. Perfect timing! I’m heading to Paris for a few days next week and Batignolles looks like fun. I’m going there! Thanks.

  8. As American Expats in Paris in our 30’s with no kids, we first landed in Le Marais (the 3rd) just below Place de la République based on suggestions of locals who expected we would want “un quartier très vivant!”. After 9 months of feeling like the neighborhood was sucking the life out of me (no offense to Le Marais-lovers, it just wasn’t my thing), I was so fortunate to find a place in Batignolles! We LOVE it here and frankly, nothing beats having Sacre Cœur as the landmark you use to guide you home. Even with the cranes in the distance, I still feel very much nestled into the heart of the neighborhood, surrounded by great restaurants, certainly Parc Monceau and Square des Batignolles and that neighborhood feel in an area that is still very much adequately “vivant!”. Glad you found your way here and enjoyed it so much!

    • Bonjour Jessica. Merci de votre visite. Great to hear some feedback from “locals” as well. You do not need to say more. I can totally see why two 30-year olds with no kids would enjoy les Batignolles. The restaurants alone – and the civilized, but active nightlife – would be a big draw for me. Continue enjoying this special place, you lucky lady! I will be reviewing a great little restaurant I visited several times in les Batignolles in a few days. Would love to hear your take on it! A bientôt!

  9. I am retired and have been dreaming of renting a studio in Paris for the summer. Now that Ive read this delughtful article about Batignolles, my interest has peaked and I cant wait to start planning! What a joy to experience Parisian life in such a charming area! Would you be kind enough to let me know who I should contact about renting a studio for 3/4 mmonths in Batignolles?

    Love reading your blog!

    • I will be happy to share the information with you as soon as I have reached out to Catherine, the owner. It seems the reference number I had for the studio on the vrbo.com site does not work anymore and I need to look into it. Thank you for your patience, Pamela.

  10. I’ve subscribed to your blog for a long time, and it’s so lovely! I’m researching Manet for a novel, so les Batignolles would be perfect. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and pick your brain if you’re in Seattle and have a free hour. I’m in Everett and teach in Seattle on Tuesdays, but could get down there on another day as well. (Or at the French bakery in Mill Creek with the great macarons.) I’m hoping to get to Paris in March/April and really haven’t the faintest idea where to start, as it’s been over 30 years since I’ve been there.

  11. Magnifique “reportage” sur le village des batignolles.. Les canards, très typés sont charmants.. Vifs encouragements pour continuer cet excellent passe temps!!

  12. Cite des Fleurs is my favorite “street” in Paris. I go there every time to look the homes, flowers and residents both two and four footed. Also the statue in the Park with vultures always makes me laugh.

  13. What a lovely post! My husband and I spent 9 days in Paris last year and we rented an apt in this area. Je suis tombée amoureuse de ce quartier ! If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would move there the day after! You’re right it just feels like a town within the city. If I were une Parisienne, I would want to be the sort who would call this area home. I have managed to set foot (just a tiny bit!) in each arrondissement de Paris and so far it is my favorite.

    • Les Batignolles are a special place indeed. In my older days, I find myself drawn more and more to these neighborhoods in the heart of great urban areas that feel more like villages. I find that to be true around the world for me, not just in Paris. Merci de votre visite.

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