I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the 12e arrondissement. I spent my first year in Paris living in the 12e, so it was my first neighbourhood in the city. It’s where I found my first favourite boulangerie, market, and park. I celebrated my first Bastille Day in the 12e. My first holiday season. My first heat wave. And it was in the 12e that I experienced the classic Parisian initiation ritual of getting locked out of my apartment for the first (and hopefully last!) time. There were a lot of firsts for me in the 12e, but the most important one was that this was the arrondissement where I first felt at home in Paris. For that reason alone, it will always be special to me. So let’s dive in.
Bois de Vincennes
My first apartment in Paris was located just around the corner from the Bois de Vincennes, and I absolutely loved this. I would go for walks in the park almost every day, and it was on those trails that I trained for my first marathon. The park is the largest in Paris, and it was originally the hunting grounds for the adjacent Chateau de Vincennes, a royal residence for centuries. Today, the park spans almost 2,500 acres, making it three times the size of Central Park in New York, and it is home to lakes, gardens, running and cycling trails, a zoo, a velodrome, and a horse-racing track. You can even rent rowboats on the Lac Daumesnil and glide past the Temple of Love and manmade grotto on the east side of the Île de Bercy. Pure bliss. Sometimes, I really miss the Bois de Vincennes.
Bercy Village was once the storehouses for the largest wine market in the world. Today, those 42 storehouses have been transformed into the Instagram-worthy Bercy Village, home to shops, restaurants, and a movie theatre. It also borders the beautiful Bercy Park, where you will find gardens, ponds, walking trails, and Bercy Arena, the main concert venue in Paris. All told, the entire Bercy neighbourhood is worth a visit, but definitely make time for Bercy Village. The main thoroughfare is always beautifully decorated, and there are dozens of terraces where you can relax, enjoy a drink, and people watch.
Off the Beaten Track Museums
It wouldn’t be a Story of a City post without me mentioning museums in some way. This post is no different, because the 12e is home to some of the best off the beaten track museums in the city. For example, there’s the beautiful Museum of Immigration History, which also has an aquarium in the basement. Because why not? There’s also the Cinematheque and the Musée Méliès, which is dedicated to the history of cinema and film. But my favourite by far is the Musée des Arts Forains, which is the museum of amusement park and fairground objects. I know that that probably sounds odd, but this is easily one of the most magical museums I’ve ever visited in Paris. It is absolutely worth a visit, but just know that as a privately owned museum, advance reservations are a must.
Promenade Plantée – A beautiful walkway that runs through the 12e from Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. It’s where you can take a stroll through this arrondissement like a local.
Picpus Cemetery – The only private and active cemetery in Paris where the famous Marquis de Lafayette is buried.
Ground Control – A glorious and sprawling complex of food stalls and drink spots. Gather your friends and spend the day sampling all that is on offer. There’s always something for everyone.
Marché d’Aligre – One of the few covered markets left in Paris and a true foodie’s paradise.
Want to read more about the arrondissements of Paris? Click HERE.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.