24 Hours In Paris: The 12th Arrondissement

Take an in-depth tour of one of the city's coolest quarters.

If you visit Paris long enough to see diverse parts of the city that are not touristy, you’ll discover that each arrondissement (or neighborhood) has its own unique identity. While we all have a good mental image of what we think the Parisian girl looks like, her style can drastically change depending on what part of town she’s from, and where she likes to hang out. So, we came up with the idea of bringing you a travel guide to all of Paris’ 20 arrondissements – and what to do in each one if you only had 24 hours, plus what to wear to blend in like a local. 

This week we head east, to the 12th arrondissement. While it may not be the most well-known or talked-about part of Paris, it has a lot of classic, irresistible Parisian charms: from marvellous historical buildings and innovative parks to some of the best fresh food markets and bakeries in the town. 


Image: Sothentheysay.com

Start your journey from west to east at Gare de Lyon, one of Paris' main train stations that welcomes visitors traveling to and from Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The station was build for the World's Fair in 1900 with beautiful architecture and a notable clock tower. From there, stop off for your first Insta session of the day at Rue Crémieux, an alley flanked with colorful houses that is reminiscent of London's charming Nothing Hill. When you're ready, visit Marché d’Aligre and the adjoining, covered Marché Beauvau, which are both fresh food markets open six days a week. Here you will rub shoulders with real locals who come daily for great quality produce at low prices. Visit on the weekend to discover excellent vintage finds from the flea market section. Throughout the week you will find many great food stands – including a vegan butcher (yes, you heard correctly), as well as an actual butcher and the Restaurant Boucherie Les Provinces, which has a 22-seat service alongside its quality selection of fresh meat. But the real highlight is Blé Sucré, one of the best bakeries in Paris when it comes to croissants and Madeleines. It's run by Fabrice Le Bourdat, a pastry chef who used to work at Michelin-starred restaurant Epicure (formerly Le Bristol). 


Image: Leviaducdesarts.com

After a good dose of scrumptious French pastries, take a serene walk along the Promenade Plantée, an old railway-track-turned-skyline-park –  the first of its kind. Begin from Place de la Bastille and head eastward. The park itself is immaculately well-kept, and you can enjoy peering into dreamy Haussmannian apartment buildings from a whole new vantage point. Beneath the park is the Viaduc des Arts where each lock has been turned into an artist's workshop or a cool concept store. Pick up a gift belated Father's Day present at Good Manners, a multi-brand shop with a great selection of bags and leather goods for men. The promenade ends at Jardin de Reuilley. From there, walk to Parc de Bercy, where many come for respite on a hot day. Unlike many meticulous French parks, the Parc de Bercy has an easy-going vibe with shade from large trees and cooling ponds aplenty. If you're into skating, the park houses a covered skatepark with big ramps to show off your skills. If you're more of a cinephile, stop by La Cinémathèque Française where you can explore the cinema museum, French cinema library and temporary exhibitions. For lunch, go straight to Bercy Village near the park where you'll find plenty of reasonable eating options. The reason this commercial space has the feeling of the French countryside is because all the shops are housed inside a former wine warehouse. 


Image: Dersou.com

The 12th arrondissement is the largest neighborhood in Paris, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of the Bois de Vincennes park, which is located on the eastern edge of the district. While you can easily spend the whole day here, take a very late afternoon stroll or romantic row around the lake. Right next to the park is the Palais de la Porte Dorée. This beautiful Art Deco building houses the immigration museum – and also an aquarium in the basement. During summer, the Palais opens the Palazzo terrace for drinks, food and good times from midday to midnight. For dinner, there are few options to choose from but we recommend you treat yourself to one of the most highly acclaimed, new wave French restaurants, Dersou. What sets it apart is the unique cocktail pairings that go with the wonderful food inspired by Southeast- and East-Asian flavors. Afterwards, catch a concert at AccorHotels Area: this recently renovated indoor stadium has welcomed many of the world's biggest superstars. If you can't see them in your own city, why not make the dream comes true by seeing them in Paris. If you'd prefer to grab a drink or two after your meal, head to the locals' favorite haunt, Le Baron Rouge: a wine bar with a laid-back atmosphere that's always packed. Expect some great wine straight from the barrel at very reasonable prices. You can't beat drinking French wine in France – the French way!

Shop our selection inspired by the 12th arrondissement's free-spirited style here: 
ASOS Smock Dress With V Neck and Trumpet Sleeve In Floral Print - $45
Topshop Boutique Side Drape Denim Skirt - $95
ASOS CURVE Gingham Shirt with Tie Front and Badges - $54
Mango Bow Linen Blouse - $50
Torrid Multi-Color Floral Print Challis Bow Front Sundress - $55
Few Moda Retro Wave Point Dress - $110
Forever 21 Plus Size Bell-Sleeve Dress - $48
H&M Off-the-shoulder Blouse - $25
Free People Hop To It Maxi Jumper - $128
H&M+ Dress with Lace - $60
Madewell The Whipstitch Saddlebag - $158
Mango Paisley Print Scarf - $19