The Butte aux Cailles is a village-like oasis located on the left bank of Paris in 13th arrondissement. It is the highest place on the left bank after the Montagne Sainte Geneviève and it peaks at… 63 meters! The Place Paul Verlaine is the top of the Butte.
The Butte aux Cailles was annexed into Paris in 1860 and was historically a working class district. It has progressively become a favourite spot for artists and hipsters. Nevertheless it has kept its village atmosphere and has not changed much since 1945 thanks to its narrow cobblestone streets and its lovely houses which cannot be replaced by higher buildings because of the limestone quarries underground. And even if the number of bars and restaurants has increased, there are still no fashion shop and no supermarket there!
I invite you to discover this unique and picturesque area through a peaceful walk. I love strolling in the narrow cobbled streets of the Butte aux Cailles either in the morning or late afternoon and have a coffee, tea or aperitif break on a café terrace either Rue de la Butte aux Cailles or Rue des Cinq Diamants. I will make you discover the main streets and alleys of the Butte: there are many others, all more appealing than the next! Do not be afraid of getting lost by turning into any alley if you are tempted to: you will easily find your way around and sooner or later you will cross the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles.
Let’s start our discovery at the Place d’Italie, walking on the right sidewalk of the rue Bobillot which bounds the Butte aux cailles easterly. Turn right in the Passage du Moulin des Prés: you cannot miss the mural painting made by the street artist Philippe Baudelocque at the corner!
At the end of the Passage turn left in the rue du Moulin des Prés. A few meters later you have arrived to the Place Paul Verlaine, which is the highest spot of the Butte, peaking at 63 meters.
1st Stop: Place Paul Verlaine
The Place Paul Verlaine includes several of the points of interest of the Butte aux Cailles. The oldest is the swimming pool which was inaugurated in 1924 and whose brick-built outside and Art Deco inside are both full of charm. It is famous for its water coming directly from the subsoil at a temperature of 28° and for its two outdoor pools. In the middle of the square stands a more recent monument which was built in 1999. It is a public fountain which supplies for free a pure water which is drawn from a ground-water lying 620 meters underground and one can see the local people come and fill up large bottles or cans. As for the swimming pool this has been made possible thanks to the artesian well built there is 1904.
2ND Stop: rue de la butte aux cailles
The Rue de la Butte aux Cailles starts from the Place Paul Verlaine and is one of the two main roads of the area with the rue des Cinq Diamants. Most of the shops and cafés or restaurants of ‘La Butte’ are in this street. Some of them are really unique and worth the visit, for instance ‘Les Abeilles’, which is a shop specialized in honey also selling hand-drawn honey and beekeeping’s equipment.
I have enjoyed having a light lunch and a tea break at ‘L’Oisive Thé‘: it is not only a tea-room but also a knitting shop with a colourful and very peaceful atmosphere where one can also borrow books or children’s toys while sitting there. I have never tried the brunch on the weekends but it is said to be very good too. And by fine weather L’Oisive Thé offers a very pleasant terrace where to sit down, as most of the cafés and restaurants of the rue de la Butte aux Cailles.
3rd Stop: Passage boiton
After passing by the restaurant ‘Le Temps des Cerises’, do not miss on the left side the charming Passage Boiton. Once more the street artists gathered in the association ‘Lézarts de la Bièvre‘ have had a great time in this Passage and beautiful mural paintings decorate the walls. The black Hippo by Philippe Baudelocque is one of my favourite!
4th Stop: Rue des Cinq Diamants
Retrace your steps and keep walking in the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles to the next crossing. There starts the Rue des Cinq Diamants which is the second main road of the area: a very lovely street where to admire street art, especially MissTic‘s graffitis, or to have a drink or a meal either at ‘Chez Gladines’ or ‘Au Passage des Artistes’. In my opinion the Rue des Cinq Diamants is the most timeless place in La Butte aux Cailles. I love it!
5th Stop: Passage Barrault
Retrace your steps again and turn right in the Passage Barrault. This alley is one of the few in the whole Butte to be still cobbled as it used to be in the last century. Keep walking down until the end of it (take care by rainy weather or if you wear high-heeled shoes!) and do not miss the inscription on the wall just before reaching the rue Barrault…
6th Stop: RUE Barrault
Turn left in the Rue Barrault: this street is of no particular interest but it crosses lovely alleys such as the Rue Alphand and the Passage Sigaud, both on your left side. And a few meters further you will turn right in the Rue Daviel and reach the last two points of interest of our walk…
7th Stop: La petite alsace
Turn right in the Rue Daviel. You have almost reached the western boundary of the Butte aux Cailles which can be seen at the next crossing down the street. At # 10 rue Daviel, do not miss the group of houses called ‘La Cité Daviel’ or ‘La petite Alsace’ because of the style of the houses: brick-built and half-timbered. You can enter the inner yard and admire those 40 houses which were built in 1912 by the French architect Jean Walter and used to be workers’ houses. It is now one of the most harmonious and sought-after housing development in all Paris: a true haven of peace!
8th Stop: La Villa Daviel
On the opposite side of the Rue Daviel is another haven of peace: the Villa Daviel, which is lined by lovely houses with colourful gates and flowered front sides. It dates from the same year as the Petite Alsace, 1912, and is probably one of the most charming alleys of the Butte. A very nice and picturesque place where to end our walk!
And if you wish to return to the starting point of our walk, it is very easy: retrace your steps to the Rue Barrault and then turn right in the first street: rue Buot. At the next crossing you will reach the ‘Place de la Commune de Paris’ and there you will find again the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles… Back to the Place Paul Verlaine… and then back to the Place d’Italie where the noise and car traffic will surprise you after this silent and green stroll.
Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris B&B – www.goodmorningparis.fr