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Paris' 13th Arrondissement

Just south of the popular Latin Quarter, Paris’ 13th arrondissement is one of the more middle to lower class districts of the city.  Although there are a few lively residential districts and bar scenes, the area is most known for housing Paris’ Chinatown.   Tourists coming to Paris will most likely find nicer accommodations by finding a Paris vacation rental elsewhere, but there are a few noteworthy aspects of the 13th that still draw people to the area on a consistent basis.

The 13th sits directly on the River Seine’s left bank and the area can be seen from almost anywhere due to the many high-rise Paris apartment rental buildings.  Over the past few years, the population has grown quite a bit, mostly due to the new business district known as Paris Rive Gauche.   The Rive Gauche project began in 1988 as a plan to renovate over 300 acres of industrial wasteland.  There are now a number of cafes and restaurants, well-kept sidewalk terraces and a brand new Cineplex, not to mention the newly established French National Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France – site Francois Mitterand/Tolbiac.  

Just down the street from the library and along the banks of the Seine, there are a number of popular, “floating” nightclubs and cafes known as “peniches.” These are absolute “must sees” for tourists looking to see a more underground side of Paris.  In 2006, there was also a footbridge built connecting this area to other side of the Seine and it is one of the busier crossings in the city as it leads into Parc Bercy.  For tourists staying in short term Paris rentals in the nearby vicinity, this particular park is a great place to go for a walk.

As far as Chinatown is concerned, it is good to know that despite the name, the majority of its Asia-based residents are actually Cambodian, Thai or Vietnamese.  There are plenty of Chinese eateries and stores, but there are some wonderful Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in the district for anyone with a taste for this type of food.   It is not really comparable to the Chinatowns of London or San Francisco, but definitely worth a visit.

Lastly, it is important to note the origin of the district’s original name, “arrondissement des Gobelins.”   The artisan Jean Gobelin, for whom it was named after, created a fabric dying workshop in the area sometime in the 1500’s that was eventually converted into manufacturing royal tapestries for King Louis XIV.  The tapestries eventually gained incredible notoriety and are now found in museums worldwide.

Overall, the 13th arrondissement does not have the most inviting assortment of vacation rentals in Paris, but the formerly industrial-themed district has definitely begun a transformation into a more contemporary environment.