Lifestyle & Culture

Alice Verberne in France: Paris’ unheralded 15th arrondissement offers a glimpse of authentic neighborhood life

The 15th is mostly unvisited even though it borders touristy Paris.

(Editor’s note: This post accompanies Alice’s post on the Cordon Bleu, which is in the 15th Arrondissement. If you’re contemplating honing your cooking skills, you can make it a long weekend and see this untouristy quarter.)

Le Quinzième (the 15th arrondissement ) is a residential quarter in southwestern Paris. Home to 240,000 working-class Parisians, it is mostly unvisited by tourists even though it borders the 7th, one of the most touristy areas. The 15th boasts the highest population density of the entire city. Interesting note from Wikipedia –  If the 15th were a commune, it would be the ninth most-populous in France. Larger than the cities of BordeauxLille, and Grenoble.

This eclectic residential area has quaint shops around La Motte-Picquet Grenelle metro station. Tour Montparnasse skyscraper is not far away and the high-rise district of Paris is on the Front de Seine. The 15th is also known as Vaugirard (Voh-jeh-rar), named after the ancient Roman road that ran to a limestone quarry. The École Militaire is built from Vaugirard stone as well as many other Parisian monuments.

WINE: The limestone of the Vaugirard is also geographically well suited for vineyards. Clos des Morillons is produced and auctioned at the civic center every year at an event held at the Parc Georges-Brassens.

COMMERCE: At the outer extremity of the 15th running along the Seine is the area called Javel that gets its name from the 19th century manufacturing site for Javel bleach. It’s also the former location of André Citroën’s (sit-trow-en) massive auto manufacturing plant (now Parc André Citroën).

ART: Visit the free gardens and studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929),
student of Rodin, located on 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015.

BEST VIEW: Go to the top of the 56-story Montparnasse skyscraper where one can see
for more than 25 miles on a clear day, as well as spot all the landmarks of Paris (including the Eiffel Tower).

SHOPPING: Rue du Commerce is a lovely one-way street that runs from Boulevard de Grenelle (gruh-nell) up to the church of St. Jean Baptiste de Grenelle. It’s busy all day with local boutiques and businesses as well as good food shopping.

Take metro La Motte Picquet Grenelle, Avenue Emile Zola or Commerce.

FOOD MARKETS

Wednesday & Sunday Market – Along Boulevard de Grenelle between Rue de Lourmel and Rue Commerce you will find one of the better food markets of the city that runs every Wednesday (7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.) and Sunday (7 a.m. – 3 p.m.).

Tuesday & Friday market – Another market on Rue Saint Charles is lively on any day and is lined with all kinds of shops, from clothing to pastry. On Tuesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. between rue St. Charles and Rue de Javel and rue des Cevennes rows of market stalls fill the space between the sidewalk and the curb creating a dynamic, exciting market.

Take metro Boucicaut or Javel-André Citroën.

PARKS: Shop for picnic supplies at the market and then head over the Parc Georges Brassens where you can hang out with the locals who enjoy the pond, lawns and rose garden. And this is the center of biodiversity in Paris, a park with its own bee hives. (See the video in French.)

Or take a stroll along the pedestrian-only walking path running from rue Balard to rue Olivier de Serres. Start your stroll at Parc Georges-Brassens and cross to Boulevard des Marechaux to find the promenade access point next to 108 rue Olivier de Serres, take the stairs to the track, the end is rue Leblanc, take the stairs again where you are a 2-minute walk from the southeast entrance to Parc André Citron.

LOGISTICS:
There are some good hotels in the 15th due to the fact the area has conference centers and stadiums. Most are affordable, if modest, three-stars. The First Hotel is more expensive, but gets great reviews.

Three Metro lines (8, 10 & 12) service the 15th
RER Javel stop (1.9 km from location)
Metro: Vaugirard Adolphe Cherioux (170 meters from location)
Metro: Convention (258 meters from location)
Bus: Vaygurard (97 meters from location
The largest train station in Paris is near the 15 th Arrondissement, Gare Montparnasse.

Sources: Petite Fuite, Time Out and The Rough Guide

About the author:

Alice Verberne is a freelance artist and writer who purchased the École des Vatelottes in 1999. The historic building is located three hours southeast of Paris in the rural hilltop village of Bourmont, France. Her mission is to create an atelier as a meeting point to connect visitors to local artisans. She works as a consultant for GB Marketing Research Solutions writing feasibility studies for entrepreneurs.

See all of Alice’s posts here.

See more about France on Dispatches here.

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