South of Rue de Tolbiac the shop signs suddenly turn Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian, spices fill the air and even McDonald's is decked out à la chinoise. Welcome to the city’s main Chinatown (Quartier Chinois): set amid 1960s tower blocks in the triangle formed by Avenue d’Ivry, Avenue de Choisy and Boulevard Masséna, this is where you’ll find exotic groceries, Vietnamese Pho noodle bars, hairdressers and Chinese patisseries, along with the huge Tang Frères supermarket (48 ave d’Ivry, 13th), which sells everything from dim sum and fresh spices to ready-made sauces and rice-cooking machines. There’s even a Buddhist temple hidden in a car park under the tallest tower (Avenue d’Ivry, opposite rue Frères d’Astier-de-la-Vigerie, 13th).
The Olympiades shopping centre (44 ave d’Ivry, 13th) is the meeting point for many of Paris’s Asian communities. Head to the middle floor and you’ll find shops hawking fabulous tat from Buddha effigies to Thai pop CDs; in the evening, the car park hosts an oriental market, its tables laden with spices and roasted duck.
Come particularly for Chinese New Year, when the streets fill with lion and dragon dances, and lively martial arts demonstrations. Come any time for the food, which is fabulous – see our guide below.
The former Left Bank village of Butte-aux-Cailles in the 13th, near Place d'Italie and Chinatown (Avenues de Choisy and d'Ivry), may be surrounded by modern shopping malls and tower blocks; but an olde-worlde ambiance still prevails in its labyrinthine cobbled streets and toy-town houses, draped in ivy and Nemo's street-art. During the Paris Commune the Butte-aux-Cailles' residents were some of the feistiest fighters. Nowadays the only battles being fought are over a table in one of its numerous student bars...Read more
When the city's northern boundaries were expanded in 1860, Ménilmontant and Belleville (once villages that provided Paris with wine and weekend escapes) were absorbed into central Paris, first housing migrants from rural France, then populations from former colonies in North Africa and Asia. Nowadays it's still cheap and cosmopolitan, with artists' colonies in its upper stretches and a Chinese quarter around the Boulevard de Belleville. Up on the slopes of Les Hauts de Belleville, there are great views over the city from Rue Piat and Rue des Envierges...Read more