Quartier Chinois (Chinatown)

Even McDonald's is decked out à la chinoise

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.


See also

Butte-aux-Cailles and Bercy

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 (Le Merle Moqueur and La Folie en Tête are always packed), or at Chez Gladines (where you can eat heartily for around €10). Just a few Métro stops away on the Right Bank, Bercy is the perfect example of successful urban rejuvenation: this former wine warehouse area is now a shopping village with restaurants, bars and a multiscreen cinema. There's also modern park, the Cinémathèque film museum and Bercy stadium (Palais Omnisports) for world-class concerts and sports events. Just across the Seine, at the foot of the BnF towers (part of France's national library), is where you'll find Paris' hottest party boats. Take in rock, pop and electro concerts at La Dame de Canton or dance the night away to DJ sound on the Batofar – which even sets up its own beach and bar on the quayside in summer. Restaurants in Butte-aux-Cailles and Bercy Restaurant Chez Papa Chez Papa is brilliant for a quick, filling meal that doesn't break the bank. This one on Rue da la Colo

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Belleville and Ménilmontant

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, which lead to the modern but charming Parc de Belleville. Another parkland to explore nearby is the Père Lachaise cemetery, where the likes of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and 'little sparrow' Edith Piaf party in the afterlife.   'Mesnil-Montant' used to be just a few houses on a hill with vines and fruit trees; then came the bistros, bordellos and workers' houses. These days it's a thriving centre of alternative Paris, as artists and young professionals have moved in. Although several side streets still have male-only North African cafés, Rue Boyer is home to two of Paris' most buzzing venues: the Bellevilloise multidisciplinary arts centre and La Maroquinerie concert hall. You'll also find a profusion of hip bars along Rue de Ménilmontant, which descends into Oberkampf, home to yet more nightlife entertainment. Heading east of here, beyond Père Lachaise, follow the 'it' crowds to Rue de Bagnolet for drinks at Philippe Starck-des

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