16th Arrondissement, Sleepy No More

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16th Arrondissement, Sleepy No More

When we moved back to Paris from London, almost 10 years ago, my husband and I decided to look for a home for our young family based on one main criteria: there had to be a park nearby. The choice was easy to make: it would be the 16ème, the largest arrondissement in the city (so big that it has two post-codes), thanks to its proximity to the Bois de Boulogne. And yet, some of our friends looked at us as if we were crazy. The 16th was the opposite of hip: no trendy restaurants, no bohemian coffee shops, no place to go out for a drink at night.

I am certain no one would be able to say the same today, because the 16th, over the past three years, has undergone a radical transformation. It might be the call of the good schools drawing back hipsters from other areas of the city now that their children are older, or an influx of returning young expats, attracted by the large, genteel apartments at prices that, while still sky-high, give buyers more bang for the buck compared to other posh areas like the 7th or the 6th.

Whatever the reason, as a long-term resident of the area, I am certainly enjoying the transformation. Here’s a list of things to see and to taste in my corner of the city. I hope I shall manage to convince you to look at it with new eyes.

Palais Galliera Museum. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

Things to See

The museums Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris stand side by side and offer a perfect destination for art lovers. MAM displays the permanent collection of modern and contemporary art of the city of Paris (free access) but also presents temporary exhibitions that are worth exploring. Palais de Tokyo is a sprawling experimental art center, at the forefront of the contemporary creative scene.

For fashion lovers, standing within a stone’s throw of each other are the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, displaying the heritage collections of the late couturier and set to reopen soon, and Palais Galliera, the fashion museum of the city of Paris, reopening with fanfare on October 1st after a multi-year refurbishment with a retrospective dedicated to Gabrielle Chanel.

If you are passionate about Asian art, Musée Guimet houses an outstanding collection of visual and decorative arts from all over Asia, from Afghanistan to Korea, and it also welcomes Asian contemporary artists for temporary exhibitions.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

When you visit, don’t forget to go up to the newly opened panoramic terrace– offering unobstructed views over the Eiffel Tower.

If you are into 19th-century literature, make sure not to miss a visit to the Maison de Balzac, the only Parisian home still standing of the author of the Comédie Humaine. When you go, take a stroll in the garden, overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.

Finally, on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, the Musée Marmottan-Monet houses one of the largest collections in the world of Impressionist paintings, minus the crowds that can plague Musée d’Orsay.

Palais de Tokyo Museum. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

Gardens

Besides the Bois de Boulogne, the largest park in the city, the 16th is home to several other green spaces worth a detour.

From Place de l’Etoile, stroll down Avenue Foch, the longest and widest avenue in the city. Its side alleys are an arboretum, a collection of rare trees and plants hailing from the four corners of the world.

Heading south, children will be happy to stop at Jardin du Ranelagh, where a guignol, the traditional French puppet show, takes place every Wednesday and on week-ends.

Still farther, the Serres d’Auteuil, standing side by side with Roland Garros tennis stadium, are among the most majestic greenhouses you will find, and offer an oasis of lush tropical greenery perfect to explore in the colder winter months.

Shopping

For bookworms and art lovers, the bookshop at Palais de Tokyo is an Ali Baba’s cave, offering hard-to-find magazines and books. Avenue Victor Hugo and rue de Passy offer a selection of the best high street brands, but it is on the smaller adjacent streets that you will find quirkier, one-of-a-kind shops. For leather bags and pouches with a twist, I can recommend a stop at Claris Virot. Her shop, halfway between a boutique and an apartment, is tucked away in a charming courtyard that would not be out of place in the countryside. If you are looking for eco-friendly sportswear and swimwear, the Luz Collection boutique is a must-see. Finally, for costume jewelry with that certain Parisian je ne sais quoi, Mathilde Ma Muse is perfect, especially if you are looking for presents to bring home.

Marché President Wilson, an excellent open-air market. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

To taste

Food is key to the renaissance of the area, with several excellent restaurants opening or moving here over the past few years. What follows is my personal selection, and is only a glimpse of the culinary wonders of the area.

Fresh produce markets and food shops

Every Wednesday and Saturday, the outdoor market on Avenue du Président Wilson offers a selection of the best fresh produce in the city, at prices which remain affordable, even for organic fruits and vegetables. For food shops and delis, head to either rue des Belles Feuilles or rue de l’Annonciation.

For chocolate lovers, Alain Ducasse has recently opened one of his comptoirs on Avenue Victor Hugo, and you’d better forget about your diet before you enter, because it’s impossible to resist temptation once there.

Coffee shops

As an Italian in Paris, finding good coffee and cappuccino can be a challenge. Luckily, we can now choose between Café Coutume, installed on the first floor of the Grande Epicerie Rive Droite, and a small independent shop, YouDecide, that will not make us regret our Italian brew.

Restaurants

We are spoilt for choice! From some of the best pizza in the city (I shall cite just two: Marzo and Non Solo Pizze) to gastronomic wonders (Substance is my favorite), by way of trendy restaurants with priceless views (Girafe and the surprising kitchen garden atop Le Brach hotel), we could choose to never venture outside the arrondissement and still be replete.

Bars

While I am partial to the bar terrace at Le Brach, when I want something more authentic, I head to Cravan. In this old brasserie, designed by none other than Art Nouveau master Hector Guimard (he of Parisian metro decor), signature cocktails accompany a short but effective bistro menu.

So, do you agree now that the 16th is “the place to be”?

The kitchen garden at Le Brach restaurant. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

Lead photo credit : MAMParis Museum. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

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Sarah Bartesaghi Truong has lived, studied and worked in Milan, Paris and London. Her lifelong passion for art in all its forms and her entrepreneurial dreams were the catalyst for a career change: she left the world of investment banking to go back to school, at the Sotheby’s Institute of London. Ten years ago, she moved back to Paris, the ideal location for an art-lover. As an Italian in Paris, she decided she would keep playing the tourist in her adoptive home town, always on the lookout for the many wonders the French capital has to offer to the curious explorer. VeniVidiParis, the company she founded, plans curated itineraries in the French capital and its vicinity for travellers wishing to discover the city’s vibrant art scene, but not only. Take a look at her recent discoveries on her Instagram feed, @venividiparis, or contact her at [email protected] for help planning your next Parisian vacation.

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Comments

  • Daisy de Plume
    2020-10-07 10:08:40
    Daisy de Plume
    Take me to the Cravan one day please-- Excellent piece as usual!

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  • Sarah Bar
    2020-10-07 05:08:51
    Sarah Bar
    Thank you Daisy! It's a date, I love Cravan! Take care, Sarah

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  • Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    2020-10-02 10:47:15
    Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    Dear Janina, I am glad you share my enthusiasm for the area. Let's hope you can visit soon. In the meantime, stay safe. All the best, Sarah

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  • Janina lebedew
    2020-09-29 02:41:46
    Janina lebedew
    Thanks for your article on the 16th. Created a great longing to return.We stayed a month last October. Much prefer it to the single digit area to feel like a local. Great walking and easy transport choices.

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  • Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    2020-09-28 01:49:42
    Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    Dear Susan, I am glad Bonjour Paris keeps giving you a taste of Paris, albeit from a distance. While we all wait for borders to open, I wish you to stay safe and keep reading our articles. Take care, Sarah

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  • Susan  Foster
    2020-09-26 04:48:30
    Susan Foster
    Thank you for always helping me to keep one foot in Paris. We were to visit this week, but sadly COVID has kept us away. France is the land of my forefathers and I feel so at home there. I wish I could spread wings and leave the US and settle in France for the rest of my days. Thank you for bringing me there🇫🇷❤️

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  • Sarah
    2020-09-25 01:46:52
    Sarah
    Dear Noel, thank you for your kind words, I am flattered. I am very happy that you share my enthusiasm for the area, and hope you can visit soon! Take care, Sarah PS: Bechu has been our local baker since we moved here, and even if we speak fluent French they are not very nice. So we recently switched to Chez Meunier, which just opened at the corner of rue de Longchamp and avenue Victor Hugo. Don't be fooled by its fashionable storefront, their bread is organic and excellent, and they are always smiling!

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  • Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    2020-09-25 01:43:30
    Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    Dear Chantal, I am sorry you do not share my enthusiasm for the changes the area has gone through. While I can understand your point of view, I feel that the area still feels airy, with wide streets, many lined with trees, and not as packed with people as other areas of the city. Take care, Sarah

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  • Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    2020-09-25 01:40:28
    Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    Thank you for your kind words, I hope you can come see us very soon! Take care, Sarah

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  • Pat
    2020-09-25 01:21:48
    Pat
    Love your article-makes me want to visit. Thanks so much

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  • Chantal Wyatt
    2020-09-24 09:28:39
    Chantal Wyatt
    Thank you for your article on the 16 district in Paris. I cannot believe you considered it uninteresting before it was transformed into the same modern pace which exist in all big cities now. I was raised in the 16 and it was then considered as the best place to have an appartment and live there. I am 84 and was there during the war too. I actually got lost going to one of my aunt rue de la Tour. I went back from the states a few years ago and was so disappointed not recognizing anything with all the additions everywhere and thought it looked a mess; I thought that the area had lost his peaceful atmosphere and open vista and SPACE and charming streets. We used to play in the Trocadero gardens, la Muette and others sight. Of course all the new trend with cafés, terraces, restaurants and the upgrades of art are an improvement nowdays everywhere, but iam very nostalgic about my family old arrondissement.

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  • Noel Grogan
    2020-09-24 08:53:42
    Noel Grogan
    Thanks for your great article about the 16th. I first visited Paris more that 30 years ago, but within the last decade or so I have avoided the "single digit" districts (except for Parc Monceau in the 8th). I have rented apartments near the food shops around Saint Didier and Victor Hugo. I can spend days wandering over the area and especially through the Bois de Boulgone . (The bakery on Victor Hugo called Bechu is a favorite even though the woman who runs it usually refuses to serve me. She says she cannot understand my horrible French.) I look forward to using your article as my guide when I visit. Have you thought of expanding it to a book? Your photographs are excellent. Nothing of the kind seems to exist and most guide books ignore the area. Noel Grogan, Los Angeles

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