Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking

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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking
Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Walking tour along the river Bièvre
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Arrondissements: 13th and 5th
Length: 5,8 km
Here is the first walking tour of “Walking in Paris”! It will take you along the Bièvre, a little river we
will talk about later in detail.
I tested this walking tour in November, and took the pictures on this occasion. I have found a map of
the former river on Google Maps and tried to follow it as much as possible.
I loved this walk, and I hope you will too!
But enough talking… let’s go! The complete map of the walk is at the end of this document.
•
What’s the Bièvre ?
The Bièvre is a river of about 40 km which begins in Guyancourt, in the south of Paris
(Yvelines department) and which ended in the Seine (the river crossing Paris). The part of the
Bièvre which flows through the 13th and 5th arrondissement of Paris has been totally covered
in 1912, and leads today to the sewerage system.
The Bièvre takes its name from « biber », the latin word for « beaver ».
Along the course, bronze medaillons have been placed on the walkways by the architect
Benoît Jullien and the study AEP Normand, and show where the river once flowed.
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Start
The starting point of the walking is situated in the heart of the Kellerman park, at the
extreme south of the 13th arrondissement. Sadly I didn’t find any signs about the Bièvre river
in the park. I hope you will be luckier than me
To go to the park, go to the station Porte d’Italie (tramway T3, metro line 7) or Poterne des
Peupliers (tramway T3).
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
The park is very nice: there are a few basins, stairs of stone. Hidden at the back of the area
there are even beehives!
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
The park is located between the périphérique (the highway circling around Paris) and the
boulevard Kellerman but in the past this area belonged to the city of Gentilly, just as the
cemetery near to it. Paris has expanded more and more over the centuries: that’s why parts
of Gentilly which formerly was four times bigger than today were annexed to Paris.
Exit of the park by taking Max Jacob street and go to the Poterne des Peupliers, by taking
the street with the same name. Go up the street, which is now called “rue des Peupliers”, in
direction of the place “Abbé Hénocque”. You are now in the heart of the quarter called
“Moulin des Prés”, or “Windmill of the hayfield”.
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Moulin des Prés
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History / Former Gentilly
The quarter Moulin des Prés is delimitated by the streets of Tolbiac, Brillat-Savarin,
boulevard Kellerman and avenue d’Italie. Nice name, isn’t it ? It reminds us of the windmill
that was placed here, supplied by the Bièvre.
A little history about the river : there were 2 flows, one called ‘alive’ (“vif”) which describes
the derived river flow that brought water to the windmills of Paris and one called ‘dead’
(“mort”) which was the original course of water. But despite these derivations, the river
never had a strong flow, because the inclination is very smooth.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Today, you can follow both ways. I have alternated between the two, according to what my
feet told me (and mostly hazard ;)).
The quarter became its name thanks to a windmill located at this place, since the 16th
century. It was destroyed in the 19th century. Today, only a medallion sealed in the walkway
tells us it was here.
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Streets not to be missed
Take the chance to explore some of the cute streets around the place de l’Abbé Hénocque.
The whole quarter seams out of time. For instance, look at the colourful houses in the streets
Dr Leray, Damesme and of course Moulin des Prés.
Take the street Henri Pape, situated at the eastside of the place de l’Abbé Hénocque and go
northward until the crossover of the street Moulin. At this place you will see a medallion
remembering of the windmill.
Follow the street Moulin des Prés on the left until rue de Tolbiac. Go down this street on the
left hand. Here we don’t follow the Bièvre very exactly: it flows underneath the houses!
Let’s go straight ahead and look out for further medallions, especially opposite to the
Sainte-Anne church, in the corner with the street Bobillot.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
This church built in a romano-byzantine style was erigated from 1894 to 1912. It was partly
financed by a couple of chocolatiers who had a factory in the 13th arrondissement. That’s
why the facade was called “chocolate facade” and the two towers “Jules and Honorine”,
according to the names of the generous donators!
A new medallion will tell you the path to take: down the street Bobillot, southwards.
You can now choose to follow the street until the place de Rungis and then go back
northwards with the rue Boussingault and Vergniaud, along the lively course of the river. You
can also choose to follow the dead river along the street Brillat-Savarin. This street trails
alongside the precise course of the river, as you can judge by looking at the map.
During my test walk, I chose to cut through the rue de la Colonie. If you take the same street,
you will meet some pretty graffitis and surprising architecture pieces.
Take the street Vergniaud towards north.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
In parallel to this street, there is a street called Glacière. In the past, there were swamps and
ponds formed by the river. In winter, they used to freeze and give ice for the summer. The
ice was stored in refrigerated pits in the Montsouris area (actual 14th arrondissement).
In both cases, cross over the street Tolbiac. You are now in the quarter Butte aux Cailles.
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The quarter Butte aux Cailles
Butte aux cailles means « Quails Hill ». Isn’t that cute? This quarter is appreciated by the
Parisians because it looks like a little ancient town with cobbled streets, houses, restaurants
and (sometimes) cheap bars. Until 1860 it belonged to Gentilly, just as the quarter Moulin
des Prés that you crossed some minutes ago.
You won’t see the most important streets of the quarter by following this tour, but of course
you can walk a bit around! If you do so, look for those streets: rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles, rue
des Cinq-Diamants (literally ‘Five Diamonds’).
The walking tour continues here:
Go ahead in the street Vergniaud, northwards.
At the half of the street, don’t miss the Daviel street, perpendicular to Vergniaud street. This
is a street were you will see a part of what is called “Little Alsace”, a group of timberframed
houses in light blue. :-) In normal times, you can’t go inside the courtyard but if you are lucky,
you will perhaps meet an inhabitant who will let you in.
At the crossover between rue Daviel and rue Vergniaud, there is an antonist temple. Look at
it carefully, because there are only 32 churches of the new cult in France (it was founded in
1910), an only 2 others in Paris.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Look around for graffiti by Miss Tic. This artist decorates the streets of Paris and mostly the
13th arrondissement with her pictures and wordplays painted in black and red with a stencil.
Cross the boulevard Auguste Blanqui next to the office of the newspaper Le Monde.
Take a look at the beautiful facade of the building: it shows a giant drawing of Plantu, the
famous caricaturist of the newspaper.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Take the boulevard Auguste Blanqui towards East, and turn left in the rue de Croulebarbe.
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The Gobelins
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Rue de Croulebarbe
You are now in the quarter called Gobelins. The Croulebarbe street follows the course of the
river quite accurately, as you can see on the map. You can rest a moment in the little park Le
Gall and take a break in the walking tour. At the entry of the park you will another medallion,
where the Croulebarbe windmill was situated.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
As you walk along the park on the left walkway, be on the lookout to find other medallions:
there are a few! You will arrive now to an austere building called “Mobilier National”
(National Furniture). It’s time for a ‘history’ break.

Mobilier National
It’s in this quarter that the famous Manufacture des Gobelins was built. This quarter was
inhabited by dyers, tanners and other corporations who need abundant water to do their
work. The tapestry Gobelins, founded in 1667, was named after the dyer Jehan Gobelin who
lived on the Bièvre around 1447 and was the patriarch of long succession of dyers.
It is possible to visit the Manufacture to admire the magnificent tapestries in the permanent
exhibition. The manufacture is still active today. The Mobilier National is the mother
company of the Gobelins and has the mission to furnish and restore all the official buildings
of the French Republic.
Croulebarbe street is called rue Berbier du Mets from now on. Go ahead along this street.
You will see more graffiti on the wall in front of the Mobilier National. It’s one of the artwork
of the artists who call themselves “Lézarts” (this is a wordplay around “Les arts” – the arts –
and the French word for lizard). This group of artists offers to discover the Bièvre every year
during an ‘open doors’ day.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
On the street, look out for this curious round building: it’s part of the chapel of the Gobelins
located behind those walls.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
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Dame Blanche (White Lady)
Take a little detour in the street Gustave Geoffroy on the right.
In this street, look at the building on your left: it is called the Islet of the White Lady. You will
discover a small group of housing that is among the oldest of Paris. The islet belonged to the
Manufacture of Gobelins. The legend tells that Blanche, the daughter of King Louis IX (SaintLouis 1226 – 1270) had this house built and lived here.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Come back to the street Berbier du Mets by taking the rue des Gobelins on your left. Then
cross the boulevard Arago.
Take a look at the beautiful facade of the Temple of Port-Royal, situated on the boulevard.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Go down the boulevard Arago towards West, take the rue Pascal on the right, cross the
boulevard de Port-Royal, take rue Pascal again, and then rue de Valence, on the right.
[Note: I couldn’t find any sign of the Bièvre in this area. I hope you will!]
You are getting to the crossing of the boulevard des Gobelins with the streets Monge,
Claude Bernard and rue du Fer à Moulin.
Another medallion is sealed in the walkway on avenue des Gobelins, where the windmill
Saint-Marcel once stood.
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Jardin des Plantes (Plant Garden)
Cross the place and take the rue du Fer à Moulin.
‘Fer à Moulin’ means ‘Windmill Steel’: you are on the right way! Sadly, I did not… because I
took rue Censier during my test walk. At the crossroad with rue Santeuil, you will find a new
medallion in the walkway.
The Bièvre flows here underneath the modern buildings. You can only follow the nearest
streets and not the exact curve of the river.
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
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Grande Mosquée de Paris (Great Mosque of Paris)
Go ahead until rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and take this street on your left.
If you continue to follow this street, you will discover the Great Mosque of Paris. It’s the
biggest mosque in the city, and also the first one built in France given that it was inaugurated
in 1926.
You can eat something, have a tea or even relax in the hammam of the Mosque. Even better :
take a tour in the gardens. They are open to the public.
From now on, you cannot follow the exact flow of the river Bièvre, which flows once more
underneath modern housings. The last meander of the river follows the street Nicolas Houël,
which is today a blind alley, ending on the boulevard de l’Hôpital.
You can follow rue Buffon which leads finally to the river Seine. But I suggest that you finish
your walking tour in the Jardin des Plantes (Plant Garden), which is beautiful.
Enter the Garden through the door in front of the Mosque, on rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.
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Jardin des Plantes
The Garden was opened in 1640! You will discover a particularly ancient zoo, created here in
1793. It is the second oldest zoo in the world. An anecdote not to be told to vegetarians:
during the Commune de Paris (the city was besieged and people were starving), the Parisians
ate the animals…
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
In the garden there are also: a hill with a maze to explore, a botanic garden and the Museum
of Natural history (with a padded mammoth). The entrance to the Garden is free, so don’t
hesitate!
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End of the walk
The river formerly led into the Seine underneath de metro bridge between the 2 railway
stations Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon. Today it ends in the drainage system.
You can take your metro at Gare d’Austerlitz.
You have now finished the tour. I hope you liked it! Please let me know about it, for example on my
blogs:
My english blog dedicated to walking tours in Paris: Walking in Paris
My french blog about Paris: Paris en photos
The complete interactive map on Google Maps: Walking tour along the river Bièvre
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Complete map of the walking tour
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Part 1 – Walking tour along the Bièvre
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Part 2 - Walking tour along the Bièvre
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Part 3 - Walking tour along the Bièvre
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Walking tour along the river Bièvre – A free walking tour by Walking in Paris (www.walking-in-paris.com)
Part 4 - Walking tour along the Bièvre
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