Sunday 24 October 2010

Paris, Canal St. Martin, France Running Route

Click here for route map
Length: 6.5 km one way, 13 km out-and-back (4 or 8 miles), terrain flat

Paris Running Routes:
Best Paris Running Routes: Overview
Seine island of St. Louis, St. Paul, botanical garden  
Left bank and Luxembourg Gardens 
Paris' green heart: Bois de Boulogne   

Canal St. Martin  
Rock formations of Parc Chaumont  
Seine loop with Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower  

Seine riverside run 
Bois de Vincennes 
Versailles Palace Gardens 
La Défense/Nanterre 
Saint Germain 
For more running routes, see Route List

Pictures taken from Google StreetView Thanks!

I enjoy running in Paris, seeing all the beautiful sights while zig-zagging through the often elegant and fascinating neighborhoods. But Paris isn't really a very running-friendly city. The parks are small, and mostly closed in the evenings, and the Seine River has busy streets along both banks most of the way. Only the Bois de Boulogne, on the west edge of the city (and Vincennes in the east) provides any large doses of nature. So I was pleased to discover a route along the St. Martin canal a few years ago, when I had to work in the otherwise not-very-scenic La Villette neighborhood on the north edge of town.
Canal St. Martin at La Villette, with Cité des Sciences in back, at left
Canal St. Martin Route
A north-south route like this (no loop) poses you with the decision on how to get back: run back the same way (at least you can run back on the other side of the canal), or continue home on the Metro. You'll have to figure that out yourself, but there are Metro stations at each end of the route, as well as others along the way. We'll start at the north end of the route. You can take the the M7 Metro to Port de la Villette.

This starts you at the amazing Cite de Sciences complex, which I'd never heard of until I worked next door. In typical French futuristic fashion, the whole complex of buildings is simply fascinating. 
The Cite de Sciences, with IMAX dome
Getting out of the Metro, facing the Cite de Sciences exhibition hall, run around the right side of the building. This puts you on a footpath that crosses the canal on the back side of the building, with the spherical IMAX theater and a submarine in the courtyard. Jog across the footbridge to Parc de la Villette, where you can do a loop through this fanciful park. (Note: if the footbridge is blocked for any reason, just jog along the west bank of the canal, with the water on your left-hand-side.)

But if you cross the canal on the footbridge, and loop the park, you then head southwest along the canal, with the water on your right side.
Bridges and locks are everywhere
Run southwards along the canal for about a kilometer, and you'll come to the Rotondo, a classical-looking ex-customs house, and a few new restaurants, cinemas and clubs that they recently built along the quai. The Jaures and Stalingrad Metro stations are both also located here, on the elevated Metro tracks.

You can continue running along this pleasant canal, with its scenic bridges and quiet side-streets. The section after the Rotondo is my favorite. There are a collection of locks and pedestrian bridges spanning the canal after it takes a turn to the left, near the Gare de l'Est train station.
Pedestrian bridge over a lock
At Rue de Faubourg, though, the canal goes underground, and is replaced by a narrow park for the next 2 kilometers. If you look closely, you will see round openings at regular intervals to the canal below, from the days when the canal wasn't lit with electric lights.
The underground canal becomes a park
It ends up at the Bastille square, where you can take another Metro home, or continue for a few more blocks until the canal runs into the Seine, across from the botanical garden. Or just switch sides of the canal and run back to La Villette. And voila: one of Paris' hidden delights is now one of your jogging routes.


  1. Hi, thanks so much for this post. I am in Paris for a few days and needed to run 2 x 16 mile runs while I am here as part of a training programme... Without getting lost! This run was perfect, out and back twice gave me the distance. I ran from Marais to Bastille and then along your route. Easy to follow so I could enjoy the run without worrying about going wrong, simply followed water. Thanks again.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, John! Yeah, it's a nice, simple, relaxed spot to run, with a few nice spots to come back to in the evening. --Keith

  3. Hi Keith, thanks for that information. I am going to be in Paris for a week next month staying between metro Republique and the Canal St.Martin. I haven't been running for long so don't plan on doing more than 5kms at a time. Sounds like going north as soon as I hit the Canal from where I will be staying will take me through some interesting places, from what you write.

    just one thing, do you know how safe it is for a woman to jog in that area around 7am ?(I will be dressed 'appropriately')


  4. Hi Pinainka, I think it should be fine running at 7. Working people are starting to fill the streets, and the streets are fairly busy. I think you'll have no problems. Streets in Europe are generally safe, and I have never felt like a street was genuinely unsafe in Paris. I'm not a woman, but it should be fine. To be on the safe side, try staying on the busier streets at first. -- Keith

  5. Thanks for this information. I will be on holiday in Paris in May an will be in a hotel not far from the Gare du Nord, which looks to be quite close to the canal. Paul Tennant.

  6. Thanks for the route suggestion and also for this site. It's an absolute goldmine. I tried the Canal/Seine Combo this week as far as Notre Dame and it was great to get an attractive urban run with very little traffic.

    1. Thanks Simon! I'm glad you're enjoying the running in Paris!