Bassin de la Villette in Paris

The Bassin de la Villette is part of the Paris canal network and is an artificial lake that was dug out in the 1800s to provide a port for commercial barges and a link between the Canal de l’Ourcq and the Canal Saint-Martin to get goods to different areas of the city, yet today this is an area for leisure activities such as boating and kayaking, along with cultural and music venues, plus much more.

A bit of history

It was at the start of the 1800s during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte that it was first decided that additional water needed to be brought into the capital city, plus there was also a need for additional shipping channels for transportation of goods, especially since the area was utilised by farmers producing grain, in addition to there being many vineyards and orchards.
La Rotonde de la Villette at Bassin de la Villette
A building called La Rotonde de la Villette had already been constructed as a place to collect taxes due on goods entering the city, and when the Bassin de la Villette was dug out, one end was strategically located right near here.

It was first filled with water in the December of 1808, which was when it was officially inaugurated by Napoleon I, and over the years warehouses were constructed for storing goods, plus the area became even more commercialised and became renowned for its slaughterhouses.  And in fact, Les Grande Halle within the Parc de la Villette is one of these original cattle market buildings that has been restored to its former glory.

Over the years, the number of commercial barges utilising the canals and ports in Paris dwindled and the area went into decline, which was even more evident after World War II, and by this time many of the warehouses had either been abandoned or destroyed, and just like the Port de l’Arsenal, the Bassin de la Villette went into disprepair.

By the 1970s the area was virtually deserted and had a bad reputation, but with the initiative of the City of Paris, they decided to change this and put a plan in place to redevelop the area and provide a leisure basin, just like they done with the Canal Saint-Martin.

About the Bassin de la Villette in Paris

The Bassin de la Villette is 800 metres in length and 70 metres across and starting at the Pont Levant de la Rue de Crimee, which is the historical lift bridge, it goes to the Place de Stalingrad, which is close to the Rotonde de la Villette.

On one side you have Quai de la Loire, which is the location of cruise companies such as Paris Canal and Canauxrama, and on the opposite side of the artificial lake is the Quai de la Seine, but there is a footbridge called Passerelle de la Moselle, located almost in the middle, so you can cross this leisure lake easily.

There are also two state of the art cinemas called MK2, one on either side with a little ferry that can transport you between the two, plus there is a water activity centre called the Base Nautique de la Villette, which is located on the basin providing sailing lessons on dinghies along with kayaks, canoes and pedalo's to rent.
Canal de l’Ourcq at Bassin de la Villette
Swimming pool at Bassin de la Villette
You will also find bars, restaurants and entertainment venues located right by the Bassin de la Villette including Le Bastringue, the Belushi’s bar, restaurant and nightclub and the Peniche Antipode barge that provides children's entertainment.

However, in more recent years, the Bassin de la Villette has also become a part of the Paris Plages event, which is a beach event organised for around four weeks each summer with free activities for both adults and children, along with deckchairs artificial sand and much more, for a fun or relaxing day out.

But if you would rather rent an electric boat and take a leisure cruise along the Canal de l’Ourcq past the Parc de la Villette, or even stop for a picnic, then this is also possible with a company called Marin d’Eau Douce who are located on the Quai de la Seine at this renovated leisure lake as well.

So no matter what you enjoy, there is sure to be something that can cater for all the family in this area of Paris that has become popular for both Parisians and tourists.
Water sports at Bassin de la Villette

Visiting the Bassin de la Villette

Now when it comes to getting to the Bassin de la Villette you will find this located in the 19th Arrondissement, you could opt to take a Canauxrama cruise on the Canal Saint-Martin from the leisure port marina by the Place de la Bastille up to this leisure lake.

However, if you are thinking of public transport, then the Metro station called the Stalingrad stop serves line 2, 5 and 7, whereas others nearby include the Riquet stop serving line 7, the Laumiere stop that serves line 5 and the Jaures stop, which serves lines 2, 5 and 7B.

Alternatively, you have the Bus Line 26, 48, 54 and 60 along with the Noctilien Night Bus Service via Lines N13, N41, N42 and N45, which will all get you within walking distance of the Bassin de la Villette.