In the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, near the Grands Boulevards, nestled between Boulevard Sébastopol, Rue du Sentier, and Rue Réaumur, the Sentier district is dedicated to the textile and press industries. However, it is also an area that offers pleasant walks with its charming covered passages that take us back to old Paris (source), as well as its historic alleys and popular atmosphere.
The different faces of Sentier
One of the charms of Paris is the surprising changes in atmosphere that occur in certain neighborhoods, just by crossing a few sidewalks. This magic is also present in the Sentier district, which has several faces. The area around Place des Victoires and its nearby streets (Rue des Petits Pères, Rue la Vrillière, Rue Hérold, etc.) form one part of the district. On the other hand, near the Saint Eustache Church, it's the "bobos" (bohemian bourgeoisie) who come seeking sunny terraces. Meanwhile, Rue Saint Denis and its surroundings are much noisier and more popular. This part of Sentier is crossed, among others, by Rue d'Aboukir, Rue du Caire, Place du Caire, and Rue du Nil (the names of these streets are a reminder of Napoleon Bonaparte's fabulous expedition to Egypt in 1798). Traditionally, the Sentier district has been the preferred place in Paris for wholesale and retail trade of multi-ethnic textiles.
In the past, the lands of Sentier were deserted due to their reputation as too dangerous to live in or even pass through. Today, the rectangle of buildings that makes up the district has become a thriving hub for textile stores and a variety of other commercial activities that have greatly diversified in recent years. Renamed "Silicon Sentier" by the numerous Internet start-ups that have set up shop there, the district is also home to powerful companies like Adopteunmec.com (located on Rue Berger).
Historical memories of the district
If you arrive at the Strasbourg Saint Denis metro exit, walk down Rue Saint-Denis, then immediately turn right onto Rue d'Aboukir: you will enter the Sentier district, a neighborhood full of history. On the left side of the sidewalk, the charming little Place du Caire used to be a former "cour des miracles," a kingdom of beggars, indigents, and vagabonds who pretended to be disabled in the hope of collecting some coins from passersby. A little further away, at number 20 Rue Etienne Marcel, lies a vestige of medieval Paris with a rather curious name: the Tower of Jean Sans Peur. This ancient fortification tower was built in the 15th century by Duke Jean I of Burgundy, also known as Jean Sans Peur. On November 23, 1407, Jean Sans Peur had his cousin, Louis d’Orléans, assassinated. To protect himself from possible reprisals, he had this fortified tower, standing 21 meters high, constructed at his place of residence. If you are passionate about the Middle Ages, you can visit a small exhibition here about life and French society in the 15th century and discover the oldest latrines in Paris.
A little further on, the elegant Place des Victoires, dedicated to Louis XIV's military victories (with his equestrian statue in the middle), is one of the four royal squares in the capital (along with Place Dauphine, Place Vendôme, and Place des Vosges). The arcades of the square house some luxury boutiques, whose splendid window displays never fail to attract tourists and wealthy Parisians. A bit further to the north, the Place des Petits Pères hides the Roman basilica of Notre Dame des Victoires. Dedicated to Mary since 1836, it contains an impressive number of offerings and relics. Lastly, the Galerie Vivienne is certainly one of the most delightful passages in Paris, not to be missed!
The must-see attractions in Paris
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