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Thursday 3 June 2021, by Colling Wood

The Butte-aux-cailles is one of those areas of Paris that is a little bit special, a little bit apart, that we would like to preserve, to keep warm, to protect from the crowds, from the pollution and from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located in the 13th arrondissement in the south of Paris, not far from the Place d’Italie, we like to take a break here to rest and remember what life is like in the quiet.

A village in the city

A real little corner of the countryside set back from the rest of the city, the Butte-aux-Cailles has managed to retain a certain village atmosphere of its own. It is not here that you will be able to contemplate historical monuments, but the Butte-aux-cailles is nevertheless a district very much appreciated by Parisians and tourists who like to stroll through its peaceful streets, appreciate its quietness and its greenery... Artists’ workshops, small paved streets, ivy-covered buildings and flowering pavilions give this district an air of holiday.

Another special feature of the area is that in the centre of the Place Paul Verlaine, opposite the swimming pool, stands one of only three public fountains in the city that dispenses pure spring water. Residents come from all over the district to fill up cans and bottles. This artesian well was used at the time to supply the swimming pool because the water that comes out of it is, like all pure spring water, naturally warm (28°). The water from the well is drawn from 620 metres below ground, from the depths of the Albien aquifer, and is tens of thousands of years old!

Street art and art deco

Working-class neighbourhoods have always been the favourite bastions of urban artists. The Butte aux Cailles is no exception to the rule and has been welcoming street art lovers since the early 2000s. Strollers come across the ephemeral works of graffiti artists and stencil artists as they stroll through the streets. The famous Miss Tic was the first to trace a route full of stencils, female silhouettes and puns, which led the passer-by to the artists’ studios. Entire sections of the walls of the Moulin-des-Prés passage have become giant sketchbooks of artists, both known and unknown.

The Butte-aux-cailles mixes and plays with different architectural styles: the pavilions, villas, and their furnished gardens make the timeless charm of this "village". The Art Nouveau style of the swimming pool of the hillock, opened in 1924 and classified as a historical monument, is also emblematic of the district. The oldest public swimming pool in Paris, with its red brick façade and curved architecture, is a victim of its own success and is unfortunately often crowded on sunny days.