15 Best Things to Do in Saint-Ouen (France)

A well-connected northern suburb of Paris, Saint-Ouen is famed for its flea market: The Marché aux Puces is absolutely gigantic, running on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, hosting thousands of stalls and pulling in more than 100,000 shoppers per day.

Transport-wise Saint-Ouen is a dream, sitting right on the RER C and Line 13 of the Paris Métro. This slashes journey times to top sights like the Eiffel Tower and museums like the Musée d’Orsay. And Saint-Ouen is just the other side of the Périphérique from the 18th Arrondissement. So the Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, edifying culture, cafe terraces and crazy nightlife all await.

Lets explore the best things to do in Saint-Ouen:

1. Marché aux Puces

Marché aux PucesSource: appartager
Marché aux Puces

If you’re into bargain hunting, few shopping trips can top the Marché aux Puces in Saint-Ouen.

There are more antique and furniture dealers here (2,000 traders in all) than at any other single market in the world.

Their stalls are spread over a nine-hectare site, broken down into 15 distinct markets, some completely covered to feel like enclosed mini malls, and others like city streets.

There’s a huge jumble of things on offer at the Marché aux Puces: Ceramics, books, lighting or furniture, items from a house clearance or knock-off fashion.

2. Cimetière de Montmartre

Cimetière de MontmartreSource: flickr
Cimetière de Montmartre

Five minutes on the Paris Métro Line 13 from Garibaldi is the city’s third largest cemetery.

This dates to the 19th century and was set at what was then the northern limit of the city.

If visiting a graveyard seems like a creepy way to spend a day, there’s a cultural side to it as you can seek out the plots of writers like Émile Zola and painters like Edgar Degas.

But the cemetery is also a sort of sculpture garden, with mausoleums and tombs crafted by the 19th century’s great artists.

3. Basilique Saint Denis

Basilique Saint DenisSource: flickr
Basilique Saint Denis

Only ten minutes from Garibaldi on Line 13 is a church that radiates French royal history.

Almost every French king from the 900s onwards was buried here, and they are honoured with exquisite tombs crafted between the 1100s and 1500s.

These are sensational works of Gothic and Renaissance sculpture and can distract you for hours.

The architecture is also seminal, as when it was remodelled in the 1100s it became arguably the first Gothic church in France.

This being a royal site, the Revolution wasn’t kind to the basilica, but it came through a restoration in the 1800s at the hands of the master architect Viollet-le Duc.

4. Stade de France

Stade de FranceSource: flickr
Stade de France

An epochal structure from a different time, the Stade de France is a place of worship for sports fans.

The home matches for the French national football and rugby teams are hosted at this majestic stadium, built for the World Cup in 1998. It was in this arena that France lifted the trophy that year, and the tournament that brought the nation together is commemorated at the stadium’s museum.

Architecture enthusiasts will be just as engrossed in the technical side of the tour, when you’ll find out about the six-hectare roof.

This 13,000-ton structure has special glass that filters out infrared radiation but allows blue and green light through to help the grass grow.

5. Sacré-Cœur

Sacré-CœurSource: flickr
Sacré-Cœur

The 18th Arrondissement is just south of Saint-Ouen and has some of the city’s best-known sights.

None are as famous as this Neo-Byzantine basilica that shines across Paris from its throne on the Butte Montmartre.

You’ve got to get up for that timeless panorama of the city, but the basilica is also indispensible: Not only for the late-19th century architecture, but for the difficult period of the city’s history that it symbolises.

It was constructed right where the Paris Commune was crushed in 1871, and was built as an act of penance following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.

6. Montmartre

MontmartreSource: flickr
Montmartre

In this steep area the broad and grand Haussmannian Avenues give way to a labyrinth of narrower cobblestone streets and stairways that weave up the hill.

There’s no denying that Montmartre is a posher place now than when the likes of Monet, van Gogh, Pissarro and Toulouse-Lautrec plied their trades.

But there’s still a bohemian feel to the district thanks to its low-rise apartment buildings, two windmills, artists’ studios, media companies and thumping nightlife.

If you don’t mind the tourist trail the Place du Tertre has stalls selling art prints, while the Moulin de la Galette was immortalised by Renoir, van Gogh and a host of other artists.

7. Musée de Montmartre

Musée de MontmartreSource: flickr
Musée de Montmartre

The art theme continues at the Musée de Montmartre, which is a pair historic buildings that welcomed many famous artists in the late 19th century.

Renoir was staying here when he painted the famous La Bal du Moulin de la Galette and La Balançoire, while later the Fauvists like Raoul Dufy and Othon Friesz lodged at the Maison du Bel Air.

The museum captures this period with paintings, posters and photographs by Steinlen, Utrillo and Toulous-Lautrec.

The gardens have been redesigned to match Renoir’s paintings, which look out over a vineyard that has been here since medieval times.

8. Espace Dalí

Espace DalíSource: flickr
Espace Dalí

Yet another artist linked with Montmartre is the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí.

Just off the Place du Tertre there’s a small museum showcasing 300 original works, giving us the only permanent Dalí exhibition in France.

A lot of these pieces are engravings and sculptures, including several works that render images from his most famous paintings like the clocks in the Persistence of Memory in 3D. With his playful style, Dalí is an easy artist to introduce to kids, and the museum has some interactive displays and puts on workshops for younger visitors.

9. 17th Arrondissement

17th ArrondissementSource: aswesawit
17th Arrondissement

By contrast to Montmartre the 17th Arrondissement is as grand as it gets, with palatial apartment 19th-century blocks on broad avenues.

It won’t shock you to learn that this is one of the wealthiest parts of the city, and the presence of high earners is reflected by the gourmet street market, the Marché des Batignolles.

What’s also appealing about the 17th Arrondissement is the lack of tourist interest, so you can experience Paris as a Parisian, dining at upmarket restaurants, browsing boutiques and relaxing in the gorgeous Parc Monceau, which was landscaped in the 1700s.

10. Grand Palais and Petit Palais

Grand Palais and Petit PalaisSource: flickr
Grand Palais and Petit Palais

Part of ensemble of monuments created for the 1900 Universal Exposition, the Grand and Petit Palais merit a visit, both for their ornate Beaux-Arts architecture and what they contain.

The Grand Palais is a whole complex of attractions and exhibition spaces, among them the Palais de la Découverte science museum.

Chanel holds its shows here during Paris Fashion Week and there are high-profile temporary art exhibitions to catch.

The Petit Palais is a single art museum, with many exhibits that date to the Universal Exposition; there’s painting by French greats like Fragonard, Poussin, Ingres, Delacroix, Courbet, Monet and Sisley.

11. Musée Marmottan- Monet

Musée Marmottan- MonetSource: flickr
Musée Marmottan- Monet

Catch the RER C from Saint-Ouen to Avenue Herni Martin and you’ll be at the world’s top Monet museum in 20 minutes.

Thanks to a big donation by the artist’s son there are more works by Monet at this attraction than any other on the planet.

It’s a notion that will thrill art lovers, who will get to view his 1874 work Impression, Sunrise, which effectively gave birth to the Impressionist movement.

Many of Monet’s pieces were created at his garden in Giverny and will be well-known to people intimate with his work.

There’s more Impressionist art by Sisley, Degas, Pissarro and more, as well as a fine set of medieval illuminated manuscripts.

12. Jardins du Trocadéro

Jardins du TrocadéroSource: flickr
Jardins du Trocadéro

On the same line, the Jardins du Trocadéro and the Palais de Chaillot have an enduring view across the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower.

If you can ignore the tourist hoards it’s a scene one to ponder in your own time as you idle over to an iconic that is known the world over.

But before you continue one of the museums in the Palais de Chaillot might divert you.

In the west wing there’s one for the French navy and ethnology, and in the east wing is Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine: This is an unforgettable ode to French heritage and architecture with a collection with a collection first curated by the revered architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

13. Eiffel Tower

Eiffel TowerSource: flickr
Eiffel Tower

There’s little to say about the Eiffel Tower that hasn’t been many times before.

This 324-metre wrought iron pylon is a fixture on the skyline and Paris wouldn’t be the same without it.

The Eiffel Tower wasn’t the work of a single man, but a group effort by the Eiffel engineering company led by Gustave Eiffel but using designs drawn up by Émile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin.

It was the tallest building in the world until 1930, and the tallest in France from 1889 until it was finally beaten in 2004 by the Millau Viaduct.

Get there early to avoid a long wait and see if you can stomach the glass floor section on the first floor.

14. Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'OrsaySource: flickr
Musée d’Orsay

In a stroke of inspiration the Beaux-Arts Gare d’Orsay was converted into an art museum in  1986. And this sumptuous 19th-century setting is appropriate for the best collection of Impressionist art in the world.

You can get there from Saint-Ouen on the RER without changing, and in under half an hour will be marvelling at painting by Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Signac and too many more to list.

If you have an affinity for art you won’t help but be moved by Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette (especially after visiting Montmartre). You can also see van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone and Portrait of Dr. Gachet, or Paul Cézanne’s  iconic The Card Players.

15. Musée Rodin

Musée RodinSource: flickr
Musée Rodin

All of Auguste Rodin’s most treasured creations are displayed at this museum houses in a mansion that he used as a workshop.

There are thousands of sculptures, sketches and photographs on show.

But if you want to make a shortcut there are four pieces that you can’t leave without seeing: The Thinker, the Kiss, Adam and Eve and the Gates of Hell.

You’ll also learn that Rodin was an astute collector, and he bought the three van Gogh paintings, along with pieces by Renoir and Monet, all to be seen at the museum.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Saint-Ouen, France
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15 Best Things to Do in Saint-Ouen (France):

Sacré-Cœur