11 July 2013

Le 15e arrondissement de Paris

Did you know that the 15th is the Paris arrondissement that has the highest population? Nearly 250,000 people live in the 15th which would make it alone one of the 10 largest cities in France if it were separated from the rest of Paris. More than 10% of the population of Paris is in the 15th. The 15th also makes up about 10% of the area of Paris — but it covers only about 3.25 square miles.

The rue Lecourbe in the 15th, and the elevated metro line that runs along the edge of the arrondissement

The 15th is not a tourist area. It's a middle class neighborhood, mostly residential, on the southwestern side of the city. There aren't any major monuments in the 15th — but there are many cafés, restaurants, shops, and markets. I once did some research using the French Pages Jaunes web site and found that there were more boulangeries (approximately 75 of them) in the 15th than in any other Paris arrondissement. That makes sense, because so many people live there.

Nineteenth-century buildings in the 15th arrondissement with their street-level shops

The longest street in Paris is the rue de Vaugirard, which starts near the Jardin du Luxembourg and runs all the way out to the Porte de Versailles, all the way across the 15th. In fact, the neighborhood is also knows as the Quartier de Vaugirard. Among the other major streets that run through the 15th are the rue Lecourbe, the rue de la Convention, the boulevard de Grenelle, the rue Cambronne, and the avenue Emile-Zola.

 There are a lot of cafés with outdoor seating in the 15th arrondissement.

The 15th didn't become a part of Paris until fairly recent times — less than 200 years ago. It was annexed by the city in the mid-1800s. Until then, the area was outside the city walls. A new wall was built between 1840 and 1860, and the 15th was then included in Paris. The population of the area increased five-fold between 1850 and 1950.

 Newer and older buildings side by side in the 15th

CHM's family has lived in the 15th arrondissement since at least the 19th century. His grandparents lived in the same neighborhood where he lives now. His father, a well-known doctor, had his medical office in the same building that CHM still lives in, and he started his practice there before the year 1900. By then, nearly 100,000 people lived in the 15th.

The Invalides church isn't actually in the 15th, but like the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse,
it's right on the edge of the arrondissement.

Back in the 1970s, I became friends with a family that lived a little farther out in the 15th, on the rue de la Convention. The "matriarch" of the family was a woman born in 1903. She had lived in Paris since she was a young girl. She told me she remembered when, on weekends, she, her sister, and her mother would go out to the Porte de Versailles, on the edge of  the 15th, and pick flowers in the fields. You'd be hard-pressed to find a field of flowers around there these days.


  1. Yes, it was said of the new fortifications, built on what is now 'boulevards des maréchaux', "le mur murant Paris rend Paris murmurant."

    Vaugirard and Grenelle were annexed in 1860.

    My family has lived in the apartment I live in right now since March 1888.

  2. One of my favorite arrondissements.

  3. Very interesting.

    I am checking if we ever visited that district.

  4. There's a big outdoor market on the rue de la Convention on Sundays, and there's a beautiful outdoor market on Saturdays on the avenue de Saxe, just on the border of the 15th and the 7th arrondissements. Look for some photos on an upcoming post.

  5. Lovely photos and background information Ken...enjoyed reading this post.

  6. Oh, goody! More market photos :) I'm looking forward to them.

    These are such great photos of beautiful buildings. I'm going to link to this post on my school web page, to show my kids how there are usually businesses on the rez de chaussée.

    Chm, your family has owned that apartment since 1888!? Wow!

  7. I have learned more about cities (and recipes) reading blogs and an amazing book "Paris" by Edward Rutherfurd; it made me like Paris again actually.

  8. Gorgeous buildings...I love this post. Great narrative too. Thanks so much.

  9. Quelle histoire, CHM! What fun it must be to share that! Not many have a history like that to talk about!


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