Canal Saint-Martin, which links the Bassin de la Villette to the Seine, is an ideal place for strolling, cycling and roller-skating.
The canal which links the Bassin de la Villette to the upstream end of the Seine 25 metres lower down in altitude terms runs underground for 2 km of its 4.5 km length. It was opened in 1825, and comprises nine locks and two swing bridges. It is open to traffic 363 days a year.
Commercial traffic has fallen off considerably, giving way to extensive tourist activity involving the use of passenger boats and individual pleasure craft.
Added to its romantic footbridges and mysterious vaulted tunnels, the poetic atmosphere of its banks lined with century-old chestnut and plane trees makes the Canal Saint-Martin one of the key tourist spots in Paris.
To ensure that this unique heritage is kept in good condition, the citys municipal technical teams conduct regular maintenance, repair and modernisation work.
Integrating such a project into an already-dense urban environment was quite a challenge, and construction work which began in 1805 at either end of the canal was not completed until 1825. The canal comprises nine locks, and the oldest parts are those under the Boulevard Morland bridge and the vaults at Bastille and Rue La Fayette.
New industrial quarters were created along the canal, with warehouses, glazieries and mills. During the Second Empire, when Haussmann wanted to create Boulevard du Prince-Eugne (now Boulevard Voltaire), he realised that a moveable bridge would be needed because of the canal. The engineer Belgrand came up with a solution he simply moved a flight of locks some two kilometres upstream from Bastille to Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple, thereby lowering the water level by approximately five metres on that stretch of the canal and allowing an ordinary bridge to be used for the boulevard.
Covering the canal under Prefect Haussmann
Since the deeper trench and lower water surface robbed the quaysides of their usefulness, Haussmann decided to go the whole way and enclose the canal in a vaulted tunnel between Bastille and Avenue de la Rpublique. This operation, which resulted in the creation of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, was conducted between 1860 and 1862.
The year 1906 saw the commencement of additional work, involving the creation of the so-called Temple section of tunnel, which further enclosed the Canal Saint-Martin. This section continued on from Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, resulting in the creation of Boulevard Jules-Ferry.
The open section of the canal was rebuilt in 1890, and further work was conducted from 1999 to 2002. The two moveable bridges (at Rue Dieu and Rue de la Grange-aux-Belles) have been in place since around 1890, when they replaced older wooden structures.
The famous footbridges date from the second half of the nineteenth century.
Like Paris itself, the Canal Saint-Martin has seen continual change. Its overall design belongs very much to the of the first half of the 19th century, while the footbridges and the Richard-Lenoir tunnel belong more to the second.
The immediate vicinity of the canal has undergone considerable change since the time when it was opened.
Metro: Jacques Bonsergent, Gare de lEst or Chteau-Landon