Bassin de la Villette

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Le Bassin de la Villette
The Saint-Martin barrier and the canal at the beginning of the 19th century

The Bassin de la Villette (La Villette Basin) is the largest artificial lake in Paris. It was filled with water on 2 December 1808. Located in the 19th arrondissement of the capital, it links the Canal de l'Ourcq to the Canal Saint-Martin, and it represents one of the elements of the Réseau des Canaux Parisiens (Parisian Canal Network), a public-works authority operated by the city. The other components of the network are the Canal de l'Ourcq, the Canal Saint-Denis, the Canal Saint-Martin, and the Bassin de l'Arsenal.[1] Together, these canals and basins extend roughly 130 kilometres (81 mi).

View from the Rotonde de la Villette toward the old magasins généraux

Rectangular, eight hundred metres in length and seventy metres in width, it begins at the Rue de Crimée (Crimea Street) bridge, the last bridge in Paris that can be raised and lowered hydraulically to permit the passage of ship and barge traffic beneath it, and it ends at the Place de Stalingrad near the Rotunda de la Villette. Boats meant for river-cruising tie-up here, but both shores of the boat basin are also the home of the MK2 Quai de Loire and MK2 Quai de Seine movie theatre complexes, the most modern in France. A small electric passenger ferry, the Zéro de conduite, is available for transporting people from one side of the basin to the other.

The basin is bordered on the north by the Quai de la Seine and on the south by the Quai de la Loire, which are linked in the middle of the basin by a footbridge, the Passerelle de la Moselle.

General stores[edit]

Along the Bassin de la Villette, there are two buildings that shape its ends. These were built between 1845 and 1853 as commercial warehouses, but they have a certain utilitarian beauty.

They are known as "general stores" (but not in the sense of "department stores"), and they were first used to store grain and flour. Their design, execution, and placement were based on the urban plans originally conceived by Claude Nicolas Ledoux in the eighteenth century, and they operated in perfect symmetry at the Bassin de la Villette, one on the Quai de la Seine side, and one on the Quai de la Loire side.

Later, they were gradually dispossessed of their original purpose and transformed, at the end of the twentieth century, into artists' studios and workshops, small offices, or other small enterprises.

In 1990, the building on the Quai de la Seine side burned beyond repair. For security reasons, the storehouse on the quai de la Loire side was closed also.

The end of the basin at the Rond-point de la Villette (Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad). One can see, on this postcard from the beginning of the twentieth century, the southern end of the basin that empties into the Canal Saint-Martin. Over the opening to the canal is a kiosk of the bus company, the Compagnie générale des omnibus, which was a part of the tramway and bus system of Paris. Above it, one can see the viaduct built for Line 2 of the Métro operated by the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris (CMP).


  1. ^ Hugh McKnight (2005). Cruising French Waterways. Sheridan House, Inc. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-57409-210-3. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°53′10″N 2°22′30″E / 48.88611°N 2.37500°E / 48.88611; 2.37500