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Canal Saint-Martin
Plan of the Canal Saint-Martin
Length4.6 kilometres (2.9 mi)
Maximum boat length40.70 m (133.5 ft)
Maximum boat beam7.70 m (25.3 ft)
Current ownerVille de Paris
Date approved1802
Date completed1825
Start point Paris Place de Stalingrad (Bassin de la Villette, Canal de l'Ourcq)
End point Paris Quai de la Râpée (entrance lock from Seine)
Beginning coordinates 48°53′32″N 2°23′10″E / 48.8923°N 2.3862°E / 48.8923; 2.3862
Ending coordinates 48°50′48″N 2°21′57″E / 48.8468°N 2.3657°E / 48.8468; 2.3657
Connects to Canal de l'Ourcq and River Seine

The Canal Saint-Martin (French pronunciation: [kanal sɛ̃ maʁtɛ̃]) is a 4.6 km (2.86 mi) long canal in Paris, connecting the Canal de l'Ourcq to the river Seine. Nearly half its length (2,069 metres (2,263 yd)), between the Rue du Faubourg du Temple and the Place de la Bastille, was covered in the mid-19th century to create wide boulevards and public spaces on the surface. [1] The canal is drained and cleaned every 10–15 years, and it is always a source of fascination for Parisians to discover curiosities and even some treasures among the hundreds of tons of discarded objects.


The underground Canal Saint-Martin in 1862

Gaspard de Chabrol, prefect of Paris, proposed building a canal from the river Ourcq, 100 km northeast of Paris, to supply the city with fresh water to support a growing population and help avoid diseases such as dysentery and cholera, while also supplying fountains (including the monumental Elephant of the Bastille) and allowing the streets to be cleaned. Construction of the canal was ordered by Napoleon I in 1802 and construction took place until 1825, funded by a new tax on wine.

The canal was also used to supply Paris with grain, building materials and other goods, carried on canal boats. Two ports were created on the canal in Paris to unload the boats: Port de l'Arsenal and the Bassin de la Villette.

By the 1960s, traffic had dwindled to a trickle and the canal narrowly escaped being filled in and paved over for a highway.


The entrance to the canal from the vast terminal basin (Bassin de la Villette) of the Canal de l'Ourcq is at a double lock near the Place de Stalingrad. Continuing towards the river Seine, the canal is bordered by the Quai de Valmy on the right bank and the Quai de Jemmapes on the left, passing through three more double staircase locks before disappearing under the three successive voûtes (tunnels) – du Temple, Richard-Lenoir and Bastille – to emerge in the Port de l'Arsenal, the principal port for boats visiting and residing in Paris.


Today, the canal is a popular destination for Parisians and tourists. Some take cruises on the canal in passenger boats. Others watch the barges and other boats navigate the series of locks and pass under the attractive cast-iron footbridges. There are many popular restaurants and bars along the open part of the canal, which is also popular with students.

Métro stations

The canal can be accessed from the following Paris Métro stations: Stalingrad, République, Goncourt, (Paris Métro) Jacques Bonsergent, Jaurès.


View of the Canal Saint-Martin ( Alfred Sisley, Orsay Museum, 1870)

The canal inspired painters such as Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). In the present day, many intricate works of graffiti are visible along the canal, and there is a large multimedia art space on its banks at the former municipal undertakers building at 104 rue d'Aubervilliers ('104').

Film and television



  • Georges Simenon's novel Maigret and the Headless Corpse (Maigret et le corps sans tête) is set in and around the canal.


  1. ^ Edwards-May, David (2010). Inland Waterways of France. St Ives, Cambs., UK: Imray. pp. 90–94. ISBN  978-1-846230-14-1.
  2. ^ However, the film was shot in the studios of Boulogne-Billancourt where the scenery of the canal was rebuilt by Alexandre Trauner.
  3. ^ The Guardian review, 15 August 2001