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Why The Parisian Banlieue Is Not So Bad
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Why The Parisian Banlieue Is Not So Bad

Picture of Jade Cuttle
Updated: 11 March 2018
The suburbs of Paris have worked up a fairly bad reputation linked to crime, unemployment and unattractive tower blocks. However, from aqueducts to arboretums, landscape gardens to lakes, castles in abundance as well as zoos, botanical gardens, horse-racing tracks and even a velodrome, there are so many treasures located on the fringes of Paris.

The bad reputation linked to the ‘banlieue’ has gained strength overseas following the popularity of La Haine. This 1995 black-and-white cult film was written, co-edited, and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. The film charts three young friends and their tragic struggle to avid criminality in the banlieues of Paris.

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La Haine | ©Alatele fr/ Flickr

The most famous line from this film, attaching itself to the assumed image of the suburbs, is “La haine attire la haine” (“hatred breeds hatred”). However, there are so many treasures to be discovered when you gather the courage to leave the tourist trap behind.

Basilique St Denis

The Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the city of Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. It has an epic history with the first church built over his tomb in 475. The present structure didn’t begin until the 1130s by Abbot Suger though, the powerful minister of Louis VI and Louis VII.
It’s well worth a visit as it’s widely upheld as the first example of Gothic architecture in France, flaunting pointed arches, ogival vaulting and even flying buttresses. It’s full of important historical figures, as St-Denis was the burial place for all but three French monarchs with Gothic tombs in abundance.
The church is also associated with the curious legend that when St Denis was beheaded, he picked up his head and walked to his own burial.
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The Basilica of Saint Denis | © Gilles Messian / Wikicommons

Versailles

The architectural charm of this castle has become world-famous, and so it has to be a must-see. The Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles), located only 10 miles (16 kilometres) southwest of Paris, is one of the most stunning royal castles in France. First built by Louis XIII in 1624, the palace oozes opulence at every turn.
The Château has welcomed major film shoots over the years, owing to its stunning beauty, and so it’s highly likely you’ve already fallen in love with this castle on the screen. The year 2017 marked the launch of the hugely popular second season of BBC Two’s Versailles, and the latest film by Dany Boon (RAID Dingue), so visiting Versailles is an exciting chance to see the castle before your own eyes.
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Inside the Palace of Versailles | © Anna & Michal/Flickr

Rambouille château

The Château de Rambouillet is a gorgeous château in the town of Rambouillet, Yvelines department, tucked away in the Île-de-France region. It’s the furthest on this list from the crowds, located 50 km (31 mi) southwest of Paris, but is more than worth the trek.
This castle was the summer residence of the Presidents of the French Republic from 1896 until 2009, and it’s easy to see why it would be fit for the president,
The château was originally a fortified manor with a history that goes back to 1368. Amongst its most notable events, King Francis I died there on 31 March 1547, giving this imposing medieval tower his name.
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Château de Rambouille | © Jules78120 / Wikicommons

Aquaduct Arcueil

Who knew that you could marvel at a huge, stone aqueduct in the City of Lights? It’s a hidden treasure not even the locals know about. Arcueil is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the southern suburbs of Paris, located 5.3 km (3.3 mi) from the centre of Paris, but it’s easily reachable by RER train.
The aqueduct spans out over an epic 1300 ft, and is also used as a bridge. It was originally constructed to transport water from the spring of Rungis, south of Arcueil, across the Bièvre river to the Luxembourg Palace in Paris.
But between 1868 and 1872 another aqueduct was built above to better serve Paris.
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Aqueduct just outside Paris | © Besopha / Wikicommons

Bois de Vincennes

The Bois de Vincennes, located on Paris’s eastern edge, is the capital city’s largest public park and a welcome breath of fresh air. The park, created between 1855 and 1866 by the Emperor Napoleon III, sits quietly next to the Château de Vincennes, a former residence of France’s kings. It’s one of the busiest parks containing an English landscape garden with four lakes, a zoo, an arboretum, a botanical garden, a horse-racing track, and a velodrome for bicycle races. Last year, it even opened a designated area welcome to nudists.
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Bois de Vincennes | © Georges Seguin / Wikicommons