Located to the south of the Seine, on the side which locals would call the ‘Rive Gauche’ (left bank), the 14th arrondissement has few ‘landmarks’ and ‘major monuments’ to draw in visitors. Instead, the district is decidedly residential and pockets of the area even have a village aura to them. One such street is the delightful rue des Thermopyles, which is characterised by its non-Haussmannian architecture and abundance of greenery. Here’s a history as well as how to visit for yourself and things to know before you go.
Cats stroll along the cobbled alleyway and it’s unlike most of the rest of Paris on account of its three-storey buildings (Haussmannian buildings are typically five or six or even seven storeys high). Quiet, secluded, and overlooked by most tourists, visitors will be well-rewarded should they opt to venture to this secluded and quiet pocket of the 14th arrondissement.
A history of rue des Thermopyles
Rue des Thermopyles is 280 metres in length and stretches between 32, rue Didot and 87, rue Raymond-Losserand. Literally translated into English as ‘hot doors’ (the passage of Thermopyles) is named for the battle of Thermopylae which took place in 480 B.C.E. in Ancient Greece, though has no connection to this historic event.
Instead, the name was selected by the land developer, Alexandre Chauvelot, who officially opened the passage to the public in 1859. Though the country-like lane was originally named ‘Passage des Thermopyles,’ this was changed to ‘rue des Thermopyles’ in 1937.
What started as a private residential street was eventually opened to the public (and public traffic) in 1959. Today, the street is a rarity in Paris on account that it’s paved with large cobblestones (as opposed to the smaller hand-sized variety found in locations such as Montmartre).
How to visit rue des Thermopyles
Open to the public 24/7, the road is free to wander along and so can be visited at any time of the day or night. With this being said, thanks to the rise of social media apps over the past few years (particularly the likes of Instagram), the street is best earlier in the day and mid-week if possible. During the spring, the road is one of the best places to enjoy the wisteria in Paris.
The closest metro stop is Pernety, which is along line 13 (light blue) in the direction of Châtillon-Montrouge. Alternatively, the street is around a ten to fifteen minute walk from Montparnasse (which is something of a meeting point for numerous Parisian metro lines). If you’re interested in other ‘village vibe’ areas of Paris, then check out our guide to the best secret villages of Paris.
La Fête des Thermopyles
If you happen to be in Paris at the beginning of summer, then you’ll be delighted to discover that the charming road of rue des Thermopyles hosts an annual La Fête des Thermopyles. Every year since 1996, either on the last weekend of June or the first weekend of July, the street has hosted a two day event.
In 2021, the event will be hosted on Friday the 2nd July and Saturday 3rd July. Whereas the first day of the festival sees open air screenings, as well as wine and cheese tastings in the road, the second day of the fête sees games played in the streets, open air outdoor meals, and live music events.
Nearby things to see and do
Notre Dame du Travail
One of the most unusual churches in Paris is that of Notre Dame du Travail. Constructed in 1902 during the time of the Universal Exhibition of Paris on the nearby Champ de Mars, the interior of Notre Dame du Travail is all metal framework, a lattice lacework of iron. Also worth noting is that the church’s main clock was taken as a war trophy by Napoleon III following the Battle of Sebastopol in 1854.
Jardin des Colonnes
In the 14th arrondissement of Paris, an area South of the Seine and often overlooked in favour of more famous nearby districts, the ever-so-futuristic Jardin des Colonnes is all glass panelling and concrete pillars. Free to enter, snap photos of this beautiful space and enjoy the architecture that’s so different from the Haussmann style that’s so synonymous with the rest of the city.
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