Paris reminds me of jazz, especially in the winter. Cool and cultural, with a healthy serving of style, dipped in a bowl of romance. It truly is one of the most unique cities on the planet. If you have been, you get it. If you haven’t, then put it on your list. The food, the fashion, the incredible sights and sounds …. it’s a full on vibe.
There is so much to see, to eat, to breathe in. The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, Versailles, the list is endless. The city can literally seep into your soul.
Part of Paris’ magic for me is also a hidden gem that took me years to discover: “Little Africa”. Located in the 18th arrondissement, it is the best place in Paris to soak up Black culture. It honestly feels like you have arrived in Lagos or JoBurg when you first get there. The eateries, the shops and the market, are full of sites, sounds and smells native to places like Accra, Dakar, and Abidjan. One of the reasons: France is home to Europe’s largest African population. The epicenter for those expats is La Goutte d’Or (or “drop of gold” as the
neighborhood is known as) in the 18th.
The easiest way to get to Little Africa is on the Metro. Take Line 4 to Chateau Rouge, and then make the short walk to the heart of the area: the Rue Dejean Street Market. It’s about a three-minute walk from the Chateau Rouge station, and about a seven-minute walk if you land at one of the other stations that are close by. You can also ride the bus, but ultimately, just take the Metro, it is easy.
Exiting the metro at the Chateau Rouge stop, visitors quickly are engulfed by the faces of North, West, and Central Africa. Women in bright, beautiful fabrics, and the smells of food native to the continent greet you as you walk down the street. For some the experience can be overwhelming, the streets are often crowded and busy, with music blaring from store fronts, for me it was heaven. It is a part of Paris I never knew existed and honestly it felt like home. The immigrants who frequent the neighborhood for shopping, fellowship and food, are also a reminder of the huge footprint that the French had on the African continent as colonizers.
What To Do
Food was the main reason I went to Little Africa, my wife and I were in search of Nigerian food, but the choices are vast. La Foret Noire or Les Delices du Sacre-Coeur are two of my favorites in the area. Walk the streets and sample flavors from all over the vast continent of Africa. Many of the people who frequent the area come in search of ingredients and goods unique to the market for their own culinary pursuits, but there is plenty of food available to consume.
Also makes some time for shopping in the area. The clothing, art and other uniquely African items in the neighborhood are a revelation.
I highly recommend checking out the Little Africa website, which offers a city guide to all things African in Paris and also walking tours in La Goutte d’Or. The site is the perfect starting point and you can download or order a copy online. Jacqueline Ngo Mpii is the Founder, CEO and curator of the website and a wealth of knowledge about all things in Chateau Rouge.
Bottom line if you go to Paris, save a day for the revelation that is Little Africa. It is an essential part of the experience that is often left out of the narrative when people talk about the third most visited city in the world.