19th Arondissement - Buttes Chaumont
Before 1860, when Paris was re-arranged into its present shape, the 19th arrondissement was part of the township of Belleville – and very much the rough end of it. In the north, there were the docks and the municipal slaughterhouses, and with much of the land to the south (after centuries of gypsum mining) being too porous for permanent structures, the entire area had been abandoned to rat-infested knacker's yards, bull-baiting rings and the largest municipal rubbish dump.
A daring act of social engineering was to change all that: the Park of Buttes Chaumont, still the town's prettiest, was conceived as an island of gentility whose effects, it was hoped, would eventually radiate to heal the whole district. Or, in the words of Baron Haussmann (the de facto Mayor of Paris at the time): to provide "moral uplift" for the entire area.
After 150 years, however, the Park still has a long way to go, its gentrifying effects having penetrated the area about two blocks deep. The docks along the Canal, meanwhile, have made way for showpiece municipal housing (alongside an art-house cinema and restaurants), while the slaughterhouses have been converted into the Parc de la Villette, France's largest "hands-on" museum for science and technology and well worth a visit, particularly if you travel with kids.© NileGuide