In autumn, the Tourist Information Centre organises river cruises between the River Seine and the Saint-Denis canal, giving a different perspective on the area.
Inaugurated in 1821, the Saint-Denis canal is 6.6km (4.1 miles) long. It connects the Bassin de la Villette in Paris to the River Seine in Saint-Denis, so that barges can avoid having to go through the Capital with its many meanders and bridges. Just like the railway line, the canal played a crucial role in the industrial development of the Plaine. The second part of the canal that stretches up to Saint-Denis station bears the traces of not only industrial heritage and artistic creation, but also history itself. The canal comes to an end at the RER C station in Saint-Denis, after passing by some remarkable sights, such as the drying sheds and the former Christofle factory on the bank opposite.
The drying shed
Today the drying shed can be found at the harbour quay, however from the end of the 19th Century through to the beginning of the 20th Century, it was situated next to a laundry boat. The laundering was mainly done on the outskirts of Paris, and around 25,000 people were employed here. The area, frequented by washerwomen, was undoubtedly a place of work, but also of conversation. After the washing was done, the laundry was hung out in the drying shed built using wooden crates and bricks. This enabled the laundry to dry under cover, while letting the air circulate. In the countryside, this drying stage was carried out in the open air, with the laundry laid out on the grass. Nowadays, the drying shed is home to artists and includes a carpentry workshop in the lower level.
The Christofle factory
The Christofle factory, founded in 1842 by Charles Christofle and his associate Joseph Bouilhet, moved to the banks of the Saint-Denis canal in 1875. At that time, raw materials such as nickel, were transported by boat. The company enjoyed a vast plot covering 21,000m², which enabled the goldsmith activity to be conducted under the same roof in Saint-Denis as the jeweller’s work. The factory employed 500 people. The nickel arm of the business closed in 1930 because the manager at the time, Tony Bouilhet, favoured work with copper and zinc. As the work became ever more centralised, the number of employees rose to 1,500. Since 2007, the building has been classed as a historical monument. The Christofle factory closed down operations in 2008.
Artistic river cruise
From watercolour to graffiti, the artwork in Saint-Denis is as varied as the city itself. Enjoy a river cruise exploring the different styles, in particular the graffiti painted by the 6B group of artists that can be seen along the riverbank. Then let yourself go back in time to follow the footsteps of the impressionist painters by trying your hand at watercolour painting under the watchful eye of a specialist.
Historical river cruise
This river cruise has been designed to demonstrate the changing landscape of the Saint-Denis canal and the River Seine. A guide will help you discover the history behind these waterways and the towns they pass through. You can choose between two routes, each based on a different theme – “From the River Seine to the Saint-Denis canal” or “On the River Seine around the Ile-Saint-Denis” to experience the locks.
Read the Tourist Information Centre programme for more information on the dates of upcoming river cruises.