Discovering the Paris “Banlieue” (Suburbs)
Volume XXI, Issue 44
Last weekend we filmed our 53rd episode of House Hunters International, this time in the suburbs of Paris. As is the usual format, we visited three properties, each in a different suburb of the city.
The main reason we sought out properties outside of Paris was first because of budget. But second, because the “contributors” (or “clients”) not only have an almost two-year-old and one on the way, but they have two large German Shepherd guard dogs that also need a home. This became very challenging for them to find a rental apartment…but they did.
N’Toia, the wife and mother, had come to France for a job with the Institut Pasteur as a microbiologist. Daniel, the husband and father, was the “trailing spouse” who would be the stay-at-home dad watching out for the kids. Not only was it important to find an outdoor space for Samson and Delilah (the dogs), but it was also crucial that the commute to work in the 15th arrondissement be as short as possible for N’Toia and for Daniel to have immediate access to amenities and “life” outside of the home.
Three suburbs and three rental properties were chosen to visit: Saint-Cloud, Issy-les-Moulineaux and Vitry-sur-Seine. I did not choose these parts of Paris; the producer did. Our clients don’t generally move to the suburbs, so this was a new challenge for me, but it was an educational one that taught me much more about what is called the “Petite Couronne”—the inner suburbs.
Source of the following information about the Petite Couronne (Wikipedia.org):
The Petite Couronne is the area made up of the three departments bordering the city of Paris: Hauts-de-Seine (92), Seine-Saint-Denis (93) and Val-de-Marne (94). Until the end of 1967, most of this area, together with Paris, formed the département de la Seine (formerly 75), but communes from the former Seine-et-Oise (formerly 78) were added to create the départements de la petite couronne. Since January 1, 2016, the petite couronne and seven communes of the grande couronne have been grouped together with Paris to form the Greater Paris metropolis.
Urbanized since the end of the 19th century, it corresponds to the capital’s inner suburbs and is characterized by a very high population density, reaching almost 9,000 inhabitants/km2 in the Hauts-de-Seine, i.e. more than the majority of city centers in most of the world’s metropolises: by comparison, the density of the borough of Queens in New York is 8,000 inhabitants/km2. Some of the communes closest to Paris are comparable to Parisian arrondissements, with equivalent or even higher population densities. This is particularly true of Levallois-Perret (27,420 inhabitants/km2), Vincennes (26,067 inhabitants/km2) and Le Pré-Saint-Gervais (24,787 inhabitants/km2).
Saint-Cloud was our first stop. A charming town situated 9.6 kilometers (6.0 miles) to the west of Paris, Saint-Cloud holds the distinction of being one of France’s most affluent communities. It boasts of the second-highest average household income among towns with 10,000 to 50,000 households. As of 2020, its population neared 30,000 residents. Notably, Saint-Cloud is home to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (IBWM), located within the Pavillon de Breteuil in Parc de Saint-Cloud.
The town’s name derives from Clodoald, the grandson of Clovis, who sought refuge in a hamlet along the Seine near Paris, then known as Novigentum, much like other emerging commercial settlements outside traditional urban centers. Following his canonization, the village where his tomb resided adopted the name Sanctus Clodoaldus.
Within Saint-Cloud’s boundaries, you can explore a park that houses the remnants of the Château de Saint-Cloud, constructed in 1572, and was tragically destroyed by fire in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. This palace served as the primary country residence for the Orléans line of French rulers until the French Revolution. Notably, it was the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’état, which led to the overthrow of the French Directory in 1799. Saint-Cloud is also renowned for its production of Saint-Cloud porcelain, a craft that thrived from 1693 to 1766. Formerly, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) had its headquarters at 22 Rue Armengaud from 1966 until 1989 when it relocated to Lyon.
For those using public transportation, Saint-Cloud is accessible via the Boulogne Parc de St. Cloud on the #10 Métro line and the tram Line 2.
The views of Paris from Saint-Cloud are extraordinary. Here is a wonderful exposé of Saint-Cloud by Annabel Simms: “A walk of discovery through the Parc Saint Cloud, 10 km from Paris” from an article first published in Bonjour Paris, 20 April 2021.
According to MeilleursAgents.com, the price of real estate in Saint-Cloud as of November 1st averaged 6, 883€/m2 for an apartment and 9, 451€/m2 for a house.
Issy-les-Moulineaux is located in the southwestern area on the left bank of the River Seine. The inhabitants are referred to as “Isséens” in French. It serves as one of the entrances to Paris and is situated 6.6 kilometers (4.1 miles) from Notre-Dame Cathedral, a significant landmark known as Kilometre Zero of France. On January 1, 2010, Issy-les-Moulineaux became part of the Grand Paris Seine Ouest agglomeration community, which later merged into the Métropole du Grand Paris in January 2016.
The town has successfully transitioned its economy from its historical manufacturing base to high value-added service sectors. It is also at the heart of the Val de Seine business district, which is the largest cluster of telecommunication and media businesses in France, housing the headquarters of most major French TV networks.
The name “Issy-les-Moulineaux” has an interesting history. Originally, the town was simply called “Issy,” believed to have originated from Medieval Latin “Issiacum” or “Isciactum,” possibly signifying the “estate of Isicius (or Iccius),” a Gallo-Roman landowner. Another theory suggests that the name might have Celtic origins, meaning “under the wood.” Local legend, as mentioned on the city’s official website, also offers an alternative origin, connecting the name to a temple of the Egyptian goddess Isis said to be located beneath the site of the Church of Saint Stephen.
In 1893, the town officially became Issy-les-Moulineaux. “Les Moulineaux” was the name of a hamlet within the commune’s territory, likely named due to the presence of water mills (French: “moulins à eau”) in that area.
Access to the town is direct on the Métro 12 line, and it’s also supported by the RER C (two stations), the tram Line 2 (Porte de Versailles/Pont de Bezons), 10 bus lines and one Transilien train line N (Paris-Montparnasse/Versailles-Dreux-Rambouillet).
According to MeilleursAgents.com, the price of real estate in Issy-les-Moulineaux as of November 1st averaged 7,969€/m2 for an apartment and 9,540€/m2 for a house. Therefore the prices are fairly equivalent to Saint-Cloud.
Vitry-sur-Seine is a commune nestled in the southeastern suburbs situated 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) from the center of Paris.
Originally, this town was known simply as Vitry. The name “Vitry” finds its roots in Medieval Latin, specifically “Vitriacum,” which evolved from “Victoriacum,” signifying “estate of Victorius,” who was a Gallo-Roman landowner. However, in 1897, the commune officially adopted the name Vitry-sur-Seine (meaning “Vitry upon Seine”) to distinguish itself from other communes across France that also bore the name Vitry.
Vitry-sur-Seine boasts a notable cultural scene, with a focus on bringing art to the public. As a result, the town is adorned with over 100 contemporary sculptures, prominently displayed in various educational institutions, including schools, secondary schools, and high schools. The town is also home to the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne (Val-de-Marne’s Museum of Contemporary Art), which was inaugurated on November 18, 2005. Apart from its visual arts workshops, the museum features an auditorium and a cinema for art and experimental films.
Vitry-sur-Seine has played a significant role in the development of the Hip Hop movement in France, making urban art a pivotal aspect of the city’s cultural landscape.
In terms of transportation, Vitry-sur-Seine is served by two stations on Paris’ RER Line C: Vitry-sur-Seine and Les Ardoines. Additionally, Orly Airport is in close proximity to the town.
The city’s demographics exhibit three distinct segments: a central area hosting several housing projects (cités HLM), peripheral neighborhoods catering to the middle class, and a substantial industrial region along the Seine River. Bordering towns include Ivry-sur-Seine, Villejuif, Chevilly-Larue, Thiais, Choisy-le-Roi, and Alfortville.
As of 2017, the estimated population of Vitry-sur-Seine stood at 93,500 inhabitants. The town ranks as the 46th most populated city in France and the seventh most populous in Île-de-France. However, the unemployment rate is relatively high, at 26.5%, significantly surpassing the national average of under 10%.
Notably, the introduction of Tram 9 is set to enhance the mobility options for Vitry’s residents. Bus routes are also slated for improvements to better serve the network around new tramway stations.
According to MeilleursAgents.com, the price of real estate in Vitry-sur-Seine as of November 1st averaged 4,336€/m2 for an apartment and 4,387€/m2 for a house. Clearly, if budget is your issue, then Vitry-sur-Seine could be an alternative, but it’s not an area of the city I recommend, as with the low price of real estate comes a lower-income population. The average prices here are half of what you find in the other suburbs, and that makes a big difference to the quality of life.
I have never been a fan of living outside of the center of anywhere, much less Paris, but not everyone can afford living inside the Périphérique or aren’t willing to give up space to be in the 20 arrondissements of Paris. The key is transportation. If you can be outside the city, but on a convenient Métro line, then that’s half the battle of staying connected with Paris. Even if directly on the RER system, it doesn’t offer as easy access as the Métro which runs longer hours and more frequently.
In our discovery of the “banlieue,” I found that Issy-les-Moulineaux offered more than the others—a thriving and busy city center right at the end of the Métro 12 line, with an open air market and lots of amenities, charming old buildings at the heart of town and quick and easy access into Paris.
If you want to explore where in Paris you can afford to buy or rent, don’t hesitate to consult with us to make your choice without having to do too much legwork on your own! Visit our website for more information on our consultation services.
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Now’s the time to schedule a consultation to discuss the possibilities of an investment in Paris (or elsewhere in France). For more information, contact us today!