Situated within the Île-de-France region, Seine-Saint-Denis is perhaps one of the smallest of the French departments with a total area of approximately 236 square kilometers. Together with the similarly small departments of Val-de-Marne and Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis encircles the city of Paris. Seine-Saint-Denis is known colloquially as 'le neuf trois', a reference to the official administrative number (93) designated to this department.
Named after the River Seine and the town of Saint-Denis, this area was originally part of the Seine department. However, this arrangement ended in 1964, when the area was bestowed with independent departmental status. It has traditionally been regarded as a hotbed of French Communism, forming part of 'Paris's Ceinture Rouge'. Today, Seine-Saint-Denis is perhaps one of France's most disadvantaged departments. It is home to a large immigrant population and was the scene of inter-racial riots in 2005. It is nevertheless, a region of great cultural and historic diversity, and as such should not be overlooked by any visitor to France.
Seine-Saint-Denis comprises of three departmental arrondissements: Saint-Denis, Bobigny and Le Raincy. These arrondissements are made up of a total of 40 cantons and 10 communes. Of these some of the most populous and well known are:
- La Villette
- Le Raincy
- Le Bourget
- Saint Denis
- Saint Ouen
Seine-Saint-Denis is characterised by a temperate Atlantic climate; winters are generally cold whilst summers are mild. Average temperatures for January and July (in degrees Celsius) are 6 and 25 respectively.
The city of Saint Denis is renowned for its Gothic architecture, particularly its Basilica, which dates back to the 12th century. It has also been the burial site for generations of French monarchs. A total of 43 kings and 32 queens have been buried here. The Basilica is also famed for its stained glass, and her rose window is widely acknowledged to be a masterpiece of gothic art. A visit to the nearby Carmelite convent should also not be missed as it boasts a rather splendid Art and History Museum, which possesses a collection of historical documents and artifacts from the 19th century 'Commune de Paris'.
Also located in Saint Denis is the Stade de France, best known for hosting the 1998 FIFA World Cup final. With a capacity of 80,000, it is today the venue of extravagant concerts and public events. A visit to the nearby town of Le Bourget would be incomplete without a trip to the town's aeronautical museum, the oldest of its kind in the world.
Most major hotels cater well to the needs of their younger visitors by offering wide variety of organized games and activities. The parks of La Vilette offer a pleasant outdoor diversion, with its 55 hectares of pristine landscaped gardens.
Given its proximity to Paris Seine-Saint-Denis offers near limitless shopping opportunities. However, one should not overlook this department's many traditional markets which offer excellent deals on high quality produce as well as clothing and antiques.
The 'Puces de Paris' flea market at St. Ouen, which celebrated its centenary in 1985 is the largest antique market in the world and receives some 11 million vistors each year. Lose yourself amongst its 2,500 stalls of bric-à-brac and collect some impressive bargains. It is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays during the year.
Food and Drink
Seine-Saint-Denis is home to many excellent restaurants, brasseries and bars. Furthermore, the cultural diversity of this department means that it is also possible to enjoy high quality international cuisine. Prices tend to be competitive, particularly in comparison to Parisian restaurants.
Despite its small size, Seine-Saint-Denis offers numerous opportunities for hiking and other excursions. Those seeking further information on walking and hiking in this department may find it useful to contact the following organization: Comité Départemental de la Randonnée Pédestre de Seine-Saint-Denis 1er place des Martyrs de la Résistanceet de la Déportation 93310 Rosny-sur-Bois Telephone: 01 48 54 00 19
Golf de la Poudrerie is a 9-hole golf course located in the town of Livry-Gargan. For those looking for an opportunity to swing in style, the 18-hole course at Rosny-sous-Bois is recommended. This course has, amongst other features, a bar and 'Pro Shop'. Advanced booking is suggested for anyone intending to visit these courses.
Ease of Access
The department can be accessed via the Roissey Charles de Gaulle International Airport which services some 50 million passengers annually. Seine-Saint-Denis is also home to the Paris-Le Bourget Airport, the first French airport designed to specifically serve business needs.
This department also possesses a complex TGV (high-speed train) network. Travel from London takes approximately three hours whilst Brussels is one and a half hours away. Seine-Saint-Denis is located a mere 10 minutes away from Paris. It is possible to access the French capital via the RER rapid transit lines, the Métro and the tram and bus networks.
Value for Money
Seine-Saint-Denis undoubtedly offers good value for money despite being located on the doorstep of Paris. Small family run hotels offer an inexpensive option to those who do not wish to compromise quality when traveling on a budget. As ever, off peak season travel ensures lower transportation costs.
This department offers unparalleled opportunities for a relaxed break on the outskirts of Paris. Seine-Saint-Denis is an exciting mix of the modern and traditional whilst its multicultural heritage contributes to its diversity – a destination not to be missed.