Saint Michel, Montmartre, and Champ Mars are typically the neighborhoods that top the lists of tourists visiting the City of Light. While each is worthy of a visit, why not venture out and take the off-beaten path? Experience a different side of Paris, a side frequented by locals more than tourists, removed from the city center but filled with culture and energy. Enter Belleville, the artistic, increasingly trendy quartier nestled in the 20th arrondissement. It wasn’t until 1860 that the city’s boundaries were expanded to include Ménimotant and Belleville. These areas were once considered villages, housing migrants over the years, first coming from rural France then from former colonies in North Africa and Asia. This influx of different cultures has undoubtedly left an impact on the neighborhood, where you will find a mix of everything including Chinese shops, Vietnamese restaurants, French bakeries and cheese shops, Algerian bakeries, and Jewish-Tunisian couscous restaurants, along with varying architecture reflecting the changes over time.
This neighborhood tour starts on one of the major streets of Belleville: Rue de Belleville. Start the day off right and pick up a crisp, golden baguette de campagne or a delicious, flaky croissant at 104 (104 Rue de Belleville), a well-kept secret address for the best bread in Paris. Walk down the street and you will pass the famous “Aux Folies” (8 Rue de Belleville), the discrete bar where Edith Piaf used to sing.
Turn left on Rue Dénoyez, where a truly original surprise and a change of scenery awaits. Often hailed the coolest street in Belleville, think of Rue Dénoyez as a sort of informal, open-air gallery with colourful walls, flower pots, and even trash bins covered in graffiti art! This street was formerly a run down area of the city but has since picked up with the graffiti point serving as a focal point on the street.
Consider the trip down Rue Dénoyez as a teaser to more original artwork to come with a visit to Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville (1 Rue Francis Picabia). Once you’ve finished taking in the graffiti artwork adorning the streets of Belleville, turn left on Rue Ramponeau followed by a right on Rue Francis Picabia. This organization consists of 250 artists and 23 collectives with the objective of making art and creation accessible to everyone. In addition to hosting many events throughout the year, several galleries keep their doors open on a regular basis.
Now it’s time to relax and spend some time with nature at Parc de Belleville (47 Rue des Couronnes). From Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville, turn left on Rue des Couronnes until you reach the entrance to this modern and charming park that offers one of the best views of Paris. Explore the expansive park at a leisurely pace but make sure to take note of the left side of the park where you will see a vineyard, a reminder that Belleville was once an important wine producer in France in the 18th century.
It would be a shame to visit Belleville without a trip to Rue des Cascades, one of the prettiest streets in the neighborhood located just around the corner from the park. This charming, winding street offers a variety of architecture on one single street and a delightful end to a pleasant and less ordinary Parisian tour.
Photo from markise.fr/