Belleville is one of the most beloved neighborhoods of Paris.
Multicultural, artistic, alternative and constantly changing, the 11th arrondissement of the capital deserves to be experienced, without haste and with curious eyes. Discover an unusual perspective of the Ville Lumière, far from the tourists who crowd the Place des Vosges and the Eiffel Tower.
There is so much to see in Belleville, including murals, a beautiful popular market where you can travel the world while keeping your feet in Paris, picturesque bars, the house- museum of Edith Piaf, delicious restaurants and characteristic views, a beautiful park and a panoramic viewpoint from where to admire the city from above. Here are a few ideas for visiting Belleville during your stay in Paris.
How to get to Belleville
The subway is the most convenient way to get around Paris, and Belleville is no exception. The stop where you get off bears the same name as the neighborhood (you can't miss it!) and is located both on line 2, the blue line, and line 11, the brown one.
The eclectic soul of the neighborhood
Belleville is located on the highest hill of Paris and, in the 1800s, was a small village on its own, surrounded by vineyards and fields. In 1860 it was annexed to the French capital and, in the early 1900s, it was populated by a great wave of immigrants, followed more recently, in the 1980s, by another massive stream, this time of artists, attracted by the affordable prices.
The neighborhood is a result of this unique combination: a multicultural soul (even today the area has the largest number of foreign communities, well integrated with each other) and its bohemian profile. Artists and creatives have established their studios here and colored the walls with original murals.
The popular market
When you get to Belleville, start with a stroll through the popular market of the neighborhood, which every Tuesday fills boulevard de Belleville, a large two-lane boulevard, with colors and scents. Nothing touristy, keep in mind: here, where Paris meets the rest of the world, you will find the local inhabitants doing their shopping.
The products on sale reflect the heterogeneity of the citizens of the neighborhood. Between fruits that come from the Far East, Tunisian bricks (triangles of phyllo dough stuffed with potatoes and capers and then fried), Halal meat and some clothing, mostly ethnic, you will have a glimpse at the variety of cultures Belleville represents.
Between murals and artists' studios
Between old buildings and narrow alleys, walking around Belleville is an adventure within an adventure. Go to Rue Francis Picabia 1, where the Association des Ateliers d'Artistes de Belleville (AAA), which brings together over 250 artists, is located. Ask for a map of the neighborhood where the many workshops are marked.
Every year in May, for a long weekend, the doors of the ateliers are open to the public, but even if you go at other times you can browse here and there. Among bistros, ethnic stores and clubs, do not forget to admire the various murals that adorn the facades of the buildings.
Recommendations of things to see: rue de Belleville and rue Denoyez, where the graffiti and flower pots that characterize the area are displayed by residents as a tribute to the artistic spirit and the value of coexistence; in place Frehel, the great mural of Jean Le Gac from 1986, which depicts a detective at work, was the forerunner for the many works of street art that arose in the vicinity.
Situated on a high hill, Belleville Park is a privileged and little- known vantage point, ideal for enjoying an evocative view of all of Paris. From Belleville Park you can even see the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower! Spanning an area of almost 10 acres that slope down, among trees, rose gardens and 140 grape vines in homage to the past wine-growing, there is a majestic waterfall fountain that runs through the meadows.
The park boasts a beautiful project to enhance biodiversity through the cultivation of wild flowers and the Maison de l'Air, a space - colored outside by murals - to educate about the importance of problems related to air pollution.
Practical information: to enjoy the panoramic view, go to rue Piat, where the Maison de l'Air is also located. Ph: Joao Paulo V Tinoco / Shutterstock.com
The picturesque bars of Haute-Belleville
Leaving Belleville Park from rue Piat, you are in what is called Haute-Belleville, the highest part of the neighborhood. Take rue des Envierges where, among barbershops, tailors' stores and tattoo parlors, there are picturesque bars that are worth popping into. A local favorite is Le Vieux Belleville, a "café chantantant" where time seems to stand still: home cooking for lunch, live music and dancing in the evening. No matter what time it is, there is always some local patron drinking Pastis and humming Édith Piaf songs. If you want a good glass of wine and a convivial atmosphere, sit down at Le Bols d'Antoine, which offers organic bottles and fresh seasonal produce.
Recommendations of things to see: in Haute-Belleville, let yourself be seduced by the rue de Cascades and Villa Ermitage, two narrow and winding streets, full of charm and covered with vines.
The house- museum of Édith Piaf
Belleville was the birthplace of the famous French singer Édith Piaf, also known as "little sparrow" (which in the Parisian dialect is 'piaf'), because of her tiny stature: she was only 1.47 cm tall! At number 5 rue Crespin du Gast, not far from the Père Lachaise cemetery where she is buried, you can visit the house where the artist lived in her youth, transformed into a museum by the association "Les Amis de Piaf".
Inside her small house you will discover many details and curiosities of the singer's artistic and personal journey, including letters, stage clothes (always strictly black), porcelain and photos. Ph. Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com
Practical information: the visit is free (but an offer is appreciated) and is by appointment only. To book, call +33 1 43 55 52 72.
Where to eat in Belleville
Strolling through Belleville, you'll be spoiled for choice. In this corner of Paris, you will uncover aromas from the cuisines of the world. Here are two favorite addresses for ethnic dining.
The first is Guo Xin, a good Chinese restaurant with quality products and fair prices. The other is L'Atelier Libanais, an excellent Lebanese restaurant with stylish decor, delicious dishes, many vegetarian dishes and a very affordable bill- with 15 euros per person you will have a generous meal of the main specialties. The falafel and the eggplant dip are to die for!
Diversity is the personification of richness and Belleville is a precious example. Be sure to spend some time in this less- traveled corner of Paris on your next trip to the French capital.
Top ph: Mark Zhu / Shutterstock.com
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Belleville: what to see in the artistic and multicultural district of Paris
Belleville, Paris, France