Belleville in Paris
Belleville is set apart from the Paris of historical landmarks and glowing monuments, and worlds away from the Paris of designer labels of the Champs Elysées. Belleville in Paris is an area that is historically home to the middle class, and now hosts pockets of various ethnicities—including Asian, Arab and Jewish—as well as bobos. “Bobo” refers to “bourgeois bohemian” and is a term used to describe yuppie hipsters. This mélange of culture also makes Belleville a great destination for delicious cuisine.
This area of Paris is not an arrondissement; rather, it is a section of northeastern Paris that spans the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th Arrondissements. Roughly, Belleville lies to the east of the canals, west of the Périphérique highway, north of Père Lachaise and south of the avenue Jean Jaurès.
As with much of Paris, meandering through the streets of Belleville is an event in and of itself. Belleville is teeming with life, and it’s an experience just to be in the middle of it. Try getting off at the metro stop Colonel Fabien and walking east, or perhaps at Père Lachaise and walking north.
There are many things to explore in the Belleville of Paris, including two of its largest parks, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the Parc de Belleville. The Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a well-designed escape from the city, complete with trees and a lake. The Parc de Belleville is a relatively unknown park and can be a break away from large crowds. This park is the highest one in Paris, so enjoy the view! If you care to walk between the parks, stop by 72, rue de Belleville, to see the plaque marking the birthplace of Edith Piaf, who is said to have been born under a streetlamp.
Around the Parc de Belleville you might stumble on Belleville’s art gallery district. Belleville has historically welcomed Europe’s budding artists, and now local galleries have a distinct bobo feel to them. Stop by Artame Gallery (37, rue Ramponeau, in the 20th) for a feel of the local flavor.
After working up an appetite, stop by the smaller of the two Chinatowns in Paris, right around the Belleville metro station. Try Dong Huong (14, rue Louis Bonnet, in the 11th) for delicious pho; or Saigon Sandwich (8, rue de la Présentation, in the 11th) for a Vietnamese sandwich. Or perhaps taste a bubble tea, a sweet, flavored tea with tapioca balls, on the rue de Belleville between the metro stops Belleville and Pyrénées.
Or if you’re ready to begin a night out, the southwest section of Belleville is host to many bars. Try L’Alimentation Générale (64, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, in the 11th) for live music, or continue south on the rue Oberkampf for a variety of bars. The farther south you go, the more bars there are.
Belleville is a fantastic area but can be an example of the underbelly of Parisian society. I’ve found that around the metro stops Couronnes and Jaurès, it can get a little dicey at night. As with anywhere in Paris, just keep your eyes and ears open, and turn around if you feel unsafe. Besides that, enjoy Belleville in Paris!
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Parc de Belleville
Editor’s note: Check out our updated DIY Paris walking tours—current, easy, cheap and fabulous!