Tramp the Champs Elysées, scale the Eiffel Tower and jostle in the Louvre if you will, but do not leave Paris without visiting the picture-perfect prefecture of Belleville. As the name suggests, it is a beautiful town.
Set high up from the 20th arrondissement, a breathtaking walk uphill from the Metro station of the same name, the Parc de Belleville affords a stunning panorama of Paris. It’s a must-see for anyone trying to find that perfect location to see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Historically boasting some of Paris’s lowest rents, Belleville initially attracted bargain-hunters from all over the world who championed the area’s array of continental cuisine. One of France’s most famous working-class entertainers Non, je ne regrette rien’s Edith Piaf was born under a lamppost here.
Piquette wine was made here by a local innkeeper who wanted to keep prices low for the locals. This has made Belleville famous for some of the cheapest (and most tasteless) wine in the country.
As well as the birthplace of some of France’s biggest icons, it is also the resting place of a few of the world’s most famous. Stuck out like a staccato blip, among the graves in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the lipstick-adorned Art Deco monolith to playwright, poet and novelist Oscar Wilde while other tombstones are graffitied with arrows pointing towards the final resting place of The Doors former front man Jim Morrison.
Today, people come to Belleville for the art scene, predominantly displayed by the painters, sculptors and crafts people that make up Les Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville, who are fierce opponents of the mainstream art scene.
Inside the park is the Maison de l’Air, which describes the elements of the atmosphere in intricate detail. Find out how animals and plants use the air and discover how to help stop pollution. Opening hours are between 13:30 to 17:00 and admission is free.
Paris’s smallest cabaret has opened here under the title Le Zebre de Belleville on the main boulevard. You’ll know you’ve got the right place if you look up and see an inflated black and white four-legged zebra, mid-gambol, looming over the belfry.
Photo of Belleville Metro Station, Paris, by arslan