ABOVE Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in full bloom, Belleville
ABOVE Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in full bloom, Belleville
Belleville has long been at odds with the polished, prosperous Paris of elegant facades and boulevards forged by Baron Haussmann in the 1800s. Tapering streets, old factories, and tatty shopfronts proudly confirm the area’s blue-collar history.
Workers flocked to Belleville in the 1860s, attracted by its factory jobs and new housing projects, and the area became a hotbed of opposition to Emperor Napoléon III. This was the last part of the city to fall to government troops during the 1871 rule of the Paris Commune.
Stroll along Passage Plantin to glimpse its neat row of old factory-worker cottages.

By the 1900s, music halls and cabarets had sprung up in the area, luring the mobs. The urchin- like singer Édith Piaf was born here in a hospital in 1915, not under a gaslight at 72 Rue de Belleville, as romantics would like us to believe. But she did sing for her supper on these streets. Waves of immigration from Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and North Africa have spiced up the mix – North African, Chinese, and Vietnamese shops and restaurants now line Rue de Belleville.

Stop at Lao Siam for a Thai-style duck curry, or for coffee at La Vielleuse, where you can eavesdrop on the natterings of Armenians, Laotians, or plain old Parisians. The area has a strong art vibe too, with contemporary exhibitions at the Atelier d’Artistes de Belleville. Ironically, Belleville does owe a debt to Haussmann: he commissioned Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, an old quarry-turned- verdant-haven with gushing waterfalls, Italian-style villas, a Greek temple, and lodges at each entrance.

Practical Information

Atelier d’Artistes de Belleville 32 Rue de la Mare;

Lao Siam 49 Rue de Belleville;

La Vielleuse 2 Rue de Belleville;

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont Entrances on Rue Manin and Rue Botzaris


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