There’s a reason that Parisians stay hush-hush about the panorama at the top of Belleville Park. ‘Go to Montmartre,’ they’ll say.
Red, neon words ‘Le President’ hang over the riffraff like a heavyweight championship belt. Beneath, Chinese Kanji are spangled in gold. Enter the chaotic intersection of Belleville station.
It’s a little less French, and a little more foreign than Paris’ center. Chinatown Deux, some call it, but Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic and, French can be heard in passing.
Headlights, truck horns, and construction mute the distinctions. Exhaust billows. Chinese markets, Noodle houses, and Bazaars occupy shops. TripAdvisor, Yelp, and LonelyPlanet stickers occupy shop windows.
The Metro station feels urban, in contrast to other parts of Paris, and therefore much more grounded and visceral.
Hidden, only steps away, this area has the iconic, whirling streets of Paris. These picturesque inlets are full of gastropubs, cocktail bars, and murals that signal, gentrification has already passed through.
The truth is that Belleville has always been home to an expansive artistic legacy. The ascension of Edith Piaf only embellishes its significance.
Belleville has developed into one of the more complex neighborhoods of Paris. It’s not normally a box on a traveler’s to-do list. But it should be.
To the East, a steep incline leads to park Belleville and a panorama of the city. Place Republique is to the west; Pere Lachaise is to the South, and Buttes Chaumont and Basin de la Villette are to the North.
Three distinct areas supply the Belle-villainous night-life with entertainment; Rue Sainte Marthe, South on Boulevard de Belleville, and uphill on Avenue de Belleville. Each area has their pillar, a city renowned cocktail bar.
A hibiscus-infused gin cocktail, house-made, alongside a small plate of Terrine and Cornichons–that’s Combat. The highly reputed bar, hatched by three graduates of the venerable Experimental Cocktail Club, has gained respect throughout Europe for their craft and ingenuity.
With a large group? Stop at La Commune, another magnet of Belleville. Greenhouse, tropicals vibes at this joint. The punch bowls, from the creators of Le Syndicat, leave you tipsy without much pain in your pocket.
The vivid Rue Sainte Marthe holds enough places for a weekend on its own. You can stop at Le Renard, the second opening from Les Animaux group. 8 Euro cocktails after 9pm…not a typo.
With ordinary facades on the outside, but wild crowds on weekends, Le 9b and Le Hasbeen are the best dives for locals. The former has a great alternative vibe, with an intimate, downstairs venue for electro DJs. The latter has a ridiculous price on beer (under 5 Euro).
Along with Chinatown Deux, artist galleries and squats (which I may or may not write about in the future), Belleville also hosts one of the stunning panoramas of Paris.
It rivals Montmartre.
Except you don’t have to elbow other tourists for a picture. Or get pestered by street salesmen while you’re trying to scale a massive staircase.
The park itself is stunning as well, and in the summer, there’s a large waterfall.
You can find Parc Belleville after a brief hike up Rue de Belleville, or a walk from the Metro Stop: Pyrenees.