October 10, 2014
The 20ème is one of the largest neighborhoods in Paris, covering the areas of Nation, Gambetta, Ménilmontant, and Belleville. Largely overlooked by tourists, this unique quartier is full of locals-only bars and restaurants, art galleries, theaters, charming backstreets, hidden pockets of nature, and a diverse population. As much as I love the familiar streets of the Marais and the Latin Quarter, after spending three months living here this summer, a part of me will always be called back to the 20ème. Here are a few of my favorite historic and cultural spots worth discovering.
View from La Bellevilloise
A historically working class neighborhood, the 20ème was the center of opposition to Emperor Napoleon III during the eve of the First World War, and the very last neighborhood to surrender during the Paris Commune of 1871. Predominantly an immigrant community for the last century, nowadays young entrepreneurs, artists, and bobos flock to the area for its affordable rents, active nightlife, and thriving arts scene.
View from Parc de Belleville
La Bellevilloise is a historical cornerstone of the community, reopened in 2005 by Renaud Barillet, Fabrice Martinez, and Philippe Jupin. It was originally built in 1877 as the city’s first cooperative society. Influenced by the economic philosophies of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, it was meant to be a place where producers could sell directly to consumers to provide food, charcoal, hardware, and other essentials at subsidized prices to working class families. Over time, it began to offer social activities: a café, a childcare center, a library, a solidarity fund, and even a marching band called “La Symphonie de la Bellevilloise.” Today, neighborhood locals and Parisians from all over the city line up to enjoy the terrace, nightclub, café-restaurant (especially the Sunday brunches with live Jazz music), and the variety of regularly scheduled concerts, film screenings, artistic, and gastronomic events.
La Bellevilloise – 19-21 Rue Boyer, 75020 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 46 36 07 07
La Bellevilloise, Ménilmontant
In the middle ages, the hilltop of Parc de Belleville was planted with vineyards and irrigated to provide water to the city. Today, it’s one of the more modernized gardens in Paris with a skate park and play structures for kids. Tree-shaded paths zigzag up to one of the most magnificent panoramic views of the city. You can see Tour Montparnasse, le Panthéon, the multicolored block of the Musée Pompidou, and the Eiffel Tower all lined up along the gray-blue horizon.
Parc de Belleville – 47 Rue des Couronnes, 75020 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 43 15 20 20
Parc de Belleville
While there is amazing street art to stumble upon all over the 20ème, a stroll down rue Denoyez should not to be missed. This remarkable alleyway off of rue de Belleville is covered in street art from local and well-known artists. It’s the one place in Paris where graffiti is allowed. You can learn more about Paris’ thriving street art scene with Underground Paris’ walking tours through the 20ème and 10ème. They also offer hands-on stencil art and graffiti workshops, a creative and offbeat tourist activity for artists and families alike.
Le Monte en l’Air
Le Monte en l’Air is a must see for literature lovers. Guillaume Dumora opened the bookshop-café-art gallery in 2011. You can wander in, not sure of what you’re looking for, and come out with 4 to 5 tailored recommendations from the cashiers who have read (and remember every detail of) every single book in the new releases section.
Le Monte en l’Air – 2 Rue de la Mare, 75020 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 33 04 54
Le Monte en l’Air
After picking up a couple of new reads, turn the corner onto rue Ménilmontant to Vintage 77. This sweet little vintage and consignment shop overflows with unbelievable deals on shoes, coats, scarves, and dresses by designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, The Kooples, Comptoir des Contonniers, all for usually for no more than 100 euros, and sometimes as little as 20.
Vintage 77 – 77 Rue de Menilmontant, 75020 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 97 77 17
Street art around the neighborhood
After a day of exploring, take a break at the Jardin Naturel, where Père Lachaise cemetery meets rue Bagnolet. This tranquil, unkempt garden offers birds, butterflies, a quiet pond, and secluded spots for a resting in the sunshine.
Jardin Naturel – 112 rue de la Réunion, 75020 Paris
- Tag along on an eye-opening street art walking tour organised by Underground Paris.
- Eric Goldschein explores the popular multi-purpose Bellevilloise for HiP Paris Blog!
- Don’t miss the artistic events and “open doors” organised by Les Ateliers de Ménilmontant.
Written by Isabel Miller-Bottome
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Isabel moved to Paris after graduating from UC Santa Barbara. Her poetry and articles have been published by The Catalyst, Into the Teeth of the Wind, Spectrum Literary Journal, The Daily Nexus, The Culture Trip, and the HiP Paris Blog.
Website: Isabel Miller-Bottome
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