There’s a vision of Paris we all have in our heads; one of manicured tree-lined streets, Haussmannian-style architecture, and that beautiful little tower glimmering in the distance. But what if we told you there was a tucked-away neighborhood in the City of Light where rainbow walls of graffiti paint the backdrop, Algerian-style pastries take precedence over baguettes, and various cultures collide on the inclined, cobblestone streets? Welcome to Belleville, Paris’s northeastern, edgier neighborhood that’ll show you a whole other side of what the city has to offer. Here’s our 24-hour guide of what to do in Belleville, Paris:
Start the morning off right with a proper coffee at Café Cheri(e), a tiny corner café that offers cheap espresso, free Wi-Fi, and a huge outdoor seating space. The place is generally packed with young people, sipping on morning caffeine fixes and transitioning to pints of beer by early afternoon. The bright red paint job will make this spot hard to miss. Savor your espresso while people watching; pair with a cigarette to do as the locals do.
Le Marché Belleville
If your day trip to Belleville happens to take place on a Tuesday or Friday, you’re in luck. From Café Cheri(e), head south on Boulevard de la Villette (which turns into Boulevard de Belleville) and check out Le Marché Belleville. Open-air markets are extremely popular in Paris, though this particular market is unique; it intersects at four different arrondissements and represents an array of cultures, with plentiful offerings of Middle Eastern, Asian, and African specialties. In addition to your general fruit and vegetable purchase, add some savory Middle Eastern spices and colorful African fabrics to your list to truly take advantage of the market’s diversity.
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Couscous at El Maida
Head up the steeply inclined street of Rue de Belleville to El Maida for a traditional (and affordable) North African-style lunch. We recommend getting the couscous, though be sure not to miss out on the perfectly crisped fries — they’re to die for. On your way out, be sure not to miss the plaque hanging under No. 72 — this is where Edith Piaf was born! For Chinese food lovers, opt for Tai Yien on Rue de Belleville. The food is authentic, simple, and super cheap. We recommend the steamed dumplings or roasted duck.
You can’t correctly finish a French meal without a proper serving of cheese. Continue up on Rue de Belleville to No. 118 to Fromagerie Beaufils. The cheesemongers there are friendly and eager to help you find the perfect cheese for your palate. We recommend an aged Comté or mild goat to play it safe, though if available, grab the Bellevilloise, a handmade, triple cream cheese creation drenched in rum-soaked raisins. When in Belleville, do like a Bellevilloise.
Parc de Belleville
As tempting as it might be, hold off on that cheese consumption for just a few more minutes and head to Parc de Belleville to savor your lunch finale with one of the greatest views of Paris. The park offers a panoramic, unobstructed view of the city. You may even find some locals selling handmade jewelry and crafts, or shooting homemade music videos at the summit of the viewpoint. Fun fact: The park also has 140 vines, a brief insight into the winemaking past of the neighborhood.
Apéro at Aux Folies
We all know (and love) the French tradition of apéro — basically happy hour on steroids. After your park stroll, head to Aux Folies to take your apéro at one of the greatest bars in all of Paris. Get there early to grab a seat outside, as this tiny joint fills up quickly. The interior walls are covered in peeling band stickers and neon colored lights, adding to the grungy, ’80s feel of the place. Grab a couple of pints and people-watch on Rue de Belleville, then take a walk around the side of the building down Rue Dénoyez, arguably one of the most beautiful streets in all of Paris. The walls are covered in graffiti murals and rainbow street art — even the trash cans are festively adorned. You won’t want to miss this landmark on your Belleville tour.
Dinner at La Cave de Belleville
Have a light dinner at La Cave de Belleville, the neighborhood’s newest hybrid wine bar-wine shop. The shop is set up like a library for wine; bottles line the shelves from floor to ceiling, with ladders dotting the loaded walls. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, ready to help you find that perfect glass or bottle. Many of the wines served are natural or biodynamic and pair perfectly with the tapas and salad offerings. Grab a charcuterie or cheese plate to share and dabble in the by-the-glass selections from various French wine regions. For a heartier meal, there’s no other place to go than Le Baratin, though be sure to make a reservation well in advance.
Live Music and Drinks at La Bellevilloise
Stop by La Bellevilloise for cocktails and a concert to round out your evening. La Bellevilloise has been a cultural center in the neighborhood since the late 1800s, offering a space for artists and musicians to showcase their talents. The indoor space consists of high vaulted ceilings and a center stage surrounded by tables, chairs, and scattered plants. Stop by on a weekend to check out the latest art expo or for a late-morning brunch. For a cocktail-induced sing-along, head to Le Vieux Belleville on one of its musical nights; Edith Piaf tunes and live accordion music are certain to be present.
WHERE TO STAY:
While we recommend grabbing a cheap Airbnb for the most authentic experience, there are plenty of lodging options in this neighborhood. For affordable accommodations, look to The Loft Hostel, which includes Wi-Fi, various room sizes, and an outdoor patio. For accommodations with private bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and flat screen TVs, look to Hotel des Pyrenees.