In the late 19th century, what was then called "Belleville" – comprising much of today's 19th and 20th arrondissements – was the 6th largest city in France, accommodating mainly migrant laborers... Read More
In the late 19th century, what was then called "Belleville" – comprising much of today's 19th and 20th arrondissements – was the 6th largest city in France, accommodating mainly migrant laborers from rural France and abroad.
The area of today's Belleville, east of the metro station of the same name, was the commercial centre of this "town" and will forever be associated with the name of Edith Piaf who was born here as the child of destitute Italian circus acrobats – literally in the streets, as legend and a plaque on Rue Belleville (no. 72) have it.
Start your walk at the metro station and walk up on Rue Belleville past the colorful hippie colony on Rue Denoyez. Have a bite, if you feel peckish, in one of the many excellent Chinese eateries along the way – this part of Belleville is firmly in the hands of Far Eastern immigrants, most of them from mainland China.
Turn right on Rue Piat until you reach the top of Belleville park. The green space underneath you was once, until the 1980s, one of the most densely populated urban areas in Europe, Piaf's Paris of overcrowded tenement halls, until the buildings were razed to the ground and replaced by the recreational space you now see in front of you.
Whatever your opinion about that may be: you can't argue about the view, one of the best in Paris. The view is actually what earned Belleville the "belle" in its name: the "ville" itself has always been interesting rather than conventionally pretty.