Street art, city views, coffee and markets…… exploring Belleville, Paris’ hip new neighbourhood……may introduce you to this…….once a patchwork of farms and windmills, Edith Piaf’s….. old stomping ground and a staunchly working-class quartier or neighbourhood, known as brilliantly multicultural Belleville….. now home to neobistros, coffee roasters and burgeoning art projects….. and with some of the city’s best street art, panoramic views and a rising food scene, this is clearly a slice of northeastern Paris worth checking out……move on to exotic Burgundy and savour the cultural heritage of Lyon…….with it’s famous heritage walls and delectable wineries…….. to rejuvenate yourselves on………The French Marvel!!!!
Arrive in Paris and head for Belleville’s rue Dénoyez sports …….the most dazzling street art. Everything on the short street, from rubbish bins and flowerpots to lamp posts and window shutters, is covered from head to toe in colourful art. Artist workshops line the street where local kids kick footballs around and street art ‘happenings’ break out on sultry summer nights. At the end of the street, break for an organic jasmine ice tea, homemade lemonade or glass of warm vanilla milk at Le Barbouquin, a mellow literary cafe with books, vintage armchairs and cultural events such as violin-accompanied poetry readings on weekends.
From blvd de Belleville walk east along rue des Couronnes until you reach rue de la Mare, a plain unassuming street brightened with the odd splash of street art and hidden artist studios and workshops. Seek out ceramists, potters and highly creative milliners such as Estelle Ramousse known for her theatrical made-to-measure hats. On nearby rue Envierges, haute-couture fashion designer Stéphanie Coudert tailor-makes unique pieces in her hip studio with striking, raw-wood façade. The best time to encounter local artists at work is during the annual Portes Ouvertes or ‘Open House’ in May when a group of artists open their studio doors to visitors for four days. Some of their work is displayed year-round in the gallery of Les Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville.
Below the panoramic terrace on rue Piat the green lawns, fountains and trimmed hedgerows of Parc de Belleville tumble down the hillside. Amid hectares of urban greenery is a gargantuan slide, toboggan ride and climbing frame for kids. Right under your feet, beneath the panoramic terrace, actually a rooftop, is the Maison de l’Air …… inside is a green exhibition on air quality in Paris.
For city views, wander along rue des Envierges, past old-fashioned bistro Le Vieux Belleville where you can hear accordion music and chansons or songs still being performed of an evening. At the end of street the stunning city panorama sweeps across the horizon from the terrace on rue Piat. An orientation table, designed in colour ceramic mosaics by local artists, maps out the Eiffel Tower and other key monuments on the skyline………as you continue on…….this French Marvel!!!
Take a break and tuck into a baguette sandwich filled with Morbier cheese, walnuts and honey from gourmet bakery Le Panorama Gourmand and flop on the rather funky chaise lounge…. built from recycled wooden pallets…… on the square here……. or stop in at L’O’Paris, a modern cafe with sky blue façade, bright pink interior and live jazz at weekends.
This region was put on the hipster map by Belleville Brûlerie, a ground-breaking roastery that brought good creative coffee to Paris. Belleville beans go into espressos and cappuccinos served at some of the city’s coolest barista-run cafes such as Fondation Café, Holybelly and Lockwood…….lo…..and….. if in you’re in Belleville on a Saturday you can taste, buy and drink coffee in situ at the roastery as ‘cupping’ sessions on Saturday mornings are a highlight.
For an authentic taste of an Asian food scene on this side…..head to Tai Yen for Chinese and Don Huong for Vietnamese…… both offer outstanding value. The neighbourhood’s crop of hip neo-bistros includes Felicity Lemon, which sells itself as the cantine de quartier or neighbourhood canteen….. the place where everyone goes, and rising star Chatomat. Natural wines accompany homemade bistro platters at the stylish wine cellar Chapeau Melon, while an unpretentious favourite is Mon Oncle Le Vigneron …. Pascal and Chika have cooked and entertained guests around shared tables at this upmarket grocery store and kitchen for the last nineteen years. For Sunday brunch there is one address….. beneath a hundred-year olive tree at a buzzing arts centre Le Bellevilloise……..sumptuous fare on……..the French Marvel!!!!
Stall holders shout out loud to flog their wares in a din of different languages at raucous open-air food market, Marché de Belleville. Its stalls have filled busy thoroughfare blvd de Belleville and shopping here for fruit, vegetables and other fresh produce is a fantastic entry into the large, vibrant community, home to artists, students and immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. End your foodie shop with a more sedate shopping experience at Fromagerie Beaufils, a family-run fromagerie and affineur or ripener…… rated as one of the best cheese shops in Paris. Crunchy baguettes and other wood-oven-baked bread from Belleville’s prize-winning boulangerie or bakery Au 140 make the perfect picnic partner.