75020: Not to be missed – Guide to the twentieth arrondissement of Paris
In fact, this eastern part of town is undoubtedly authentic, artsy and well worth a stop, as it can entertain and captivate you in a variety of ways. This guide will shine a light on two areas located in le vingtième: Belleville and Ménilmontant. Are you ready for a stroll? Here we go!
Introducing the neighbourhoods: Belleville and Ménilmontant
An eclectic neighborhood home to a large immigration movement from Asia and North Africa for decades, Belleville is lively, vibrant, cool and popular. Ménilmontant is just as trendy and charming. Tunisian cafés, little bistros and alternative venues coexist in these exciting and continuously evolving quartiers. Often depicted in songs or poems, Belleville and Ménilmontant are rich with different layers and flavors.
The 20th arrondissement was created in 1860, as part of the Grand Paris project of Emperor Napoléon III and his acolyte, the urban planner Baron Haussmann. The nearby municipality of Belleville was entirely annexed to the city. Some parts of it were included in the 19th, 10th, 11th, or 20th arrondissements. Nowadays, the official administrative district named Belleville is in the 20th only.
Ménilmontant is also a neighbourhood found in the 20th arrondissement. But it is not technically its own district and is officially part of Belleville, even if it is commonly considered its very own ‘quartier’. All clear?
Ménilmontant, like Belleville, is situated atop a hill. Its small alleyways are the perfect background for Sunday walks or just everyday ‘flânerie’.
If I had to sum it up with two words, I’d choose authentic and artsy.
The most famous landmark in the arrondissement is quite undeniably the world-renowned, and utterly mesmerising, Père-Lachaise cemetery. Here, poets, politicians, musicians and a plethora of illustrious names are buried, in a forest of strange, beautiful and impressive tombstones.
Parc de Belleville: an unmissable spot
I love this park.
- First, since it is on a hill, you can reach the belvedere or lookout and get a picturesque view of the city, with the Eiffel Tower discernible in the far distance and the beauty of immense sky over the infamous Paris rooftops.
- Second, the park’s little passageways bordered with trees and benches are a calm oasis. Here, people like to sit and talk, read, or just take the time to think and daydream.
When the sun returns after winter is gone, you can lay on the grass and soak it up as locals do. Just like the main character in ’ Paris je t’aime’, you can buy a sandwich, sit and take it all in.
You can enjoy being here, in Paris.
Because no matter what, Paris is always a good idea.
Saveurs d’Asie: tasting the 20th arrondissement
In the 1970s, the neighborhood saw an important Asian population flock to its streets. Nowadays, we could say Asian flavors and Belleville are joined at the hips.
You can find delicious restaurants to satisfy your hungry stomach and gourmet palate.
- If you enjoy ravioli, Guo Xin is an excellent choice.
- For a tasty Vietnamese meal, Le Rouleau de Printemps is a must.
- Delightful spring rolls, delectable soups, and cheap prices.
Finally, if you crave a good bánh mì sandwich, Panda Belleville has exactly what you need!
Drinking and dancing in the 20th
Meeting friends for l’apéro?
Want to sit quietly with a book after a long day?
Belleville bursts with local cafés and bars where regulars, students and trendsetters meet in a joyful fashion.
- Aux Folies on rue de Belleville is at the very top of my list. The terrace of this small bar is always full, no matter if its winter, spring, autumn or summer. You can have a pint or try one of their excellent mojitos. It feels like the heart of Belleville with its mixed crowd, popular vibe and seemingly endless nights. A moveable feast!
- If you want to have drinks (or coffee, of course) and eat as well, I recommend Les Triplettes on boulevard de Belleville. Cool atmosphere, plus the food is always succulent and ideal to share with friends. Good cocktail selection too! The heated terrace and the nice staff add to the charm of this bar.
- Le Jourdain is a small tapas restaurant located on rue des Couronnes. Neighbors and locals are fond of this establishment for its delicious seafood meals. A safe bet for a great diner!
- Want to dance or listen to some music? La Bellevilloise is the iconic venue you were waiting for! Discover bands, let your feet move to techno music, grab a bite. This mythical place is emblematic of the 20th arrondissement and will make your evenings and nights sparkle.
Art is in the streets
Belleville and Ménilmontant are big street-art spots in Paris. One particular street comes to mind; rue Denoyez. Here, the walls and windows of the buildings – often artist workshops and studios – are covered in art.
Even after a partial destruction of some buildings in order to build a nursery and public housing, the vibrant and colorful street fought and resisted. So much so that it remains an unmissable stop if you are looking for inspiring street art. Do not miss it.
- Le parc de Belleville also offers some interesting murals by artist ‘Seth’.
- Another wall always ornamented with art is the Mur du Pavillon Carré de Baudouin.
- Finally, if you walk up rue de Ménilmontant, you will find a great mural by Jérôme Mesnager dedicated to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. One of my favorites. Every quartier should have one!
Père-Lachaise: a must-see of the 20th arrondissement
Does it really need an introduction? More than 700 000 burial plots, a land the size of 44 hectares and more than 3.5 million visitors a year. The Père-Lachaise graveyard is one of the most important attractions in Paris.
The multiple funerary styles and the famous names resting there have transformed this cemetery into a culturally significant landmark.
- Walk and admire the aesthetics,
- get a bit spooked out by some sepulchres,
- look for Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf or Oscar Wild’s graves and
- marvel and the beauty and strangeness of the place.
Behind poet and playwright Alfred de Musset’s tomb, you can find a tree, planted specifically for him, at his request.
The bizarre, sombre, but also peaceful atmosphere will make for a visit like no other in Paris.
Discover the wonderful twentieth arrondissement!
If you travel to the capital of France, I highly recommend taking a day to discover the 20th arrondissement. Especially Belleville and Ménilmontant!
Traveling can happen through other creative forms too. And luckily for us, these two neighborhoods are frequently portrayed in works of literature and music.
For example, you could read –
- Daniel Pennac’s ‘saga Les Malaussène’ or
- Romain Gary’s masterpiece ‘La vie devant soi’.
- You can enjoy the movie ‘Les Triplettes de Belleville’,
- the song ‘Ménilmontant’ by Charles Trenet, or the movie ‘Casque d’or’ with Simone Signoret.
- You can also check out photographer Willy Ronis.
Have you ever been to the 20th arrondissement of Paris? What places would you recommend? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!
1. Belleville rue Denoyez, by Myrabella via Wikipedia
2. Paris 20e, by ThePromenader via Wikipedia
3. Parc de Belleville, by Pol via Wikipedia
4. Rouleaux de Printemps, by jonathanvalencia5 via Pixabay
5. Rue Dénoyez, by Olybirus via Wikipedia
6. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, by Barry Marsh via Flickr
More in this series from Melissa
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75020 – the not to be missed GUIDE to the authentic artsy 20th arrondissement of Paris – this one