In 2018 as part of my year of traveling the world, I spent a blissful month in Paris—specifically in Belleville, in the 20th arrondissement. It’s a very hipster part of town, and still in the throes of gentrification with all the pros and cons that entails.
Why Belleville is Paris’s coolest arrondissement
I referred to my apartment here as my little nest, because I was situated in the treetops high above the rest of Paris.
The Parc de Belleville, directly across the street from my apartment, is perched on a hill with a fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower and the rooftops of Paris. I walked through it every morning on my way to my café or to a market.
The Parc Buttes-Chaumont is only a few blocks away, and also is full of hills and valleys and views of Sacre-Coeur.
Amidst all this greenery, there’s vibrant street life and incredible diversity. It’s a real residential neighborhood too, and not overrun by tourists. It makes me feel like a local, especially as I write in the cafés and shop the local markets and stores around me.
Then I open my mouth and terrible French comes out and I remember hey, I don’t live here for real. But it’s a lovely illusion.
What to do in Belleville
- Marvel at the artful graffiti that surrounds everything. Rooftops, shop doors, parked vans, produce markets, Belleville is a canvas.
- See how many ironic mustaches you can spot on the passersby from your perch at one of the many cafés serving incredible coffee.
- Shop the multitude of organic markets, epiceries, and even a boulangerie that makes bread without commercial yeast (Le Petit Grain, my obsession).
- Take that bread and some natural wine from La Cave de Belleville and have a picnic in one of the beautiful parks. If you’re in the Buttes-Chaumont, see if you can spot the guy with his parrot on a leash or the tiny three-legged chihuahua hopping around.
- Rejoice in the kindness of the people here, who see many fewer tourists than in the pricier arrondissements and so are less annoyed with them.
- Muse about why they are so obsessed with Brooklyn. Think haughtily (and hipsterishly) to yourself that Portland, Oregon did all this first. But secretly be pleased that this reminds you of living there and being 23 and cool but broke again. (ok that one’s just for me)