Belleville (88)

In Belleville and in the old village of Ménilmontant their narrow alleyways still remind one of the rural and working-class past of this area of Paris. Getting lost amongst them it is possible to find small shops, workshops, taverns or charming gardens hidden behind the carriage entrances.

This area started life as a medieval village amidst the vineyards of the grand abbeys of Paris. From the 18th century until the period of the Restoration, there were many “guinguettes” here, picnic spots where the Parisians would spend Sunday and drink an acidic wine called “guinget”.

The urbanisation of Belleville began around 1840, when it was populated by workers from Paris in search of more affordable housing. In 1860 Belleville was annexed to the city and remained divided into two. The old wine-producing village became a district where poverty was rife.

In the 20th century waves of immigrants arrived in the district, giving it a boost. Today the population of Belleville is one of the most varied in Paris.

Many of the homes here are small houses with a garden, single-family housing units or with few neighbours that occupy a private street. The large-scale urban remodelling did not reach this area and the houses were built according to the whims of each owner. At number 151 of Rue de Belleville it is possible to see the garden city of the Palais Royal of Belleville. 

Between the street and the Boulevard de Belleville you can walk while observing how on the pavements people chat happily, play cards, and the terraces of the cafés fill to overflowing, while you can perceive the aromas of Asia, Africa... 

This area currently houses a large number of artists’ workshops, who are looking for large spaces with natural light. Studio Open Days are also held that have become an important event of Parisian cultural life. Every year more than 200 artists take part in the Open Days and they receive around 50,000 visitors. In these studios you can discover paintings, sculptures, engravings, photographs and installations. 

If you are looking for cultural diversity in all its meanings, this is your district.

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