I feel at peace in Belleville. Maybe it's the loudness and high concentration of Asians, which immediately transports me to family dinners back in Cleveland; or the close proximity to Hobbes' delicious, gluten-free and vegan dishes, particularly their mouthwatering raw cheesecake.  Whatever the case, I love walking around this colorful village on sunny weekend afternoons, pretending I'm the kid from Le ballon rouge. It's an entirely different world from the 7ème, which is as socioeconomically and culturally diverse as a garden party at Gwyneth Paltrow's.

The former working-class neighborhood changed a lot since Puccini wrote about it. Armenian record stores dot the village. Britney Spears plays all night long at Chinatown Belleville KaraokeHipsters listen to jazz under the moonlight at Pavillon Puebla. Vietnamese diners enjoy authentic bo bun and pho at tiny, friendly Paris-Belleville (45 Rue de Belleville). Rue Dénoyez is famous for cafés and graffiti, but lesser-known streets from Goncourt to Buttes-Chaumont boast gems by Madame and Ben, among other elusive Paris artists and crews. Here are the street artists I see most often:
  • Fred le Chevalier
  • Sheepest
  • Blek le Rat
  • Monsieur Chat
  • Jérôme Mesnager
  • Kouka
  • Space Invader
  • 1984
  • l'Atlas
  • Zoo Project
  • Nemo 
To find the paintings and murals pictured, take Rue de la Duée to Villa de l'Ermitage, Rue des Cascades, and Pavillon Carré de Baudoin, which once belonged to the Goncourts. I threw up there once after getting food poisoning at Helmut Newcake. Next, climb the stairs of Rue des Couronnes- above lush, abandoned train tracks- to Parc de Belleville.


Place Fréhel features a large trompe l'oeil mural by Ben, a friend of Yves Klein, noted for his slogans and "living sculptures." He famously autographed people in the street, once even scribbling on his infant daughter. "Il faut se méfier de mots" means "beware of words." The square features a beautiful community garden and composter. 

The raindrop men are by Ema- Florence Blanchard, a Parisian by way of Montpellier and Brooklyn. The couple clasping hands is by Fred le Chevalier. Incidentally, Kouka once gave me a ride home on his scooter after a party at L'Inconnu, because he had a crush on my friend's roommate or something. 

When you finish exploring, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont will be waiting. If the former landfill is too crowded, take Rue Michel Tagrine to Rue Georges Lardennois and visit Butte Bergeyre. Named for a French rugby star, the area was once covered in windmills. Today, it's a nice place to sit in the vegetable garden and read Germinie Lacerteux, the saddest and best book by the Goncourt brothers, based on their family servant, Rose. The lush setting slopes into one of Paris' last vineyards, where you can sample grapes and pretend you are a true Bellevilloise, à la Edith Piaf or Maiwenn. Photos, Emmanuel Vivier.

Paris to Go


  1. Hi Ariana! Could you do a post on books you recommend for people moving to France or people that love France? This is my first time commenting, but I've read every post, and I think you mentioned a Boris Vian book before....I'd love a list of books you recommend to refer to. Thanks!

  2. I'd like to see something like that too, with movies, please. It'd be interesting to hear what movies French people actually enjoy.

    1. You can look at the movies that are actually on Paris, it's a nice way to know that. ;)

  3. Hi Sam and Anonymous! That's a great idea. I'll do a post on this! L'écume des jours was the book I mentioned. I'm fascinated by Boris Vian and the Oulipo and actually a long time ago the translator of one of his books contacted me and I interviewed him. But the book is super depressing. It's also a movie with Romain Duris which is really beautiful in the beginning and again, horribly depressing at the end.