Belleville is a traditionally working-class quartier only locals know about and is tucked away from tourists. While it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s bursting with colour and vibrancy because of the work of some of Paris’ most talented graffiti artists.
Belleville is an eclectic neighbourhood that straddles the borderline between the 20th, 19th, 10th and 11th arrondissements. It lies on a hill that vies with Montmartre as the highest (and the most artistic) in Paris.
Its main attraction is the artistic vibe, as the area boasts impressive graffiti street art and exhibitions at every corner.
In fact, when translated, Belleville means ‘beautiful town’, and artistically, it’s easy to see why it has this name.
The quartier may be steeped in ancient Gothic architecture, boasting its very own Notre Dame, but it rejects tradition with all its might.
Belleville is one of the last neighbourhoods in Paris to remain within a modest price range, and so attracts all the talented young artists that can’t afford to rent anywhere else.
Wherever you turn, there is the vibrancy and colour of street art and self-expression. You’ll be amazed at the artistic masterpieces lining the street walls.
The best place to start a street-art tour in this neighbourhood is Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, whose walls are lined with creative expression.
You can take the line 11 metro to arrive at Belleville or Goncourt, or take line 2 and you will arrive at Couronnes station.
Afterwards, a great place to visit is Rue Denoyez, whose uphill cobbled paths are in cute contrast with the street art. It’s on this stretch that you’ll find Frichez nous la paix, an independent gallery and artists’ workshop that is simply a must-visit.
Opened in 2002, Friche-nous la Paix is an atypical and unique gallery with a resolutely original façade. The place is full of character and young friendly artists.
If you wander a little further along, you’ll stumble across the Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville, a larger-scale visual-arts centre that is open to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday in the afternoons.
Most of these works of art are ephemeral, meaning that the quartier is graced with new images all the time, kept alive in a constant state of artistic renewal.
This is a snapshot of some of the artistic wonders you can expect to stumble across, but the art is in constant flux.