In one of Paris’ largest arrondissements, in the historically working class northeast of the city, there is no shortage of things to experience in the 20th. A bit off-the-beaten track for the casual visitor, it offers up a hotbed of cultural events, stunning views, and peaceful hideaways for the adventurous traveler.
Say hello to Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise
While the 20th arrondissement isn’t generally a tourist destination, one local spot has been drawing in visitors for centuries, the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Originally in the outskirts of the city when the cemetery was built in the early nineteenth century, Paris has since expanded around it, turning it accidentally into the city’s largest public park. The precise number of people buried there is unknown, but among the estimated hundreds of thousands of residents are some of the world’s most beloved historical figures. Pay homage to greats like Molière, Oscar Wilde or Jim Morrison, as you take a stroll through what may be the most peaceful spot in Paris. Make sure to build in time to stop and marvel at the haunting beauty of the stunning sculptures and monuments nestled into the greenery at every turn.
Surround yourself with the best of Parisian street art
Tiny rue Denoyez punches well above its weight. Running just a single city block, the short street takes on a larger-than-life persona with nearly every square inch of its walls, doors, and balconies completely covered in graffiti. Between the shockingly vibrant colors adorning its walls and the unobstructed view of the sky above, rue Denoyez is an artist’s oasis. It has also turned into a community hub over the years, with graffteurs from across the city, and globe, making a pilgrimage here to add their own personal contribution to its massive 30-foot concrete canvasses. The best part? The steady influx of artists means that the street is constantly changing, making it worth a detour any time you’re in the neighborhood.
Spend the night at one of Paris’ hippest boutique hotels
Tucked away in an unsuspecting corner of the 20th arrondissement, Mama Shelter is worth the trek for the adventurous visitor.With its avant-garde decor and laid-back atmosphere, the boutique hotel caters to a young, hip crowd looking for a unique place to unpack and unwind without a huge price tag.Not looking for somewhere to stay?Mama Shelter is still worth a visit for its trendy bar which often features live music on the weekends, and its cozy rooftop terrace offering an impressive view of the city.
Paris’ first workers’ co-op was founded in 1877 and over a century later, La Bellevilloise is still a central part of the local community. After a few decades out of the spotlight as a private commercial office, the building re-opened its doors to the public in 2005 as a cultural hub and now hosts a variety of events including concerts, exhibits, and festivals. The unique space also doubles as a restaurant and bar and is particularly beloved for its jazzy Sunday brunch.
One of the cheapest bars in Paris, Aux Folies’ expansive terrace is almost always packed to the brim. Hip localsflock to the former cabaret bar turned classic Parisian bar throughout the day and evening to catch up with friends over a drink. Sitting on the terrace, it is hard not to be inspired by the constant and diverse stream of foot traffic passing by on the busy rue de Belleville. You’ll realize quickly that you are no longer in central Paris. The place really comes alive at night as groups of bobos spill out onto the sidewalk, drink in hand, waiting to nab a rare free table.
Perched at the top of the hill of Belleville, Parc de Belleville offers up a view of central Paris sprawled out below you. With its impressive fountain, ample green space, and prize-winning annual flower display, the Parc de Belleville is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. To blend in with the locals you’ve got several options: settle in on the grass with a good book and bottle of wine, sneak in a workout running over its many hills, or get in the competitive spirit with a rousing match of ping-pong. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a peek at the small vineyard at the park’s summit, a fun reminder of Belleville’s Medieval past when the hilltop was covered in vines and surrounded by taverns.
The 20th arrondissement is home to numerous concert venues, big and small, making it an ideal destination when you’re in need of some new tunes. La Flèche d’Or and La Maroquinerie are two of the best in the neighborhood and boast diverse line-ups ranging from rock to R&B, and pop to punk. Both regular hosts established, international performers, as well as up-and-coming local musicians, good spots to check out if you want to stack your playlist with bands you’ll be able to say you knew before they hit it big.
Emerging from the Belleville metro station into the heart of one of Paris’ bustling Chinatown neighborhoods, you may wonder if you’ve suddenly been transported to a different continent. Stretching to the east from the metro station, the rue de Belleville and its many Asian markets are the ideal places to push the boundaries of your culinary capabilities. Get inspired by the overflowing baskets of fresh produce on the sidewalks, and the roasted ducks hanging enticingly in the shop windows. What’s even better is that you’ll be amazed how far a few euros can take you when it’s time to pay for your new treasures.
Librairie Galerie le Mont-en-l'air | Courtesy of Librairie Galerie le Mont-en-l'air
The Librairie Galerie Le Monte-en-l’air is another tiny spot in the 20th that can take you far beyond the arrondissement’s borders. One of Paris’ most diverse bookshops, here you’ll find an eclectic collection of literature, graphic novels, poetry, fanzines, and art from across the globe. Peruse the shelves yourself or ask the friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff for a suggestion, then pick up a coffee and settle in to read on the sunny terrace. If you’re looking for something more lively, pop by during one of the bookshop cum gallery’s frequent exhibitions, readings, or debates.
With its abundance of artists, musicians, and actors, the 20th arrondissement is a veritable hotbed of creative endeavors. Whatever style you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it at Culture Rapide, which hosts performances every night of the week that range from stand-up comedy sets to poetry slams. The cheap drinks and convivial atmosphere make it one of the most welcoming bars in Paris. If you’re feeling brave, why not take the stage yourself at one of their regular Monday and Wednesday open mic nights? By Alixandra Haywood