Belleville is a neighbourhood that straddles the borderline between the 10th, 11th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements. It lies on a hill, which vies with Montmartre as the highest in Paris. While the area’s main attraction is its artistic vibe – with impressive graffiti, street art and exhibitions at every corner – it’s also home to some lesser-known architectural secrets.
Notre Dame is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, an 850-year-old Catholic treasure that attracts 13 million tourists each year, but it is not the only Gothic masterpiece in this city.
While Notre Dame remains the oldest cathedral in Paris, with construction starting in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and completion in 1345, there’s another hidden gem of Gothic architecture that’s definitely worth a visit.
Tucked away from the tourists in the 19th arrondissement, is the glorious church known as Église Saint-Jean Baptiste (The Saint Jean Baptiste Church of Belleville).
Located at 139 Rue de Belleville, the church was first built in 1548, before undergoing major renovation work in 1635. It is actually one of the oldest neo-Gothic churches of Paris, and definitely one of the most impressive, with its looming arches, gigantic spires and stained glass windows.
Because it is located in a lesser-known neighbourhood, on the outer fringes of the tourist bustle, it doesn’t get many visitors other than locals. This has its benefits, as you can skip all the queues and, usually, have the eerily silent place all to yourself.
The church draws lots of inspiration from the design of Notre Dame, albeit in miniature form, as it measures a modest 68 metres (223 feet) long and 25 metres (82 feet) wide, and reaching a height of 26 metres (85 feet). That said, each spire extends to an impressive 57 metres (187 feet).
Stepping inside, the church is surprisingly spacious, home to a nave of five bays, two side aisles, eight lateral chapels, a transept, a choir, a walkway giving access to seven chapels, two sacristies, and two gorgeous, steeple-topped bell towers, as well as the intricately decorated stained glass windows.
The closest metro station to get you there is Métro Jourdain on Line 11, which is actually only a 15-minute detour from the central buzz of Châtelat.
You can visit the church any day of the week between 8:15am and 7:45pm, except for Mondays, when the hours are 9:30am to 8:30pm, and Fridays, when it’s open from 8:15am to 8:30pm. You can also attend services.