In 2016, Paris was voted the city most people would want to visit for 24 hours if money were no object, which is completely understandable given everything that it has going on over the coming year. But be warned, trying to fit the whole city into a day will squeeze the fun right out of it. Much better to soak up the atmosphere of one little patch, like trendy Belleville.
Drop your bags at the Hôtel Scarlett
This boutique hotel just off the Rue de Belleville is the chicest place to stay in the neighborhood. The long-abandoned building has been totally and thoughtfully renovated. Each of the 30 bedrooms is warmly decorated and features a few unique touches. The bar and lounge have a slightly industrial feel, reflecting the area’s working class roots, and both are flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Without a doubt, the Hôtel Scarlett is the perfect relaxing base from which to launch your 24-hour exploration.
Grab brunch at Le Barbouquin
Nothing works up a hunger quite like travelling, so by the time you’ve arrived and checked in you’ll probably be famished. Luckily, one of the coolest cafés not only in Belleville but in all of Paris is just 500 meters away. Le Barbouquin is warm and welcoming and has a tasty selection of treats for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. You can also leaf through a book from the café’s library while you sip your coffee or tea, relax after your journey, and get ready for a day of discovery.
See the art, everywhere
Art is really what Belleville is all about. It’s one of the last places where young artists can afford the rent, and the walls of the buildings in which they live and socialise have become their canvases. The Rue Denoyez, a cobbled side street running off the main, uphill strip, is especially famous for its densely graffitied walls. It’s also home to Frichez nous la paix, an independent gallery and artists’ workshop. On the other side of the neighborhood, you’ll find the Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville, a larger visual arts venue open Wednesday to Sunday in the afternoon.
Sip an apéro at Aux Folies
Around the metro station, there are several bars in which you can get the evening started, but Aux Folies is by far the local favourite. Don’t expect anything flashy from this 1920s dive bar, but do prepare to be amazed by how little a round of drinks costs you. The place, as well as being full to the brim most nights, is packed with history. It was here that Édith Piaf, said to have been born on the streets of Belleville, had her first indoor gigs.
Have dinner at Dame Jane
Totally in tune with the tone of the neighborhood, everything is kept simple at Dame Jane. Open Monday to Saturday, it’s a delicatessen, wine bar, and intimate restaurant. Jeff, the chef, creates dishes inspired by his grandmother’s recipes and made fresh with locally sourced ingredients. The fish, meats, and desserts are all absolutely exquisite. If fabulous French cuisine isn’t your thing, and why necessarily should it be, give Mian Guan, the best of the local Chinese restaurants, or Chez Gabin, a kosher diner, a try.
Finish the night at La Bellevilloise
La Bellevilloise, on the eastern edge of the neighbourhood, was originally Paris’ first workers’ cooperative, founded back in 1877. Today, it is a multi-purpose venue, hosting live music performances from hip-hop, indie and alternative acts and art shows from Wednesdays to Sundays. There are also regular club nights. It’s a laidback place spread over two levels, with a large terrace and Chesterfield sofas in which to chill out after a day discovering a new part of the world (if you don’t hear your even comfier bed calling, that is).
Hit the market and savour your final moments in Belleville
If you wake up here on Tuesday or Friday, you’re in luck: the Belleville Market is on. This is a great place to pick up some reviving fruit for breakfast. It also sells cheese, flowers, and other things you might want to take back with you (and that your fellow travellers might not thank you for doing in the case of the cheeses). On Thursdays and Sundays, you can walk to the Marché Pyrénées, which occupies the portion of the exceptionally long Rue des Pyrénées nearest Père-Lachaise Cemetery. If you aren’t in town on any of these days, why not head back to Le Barbouquin for breakfast or sample another local coffee shop like Cream.