Arriving in Belleville conjures up a host of feelings and emotions. On one hand you are amidst a colourful and vibrant multi-cultural enclave that most big cities offer, but it’s coupled with the unmistakable distinctiveness of the Haussmanian Parisian landscape. Belleville is home to one of two of Paris’ Chinatowns (the other is in Place D’Italie), and over the years has seen new waves of migrants establish themselves, predominantly from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Rue de Belleville is teeming with Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan restaurants, interspersed with Vietnamese, Chinese and Ethopian cuisines. Its certainly feels like the heart of Paris’ melting pot.
But what is most unique and interesting about this neighbourhood is Rue Denoyez, a small street that has been completely taken over by graffiti and street artists. This is largely attributed to it being one of the few legalized laneways for graffiti in the city, bringing a kaleidoscope of ever changing murals on its walls. A number of galleries and cafes are tucked away in its midst and it is definitely worth exploring this side of town. The streets are lined with planters that are taken care of by residents and individually decorated with poems and mosaics, and stencils, toys and teapots are stuck haphazardly on the walls, creating a quirky and whimsical feel about the place.
One of the most iconic cafés in the neighborhood, Café aux Folies (8 rue de Belleville, 75020), is a happening place on weekends, especially in warmer months when the terrace fills up. France’s most famous singer, Edith Piaf, known as the “Little Sparrow,” once performed here early in her career.
The closest metro stop to Rue Denoyez is Belleville on the 11. I encourage you to explore the area, where you will find the Muslim quarter, Chinatown and Little Arabia within moments of each other.
Close-ups of the whimsical details embedded into the walls:
Notice the mosaic flower pots, collaged onto a street post!
And for fun, here is the only lane in Belgium where graffiti is permitted and unlike Parisians, the Belgians seem to follow this law to the T!