What do Parisians do on a sunny Sunday? They do much as people do in any city. They meet friends in a favourite café or restaurant. They exercise in the local park or take the children there to play and for a picnic. They walk the dog, do a bit of food shopping perhaps, or browse a lively market. Certainly the people of Belleville do all those things.
While we often revisit favourite spots in Paris and take in some of the ‘big hitter’ sights, we always try to discover somewhere new on each visit too. On the Sunday of our latest visit, the day of our anniversary, we decided to explore this one-time village of Belleville, perched on a hill to the north east of the city.
Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Belleville
We started at the Jourdain metro station. When we emerged from the station we saw the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Belleville directly opposite, its beautiful façade catching the morning sun. Being a Sunday I thought we might be prevented from exploring inside if a Mass were in progress; but fortunately all was quiet.
This was one of the first churches of neo-Gothic architecture to be constructed in Paris, 1854-1859. The façade has scenes from the life of John the Baptist and a statue of him between the large doors. The latter depicts him in the desert presenting the Lamb of God.
The interior is relatively simple but has some lovely stained glass which was dappling the walls of the nave with spots of colour in the sunlight. A sign in one of the side chapels told us that Edith Piaf was baptised here in December 1917.
On the streets of Belleville
Leaving the church we set out on our walk, heading in the direction of the Belvédère de Belleville. On the way we passed lots of good examples of street art and some appealing cafés. But we resisted the temptation to stop for the time being at least.
As we neared the park I noticed that the apartment blocks were looking increasingly smart. This seemed a very pleasant area in which to live and one that would appeal to me. I loved the combination of the vibrant cosmopolitan community feel and the wonderful views over the city.
Belvédère de Belleville
The views over Paris once we reached the belvedere were wonderful.
We took some photos, of course, before retiring to a nearby pavement café to enjoy a coffee and watch others doing the same.
More Belleville streets
The next part of our walk took us back towards Jourdain by a different route, along the Rue de Belleville, with its eclectic mix of shops. Lots of people were out by now, doing a bit of Sunday morning shopping or enjoying brunch with friends in the various cafés and restaurants. I found some interesting details to photograph and more street art.
We passed through a more modern residential area centred on the Place des Fêtes. The food market had attracted quite a crowd; so we steered around it and carried on towards a more picturesque area, La Mouzaïa. The unusual name is Algerian; the district is named after the mountain pass of Mouzaïa, where the French army fought during the French conquest of Algeria, in 1839.
Here we found narrow lanes known as Villas, lined with pretty houses, with even prettier gardens. These small homes were originally built for workers, quarrymen in the local gypsum quarries. Today they are very desirable residences, reminding me a bit of London mews houses. I loved all the little details in the gardens!
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
We skirted the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont to find lunch in a café by the town hall of the 19th Arrondissement on the Place Armand Carrel, as we suspected (rightly) that the park’s cafés would be too busy on this sunny Sunday. We then spent a relaxing hour or so exploring the park, where we encountered a friendly lady walking her kitten on a lead, lots of picnicking families, beautiful views and a few steep hills!
This was once the site of the former gypsum quarries. In 1860, Napoleon III decided to have the area transformed into a park what was then the fashionable ‘English’ style. Although they may look natural, all its features, from its lake to its rocky outcrops, were created from scratch by the engineer Adolphe Alphand. The bridge that spans the lake and links the main part of the park to the rocky island was the work of Gustave Eiffel – yes, that Eiffel! But we (I) had run out of steam at this point so were content to simply photograph the bridge rather than cross it.
Maybe on our next visit we will return to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont for more in-depth exploration, but on this occasion relaxing and people-watching took priority.
Perversely, I’m sharing our Sunday walk for Jo’s Monday Walks, and posting it on a Tuesday!
I visit Paris often; this walk in Belleville was a highlight of our most recent 2021 visit