September 6, 2018
A determinedly working class and ethic enclave in the 20th arrondissement east of the centre of Paris, Belleville has over the last generation become the epitome of hip in the metropolitan area, with a fame reaching to the remote parts of the globe. This trajectory would of course make many locals rolls their eyes, if not express outright resentment particularly with respect to the soaring prices of real estate in the once inexpensive area.
As is the case with the former communes at the periphery of the city that were absorbed into Paris in recent history, what they lack in ostentatiousness they make up for in quirkiness, authenticity and typically still greater affordability than the centre of town. The Belleville neighborhood soars uphill along the rue de Belleville from the commercial chaos of the eastern sector of the 11th arrondissement, running through one of the city’s two Chinatowns, the cohesiveness of the Asian presence somewhat unexpected to the first-time visitor. And yet a few blocks from rue de Belleville, very little of that Asian community is visible.
Much like the more glamourous neighborhoods towards the centre, Belleville is characterized by soaring, elegant Second Empire apartment buildings towering over the narrow streets that weave up and down the steep escarpments that counts among the highest elevation sites of the city with Montmartre to the north of the centre.
The western part of the neighborhood centres on the Parc de Belleville, which comes a sheer and joyful surprise coming from the centre of the city bereft of topographical inflection of any sort, its steep slopes revealing hidden flower gardens, serpentine walkways shaded with trees, steep staircases, and spectacular views of the city below.