Seeing Paris from the Eiffel Tower is one of those bucket-list musts, but would it be such a faux pas if you took your view of this beloved city from somewhere else?
I’m half kidding about missing the Eiffel Tower – what lies beneath the tower ( a fascinating bunker) and its history are worth seeing and learning about (and we can arrange a Paris Made for You custom Eiffel Tower experience). But when it comes to views with far less crowds and a whole lot less stair climbing, my favorite viewing spot is in Belleville.
It was many years ago when a dear tour guide friend of mine introduced me to the funky, gritty neighborhood of Belleville.
Situated in both the 19th and 20th arrondissements (and if you are in some parts of the neighborhood, you can stand in the 10th and 11th arrondissements as well – so four neighborhoods at once!), Belleville is a working-class enclave with cool bars and an offbeat vibe. I love its contrast from the gilded, glamorous side of Paris, although I think every one of the 20 arrondissements have their special charms.
I come here for a stroll through the graffiti walls (in fact, that’s me at the walls in the photo!) to pay homage to Belleville’s most famous resident, Edith Piaf who was born here. A museum in her honor stands at 5 rue Crespin-du-Gast and tourist visitation is by appointment only (which we can book for you!) and afterwards you can spend a leisurely afternoon picnicking in Parc Belleville.
From the hilltop on which Parc de Belleville is situated, you can get a clear view of the Eiffel Tower with no crowds and enjoy a soft green lawn that begs for you to stretch out and enjoy a bottle of Bordeaux. As you sip from your bottle of wine, you can admire hundreds of trees including dogwood, and lime trees.
Bring your kids for a fun time in the playground and let them run free while you gaze at a panorama of this majestic city 108 meters high, the highest elevation in the city. As compared to the relatively flat city center, Belleville was originally outside the perimeter of the French capital. Parisians who were displaced from the center of Paris with the razing of residences, buildings and streets by Baron Haussmann during the late 1800’s re-settled in the Belleville area. Today, the neighborhood and park are a cultural blend of many nationalities, adding much flair to the area.
If you love flowers, the park is also known for its display of annuals. The flower beds have received prizes numerous times at the Summer Floral Decoration Competition which takes place every September.
To add to the bucolic setting, there’s even a small vineyard at the top of the park with vines from Champagne and Burgundy. Stick around the neighborhood into the evening and visit the rooftop at the cool “hostel” Mama Shelter at 109 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 and take in even more views of Paris as you sip an equally cool cocktail.
Although not in the park itself, I would also come here for the best street art in all of Paris. A few years ago, I had the privilege of having a cool photo shoot up in Belleville with the graffiti walls as a backdrop. Did you know it’s perfectly legal to take a can of spray paint and make your own street art? The graffiti walls are very tastefully done, adding a beautiful artistic flair to an already hip, but slightly edgy neighborhood that’s just a metro ride away from anywhere you might be in Paris.
Now I ask you, would you rather fight the crowds, fend off annoying merchants shoving useless trinkets in your face, and climb a million steps for the view everyone sees? Instead take a free retreat to a country-like setting for a tranquil, local experience with a view of the Iron Lady in all her glory!
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