Just turn the corner

If you ask a Parisian about Paris’ level of safety what to avoid and where not to end up alone at night, they will most probably tell you that in general, Paris is a safe city, but you can easily turn a corner and find yourself in a rather “daunting” street or neighborhood. For example, you may be having a coffee outside Centre Georges Pompidou, then head over to Rue Saint Denis, where the majority of stores either sell pornographic DVDs or charge a small fee for, let’s call them, “exclusive viewings”… The atmosphere can literally change in a matter of seconds. However, sticking to the classic guidebook, step-by step arrondissement itinerary can be a downfall

Belleville, for example, once an ‘up and coming’ quartier has now, almost, ‘arrived’. While it may seem scummy as you leave the metro station, at either Pyrennees or Belleville, the long Rue Piat, – also not the most glamorous of Parisian streets – leads to one of the highest points in Paris: the top of the beautiful Parc de Belleville.

The café/bar, ‘La Mer a Boire’ has been granted this exclusive position, overlooking the city. Quite appropriately, the expression “Ce n’est pas la mer a boire!” has come to be used in modern times as the expression for saying that something is uncomplicated: rightly so, the atmosphere this popular bar is layed back and friendly. You can sit at a table overlooking the park and the rest of the city whilst drinking red wine and sharing une assiette de charcuterie ou fromage.

After your Belleville apero, the Rue de Belleville and its many Asian restaurants merit a visit. Many of them are recommended by several guidebooks or have been written up in local newspapers: if so, they will exploit this to their advantage in an all but modest fashion, and this is probably the one to go for. After dinner, if you’re up to it, head for Bar aux Folies on your way back down to metro Belleville, towards the bottom of the road and join the bustling atmosphere for one last drink.

The ‘villagy’ atmosphere of Belleville is charming, once you get to it, and although you may have to explore, twist and turn, through bustling streets and unusually quiet lanes to get there, if not only for the view, it is definitely worth it.

More of Belleville to come…
• Rue Menilmontant
• Marche de Belleville
• La Bellevilloise

Related areas
France, Paris