The 20th: An Overview
Long ignored by travelers, the 20th district has become popular in the last decade among young would-be property owners whose influx has largely contributed to a gentrification of the area. But the district is still a strong mix of immigrants, working-class Parisians, and bobos, or bourgeois bohemians, who flocked to the area for its low real estate prices. The incredible diversity of the area is now appreciated by locals, visitors, and tourists alike!
The birthplace of early music-hall stars like Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier, the 20th is also the final resting place for many famous Parisians. The Père Lachaise cemetery is one of the city’s largest green areas and provides a peaceful haven for curious walkers. Or stroll in the village-like Campagne de Paris near metro Porte de Bagnolet: it also provides a rest from the city’s hustle and bustle, and its charming homes include that of former president François Hollande. For recent exhibits, head up to Ménilmontant to the Pavillon Carré de Beaudouin, or take in the breathtaking views over Paris from the Parc de Belleville. And when you’re ready to grab a bite to eat or sip a drink, the recommendations below offer a plethora of choices among the local favorites.
Le Petit 20ème
This contemporary restaurant in the trendy Jourdain area features ultra-fresh and top-quality products, a small menu, and some of the natural wines so popular in the capital right now. It’s beguiling for its casual neighborhood vibe, one that belies the precise culinary techniques used to create the bright flavors you’ll find on your plate.
381 rue des Pyrénées
A long-standing Belleville favorite, the husband-wife team who run this tiny wine bar-cum-restaurant are unique in that the wife is originally from Argentina, helms the stove, while the husband greets patrons in his gruff but knowledgeable style. Their selection of natural wines is vast and Le Baratin was one of the first natural wine bars in eastern Paris.
3 rue Jouye-Rouve
A newcomer near Le Baratin, this is an excellent choice if you’re accommodating vegetarians in your group. Small plates include "angry hummus" (served with a spicy harissa sauce) and a tender-cooked portion of squid, brimming with flavor. Outdoor seating on a dock-like platform rounds out the naval theme.
85 rue Julien Lacroix
Also a recent implantation, but in the heart of the 20th district (Gambetta), Galerna serves up fine dining Spanish-style small plates at dinner with an excellent selection of wines from near and far. Their lunches are more French in influence, and more economical for budget-minded eaters.
7 rue du Cher
An unpretentious stalwart in the heart of Belleville! You can’t get more French than this old-fashioned bistrot serving up specialities from the Aveyron region of France: juicy beef steaks, fries, or their aligot, mashed potatoes with plenty of garlic.
401 rue des Pyrénées
Chez Alex – Wen Zhou
This Chinese restaurant is a budget-traveler’s dream, or the kind of "greasy spoon" (in a good way!) you might crave after having indulged in drink the night before. Alex, the owner, is friendly and this area cantine is packed after 7 pm. Consider take-out but beware that they close the doors fairly early, around 9:45 pm.
24 rue de Belleville
Chez Lilo – Pizza Clip
Another neighborhood favorite if you’re looking for a change from standard French fare. The Sicilian owners serve up the best pizzas in the area along with standard dishes like saltimbocca or other veal cutlets. And their vegetarian "Aubergine" (eggplant parmigiana) is a delight worth waiting for.
13 bis avenue du Père Lachaise
Le Casque d’Or
At this unpretentious neighborhood bistrot in the charming Saint Blaise area, you’ll find an outdoor seating area to watch passers-by and enjoy drinks while waiting for your food.
15 rue Saint-Blaise
Also quite close to the Saint Blaise area, and next to the impressive Médiathèque Marguerite Duras, the Mama Shelter Hotel features a bar that gets hopping on weekends with more affluent residents of the area looking to enjoy the "meet market" vibe and craft cocktails on the lighted bar. DJs play sets on some nights.
109 rue de Bagnolet
The opposite of upscale! This Belleville institution has been around since the mid-19th century (watch my video of its history here!) and attracts all sorts of patrons: young, old, hip, and unhip alike flock to the outdoor terrace for a drink.
8 rue de Belleville
This place is also a dive bar, and so much fun! Patrons tend to start conversations with one another, street poets pass by, and similar to Aux Folies, authenticity and a raucous time are guaranteed!
114 rue de Belleville
Le Vieux Belleville
This old-fashioned bar features sing-along evenings, where an accordion player distributes the printed lyrics to favorite French songs before getting started. If it gets too loud, try the neighboring Mon Cœur Belleville, right next to the top of Parc de Belleville and its breathtaking views.
12 rue des Envierges
Markets and Self-catering
Twice-weekly markets abound in the 20th district, but two notable ones are Marché de Belleville, for its exotic products and lively patrons, and the Marché Belgrand behind the town hall of the 20th (find the best products in the rue de la Chine portion of the market). Check here for which days these markets operate.
If you’re staying around the town hall area (Gambetta), you can opt for local shops with the best products the 20th has to offer, like François Priet Fromagerie (cheesemonger), Boucherie Genovese (butcher), and for amazing desserts and chocolates, SucréCacao bakery and pastry shop. Bon app’!
Allison’s newest tour gives visitors an in-depth look at French restaurant history and the bouillon, a Parisian institution. You can find out more about her other French food and culture-related services, and her dynamic history tour of Belleville, at allisonzinder.com.