In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.
There are some parks in Paris that intrigue me because people give them glowing reviews. Then there are parks that peak my interest because there are large gaps of knowledge that I want to fill in.
Parc de Belleville falls into the latter category.
Before visiting this park, I only had heard murmurs from others that this park is known for its prostitutes who surface at night. Yet its tagline in Google maps kept staring out at me, promising “a hilltop park with panoramic city views.” As you might have already gathered, I’m a sucker for scaling heights to get a view of the city. Especially one with a view of the Eiffel Tower. No matter how many times I see it, I still fall in love with her all over again, snapping more pictures though my hard drive is full of images of the Iron Lady. All I have to say is I’m not sure why it took me so long to trek over to the 20th arrondissement to have a look for myself.
There’s a reason this park is out of the reaches of most tourists. It’s out in the northeast section of Paris that is void of popular tourist attractions. It’s also in a part of town that feels miles away from the glitzy scene of the Champs-Élysées, for instance. Belleville used to be mostly farmland until the 18th century. Later on when Hausseman gave Paris a massive facelift, people were displaced as their homes were knocked down to make way for the grand avenues we see today. Many of these people resettled in Belleville. Today this neighborhood is home to immigrants in France which makes for a diverse and distinctive feel from the more trodden areas that many associate as “Paris.”
The Maison de l'Air is situated at the very top of the park, with its platform offering the park's best view of the city (see above). The Maison de l'Air [link in French] was closed on the Sunday when we went but offers exhibits on air quality and the effects of pollution.
Parc de Belleville does hold the distinction as the park with the highest elevation in Paris. I appreciated this aspect of the park the most.
From the viewing platform, the rest of the visit to the park went downhill - quite literally. I followed the path down past a pretty garden area and then into a thicket of trees. This led to what is the longest cascading water fountain in Paris, which disappointingly was not fully running. Though I can’t write it off completely - after all, it is August. No one and nothing should be expected to work this month.
There is a playground area for children. And the incline of the park seemed to attract super sporty joggers and exercise enthusiasts who wanted to kick their work-out up a notch. But aside from the view, the park didn't really offer anything else to me that would convince me to return. That is, not when I can go a little further north to end up at my favorite park, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. If you’re curious and want a view though, a brief visit is all you need.
I am glad that I satisfied my curiosity though! Have you ever been to this park? What's your opinion?
PLAN YOUR VISIT:
47, rue des Couronnes, 75020 Paris, France
Access: rue des Couronnes, rue Piat, rue Julien-Lacroix, rue Jouye-Rouve
Open daily, open from 8:00am on weekdays and from 9:00am on weekends and bank holidays, closing time varies depending on the season [link in French, hours listed on right side]
La Maison de l’air [link in French]
Museum is free
Open April-September Wednesday 1:30pm-5:30pm and Saturday 1:30pm-6:30pm / October and March Wednesday & Saturday 1:30pm-5:30pm / November-February Wednesday & Saturday 1:30pm-5:00pm
Closed on bank holidays
While you’re in the area:
Still in the park mood? Head north for about a 15-minute walk to my favorite, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Or walk 15 minutes in the opposite direction to explore Cimetière du Père Lachaise.
Or looking for a bite to eat or a drink? Head to Freddie’s Deli for some delicious American-style sandwiches, La Fine Mousse for a great beer selection, Paris New York Oberkampf (PNY) for a burger, or West Country Girl for some Breton-style galettes and crêpes. If it’s not Sunday (when most stores are closed in Paris), a walk down rue Oberkampf will certainly get your appetite going with its numerous restaurants as well as produce stands, boulangeries, butcher shops, and more.