Many visitors to Paris will hear that the Chinese quarter is in the 13th arrondissement. Today I took a fascinating guided walk of Belleville (spread across the 19th and 20th arrondissements) and learned otherwise. The tour was part of an initiative called ‘Paris Face Cachée’, or Hidden Paris – organized once a year in February, it puts on guided visits of lesser known parts of the city or in buildings that do not normally allow access to the general public.
Belleville is home to a large Chinese and Indo-Chinese population. It’s not the oldest Chinese community in the city, dating back only around 15 years, but our guide explained it’s now the most authentic within the city, as the Chinese communities both live and work here. This part of the city has always been, and still is, one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the city. Formerly home to the working classes when it was a village outside the city, throughout the 20th century it became home to successive waves of immigrants – Armenians, Greeks, Jews and North Africans – turning it now into a fascinating and diverse part of the city. More recently, artists and young professionals (or ‘Bobos’ as they are known here, bourgeois/bohemians) have begun to gentrify the quarter, but it is so far still managing to hold onto it’s ethnic diversity.
Some of the best places to eat in the neighborhood were pointed out to us during our visit,
along with a supermarket selling everything you could need to rustle up your own Chinese feast at home – Chen Market.
The Chinese part of Belleville is located immediately around the metro. It’s not the most architecturally interesting part of Paris – much of it was redeveloped in the 1970s, but there are still a few vestiges remaining of the old buildings. It is though a fascinating part of the city both culturally and historically, and a wonderful place to stroll around and stop for something to eat.
- area around Belleville metro, 75020/75019/75011/75010
Restaurants: Raviolis du Nord Est: 11 rue Civiale, 75010. Wenzhou: 24 rue de Belleville, 75020. Dongfa: 26 rue de Belleville, 75020. Best Doufu: corner of Bd de la Villette and rue Civiale, 75010.