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,
Great Ravioli dumplings
Great hand pulled noodles
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.
Paris Face Cachée website (in French)
It’s hard to resist a view of the beautiful rooftops of Paris. I recently discovered perhaps my new favourite place to enjoy the sunshine and some amazing views of the city, complete with gold domes galore. On the top of the Printemps department store, there is a small café with a spectacular roof terrace giving you amazing views right across the city. If you’re not in the mood for eating, you can still go up there and take some great photos.
If you’re in the mood for something a bit more glamourous, and are there around lunchtime, head to the Brasserie Printemps on the 6th floor of the Printemps de la Mode. Set under a magnificent glass dome built in 1923, you can have a delicious lunch here in spectacular surroundings.
Menu and prices
- Printemps Haussmann, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris. metro: Havre Caumartin
The café with the roof terrace is on the top of the Printemps de la Maison, and is called Deli Cieux. The food is ok, not very exciting and a bit overpriced. If you’re looking to eat, lunch is much better downstairs in the brasserie.
Brasserie Printemps open Monday through Saturday for lunch.
I seem to be spending a lot of time in the covered passages around Paris at the moment, but as the days get shorter and colder they are lovely places to escape the chill. Recently I discovered the Passage des Panoramas, and was lucky enough that it was lunchtime, as it’s packed full with cafés and restaurants and is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat.
Built in 1800, the Passage des Panoramas is the oldest of the covered passages in Paris. Like many of the others it feels like a tiny village hidden within the city. There’s a great choice of restaurants, many of them with tables spilling out into the passageway. It’s lively and full of atmosphere. And the food is pretty good too!
There’s a gluten free restaurant, grocery shop and take away – NoGlu – quite rare in France, that also has a bakery opposite. Of course we couldn’t resist a cake, or two…
There are also several shops to browse. If you’re nearby and it’s around lunch or tea time, drop in for a visit and something to eat, and then pop over to the Passage des Princes just nearby, especially if you have children, as it’s full of toy shops.
- Passage des Panoramas, 11 Boulevard Montmartre / 158 Boulevard Montmartre / 10 rue St Marc / 38 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris. metro: Grands Boulevards
Open daily 06:00 – midnight.
The Passage du Grand Cerf was built in 1825 and has a beautiful glass roof that is 12 metres high, meaning it is always flooded with light.
Home nowadays to many wonderful artisan boutiques, it’s a lovely place to visit and shop – choose between hand tailored clothes made to measure, knitting supplies, a shop selling only gorgeous socks made in France, hand made jewellery and much more. It also houses an excellent restaurant, le Pas Sage, just at the front entrance.
Add this one to your list if you are doing a walking tour of the covered passages, it’s charming and crammed full with treasures.
- Passage du Grand Cerf, 145 rue St Denis or 8 rue Dussoubs, 75002 Paris. Métro Etienne Marcel
Created in 1615 under Louis XIII, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest market in Paris. It was named after the orphans from the nearby orphanage – dressed in red as a sign of charity, and was set up to feed the new neighbourhood of the Marais.
Today it is a small but vibrant and diverse covered market. Saved by locals in 2000 who petitioned vigorously to have it reopened, it now houses various stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats, bread and flowers, but also an eclectic range of eateries, always busy at lunchtime and a wonderful place to grab some lunch and sit on the terraces amongst the market stalls. I went on a Sunday, and had a choice of Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan, farmers burgers, brunch, traditional French bistro fare, crepes or charcuterie and cheese plates from a wine bar. The atmosphere is lively and local, the setting picturesque (the market is now a listed historic monument) and the food delicious.
The market is located in the top end of the Marais, or ‘Haut Marais’, now even more fashionable and still less known to tourists than the lower end. A visit and lunch in the market followed by a stroll down through the lively southern end of the Marais is a great way to spend a day.
Open daily 8:30 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:30. Sunday 8:30 – 14:00. Closed Mondays.
- Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Metiers