The 20th Arrondissement: Home to Paris’s most Historically Radical Neighborhood (Belleville)

The 20th Arrondissement is generally conceived as Paris’ most radical and working class arrondissement. In many ways this is true but the 20th Arrondissement is much more than that as it also hosts many middle class districts. Les Amandiers/Menilmontant and Belleville are the stereotypical working class and historically radical neighborhoods within the 20th Arrondissement.  By the 1830s Menilmontant and Belleville were already urbanized, heavily working-class, and socialist. The districts played a major role in the Paris Commune of 1871 and was the most difficult area for the Versailles Army to reconquer Paris in May of 1871. By the 1950s/1960s  many artists, musicians, students, and hippies moved into the area, giving it a distinctively bohemian, left-wing and counterculture identity. But by this time much of the neighborhood was in disrepair and the City targeted the area for urban renewal. Fortunately Paris’ version of urban renewal was much more targeted and sensible than its counterpart in American. Hillsides were converted to parks and buildings surgically replaced with modernist buildings that still retained a decent urban design. Current day Belleville remains somewhat gritty but is witnessing a significant amount of revitalization. Belleville also hosts Parc de Belleville where one is given some of the best great views of the City. The remaining parts of the 20th Arronissement, which comprise the majority of the district, are middle class areas hosting an eclectic mix of historic and modern architecture with generally quality urbanity.

The 20th Arrondissement hosts several great commercial districts but has limited consistant mixed-use areas as is the case closer to the center of Paris. Major commercial districts in the arrondissement include:  Rue d’Avron,  Rue Saint-Blaise (intimate cobble stone street), Rue de Bagnolet, Av. Gambetta/Rue Belgrand, Rue des Pyrénées, Rue de Belleville, Rue de Ménilmontant, Bd de Belleville.

Click here to view my 20th Arrondissement Album on Flickr


* Solid density at around 83K per square mile.
* Hosts the infamous Père Lachaise Cemetery where many famous people are buried (i.e. Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Chopin, Oscar Wild) and countless Parisian families.
* Largest immigrant populations here.
* Limited amount of tourism.
* Hosts Parc de Belleville a wonderful hilltop park with great views of the City. Decent # of other small to medium sized parks but less green spaces than most parts of Paris.
* Nice Promenade in the middle of Bd Belleville.
* Quality modern in fill in the eastern and southern parts of the arrondissement.
* Interesting maze of stairways and roadways in the hillier parts of the district.
* Good subway access throughout the district. 


* Still lots of grit and some crime in the Menilmontant and Belleville areas but this is changing as the districts are gentrying.
* Tree canopy is lacking in the more historically working class areas.
* The Menilmontant and Belleville areas hosts a large concentration of unattractive mid century buildings. Still better urban form than their counterpart in American but often ugly buildings.

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