Explore Paris’s 20th arrondissement

The authentically working-class 20th has a village feel, natural areas and a vibrant arts and culture scene.

The capital’s 20th arrondissement was once made up of small villages, and it has preserved their working-class vibe and greenery-filled spaces. Its unexpectedly rich heritage has become a refuge for biodiversity and a source of inspiration for artists and for all Parisians.

An arrondissement of natural areas 

The 20th arrondissement has a strong commitment to the environment and contributes on a daily basis to enriching urban biodiversity and Paris’s natural heritage.

Next to the Père Lachaise cemetery – a biodiversity reservoir – is the Jardin Naturel Pierre Emmanuel, an unusual garden which has been preserved in its natural state. It replicates what nature in Paris used to look like. With a hundred-odd indigenous plants and a pond, it is really different from other gardens.

A short distance from the cemetery, the Jardin Suspendu which is reached through the Square Antoine Blondin is an unusual rooftop permaculture garden providing contact with nature.

Many urban farms have also sprung up over the past few years. The Ferme de Charonne (Le Paysan Urbain) is an agro-ecological farm which cultivates microgreens, herbs and edible flowers. On the rooftop of the Flora Tristan secondary school, an educational urban farm makes children aware of the environmental challenges of the future.

Perched on a hilltop at an altitude of 100 metres, the Parc de Belleville provides a breathtaking view over all of Paris. This vast green space is home to some magnificent trees (oaks, lime trees, apple trees and Mexican orange trees). A few vines recall the agricultural and festive traditions of a bygone era.

On the corner of Rue de Belleville and Rue du Télégraphe, the Belleville cemetery has a treat in store at the far end of its central alley – a beautiful field of flowers. It is the capital’s first urban flower farm, where more than 200 varieties of flowers are grown in keeping with the principles of biodynamic agriculture.

Along the ring road, Square Emmanuel Fleury provides a breath of fresh air with its colourful borders, ornamental cherry trees and Bolleana poplars. The community gardens known as Les Haies partagées (in the Jardin Casque d’Or), and the Yvonne Godard swimming pool, with its solarium surrounded by green spaces, are another two examples of biodiversity conservation in Paris.

A working-class arrondissement with many cultural attractions

In terms of heritage, the 20th arrondissement has many architectural gems that have become venues for cultural activities.

Renowned for its tombs of some of the most famous people of all time (Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Molière, etc.), the Père Lachaise cemetery was designed by the architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, who was inspired by English gardens. A section of its wall, the Mur des Fédérés, pays tribute to the Communards who were shot there. It is a symbol of the struggle for freedom and of all forms of resistance.

Once an underground show venue, the legendary Flèche d’Or housed in the former Charonne station along the Petite Ceinture railway line is now an inclusive, activist-run venue for queer people and minorities.

A short distance from Boulevard Davout, at the far end of the garden of the Hospice Debrousse, is the Pavillon de l’Ermitage. The only Regency-style folly in Paris, it is the last remnant of the Bagnolet estate, which was the property of the Duchess of Orleans. Guided tours and temporary exhibitions are regularly organized here.

Founded in 1988, the Théâtre national de la Colline is a space for the performance of modern and contemporary plays. Designed by the architects Valentin Fabre and Jean Perrotet, its glass façade symbolizes its openness to a multicultural district.

Rue du Retrait is an open-air museum filled with collages and other creations by street artists such as Jérôme Mesnager and Fred le Chevalier. Works by Mosko can be seen in the narrow Rue Laurence Savart. In Belleville, Rue de Tourtille has many street art murals by Enersto Novo, Seize Happywallmaker and Namasté. The Willy Ronis belvedere in the Parc de Belleville is decorated with works by the artist Seth.

Near the Villa de l’Ermitage, the old Brun biscuit-making factory has been turned into a concert venue, the Studio de l’Ermitage, focusing on jazz and world music.

Not far away, the Bellevilloise and the Maroquinerie also have a working-class past. The Bellevilloise, a former workers’ cooperative dating to 1877, is now an independent, multi-disciplinary cultural venue. The equally original Maroquinerie is a former leather workshop transformed into a concert venue boasting an indoor terrace with a convivial atmosphere.

On the corner of Rue des Pyrénées and Rue de Ménilmontant, the Pavillon Carré Baudouin defines itself as a cultural space open to one and all. It offers high-quality but totally free programming featuring exhibitions and talks, and even has a street art mural.

An arrondissement with a village feel

There is a village feel in various parts of the 20th arrondissement. Running off Rue des Vignoles in the heart of the Charonne district are 15-odd narrow, winding dead-end streets dating back to the 19th century. With names like Impasse Casteggio, Impasse des Souhaits and Impasse Poule, they are remnants of the old villages of Paris.

At one end of Rue Saint-Blaise, the Saint-Germain de Charonne church is the only church in Paris to have preserved its parish cemetery. Built in the Gothic style, this little village church dating to the 12th century takes you back in time. Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix de Ménilmontant, one of the biggest churches in Paris, also contributes to the picturesque charms of the arrondissement.

One district in particular at the Porte de Bagnolet sets itself apart from the rest of the city. With its cobbled streets, former workers’ houses and small gardens filled with fragrant wisteria, La Campagne is an authentic little village with 92 houses – unusual and beautiful!

In the Saint Fargeau district, the Villa du Borrégo dating back to 1909 has also retained some traces of the typical worker’s house: red brick walls, wrought-iron balconies, ivy-covered façades. A mere 52 metres in length, it ends in front of a steep staircase.

Three other picturesque addresses are worth discovering. The charming Villa de l'Ermitage passage is lined with artists’ studios and beautiful houses. Cité Leroy, a maze of different houses, is straight out of a picture postcard. And the Cité de l’Ermitage is a pleasant greenery-filled island with a working-class past.