Experience Little Algeria in Paris
Montmartre is a beautiful place, let’s be honest. Sometimes all you want to do is just hang around the Sacré Coeur all day eating crepes or ice cream and taking pictures. Do you know about its surroundings, though?
Today I am going to introduce you to Barbès, a neighborhood near Montmartre famous for its African influences whether it comes to fashion or food.
Barbès and Algeria
Barbès is populated by a lot of African immigrants. Many of them are from a country situated in the north of the African continent called Algeria, which is next to Morocco.
Algeria used to be a French colony but they fought for their independence until 1962 when they finally obtained it. People in Barbès mostly talk in French and Arabic but you will hear so many other languages too. Often nicknamed “Little Africa” Barbès is a friendly and cosmopolitan neighborhood.
I am myself of Algerian descent so, in this article, I’m mostly going to talk about Algerian food and restaurants because those are the parts of Barbès I know best, but do not hesitate to explore the other parts of it.
There are unfortunately many pickpockets hanging around, so be careful. I have crafted the perfect day in Barbès for you, it starts with at the Barbès Market and ends at the Louxor Theater.
Visit the Barbès Market
Every Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a market in Barbès where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat and supermarket food at a cheaper price. The market is located right above the Barbès metro stop and under the elevated airway.
If you are staying at an Airbnb and like to cook, I highly recommend you buy your food there. Aside from these products, you will be able to find spices and other products freshly imported from Algeria, Tunisia or Morocco.
If you are not sure what to buy, do not hesitate to ask the vendors, they are all extremely nice from my experience and would love to help. There are booths selling clothes but it is mostly things you can wear at home like pyjamas.
There are also street vendors located at the beginning of the market who sell traditional homemade Algerian crepes like baghrir or msemen. This market is very crowded so if you are slightly claustrophobic you might want to avoid it.
It is open every Wednesday and Saturdays from 7 am to 1 pm.
Lunch in Barbès
Not a must see but a must eat. If you want to discover new flavors at a cheap price then Barbès is the perfect place for you. Basra and Restaurant de l’Espoir both offer traditional Algerian dishes like couscous, loubia, chorba as well as grilled meat or fish.
If you only eat halal, you will definitely like these restaurants. For those who might be worried about their stomach, know that Algerian cuisine is not spicy so you can have any of these. If you are not sure which meal you should pick I would recommend the couscous, it is the most traditional Algerian meal there is, it is cooked semolina grains with sauce, meat, and vegetables.
It is not my favourite but it is definitely worth a try.
If you are not interested in trying something new but your partner or the people traveling with you are, you can just have French fries and grilled chicken or meat kebab, or even fish. It might seem basic but I am sure you will enjoy it and that way, everyone gets to eat something they like.
You can have a full meal for 10€ at these restaurants. Basra is located on 10, rue de Chartres and Restaurant de l’Espoir is located on 25, rue de Marx Dormoy.
They are not far from each other so if one of them seems too crowded you could still try the other one.
Shopping in Barbès
Paris is famous for its avenues filled with luxury stores like Channel, Louis Vuitton or Dior. But if you are interested in every kind of fashion, I think you would really like Barbès. Aside from its bridal shops and the usual gowns, you will be able to find caftans, Berber dresses and other North African inspired outfits for special events or just for home.
Even in France, it is the custom for brides of Algerian descents to wear these traditional outfits at their weddings, which is why these shops are necessary and popular. I am not asking you to buy these dresses; I just think it could be nice to have a look at them or even try them on for fun. Some of these shops also sell traditional robes (“djellaba” in Arabic) to wear at home. They are very comfortable, I personally wear them all the time, especially when it is hot. Those are, I think, worth buying.
They are cheap and will not take up much room in your suitcase. It could be a nice souvenir or even a present if you know someone who is interested in North African culture. My favorite store is called La Rose d’Orient, many of their dresses are handmade so you can tell that a lot of hard work has been put in them and the result is impressive.
The store is located on 52, boulevard de Rochechouart.
Snacks and Books in Barbès
If you want to snack in a quiet place that is not too crowded unlike most Parisians bars, I would highly recommend La Régulière. The thing is, this place is not just a coffee shop, it is also a bookshop and a stationer’s shop. Aside from all its cakes and beverages, you will be able to find magazines, books, notebooks and even postcards with original designs.
Of course, if you do not speak French you will have a hard time understanding the books, you could ask the barista if they have something in English or you could explore the stationary side and maybe pick a souvenir. For the food, I would recommend a slice of lemon cake and a hot chocolate but there are also juices, teas, and coffees if you are not a hot chocolate fan as well as so many types of cakes.
La Régulière is one of the places I have not visited yet in this list but I am feeling very tempted to right now. You can check all of their prices on the website, but I think they are very reasonable.
A cookie or a slice of cake will cost you 3€ and an espresso will cost you 2€. The coffee shop is located on 43, rue de Myrha.
A Movie at the Louxor Theatre in Barbès
The Louxor is located right next to the Barbès metro stop. The movie theater first opened its doors in 1921. Its design was directly inspired by Ancient Egypt. The theatre was very successful during the first years but at the end of the 1950s, the film industry was going through a crisis and the Louxor’s popularity started to decrease.
The owner decided to renovate the theatre and lower ticket prices but it was not enough to keep the theater going. It ended up closing its doors in 1983 and selling it to the Tati Group. The plan was for them to set up a store inside of the Louxor but it fell through just like all the other following projects.
The Louxor was transformed into a club but ended up closing down. The building started deteriorating throughout the years and led to the neighbors assembling and fighting for its preservation. It is only in 2003 that the city hall became the owner of the Louxor. Here are more theaters you should check out whilst in Paris.
They decided to start the renovation process in 2007 and keep its initial function as a theater. The Louxor reopened in 2013. It mostly screens Indies and children movies.
One full price ticket costs 6,40€ before 12 pm and 9,80€ after. The Louxor is located on 170, Boulevard de Magenta.
So here we are, your day in Barbès is now over. You can go have dinner at Montmartre and complain about how exhausting this little journey was but I hope you will at least admit that it was worth it. There are so many neighborhoods worth exploring in Paris aside from all the usual touristic spots like the Champs-Elysées, Montmartre or Opéra.
I think Barbès reflects the real face of Paris perfectly – it is about living together, in peace, no matter where you come from. It also shows that some of these people living here have managed to take a little bit of their country and move it to this neighborhood this way they won’t feel too lost. I personally find it fascinating.
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