Experience Belleville like Edith Piaf
“The Little Sparrow”, as she was known on the streets of Paris, lives on in the east of the city in more ways than one.
Edith Piaf was born in Belleville in December of 1915. Ill-equipped to raise a child, her mother handed her over to paternal grandmother who was, at the time, running a popular brothel out in Normandy.
She lived here until the age of 12, when her father showed up one day and instead on taking her back to Paris with him. She would live the rest of her life in the French capital, right in the heart of the district of Belleville.
For the French, and especially Parisians, Edith Piaf is a national icon. She left this Earth in 1963 but her legacy lives on and there are many ways to reconnect with it, particularly in Bellville.
Musée Édith Piaf in Belleville
When her father brought her back to Paris they shared a small apartment on Rue Crespin du Gast. She lived here for most of her life, never paying much attention to any other neighborhoods in Paris even after her fame.
Today the apartment is a museum dedicated to the preservation of the memory of the artist. It is only open between Monday and Thursday at selective times, one can visit on appointment only. Admission is absolutely free.
Simply walking by the apartment building and having a gaze up at the space from the street is a moving experience in itself. Belleville remains one of the least gentrified parts of Paris so very little has changed from what Piaf would have experienced in and around her home.
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday – 1pm to 6pm
ADDRESS: 5 Rue Crespin du Gast, 75011 Paris, France
Vieux Belleville in Belleville
One can’t experience Edith Piaf’s Belleville without paying homage to her music in some way or another. A few establishments in Belleville hold this notion, and make an effort to incorporate her musical legacy into their weekly operation wherever possible.
Vieux Belleville is a typical Belleville bistro, offering a simple French menu and a fabulous wine list.
Tuesday evenings at Vieux are Edith Piaf nights and have become overwhelmingly popular for the locals and tourists who happen to know about them. Basically, for the duration of your dinner you’ll be entertained by a jazz band performing all of Piaf’s greatest ballads in an interactive performance where the audience is encouraged to join in at any time.
It’s a fantastic experience to be part of, and some people get really into it. I’ve seen diehard fans in tears by the end of the moving performances, scoffing bites of their roast potatoes between sobs.
It’s a beautiful and unique experience in the district of Belleville. As you can imagine, booking for Tuesday evenings is essential. The performances start promptly at 8pm so aim to settle by 7:30.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday – 7pm to 12am
ADDRESS: 12 Rue Envierges, 75020 Paris, France
Bar de la Place Edith Piaf in Belleville
The Bar de la Place Edith Piaf is deeper into Belleville east, past the cemetery .
The owners remain Piaf fans, as you have probably guessed from the name of the space as well as the many posters, relics and statues that the interior holds.
It has been part of Belleville for years, and serves as a consistent reminder of the artist that this neighborhood in Paris produced. The Bar de la Place Edith Piaf is also interesting because it is open from 8am daily, which is unusual even for Belleville.
It’s a great spot to grab a drink on a quiet night out. The soundtrack almost always includes a ballad or two from the singer every hour or so. They do light meals throughout the day.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday – 8am to 12am
ADDRESS: 22 Rue de la Py, 75020 Paris, France
Metro: Porte de Bagnolet
Aux Folies in Belleville
Belleville is one of the most interesting, exciting and colorful districts through which to take a free guided walking tour in Paris. Everything about it is so untypical to Paris, yet distinctly Parisian at the same time.
Belleville has always been like this, even when Edith Piaf was an up and coming singer booking any & every gig that came her way.
The Aux Folies was, and still is, the ultimate hipster performance venue in the neighborhood. It’s a bistro/bar space in which live music is incorporated. Piaf had some of her earliest performances at Aux Folies, back before the restaurant had added a veggie burger to its menu.
While the food and clientele have changed considerably over the years, the ambiance and intention of Aux Folies remains the same. It’s a wonderful night out in Belleville.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday – 7am to 2am
ADDRESS: 8 Rue de Belleville, 75020 Paris, France
Père Lachaise Cemetery in Belleville
Paris has four main cemeteries in the east, west, north and south of the city. Throughout all of them you’ll find the graves of influential Parisians who are now full time residents of the grounds.
Edith Piaf’s grave is, of course, found in the east where she spent the entirety of her life. The Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest burial ground in Paris and also the most beautiful, having been built as a garden cemetery with greenery throughout.
Piaf’s grave can be difficult to track down since she shares one with the rest of her family as opposed to having her own tomb.
Other recognizable names within Père Lachaise include Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. All of these tombs attract hundreds of visitors each day.