20th Arrondissement - Ménilmontant
For most of the 19th century, Belleville was a township just outside the capital: an urban nightmare of unruly squatters and immigrants comprising parts of today's 20th, 19th and 12th arrondissement.
Inside this township, however, distinct frontiers marked different levels of poverty. What we today call "Belleville", the area east of the Metro station which is now firmly in the hands of immigrants from the Far East (and a great place for cheap Chinese food), was the least respectable of the township's residential areas, accommodating scroungers and circus folk like Edith Piaf who was, according to legend, born under a lamppost on Rue Belleville. Menilmontant, on the other hand, the childhood home of the equally famous Maurice Chevalier, was considered a tad above: this was where the working folks lived, people with proper jobs.
Both areas underwent substantial change in the 70s and 80s, but Belleville more so when the old tenements – think: Montmartre stairways with houses more densely packed, higher and shabbier – were replaced by new social housing and Belleville Park.
The 20th is also home for one of Paris's most famous tourist attractions: Pere Lachaise cemetery, a veritable City of the Dead, is the burial place of (among others) Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.© NileGuide