This walk takes you on a journey of discovery through Ménilmontant, one of the villages on the outskirts of Paris that was absorbed by the city in 1860 under Baron Hausmann’s vast urban planning programme. Stroll through its picturesque cobbled streets, enjoy their provincial charm and spot some of the street art that is scattered across the neighbourhood. Blend into the landscape at one of the numerous pavement cafés or bistro terraces and soak up the village atmosphere.
The walk starts at Place Maurice Chevalier, near metro station Couronnes (line 2).
1 / Notre Dame de la Croix church
Place Maurice Chevalier has a delightfully provincial air with its pavement cafés surrounding the paved central area. The square is overlooked by the majestic Notre Dame de la Croix church, with its distinctive 78-metre tower and impressive flight of stairs leading up to the West door. Built during the second half of the nineteenth century in the neo-Romanesque style, it has an unusual modern feature: the metal rib vaulting of the nave with its attractive openwork design.
Did you know? Notre Dame de la Croix is one of the largest churches in Paris – in fact it’s the third longest (97 metres), after Notre Dame Cathedral (127 metres) and the church of Saint Sulpice (120 metres).
2 / Le Monte en l’Air
This attractive local bookshop is one of the most iconic venues in Ménilmontant. With its vast and light-filled interior it’s more than just a bookshop – it can double up as curiosity shop, art gallery and even restaurant. In summer, there are tables outside.
Le Monte en l’air – 2 rue de la Mare, Paris 20th
Come into Rue de Ménilmontant and start walking up the hill. On your left, at number 79, a gate opens onto steps leading down to the Petite Ceinture.
3 / La Petite Ceinture
The Petite Ceinture was a 32-kilometre railway built in the middle of the nineteenth century to form a ring around Paris. When the train service was abandoned, the railway line reverted to nature and soon became overgrown, offering a haven for urban wildlife. The section between Rue des Couronnes and Rue de Ménilmontant was restored and opened to the public in 2018. This 5,000 sq. metre pedestrian-only green space is an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of Ménilmontant and a lovely place for a walk.
La Petite Ceinture – between Rue Ménilmontant and Rue des Couronnes, Paris 20th
More info on the Petite Ceinture
4 / The Rue de la Mare footbridge
To leave the Petite Ceinture, cross over the footbridge – immortalized by iconic Parisian photographer Willy Ronis – where you’ll find an entrance onto Rue de la Mare. In the days when it was a railway, this was the site of Ménilmontant station.
Passerelle de la rue de la Mare, Paris 20th
Continue walking up Rue de la Mare.
5 / Place Henri Krasucki and its typical Parisian pavement cafés
You’ll reach Place Henri Krasucki, which is well worth a short interlude! It’s actually a roundabout, the surrounding streets bustling with typical small Parisian cafés, popular with the locals. The pavement tables offer an ideal sunny spot for a refreshment break. Don’t miss LesMésanges, with its village atmosphere, and the Cascades, a convivial literary café.
Les Mésanges – 82 rue de la Mare, Paris 20th
Bistrot Littéraire Les Cascades – 82 rues des Cascades, Paris 20th
Did you know? The boulangerie-pâtisserie on Place Henri Krasucki is listed as a historic monument, by virtue of its storefront decorated with Art Nouveau medallions.
Take Rue des Cascades.
6 / Street art in Rue des Cascades
Like many other streets in this neighbourhood, Rue des Cascades is more or less an open-air gallery of street art. Many of the murals have only a transient existence. Artists such as Jérôme Mesnager, Kam Laurene, Agrume and Fred le Chevalier have left their mark here. On your right, a mural decorates the gable of Les Mésanges. This section of the wall is regularly made available to a different artist who is invited to “redecorate” the city in their own style. This initiative was the idea of an association appropriately named “Galerue” (a combination of the words for art gallery and street).
Rue des Cascades, Paris 20th
7 / Le regard Saint-Martin
The name of Rue des Cascades is a reference to the water that was channelled from the heights of Belleville to supply Paris. In this road you’ll pass the regard Saint-Martin, a small, seventeenth-century stone building adjacent to a little square at the top of Rue de Savies. It was built around a “regard” or opening that was used to check the flow and quality of the water. The water supply is also the source of the nickname of the café-bar next door – La Fontaine d’Henri IV (Henry IV’s fountain).
La Fontaine d’Henri IV - 42 bis rue des Cascades, Paris 20th
On your left, take the stairs up Rue Fernand Raynaud, alongside a small green space that is not open to the public – it has been left to grow wild to protect biodiversity – overlooked by the Jardin des Petites Rigoles. The walls of the panoramic garden terrace are decorated with mascarons from the Pont-Neuf, and old foundation stones serves as benches.
Take the Rue de l’Ermitage on your right, then turn left into the Villa de l’Ermitage.
8 / Villa de l’Ermitage and the Cité Leroy
The Villa de l’Ermitage is a lovely little alley that has miraculously escaped a series of local redevelopment projects and remains a secluded haven of tranquillity. Enjoy a gentle stroll here between the houses and gardens, the air fragrant with the scent of wisteria, lilacs, roses and magnolias. This oasis of calm runs into the no less bucolic Cité Leroy, a collection of residential housing and artists’ workshops. A thriving community flower and vegetable garden completes the picture. Just opposite, pretty place du Guignier has also retained a village atmosphere.
Villa de l’Ermitage - entre le 315 rue des Pyrénées et le 12 rue de l'Ermitage, Paris 20th
Cité Leroy - 19 villa de l’Ermitage, Paris 20th
Turn right into Rue des Pyrénées and back into Rue Ménilmontant on your right.
9 / The Pavillon Carré de Baudouin
The Pavillon Carré de Baudouin was built in the eighteenth century as a country house for leisure and entertainment. Now a contemporary art venue, it hosts exhibitions and lectures throughout the year and free of charge. The building is surrounded by a quiet walled garden, where you can relax on the grass and admire the architecture of the facade. The outer wall is regularly brightened up by street artists who are invited to use it as a “canvas”. The fine old building on the corner was renovated by the local authorities and inaugurated as an arts centre in 2007.
Pavillon Carré de Baudoin – 121 rue de Ménilmontant, Paris 20th
Cross Rue de Ménilmontant and walk to Rue du Retrait.
10 / Rue du Retrait
The name of this road is a corruption of the word “Ratrait”, the name of the vineyard situated on Ménilmontant’s southern slopes. Grapes are no longer grown here, but street art flourishes! This street is the scene of intense artistic activity thanks to the intervention of a local association which for several years has invited a series of street artists to paint murals on the facades and gables of the surrounding buildings. Some of the results are quite spectacular.
Rue du Retrait, Paris 20th
Next turn into Rue Laurent Savart, a pretty cobbled street leading down to Rue Boyer.
11 / The Maroquinerie and the Bellevilloise
Rue Boyer is well known to Parisians for its cafés, bars and music venues. At number 23, the Maroquinerie – a fine industrial building transformed into a concert venue – is renowned for its eclectic programme and is a favourite with fans of the emerging pop-rock scene. The bar and restaurant, including open-air tables, is a great place to meet up before a concert. La Bellevilloise, at 19-21 Rue Boyer, is an arts centre dedicated to all forms of expression and experimentation, from concerts, performances and film shows to exhibitions and innovative art projects. It also houses a restaurant, the Halle aux Oliviers, and a roof terrace.
La Maroquinerie – 23 rue Boyer, Paris 20th
More info on the Maroquinerie
La Bellevilloise – 19-21 rue Boyer, Paris 20th
More info on La Bellevilloise
Turn right into Rue de la Bidassoa and walk alongside Square du Sergent-Aurélie-Salel. Continue into Rue Sorbier – a fresh selection of pavement cafés and restaurants – and then turn left into Rue Ménilmontant, from where you have a great view over the West of Paris.
12 / The Cité du Labyrinthe
The Cité du Labyrinthe is a charming little passage where time seems to have stopped, instantly whisking you away from the hustle and bustle of Rue de Ménilmontant. Be careful, it’s easy to miss the entrance! You need to go through the porch at number 24 Rue de Ménilmontant.
Cité du Labyrinthe, Paris 20th