Charonne village walk
Cobbled streets, a medieval church, secret parks, and kitchen gardens – hilly Charonne is full of hidden gems
Set off to discover the traces of old Charonne, a former village that became part of Paris in 1860. The village used to be surrounded by vineyards, for which it was an ideal location, being situated on the southern slope of Belleville hill and watered by a number of springs. The walk crosses from one side to the other of Rue de Bagnolet, the 20th district’s main artery. Pick up some fascinating facts about the area’s not-so-distant past while enjoying a stroll along the cobbled streets or through some little-known parks and gardens. Your efforts will be rewarded at the end of the walk as you discover the “Campagne à Paris” (countryside in Paris).
When you come out of the Philippe Auguste metro station, walk up Rue Pierre Bayle. At the end, turn right into the appropriately-named Rue du Repos (rest) which runs alongside the wall of the Père Lachaise cemetery.
1 / Le Tampographe Sardon
Near the end of the road, you’ll come across a rather unusual shop window: the Tampographe Sardon. This is a workshop-cum-gallery where all kinds of rubber stamps (tampon in French, hence the name) are designed and hand-made. Children and adults alike will appreciate the caustic humour of some of the messages, the romantic illustrations or the elegant graphics.
Le Tampographe Sardon - 4 rue de Repos, 75020 Paris
A little further on, join Boulevard de Charonne and walk towards the Alexandre Dumas metro station. Turn left into Rue de Bagnolet, and take the first turning on the left.
2 / The Cité Aubry’s community garden
3 / La villa Riberolle
This dead-end cobbled street is lined with former nineteenth-century industrial workshops, some of which are now artists’ studios. The silence, the trees growing over the cemetery wall at the end of the road, and the weeds poking up between the cobblestones combine to give you the impression of being miles away from the city!
Villa Riberolle, 75020 Paris
Come back to Rue de Bagnolet and turn left to start walking up the road.
4 / Le Merle Moqueur
Don’t resist the temptation to visit the excellent local bookshop Le Merle Moqueur and enjoy perusing the shelves beneath the long glass roof – a reminder that the shop is installed in a former warehouse. It’s a generalist bookshop with a wide selection of titles in all sections, including literature, children’s books and travel guides.
Le Merle Moqueur – 51 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
Time for a break: a little further up, on the opposite side of the road, you’ll find Le Quartier Rouge – a pleasant café and restaurant and an ideal place to leaf through your recently-acquired reading matter or simply soak up the atmosphere of this bustling street.
Quartier Rouge – 52 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
A few metres further on, turn left into Rue de la Réunion, leading to the Jardin Naturel.
5 / Le Jardin Naturel (natural garden)
Half-hidden in the shadow of Père Lachaise cemetery, this remarkable garden has the particular feature of encouraging “indigenous” plants: trees and wild flowers that once flourished in the countryside around Paris. To respect the plants’ natural development cycle, the garden is maintained using “organic” gardening techniques. A wide path leads through the garden under the oaks, maples and hazels that provide shade for a variety of woodland plants. Follow this path to the far edge of the garden and come out into Rue de Lesseps, with its elegant red-brick houses, winter gardens and climbing roses.
Jardin Naturel - Pierre Emmanuel - 120 rue de la Réunion, 75020 Paris
Continue along Rue de Bagnolet, then turn left into Rue des Pyrénées. The entrance to Square Henri Karcher is indicated by the street art mural decorating its outside wall.
6 / Square Henri Karcher
Climb the winding tree-lined path and discover the charms of this hillside garden nestling alongside the Père-Lachaise cemetery. The hillside was once covered with vineyards and windmills. When you reach the top, enjoy a well-earned break, far above the buildings and the traffic.
Square Henri Karcher – 165 rue des Pyrénées, 75020 Paris
Retrace your steps and carry on up Rue de Bagnolet. Stop for a moment at number 102 bis.
7 / The Flèche d’or – former Petite Ceinture railway station
You are standing in front of what used to be Charonne railway station. The site was named Flèche d’or (Golden Arrow) after the train that ran on this line, inaugurated in September 1926, operating a daily service from Paris to London via Calais and Dover. In the 1990s, the building was converted, and La Flèche d’or became one of the trendiest concert venues in Paris. It built up a reputation for spotting upcoming musical talent (pop, folk and rock). The concert hall closed its doors in 2016 and the venue is being repurposed once more.
La Flèche d’or – 102 bis rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
8 / Mama Shelter and Marguerite Duras multimedia library
On the opposite side of the road is Mama Shelter, the trendy East Parisian hotel designed by Philippe Starck. Enjoy a brunch in the large ground-floor dining area with its slate walls, or sip a summertime cocktail on the roof terrace and admire the panoramic view over the city – but you’ll need to book in advance. The building adjoining the hotel houses the Marguerite Duras multimedia library, one of Paris’s most innovative libraries. As well as being a municipal library, it also features an exhibition area, auditorium and, on the top floor, a multimedia collection dedicated to Eastern Paris, where you can learn more about the area.
Mama Shelter – 109 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
More info on Mama Shelter
Médiathèque Marguerite Duras – 115 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
Continue up Rue de Bagnolet.
9 / Saint-Germain de Charonne church
Before long you will reach the impressive raised square in front of Saint-Germain de Charonne, whose tower dates from the thirteenth century. Here you are at the heart of the former village of Charonne, which has managed to preserve some of its picturesque charm. On the opposite side of the road stands the much more recent church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, designed by architect Henri Vidal (begun in 1935 but completed only in 1962).
Eglise Saint-Germain-de-Charonne – 4 place Saint-Blaise, 75020 Paris
Did you know? Saint-Germain de Charonne church is the only one in Paris, along with Saint Pierre de Montmartre, that is still surrounded by the parish cemetery. It was also the location for the filming of the final scene in the cult comedy crime film Les Tontons Flingueurs (Crooks in Clover).
10 / Rue Saint Blaise
Venture down Rue Saint Blaise, where the numerous pavement cafés and restaurants are as many invitations to take a break. The cobbles and the colourful street furniture accentuate the atypical nature of this semi-pedestrian street, overlooked by the pretty medieval church tower. It feels more like a provincial town street than a Parisian artery.
Rue Saint-Blaise, 75020 Paris
Retrace your steps and go back into Rue de Bagnolet; on your left are some stairs leading to a raised-up section of the street.
11 / Bird’s-eye view of two former wine-growers’ houses in Rue de Bagnolet
Here you are in front of L’Ogresse, a small community theatre specialising in musical or spoken word performances and puppet shows. From this little belvedere, you can look down onto Rue de Bagnolet, at a pair of houses (numbers 134 and 136) that proudly display the elegant steps leading up to their raised front doors. This unusual feature bears witness to the changes that have taken place in the urban landscape: the street level was lowered in former times to make it less steep.
134 et 136 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
12 / The Pavillon de l’Ermitage and the garden of the Hospice Debrousse
You’ll soon reach the charming garden of the Hospice Debrousse (at number 148), which also provides the setting for the imposing Louis XIV style Pavillon de l’Ermitage. This is the only vestige of the park of the Château de Bagnolet, formerly the property of the Duchess of Orléans. It takes its name from the wall paintings inside that represent hermits meditating.
Pavillon de l’Ermitage et jardin de l’Hospice Debrousse – 148 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris
More info on the Pavillon de l’Ermitage
When you come out of the garden, take Rue Pelleport which will lead you to Rue Belgrand and Place Edith Piaf.
13 / Place Edith Piaf
This small square was redeveloped in 2003, for the 40th anniversary of the singer’s death. It features a pretty Wallace fountain and a statue of Edith Piaf by Lisbeth Delisle. If you are ready to rest your sore feet, the Bar Place Edith Piaf is a good place to stop. But if you’re willing to make one last effort, there’s a final stage to this walk that’s well worth it.
Place Edith Piaf, 75020 Paris
Walk up Rue Emile-Pierre Casel; it will take you to the foot of some stairs leading up to the “Campagne à Paris”.
14 / La Campagne à Paris
This is the affectionate name for this little residential area perched atop the hill. The charming houses were built in the 1920s and cultivate their individuality while forming a harmonious ensemble: each one is different but together they form a cohesive whole, with their luxuriant gardens, elegant awnings, wrought-iron gates and brightly-painted shutters. The attractiveness of this spot is enhanced by the perpetual calm of these narrow streets. In short, everything conspires to give it a unique personality.
La Campagne à Paris - rue du Père Prosper Enfantin, rue Irénée lanc, rue Mondonville et rue Jules Siegfried, 75020 Paris
More info on the Campagne à Paris
From here it’s a short walk down to Porte de Bagnolet and the metro.