For a taste of Paris far from the madding crowd and the done-to-death tourist track, head over to the Gambetta- Ménilmontant neighborhood. Tucked in a little-trampled stretch of the northeast that’s roughly adjacent to the lively Belleville district, this area blends urban grit and nightlife with quiet, leafy lanes, art-deco architecture, and, of course, the verdant Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Protected from the hullabaloo of the city but still close enough to the center and its major attractions, Gambetta/Ménilmontant is swarming with what the French call “les bobos”– young, issue-conscious professionals straddling a line between bourgeois and bohemian.
There are also large populations of students, artists and residents who’ve lived in the area for decades, watching it change from a working-class neighborhood to an increasingly gentrified part of the city.
In the area loosely defined by the metros Gambetta, Pere Lachaise, Porte de Bagnolet and the Rue de Menilmontant, you’ll find family-owned cafes and bars, excellent bakeries, patisseries and greengrocers, Birkenstock-donning couples pushing strollers, and a residential, old-world Paris that’s still haunted by the likes of Edith Piaf.
During the day, the famous Père Lachaise is worth a half-day trip, while a smattering of bars and clubs situated between the Gambetta and Ménilmontant metro stops are packed after dark, home to a dynamic independent music scene.
In short? If you’re taxed out from power touring and are looking to explore an area that’s as authentically Parisian as they come, take a long stroll or have a nightcap in this fascinating neighborhood.
Getting There & Orientation
The Gambetta/Ménilmontant neighborhood lies in the eastern corner of Paris in the 20th arrondissement, just southeast of arty, culturally diverse Belleville.
To some degree, these neighborhoods almost seem to overlap in places, especially along the main artery of Boulevard de Ménilmontant which turns in to Boulevard de Belleville to the northwest. The Marais and Bastille areas are situated due west from the Père-Lachaise and Ménilmontant stations.
- Main Streets Around Père Lachaise/Gambetta: Avenue Gambetta, Rue de Menilmontant, Rue des Pyrénées.
- Getting There: The easiest way to access the area is to get off at the Gambetta or Pere-Lachaise metro stops, (lines 2 or 3), with buses 26, 60, 64, 69, 102 and 501 also serving the area. Vélib’ bike stations can be found in several locations around the Place Gambetta, but be aware that the area is quite hilly and may be challenging to climb on the city-owned bikes.
- You can also get off at Metro Ménilmontant (also line 2) and walk up and around Rue Menilmontant to hit some of the area’s most-frequented bars and clubs (see below for more).
Major Sites of Interest Around Ménilmontant-Gambetta
There’s plenty to see and do in this lively, interesting area– and we wholly recommend letting yourself wander through its meandering streets, quiet villas and along bustling Boulevards, experiencing it as a true Parisian “flaneur”. But there are a few big-ticket sites and places worth building your exploration around.
One of the most famous cemeteries in the world and stretching over a sprawling, hilly 44 hectares of tree-lined paths, Père Lachaise is the final resting place of hosts of notable French and foreign figures.
Established by the Emperor Napoléon I in 1804, the cemetery attracts millions of tourists year-round to the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Fredéric Chopin, French writer Colette, Edith Piaf and countless other luminaries.
The cobblestone-lined lanes and moss-covered tombs make for an eerily beautiful storybook setting, and the moving Mur des Fédérés (Communard’s Wall) commemorates massacred insurgent fighters of the conflict known as the Paris Commune
The Gambetta metro station is named after Léon Gambetta, who was the 45th Prime Minister of France– a title he held for only 66 days between 1881 and 1882.
From here, you can explore the hilly heights of Rue des Pyrenées to the west, Avenue Bagnolet to the east, and Avenue Gambetta to the north, which branches off to quaint streets lined with gorgeous art-deco buildings and leafy villas.
After dark, head southward to take in the live music scene around Rue de Ménilmontant.
Edith Piaf Memorial
This little-known memorial to the famed French singer Edith Piaf is located on an inconspicuous square at Metro Porte de Bagnolet (line 3). Piaf was born in the Ténon Hospital nearby, and there’s also a museum dedicated to her in adjoining Belleville. Read more on how to trace the steps of the legendary performer in our full guide to Piaf’s Paris.
Atelier des Lumières
Just blocks from Père-Lachaise is one of the most popular new art galleries in the city– the Atelier des Lumières, an all-digital museum whose monumental shows on Klimt, Van Gogh and others have captivated audiences.
Eating & Drinking in the Area
These are just a few of our favorite places for a bite, full meal and night out in the area. We also suggest taking a stroll from Place Gambetta up Rue de Pyrenées and toward Belleville, stopping on the street’s numerous greengrocers, cheese shops, bakeries and other shops.
19-21, rue Boyer
Metro Gambetta or Menilmontant
Tel: +33 (0)1 46 36 07 07/(0)1 46 36 07 07
Take one part art gallery, one part dance club, mix in a restaurant terrace and a conference hall, and you will begin to understand La Bellevilloise. A cooperative created in 1877 and revamped in 2005, the cultural center offers visitors a plethora of activities, from art exhibitions and organic food markets to concerts that rock into the wee hours.
23 rue Boyer
Metro Gambetta or Menilmontant
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 33 35 05
La Bellevilloise’s next-door neighbor is also a formidable rival in the area’s growing indie music scene. A lush outdoor terrace, decent restaurant and (admittedly claustrophobic) concert space draw constant hordes of music fans and neighborhood regulars.
14 Rue des Panoyaux
Metro: Pere Lachaise or Menilmontant
Tel: +33 (0)1 46 36 78 10
Situated just minutes from the Père Lachaise Cemetery, this slightly hidden bar is always hopping with young Paris hipsters from the surrounding neighborhoods. Every month, you’ll find a new art expo lining the walls, while the large outdoor terrace is a great spot to grab a drink and meet the locals.
108 Boulevard de Ménilmontant
Metro: Ménilmontant or Père-Lachaise
Tel: +33 (0) 9 86 25 05 71
Serving what we consider to be the finest Napolitan-style, wood-fired pizza in Northeastern Paris, Popine is a cheerful, relaxed eatery located on Boulevard Ménilmontant, where the specials of the day are printed on a paper menu mimicking an Italian tabloid. The chewy, flavorful crust is addictive, the sauce is full of flavor and the toppings are incredibly fresh. Accompany your pizza with a glass of Italian chianti.
Read Related: The Best Italian Restaurants in Paris
15 Rue du Surmelin
Metro: Gambetta/Tel: +33 (0)1 43 64 38 56
One of the lovely things about traveling is discovering little known gems. Le Quinze is such a place. With its nondescript exterior, you might be tempted to walk on by – don’t. The food is excellent here, particularly the chicken and lamb tajines, and the chummy staff will give you a taste of authentic Paris.
Aux Petits Oignons
11 Rue Dupont de l’Eure
Metro Pelleport or Gambetta
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 64 18 86
If you’re looking for that iconic Paris neighborhood café where everyone knows your name and your preferred libation, Aux Petits Oignons fits the bill. With an accessible lunch and dinner menu and coffee that’s still delightfully cheap n’cheerful, you’re in for a treat at this friendly, eclectic restaurant/café.
89 Avenue Gambetta
Tel: +33 (0)1 46 36 87 11
This local patisserie and chocolate shop peddles some of the finest pastries, cakes and chocolates in the area. The pain au chocolat, chocolate eclair and lemon tart are particularly delicious, and worth a detour.