20th Arrondissement

Although the large Vingtième is the last district in Paris and all the way east, it’s more interesting than you might think: it mixes traditionalism with modernity; passionate artiness with working class energy. It’s essentially what Montmartre was 200 years ago: rents on the cheap side, local artists’ studios, very few tourists. It’s off the beaten path, keeping its parks and gastronomic treats pretty much to itself. Père Lachaise cemetery — the forever-home of wacky minds like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Rosa Bonheur — is beautiful (and wild) enough to wander in for hours. Other must-visit nabes include Les Vignoles/Saint-Blaise, Belleville, and Jourdain/Ménilmontant.

The Belleville area is loud, mul­ti­cul­tur­al, edgy, kinet­ic. High­lights include: a month­ly street food mar­ket that sprawls along Boule­vard de Belleville; a new wave of con­tem­po­rary gal­leries and street art; hilly Parc de Belleville with its dreamy city views; qui­et Rue Sainte-Marthe lined with art stu­dios and world food; and a Chi­nese enclave offer­ing a slew of Asian super­mar­kets and hole-in-the-wall Asian snack­ing (in case you’ve had it with rich French cui­sine). But don’t fret: inven­tive, indie French restos do hold their own here, too.

The old cob­ble­stone path­ways of the Père Lachaise ceme­tery will lead you back in time as you get lost strolling among old trees, vam­piresque mau­soleums, and wildlife sight­ings (some human wildlife, but most­ly we’re talk­ing crows, fer­al cats and fox­es here). Spend an after­noon explor­ing the famous and not-so-famous souls that inhab­it this icon­ic place. East of Père Lachaise ceme­tery, Avenue du Père Lachaise and the side streets sur­round­ing Place Gam­bet­ta are worth check­ing out.

Here you are in Paris’s for­mer indus­tri­al heart­land. Old fac­to­ry build­ings house hip live music venues such as La Bellevil­loise and La Maro­quiner­ie, while grungy bars along hilly Rue de Ménil­montant lead to war­rens of nar­row, cob­ble­stone streets and artists’ stu­dios. Musée Édith Piaf, set in the tiny French crooner’s for­mer apart­ment, is a pri­vate mini-muse­um filled with memorabilia.

Nes­tled between Père Lachaise ceme­tery and Place de la Nation, this area is an authen­tic, unas­sum­ing mix of pas­sion­ate artists, immi­grants and the work­ing class; with off-beat sur­pris­es and a hand­ful of tiny cob­ble­stoned alley­ways pop­ping up where you least expect them. Local artists thrive here. Wan­der down the lit­tle streets around Place de la Réu­nion and dis­cov­er a hand­ful of cute indie shops, cafés and sur­pris­ing­ly tasty restau­rants.