When I visit Paris, I’m less concerned with checking off the tourist sites than with soaking up as much culture, food and wine as I possibly can. Le Vieux Belleville accomplishes all three feats. It is a charming, cosy French bistro and a popular venue for listening to French chanson music.
WHAT IS CHANSON?
Chanson is a lyrically-driven French song. The male singers are Chanteurs and females are Chanteuse. The music is highly melodic, and the themes are secular and often about love. Parisian chanson grew in popularity from the 1500’s, and famous singers include Lucienne Boyer, Edith Piaf, Monique Serf, Jacques Brel, and Yves Montand.
12 Rue des Envierges, 75020 Paris, France
+33 1 44 62 92 66
This is a small bistro in central Paris. The food is traditional, home-made and delicious. Each evening there will be a set menu drawn up on the board and you choose a starter, main and a dessert. Everything is written in French and on our visit we found one waiter who spoke limited English to help us with our order. The stand-out dishes were the duck with frites for main course and chocolate fondant for dessert. They also have a small but considered selection of house wine and aperitifs that are reasonably priced and certainly aid the singing and merry-making.
Into the evening, after the main course, the fun begins! On our visit, a buxom and charming French lady with an accordion began waltzing around the restaurant belting out famous French tunes. Everyone received a lyrics sheet so they could sing along as well. Many locals came in to stand around the bar drinking and singing and a French artist also arrived and painted impressions as the scene unfolded. It was a lot of fun and the atmosphere was warm and merry.
I filmed a snapshot of us all singing to Edith Piaf’s famous Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
I recommend making a reservation in advance as this place becomes very busy in the evening, regardless of the season or day. Despite its growing popularity on Google and Lonely Planet, Le Vieux Belleville still feels very French and authentic. We were the only English-speaking customers there on our visit, and it’s setup is typical of a local bistro that serves simple yet quality food with no-fuss. A highly recommended stop on your Paris trip!