When it comes to exploring the City of Light, there’s the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and every other large monument you could hope to imagine. However, what even many residents don’t know is that there are a plethora of hidden gems in the form of secret villages which were once thriving communities in their own right but have since been absorbed into the fabric of Paris, such as that of La Campagne à Paris.
Of course, I’m sure you’ve already heard of the most famous of the lost villages of Paris! After all, right up until the 19th-century, Montmartre was a village in its own right, complete with farmland and plenty of moulins (that’s windmills in English). Today, just a handful of windmills remain and there’s just one vineyard left!
Luckily for us, there are lesser-known spots where you can still see the Parisian villages of old. Today, we’re going for a walk of the most secluded of these. Tucked away in the 20th arrondissement of the city, far off the beaten tourist track and up one of three incredibly steep sets of steps, so quiet is this oasis of calm that if you stop and pause, you can even hear birdsong…
History of La Campagne à Paris
Quite literally translated as ‘the countryside in Paris,’ this micro-arrondissement is constituted of purely residential buildings. And not your typical Haussmannian style structures either. Instead, the housing is largely two and three-storey buildings and there’s no shop, monument, or attraction in sight! Most houses even have their own gardens, which is a luxury seldom found in the city.
Accessed via one single road or several steep flights of steps, once at the top of this mini ‘butte’ you’ll soon discover four roads which form a circle of sorts and as such comprise of La Campagne à Paris. The area, much like Villa Leandré in the 18th arrondissement of the city, was in the 1920s, specifically 1928 on top of former underground quarries.
How to visit La Campagne à Paris
For those not in the know, the Parisian area can be a little tricky to find! The closest metro station is Métro Porte de Bagnolet, located on line 3. Alternatively, the picturesque village can also be reached via tram Porte de Bagnolet, Porte de Vincennes or by bus (76, 102, 351).
In total there are 92 townhouses, while the streets which make up the small area are Rue du Père Prosper Enfantin, Rue Irénée Blanc, Rue Mondonville, and Rue Jules Siegfried. As such, for the best directions, I recommend popping one of these into your map application and following the route (otherwise you’re as likely to get as lost as I did!).
If you have a little more time to spare while in Paris and you’ve seen all the major districts and monuments, then I couldn’t recommend heading to this secluded oasis of calm more. Best visited on a sunny day when the streets look their best and the birds are quite literally singing, this area of the city never really tends to get busy.
If you’re visiting Paris in fall, then you’ll soon discover that due to the number of foliage and trailing vines, the beauty of this small area of the city truly becomes more magical, with fall tones and even more ample photo opportunities. Before visiting, note that La Campagne à Paris is an actual district of the 20th arrondissement and is not to be confused with a nearby shop which is also called La Campagne à Paris.
If you have a little more time while in the area, then you should note that there are plenty more unusual things to do and hidden attractions. For example, the nearby Village of Charonne is another of the forgotten village vibe areas of Paris with the kind of small-town stores to match.
Otherwise, Pere Lachaise cemetery, where the likes of Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf are buried, is just a short stroll away. What’s more, Pavilion Hermitage is a nearby stunning building surrounded by its own beautifully manicured garden which hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year (find further details here).