Included in the territory of Paris in 1860, the little district of Charonne has preserved its charming provincial village atmosphere with its main street, and its central square dominated by the 12th century parish church.
Rarely mentioned in tourist guides, the village of Charonne is worth a visit if you wish to see something different, yet authentic. This curious yet picturesque district is undeniably charming with its cobbled streets, its low houses and the bell tower of Church Saint-Germain-de-Charonne.
Description of the Village
Far from the bustling Paris that we all know with its famous monuments, the village of Charonne is located in the 20th arrondissement, at a stone’s throw from the Périphérique, Paris motorway ring. In any season of the year, a stroll through the district is a total change of scenery.
Guided Tour of the Village of Charonne
To access it, exit the metro station Porte de Bagnolet (line 3) on the side of Boulevard Mortier and climb up the stairs to the right of rue Géo-Chavez. In a maze of cobbled narrow streets (Irénée-Blanc, Georges-Perec, Paul-Strauss, Jules-Siegfried), brick or millstone pavilions welcome their guests with small verdant or gravel entrances. In the beginning of the 19th century, these cute little houses were those of the quarry workers of the rue des Montibœufs.
Go back and cross Rue Belgrand to follow Rue de Bagnolet.
To the left, the Jardins Debrousse were part of the former domain of Bagnolet in the 18th century. This estate belonged to the Duchess of Orléans, natural daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. The garden can be visited and houses a vestige from this era: the pavilion of Hermitage. This elegant rococo building has been opened to the public since February 2005. It is the only Parisian folly of Régence style. Inside, mural paintings can be admired.
Go out through the Rue des Balkans whilst trying to catch sight of the charming houses covered with Virginia creeper. Cross the square Antoine-Blondin and reach Rue Vitruve on which is found a commemorative plaque to French singer Barbara as well as a curious mural sculpture depicting the legend of the salamander. From there, enter the small park of Square des Grès. Despite the fact that the district is surrounded by modern (and ugly) buildings, ravishing low houses can be found there, a haven of tranquillity.
The enchantment continues on Rue Saint-Blaise, which can be compared to those “Grand’Rue” that are usually found in provincial little towns. With its cute old-looking lampposts, this narrow cobbled street is lined with a few shops, including inviting boulangerie-pâtisseries. Observe opposite number 85 a porch dating back from the time of Louis XV. A simple look toward the mount on which the church Saint-Germain-de-Charonne sits with its squat bell tower, and the feeling of being in a rural little town outside Paris comes back even more vividly.
The Romanesque church was built in the 12th century and displays an interesting architecture due to successive additions throughout the years.
The church is flanked by a small countryside cemetery, the only one of its kind in Paris with the church of Saint-Pierre-de-Montmartre. Here, many famous people rest in peace: the family of André Malraux, the writer Robert Brasillach, shot at the Liberation for his collaboration with the Nazis, and some Federates, the victims of the Versailles repression at the time of the Paris Commune in 1871.
Back to the Rue de Bagnolet, after a walk until number 102 bis, stands a disused railway station: one of a “Gare de la Petite ceinture”. The “Petite ceinture” used to be a railway ring encircling Paris.
From 1852 this circular connection linked the main stations of Paris within the fortified walls on which was later built the Périphérique motorway. From 1934, the network was closed down and some stretches of tracks still remain to this day and the future of its rehabilitation – or redevelopment into new uses – is still subject to debate.
Today, the station in Rue de Bagnolet hosts a stunning and funky restaurant: the Café de la Flèche d’Or, particularly lively and illuminated at night fall. In the café-concert, Patrons can admire the locomotive that surmounts the bar and the glasshouse of the terrace which dominates the abandoned railway.