Country village charm in the heart of Paris
A short stroll south to what was the heart of Charonne, the rue Saint-Blaise lies in the shadow of grim social-housing towers built in the 1970s. But it is also home to a myriad of artists' workshops and warehouses. At its northern end the Saint-Germain-de-Charonne church dates back to the 12th Century. Look beyond the neighbourhood’s slightly scruffy appearance and you will find secret alleyways, cul-de-sacs and courtyards such as the pretty Square de Grés, which is tucked off the rue Vitruve.
As you head down the rue de Bagnolet, past trendy hotel/bar/restaurant and Philippe Starck creation Mama Shelter, the rustic pavilions of the Villa Godin (85 rue de Bagnolet) and the Villa Riberolle (35 rue de Bagnolet) make you forget, even if for a brief moment, that you are in Paris. The rural ambiance continues at the jardin naturel (“natural garden”); a veritable haven of biodiversity in the heart of the city. Covering more than 6,000sqm, the garden is awash in ferns, wildflowers and bushy undergrowth, while a tranquil pond is home to wildlife such as frogs, newts and dragonflies. A visit to this unique green space can be paired with a trip to the neighbouring Père Lachaise cemetery, famous for being the final resting place of stars such as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.