The Parc de Belleville, located on the 108-metre hill of Belleville, between the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the Père Lachaise Cemetery, is the highest situated park in Paris. It was inaugurated in 1988. At the peak of the park, an almost 30-metre-tall terrace provides a panoramic view of the city.
Designed by architect François Debulois and landscaper Paul Brichet, the park can boast 1200 trees and shrubs, a 100-metre-long waterfall fountain (the longest in Paris), and 1000 square metres of lawn accessible to the public. It also contains a wooden playground for children, ping-pong tables and an open-air theatre. At the top of the park lies the Maison de l’Air, a small museum designed to educate visitors on the importance of fresh air and on the problems of pollution.
The park also prides itself on its display of annual flowers. Gardeners prepare the flower beds two years in advance and their compositions have received numerous prizes at the Concours des Décorations Florales Estivales (Summer Floral Decoration Competition), which takes place each year in September.
In the Middle Ages, numerous religious communities acquired plots of land on the hill. They cleared fields, planted grape vines, and tapped numerous springs. Taverns and guinguettes competed for places there from the 14th to 18th century.
The opening of a gypsum quarry in the 19th century attracted a population of seasonal workers (often masons), who worked on Baron Haussmann’s construction projects during the winter and returned home in the summer to tend their fields. The area was deemed insalubrious, which didn’t improve with the closing of the quarry.
In the 19th century, the houses, which were at the time situated on both sides of the stairway to the current park, gave the hill an ambience similar to that of Montmartre. They belonged to Julien Lacroix, one of the most important landowners of the hill of Belleville. A street that runs alongside the park now bears his name. At this time, a grand party was organised each year on the hill for Mardi Gras. On the last day of the carnival, Mardi Gras, all of Paris came to witness the ‘descente de la Courtille’, one of the three major Mardi Gras processions, named after the cheap restaurants that lined the rue de Belleville.
At the end of the 20th century, the hovels disappeared, freeing the space for more modern buildings and the Parc de Belleville. A vineyard of Pinot Meunier from Champagne and Chardonnay from Bourgogne still remains at the top of the park as a reminder of the area’s viticultural history.