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When the city's northern boundaries were expanded in 1860, Ménilmontant and Belleville (once villages that provided Paris with wine and weekend escapes) were absorbed into central Paris, first housing migrants from rural France, then populations from former colonies in North Africa and Asia. Nowadays it's still cheap and cosmopolitan, with artists' colonies in its upper stretches and a Chinese quarter around the Boulevard de Belleville. Up on the slopes of Les Hauts de Belleville, there are great views over the city from Rue Piat and Rue des Envierges, which lead to the modern but charming Parc de Belleville. Another parkland to explore nearby is the Père Lachaise cemetery, where the likes of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and 'little sparrow' Edith Piaf party in the afterlife.
'Mesnil-Montant' used to be just a few houses on a hill with vines and fruit trees; then came the bistros, bordellos and workers' houses. These days it's a thriving centre of alternative Paris, as artists and young professionals have moved in. Although several side streets still have male-only North African cafés, Rue Boyer is home to two of Paris' most buzzing venues: the Bellevilloise multidisciplinary arts centre and La Maroquinerie concert hall. You'll also find a profusion of hip bars along Rue de Ménilmontant, which descends into Oberkampf, home to yet more nightlife entertainment. Heading east of here, beyond Père Lachaise, follow the 'it' crowds to Rue de Bagnolet for drinks at Philippe Starck-designed Mama Shelter hotel and music at Flêche d'Or, a concert hall set in a former train station.