Set in an apartment where Piaf lived at the age of 18, when she sang on the streets of Ménilmontant, this tiny museum consists of two red-painted rooms crammed with letters, pictures, framed discs and objects belonging to the singer. Curator Bernard Marchois doesn't speak English. It helps, therefore, to have seen the Marion Cotillard film before you go, to allow you to piece together the scrapbook of Piaf's highly mythologised life. The museum's real treasures are two letters, one a chatty number written on her 28th birthday, and another more passionate pen to actor Robert Dalban. These - and the well-worn, human-sized teddy bear cuddling a tiny monkey soft toy - are the only clues to the real Piaf, the greatest singer the nation has ever known.
Still the place to see and be seen in the 20th, the Philippe Starck designed Mama Shelter Hotel is a Bobo HQ for dinner and cocktails. Traditional French cuisine is served in the Chic-Chic brasserie-style restaurant (reservations required), while the table d'hôte pizzeria often gets raucous as friends turn up (first come first served) for a quick 4-fromages before a concert at the Flêche d'Or over the road.
A café and art space in Ménilmontant, Lou Pascalou has been also been enthusiastically appropriated as a neighbourhood canteen thanks to its endlessly inventive nature. There’s nothing trendy here, but rather a sweetly boho chic hangout and its youthful local clientele. The drinks are at rock bottom prices (€2.50), as is the food (shepherd’s pie from €6.50) and there’s an enormously varied range of entertainment. On the first Wednesday of the month you’ll find screenings of short films, on the third a theatrical improv competition organised by the Parisian League of Improvisation, and every Sunday there are gypsy jazz concerts, Brazilian music, French singers, flamenco, rock, brass bands and more. You can always look forward to a celebratory atmosphere in this charming bar, which also hosts temporary exhibitions every month, invites you to participate in citizen’s debates, and places board games at your disposal. On weekends the bar is rammed, so don’t arrive too late if you want to be able to find a seat.
Le Café des Sports' fine and eclectic music programme ranges from electro (Saturdays), to pop or chanson (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to world dub. Beer and wine are fabulously cheap (just €2 from 6pm to 8pm) and there's even sometimes free couscous or tapas with your drink on a Monday evening. Unlike its sprawling neighbours, Le Café des Sports has just one room to call home. DJs play in the space around the back.
The Bellevilloise is the latest incarnation of a building that once housed the capital's very first workers' co-operative. Now it competently multitasks as a bar, restaurant, club and exhibition space, hosting regular film and music festivals on the top level (where there's a fake lawn with deckchairs and a massage area). Enjoy brunch in the Halle aux Oliviers or decent views of the quartier from the charming terrace; downstairs the club-cum-concert venue has launched some of Paris's most exciting new bands, and on '80s nights you can hardly move for the thirtysomethings living it up like they were 20 again. Live jazz music at the Sunday brunch.
This much-loved indie and electro venue is set in the old Charonne train station - a quirky setting for concerts by a stream of local and international groups and DJs. Needless to say the line ups are eclectic, with three or four bands playing a night. This is a great place to discover the crème of Paris's up-and-coming groups.
La Maroquinerie's former life as a leather factory is little in evidence these days. It's now a bright café and bar in competition with La Bellevilloise, with a coveted downstairs concert venue that hosts the odd literary debate and a wealth of cool music acts. It's home to the Inrocks Indie Club nights, but there are still traces of its world music roots. The food is excellent - you can eat your way through the menu quite reasonably for around €25 - and wine sourced from across France starts at €3 a glass. The interior, with exposed brick, is cosy, and in summer chirpy locals invade the shaded terrace.
This tiny photography boutique is open by appointment only, but don’t let that put you off. Owner Emmanuelle Fructus has one of France’s most exciting collections of rare photography books and anonymous photos from the 19th-century to today – a veritable art gallery unto itself and must for photography lovers, or anyone looking for something fun to put on the wall or coffee table. As time goes by, photos change hands, and the names of the people in the images, and indeed of the photographers themselves, are frequently forgotten. This is where Emmanuelle steps in, unearthing thought-provoking images of folks unknown to give them a new lease of life in her boutique. And she’s certainly got an eye for art: Every photo, be it a 1950s bathing scene or a turn-of-the-century family portrait, exudes something so eye-catching it could be in a museum. Un livre - une image also lends its walls to contemporary artists (like Céline Duval, Philippe Jusforgues, Coco Fronsac and Valentine Fournier) who use anonymous photography in their work.
Finding well-presented vintage clothes that have been washed, ironed and don’t smell like dirty underpants is possible – GoldyMama, north of Père Lachaise, is the proof. This small boutique in the heights of the 20th has retro treasures aplenty and makes an original spot for gift hunting. 1950s skirts, 40s suits, empire dresses, wacky 70s tops and multi-era accessories line the walls. The choice is as vast as the shop assistants are helpful. Then, once you’ve tried on half the shop, free your inner child at GoldyMama’s ‘Bar à Bonbons’ filled with boiled sweets, caramels and all sorts of other teeth-rotting delights.