Legendary French singer Edith Piaf may have died in 1963 but her spirit lives on in Paris. Especially in Belleville, a neighbourhood to the east of Paris.
Here are six places to find her ghost, dotted across the district where the great woman herself was born, lived, and was buried.
1. The Edith Piaf Bar
Do you enjoy your Edith Piaf memorabilia with a glass of wine in hand? Then here’s some good news for you! The Bar Edith Piaf in Belleville is overflowing with Piaf homages, which are plastered all over the bar’s walls. It’s a typical Parisian bistro filled with local residents. (The bar is pictured at the top of this page).
Address: 22 Rue de la Py, 75020 Paris
2. The Edith Piaf statue
Get ready folks, it’s time for a little controversy. In Belleville you can find a statue of Edith Piaf which isn’t… well, it’s not exactly flattering. It shows a rather blurry looking Edith reaching up to the heavens. And it caused a bit of a stir among the Parisians, many of whom wanted something a little more beautiful from the hands of the sculptor.
The sculptor, a Frenchwoman called Lisbeth Delisle, received hate mail about her work but was praised by others.
“A twisted and tortured body reaching for the sky does Edith perfect justice,” reads one response from a French writer. “She is on the cobblestones, at the level of the people. In fact, putting her on a marble pedestal would have been an insult to her, a woman who belonged to the common people and to the street…” Read more here (in French).
Make up your own mind when you see it for yourself, conveniently located at Place Edith Piaf, right outside the bar mentioned above. Bonus: There’s a much smaller statue of Edith on an electrics building on the other side of the square.
Address: Place Edith Piaf, 75020
3. The Edith Piaf museum
This place is a bit of a mystery. You have to phone ahead and book a time to visit, and during the phone call the owner will give you the address and door codes to get in. He is a friendly-sounding man, but claims not to speak English.
The museum is in a private residence where Piaf once lived and features her china collection, gold and platinum records, dresses and shoes, photographs, fan letters, sheet music, posters, and recordings.
The museum doesn’t have a website, and the owner asked us not to share the address, just his phone number: 01 43 55 52 72. It costs €5 to get in, preferably cash, of course. And to help with your planning, the museum is just across the boulevard from Belleville in the 11th arrondissement.
4. The birthplace of Edith Piaf
Head to 72 rue de Belleville to see the doorway where Edith is said to have been born. Was she really born there, though? Or was it in a nearby hospital? Who knows, but you can find the plaque above the blue door marking the spot and the occasion.
5. Edith Piaf’s final resting place
Head deep into the Pere Lachaise cemetery to find Edith Piaf’s tombstone. It’s not that easy to locate as it’s not as visually stunning as the graves of other iconic French singers. But check out the map at the entrance of the cemetery for directions, or just look for the grave with the most flowers and you’re there.
6. The diner where you can sing along with Edith
At the restaurant Le Vieux Belleville you will be handed song lyrics with your menus. And on Tuesday nights, the singer will be covering Edith Piaf songs all night. A word of warning: You will be encouraged to join in! It’s excellent fun, see the video from our own visit below.
Address: 12 Rue des Envierges, 75020
That’s it! If you want to hear Piaf she featured prominently below in the The Earful Tower podcast episode and YouTube video.
And, as always, if you want more from Paris and more from The Earful Tower, either tell a friend or jump on the Patreon train and become a member. Sign up today and meet hundreds of other likeminded Francophile members.
Here’s our favourite Edith Piaf song to round things off 🙂
That’ll do for now. If you enjoy these glimpses into the lives of Parisians from yesteryear, check out my interview with Ernest Hemingway here. And for many more fun things to do in Paris, check out The Earful Tower’s guide to Paris below.