In pictures: In the footsteps of Édith Piaf around Eastern Paris

The destiny of Édith Piaf, born in Paris’ 20th arrondissement, is intimately linked to the French capital. After a poor childhood in the Belleville neigborhood, the artist saw her career take off in local cabarets as she soon became the most famous voice in Chanson française.

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Version française

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Tenon Hospital

Edith Giovanna Gassion was born on December 19, 1915 in the Tenon Hospital, a large health care institution located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. Her parents were Line Marsa, circus artist and singer, and Louis Gassion, contortionist and street performer. One of the facades of the hospital is adorned with a mural representing the music legend: this large-scale work was created in 2019 by artist Hom Nguyen.
4 Rue de la Chine, 75020 Paris

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72 Rue de Belleville

Above the steep Rue de Belleville, a confident plaque maintains the legend that Edith Piaf was actually born at this address: “Edith Piaf was born in destitution on the steps of this house on December 19, 1915, her voice would later deeply move the world”. This statement is not corroborated by the birth certificate of the singer, but some sources indicate that the address was indeed occupied for a time by her parents. The proximity of the following address seems to confirm this hypothesis.
72 rue de Belleville, 75020 Paris

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91 Rue Rébeval

In her early childhood, Édith was entrusted for nearly a year and a half to her maternal grandmother Emma Saïd Ben Mohamed, who became known in the circuses and then cabarets under the stage name Aïcha, and lived a few steps further, Rue Rébeval. The little girl lived there in poor conditions and without always eating her fill, like so many miserable street children of Belleville. “La Môme” was then sent to Normandy by her father to join her other grandmother. She was herself in charge of a brothel, where the little Édith would be particularly pampered by the staff. A recent building now occupies this address on Rue Rébeval.
91 rue Rébeval, 75019 Paris

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105 Rue Orfila

The young Édith Piaf moved to this address with Louis Dupont, her first love. She gave birth to their daughter Marcelle in 1933, at the nearby Tenon Hospital where she was born herself. Unfortunately, the child died of meningitis at the age of two. The couple moved apartments several times before separating.
105 Rue Orfila, 75020 Paris

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Aux Folies

Édith was recognized early on for her exceptional voice: as an adult, she alternately sang in the many cabarets and entertainment venues of Montmartre and Belleville. Her voice used to resonate in the café-concert Les Folies-Belleville, heir to the Dénoyez cabaret. Its current location corresponds to the supermarket adjacent to Aux Folies, an iconic bar of the Belleville nightlife. A mural pays tribute to Edith Piaf, surrounded by portraits of her lovers, on the wall of the establishment.
8 Rue de Belleville, 75020 Paris

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La Java

Founded in 1923, this historic venue on the lively Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple, which featured artists such as Django Reinhardt and Maurice Chevalier, also witnessed the beginnings of Édith Piaf. Now dedicated to alternative and electronic music, La Java remains a staple of the Eastern Paris nightlife.
105 Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple, 75010 Pariswww.la-java.fr

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L’Alhambra

L’Alhambra was one of the first large venues to feature Édith Piaf: she took to the stage there in 1936. Pioneering Parisian entertainment since the end of the 19th century, this historic music hall was rebuilt ten years earlier following a fire. The singer will remain quite faithful to this venue capable of welcoming up to 2,800 spectators: she sang there again in the 1950s. The theater closed its doors in 1967 after financial difficulties, before being demolished and replaced by a modern building without much interest. The 2008 inauguration of a new Alhambra, also located by Place de la République, is a nod to this mythical stage.
Ancienne adresse : 50 Rue de Malte, 75011 Paris

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Le Balajo

The singer frequented this historic establishment of Rue de Lappe, already famed for for its numerous troquets and cabarets: there were nearly twenty “bals” there in the 1930s. Édith Piaf was seen at Le Balajo with her lover, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, before his tragic death in 1949. A few years later, the festivities following her marriage to the singer Jacques Pills were held in the cabaret.
9 Rue de Lappe, 75011 Paris – www.balajo.fr

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© Paris Info

Musée Édith Piaf

The singer lived in this 35m² apartment in 1933, when her career had not yet taken off and as she was still performing in Parisian streets. In 1968, the association “Les Amis d’Édith Piaf”, supported by people close to the artist, dedicated this place to her memory. A few steps away from the Ménilmontant metro station, visitors can now find many objects related to her life: artworks, photos, archives, the Disque d’or of “Mon Légionnaire”, Marcel Cerdan’s boxing gloves, or the singer’s famous black stage dress and shoes (size 34).
5 Rue Crespin du Gast, 75011 Paris
Visits on appointment – Monday & Tuesday: 1pm-6pm – +33 (0)1 43 55 52 72

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Grave of Édith Piaf

The singer passed away on October 10, 1963, exhausted by an extraordinary life strewn with pain and excess. After a triumphal procession of her cortege through the streets of the capital, nearly 40,000 people attended her funeral at Père Lachaise. Édith Piaf is buried with her daughter Marcelle, her late husband Théo Sarapo, and her father Louis Gassion. Their simple tomb is regularly adorned with flowers.
Père Lachaise Cemetery – Division 97, 75020 Paris

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Place Édith Piaf

This small square located between Porte de Bagnolet and Place Gambetta was renamed as a tribute to the singer in 1978: the choice of the 20th arrondissement where she was born, and where her final resting place is, seemed quite natural. Place Édith Piaf was modernized in 2003: a statue of the artist, arms raised to the sky, was created by sculptor Lisbeth Delisle. You can also have a drink at the Bar de la Place Édith Piaf, a charming establishment with a wooden facade and a sign portraying the singer.
Place Édith Piaf, 75020 Paris

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© Le Vieux Belleville

Le Vieux Belleville

This unique address in the heart of Belleville is dedicated to the memory of the old Paris, its songs and their performers. Édith Piaf fans can attend “apéros musette” and “dîners-concerts” where the public is invited to sing along to the singer’s most beautiful tunes: “La Foule”, “La Vie en Rose”, “Milord”… Take the time to go to the nearby Belleville belvedere: even if she did not know the Parc de Belleville (inaugurated in 1988), the young Édith Piaf certainly had the opportunity to contemplate the view many times during her Belleville years. The old stairs of the Rue Vilin used to stand there: they were immortalized on several photographs by Willy Ronis and Robert Doisneau.
12 Rue des Envierges, 75020 Paris – www.le-vieux-belleville.com

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Looking to explore the history and heritage of Eastern Paris? You can also check out our local guides:
Belleville & Ménilmontant
Charming passages and secret courtyards of Eastern Paris

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Photography Illustrations (except archives and otherwise stated) © Paris Lights Up

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