Mouzaïa. Here is an unusual name for an unusual Parisian neighborhood. If you think you know Paris; if you have visited the landmarks, the best museums, (large or small,) the iconic neighborhoods, this small corner of the French capital may still surprise you. La Mouzaïa has a rich history, born in the second half of the 19th century. It offers a picturesque atmosphere and absolute peace, a rare find in Paris these days. This is an authentic part of the city, where real Parisians live and work, fiercely protective of their privacy (they know they are lucky.) You may encounter some visitors strolling around on a Sunday afternoon, but you will not spot many tourists. So if you go, please remember, as my group and I did on a cold but sunny February afternoon, to be respectful of les riverains (residents.) Keep your voices low, and if you have to peek into their private space, do so discreetly.


Villa Marceau (la Mouzaïa)

La Mouzaïa refers to a place French and Algerian troops fought over during the colonization of Algeria in the mid-19th century. It sits on a hill, in Belleville, on old gypsum quarries (carrières.) The quarries produced renowned plaster, shipped around the world, including the United States. Part of the neighborhood (and a local street) are still referred to as “les Carrières d’Amérique.” This was a working class neighborhood. Some of the old fabriques (factories,) remain.

Menuiserie (woodshop,) la Mouzaïa.

Menuiserie (woodshop,) la Mouzaïa.

The soil was fragile, and this protected la Mouzaïa from urban sprawl. Quarry workers needed places to live. In the 1880s, Architect Paul Casimir Fouquiau designed and built 250 identical homes, on a slope, minding the unstable ground: They had red brick façades, were two-story high, with a small narrow front door covered by a wrought-iron marquise (awning) overlooking a small courtyard or patio. In the summer, the scent of roses, jasmine, honeysuckle and lilacs filled the neighborhood. They still do today. La Mouzaïa homes are neatly lined in small private alleys, called villas, and branch off of la rue Mouzaïa. Some are dead-ends. All are peaceful. There are about 20 villas, and it is wise to pick and choose when you visit.




La Mouzaïa neighborhood is a 20-minute walk from le Parc des Buttes Chaumont. I recommend doing both on the same day, because they were built in the late 19th century. Be aware les Buttes Chaumont are undergoing a major remodel. Some areas of the park (such as the Belvédère) were not accessible in February. It retains its unique charm, and is a classic example of the romantic parks Napoleon III and his team, Baron Haussmann, and Jean-Charles Alphand, developed in Paris during la Belle Epoque.

Buttes Chaumont3


If you do not want to walk from les Buttes Chaumont to la Mouzaïa, ride the Métro instead, Line 7bis, and exit at “Botzaris.” A stroll in the neighborhood takes you back to the days of the 3rd French Republic, streets named after prominent statesmen and artists (Félix Faure, Emile Loubet, Sadi-Carnot, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and more.) At a three-street intersection, we were reminded of the French Republican values: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. We could have easily missed the street signs. Once again, being aware of your surroundings and looking up tends to pay off while visiting Paris.

Rue de la Liberté intersects with rue de l'Egalité and rue de la Fraternité.

Rue de la Liberté intersects with rue de l’Egalité and rue de la Fraternité.


We noticed interesting details along the quiet, paved villas (alleys) lined with la Mouzaïa‘s houses: I was struck, once again, by the difference between French and North American homes. The French, who value privacy and safeguard their private sphere, always hide behind hedges, walls, or fences. In sharp contrast, suburban American homes seem to spill over into the street, sprawling lawns and interiors showcased for all to see.


It was fascinating to notice the small metal gates guarding each home from the stares of curious passers-by. They were anonymous, but it was obvious locals know each other, from the small note left on one of the doors.



“The door bell is broken, please call us.” (no phone number = no call)

It is not to say that the houses lack in exterior whimsy.


Creative container gardening

Colorful walls

Even if the weather was cold, we were happy to meet some of the felines the neighborhood is well-known for: les chats de la Mouzaïa. We saw two, who were playing in the trees in the absence of blackbirds, their favorite prey. They were friendly enough, teasing us, purring; but kept their distance, quickly retreating to the safety of the private courtyards when we tried to pet them.


There aren’t many cars in la Mouzaïa. What a relief! We spotted this French classic, a Peugeot 404, designed by an Italian in the 1960s, and a commercial success in my homeland until the mid-1970s.

Peugeot 404


Alain Delon drove a 404 before meeting an untimely death in “Le Clan des Siciliens,” (the Sicilian Clan, 1969)

Bucolic, intimate, full of old-fashioned charm, la Mouzaïa neighborhood offers  – to those who venture off the Parisian beaten path – a chance to embark on a nostalgic trip back in time, and to get a glimpse at the populaire (working class) side of Paris.

A bientôt.

Further reading: 

Do you want to discover another village-like Parisian neighborhood? Visit la Butte aux Cailles with French Girl in Seattle.

Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

Or click a link below to read the next (or previous) post...allons-y !


  1. Linda on April 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I love reading your blog & looking at the photos you include. We went to Paris in October 2012 and I absolutely love Paris. We will be going back again.
    Your blog will help me determine where I would like to go see next time we go.

    • French Girl in Seattle on April 14, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Thank you for your visit, Linda, and for the kind words.

  2. Karen Burns on April 13, 2015 at 11:22 am

    How fun! Reading this was truly like being there. I did visit this neighborhood, years ago when I lived in Paris, but had forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder. And for the mini vacation…..

    • French Girl in Seattle on April 14, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      A mini-vacation: That’s exactly what la Mouzaïa feels like, Karen. All it needs is the beach!

  3. Cherie Moore on April 13, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    A very interesting post of a quiet and old part of Paris. As always, thank you for the computer chair trip to Paris, smile.

    • French Girl in Seattle on April 14, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      You know me Cherie: Happy to help! 😉

  4. g on April 16, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    WHAT A GREAT READ!! so very interesting -AS ALWAYS!! I have missed my time spent here-been hectic with a couple different things here and didn’t want to read and comment half baked if you will. so I waited until I could fully disappear into your wonderful posts. off to read the next one!

    • French Girl in Seattle on April 16, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      I do appreciate your taking the time to visit and comment on each single post. Merci, g. I have missed you. I hope all is well in Philadelphia. Spring has finally arrived in Seattle. It’s been a mild winter, granted. Not sure about the time of my next trip, but you know me: I will return to France and Europe as soon as I can make it happen 😉

  5. thefolia on August 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Vive le unexpected niches of big cities!

  6. Paris Tips and Tricks | Chat with Veronique Savoye | Paris Made for You on June 20, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    […] they might not go to on their own. I say, at least step away from the Seine river and explore further afield. Get on the metro line and take it to a metro stop you might be unfamiliar with. You must be aware […]

  7. 10 Most Romantic Places in Paris: 19ème Arrondissement on July 27, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    […] carry on your romantic stroll in the park. You can see more information and photos on this area in this great article by French Girl in Seattle, Takes […]

Leave a Comment

Join la Mailing List

Be the first to read stories and travel tips I don’t share anywhere else!

No spam, ever. That’s a promise. Visit the Privacy Policy.

Les Catégories