Known as "La Môme Piaf", or "The Little Sparrow", Édith Piaf began performing in the tough neighborhood streets as a young girl with her musician of a father. The daughter of a busker and a cafe singer, her distinctive, rich voice would be heard around the world, leaving a legacy pinned to Paris. Most known for her songs, La Vie en Rose and the defiant Non, Je ne Regrette Rien, her heartfelt, and often autobiographical tunes are filled with words of love, loss and sorrow. They still bring back very real memories of old Paris, filled with the desperate thieves, ruthless tramps and scandalous lovers in the working-class, immigrant-filled neighborhood of the 20th arrondissement. Over her short lifetime, Édith Piaf floated around Paris performing in numerous venues, many of which have long vanished, while living in numerous tiny apartments across the city. Remembering the figure who captured in her own lyrics the true essence of Paris during the 20th century, follow along to where the memories of her life take you down cobbled streets, to lost places and to the gilded quarters of Paris.
72 Rue de Belleville (75020)
The story that has been passed down through generations, rooting from the rumour in the autobiography Piaf published in 1958, tells of France’s greatest international star having been born in the doorway of 72 rue de Belleville in Paris on the 19th of December in 1915. A plaque above the cracked marble doorstep recognizes her voice going on to touch the world. In Square Edouard-Vaillant is Tenon Hospital, the real birthplace of the famed singer. Well, at least that’s what it says on her birth certificate.
Au Lapin Agile (22 rue des Saules 75018)
Located on a petite cobbled lane in Montmartre is the dimly-lit, simple club, Au Lapin Agile. With decor and a coziness coming straight from a bohemian lifestyle, Piaf during her 20s was often a regular performer here, sharing ballads of hope and love. The roughness of the area threatened to close the bar for good as Édith Piaf, for some time, lived across the street with a pimp who later tried to shoot her.
La Coupole (102 Boulevard Montparnasse 75014)
A still-existing, classic brasserie located in the eclectic Montparnasse neighborhood, the brightest stars in the worlds of art, literature and nightlife during Piaf’s time were frequently seen here. A temple of Art Deco design that has been well preserved over the years, the ballroom in the basement of this restaurant is where Édith Piaf once sang her heart out and filled the air with her tunes.
Le Gerny’s(54 RUE Pierre-Charron 75008)
In the basement of this hotel was the elegant cabaret, Le Gerny’s. One of the many places she could often be heard singing, it holds a special place in her life’s story as the director of the cabaret, Louis Leplee, was the mind behind Édith’s nickname, La Môme Piaf, or The Kid Piaf.
L’Olympia(28 boulevard des Capucines 75009)
The legendary concert hall built in 1893 was a common place Édith Piaf’s voice could be heard between 1955 and 1962. Some of her finest performances took place in this concert hall and were often recorded to vinyl, preserving her legacy for years to come.
67 Boulevard Lannes (67 boulevard Lannes 75016)
The last place Édith lived before her death was in the ground-floor apartment of number 67. This apartment saw her at her best and worst times, and it’s here where she wrote her unforgettable song, Non, Je ne Regrette Rien. Next to the building entrance is a small garden containing a hidden door Édith often used to sneak in and out of her apartment.
Père Lachaise (16 rue du Repos 75020)
Upon the hill of the celebrity-filled Pere Lachaise cemetery is the final resting place of the singer who was often called “the soul of Paris”. A simple black piece of marble that marks the Piaf family plot and is often covered with fresh flowers as fans still gather to pay their respects to Édith, her infant daughter, father and second husband.
Dedicated to the singer 15 years after her death, this square is the home to the statue of Édith Piaf belting out a tune with her arms stretched above her head. Bar de la Place Édith Piaf is located along the square and is a tribute to the diva herself, decorated with black and white photographs of her best moments.
ÉDith Piaf Museum (5 rue Crespin-du-Gast 75011)
Run by a devoted fan who met her in 1958, Édith Piaf’s tiny flat where she once lived in 1933 is now a museum devoted to her life. Within the preserved two room flat is a display of her famed little black dress and the boxing gloves of the prize-fighter and her love, Marcel Cerdan, whose tragic death in a plane crash led her into a dark decade of drinking and drugs.