Millions of people visit Paris every year and most of them head straight to the city’s most famous museums, galleries, and other notable tourist attractions. However, contemporary art in Paris lies beyond the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, The Centre Pompidou, Rodin, and the Museum of Modern Art. Just grab a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and head to an exciting adventure that covers the finest of street art in Paris. This article will show you everything you need to know, including places to visit, popular street art tours, famous local artists, and more! But let’s start from the beginning!
What makes street art in Paris so unique?
In most cities, especially in the US, street art has always been closely tied with the rise of the hip-hop culture. In Paris, however, that’s not the case. Street art in Paris is closely tied to the city’s history which is why you may not understand some of the street art you come across unless you’re well familiar with the history of the French capital.
Since the beginning (the 1960s), street artists in Paris have used posters, stenciling, decollage, and (lately) many modern techniques and posters which slowly evolved into its own art form that Paris is proud of even today. Additionally, many street art murals were created with the assistance of local authorities that at times, even invite foreign artists to enrich the street art scene of the capital.
This leads us to the next point…
How is street art perceived in Paris?
Just like most other French cities, street art in Paris is in a grey area; some street murals have been commissioned by the authorities but there are still a lot of street art in Paris that even though looks great is technically illegal. For years, most people in Paris considered street art as a form of vandalism. And even though that’s slowly changing and many people consider street art to be a legitimate form of art, “being a street artist” in Paris is still punishable by law.
My personal favorite thing about street art in Paris and throughout the world is that it’s free and a great pick for people planning to visit France on a budget.
Places for discovering street art in Paris
Now that we covered some of the most famous street artists in Paris, let’s see which are some of the most iconic pieces of street art in Paris and where to find them!
Art42 is the first museum in Paris dedicated to street art. It’s also geographically a great starting point for experiencing the best of the street art scene in Paris. This museum hosts the work of some of the most famous street artists of Paris. The facility is also used as a computer programming school but don’t worry, one doesn’t need to be a student to get access.
Back in 2010, several local street artists started an ambitious project with the goal to repaint the wall of L’Europeen (located in the 18th arrondissement on Rue Biot) and to entirely cover it with street art. Some of the most prominent murals on the wall feature the famous characters of Aerosol, the symbolics of Mesnager, and the wildlife of Mosko.
L’Aerosol is a new, open museum dedicated to celebrating the best of street art in Paris. It’s a perfect place for art lovers and connoisseurs with a hipster vibe. L’Aerosol also features several food trucks, a skate park, and petanque ground, making it very popular among the local youth. The space is named after the popular local street artist, Jef Aerosol.
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Rue Riquet is the largest space in Paris devoted to street art. The 18th and 19th arrondissements are home to a 500 meters-long street art wall that was created in 2015 to honor the life of Rosa Parks.
Rue de L’Ourcq
Rue de l’Ourcq showcases some of the finest work of local artist Marco93 also known as The French Lighter because of the omnipresent use of light in his drawings. His murals in the 19th district pay homage to Frida Kahlo but also features cats with large, piercing eyes. This mural is perhaps the best example of the contrast between dark and light characteristic for the work of The French Lighter.
Rue Germaine Tailleferre
The Rue Germain Tailleferre is one of the newest places for observing street art in Paris. The street lies on the 19th arrondissement, adjacent to the Parc de la Villette. If you’re walking around in the area, you’ll inevitably notice a couple of hundred meters long wall dotted with fascinating street murals. Some of the highlights include some more of Marco93’s impressive work (mainly wildlife portraits), a few hip-hop-inspired murals, and some of Kouka’s finest work that reflects on the artist’s African heritage.
Boulevard de la Villette
Speaking of street art in Paris, we just have to mention the mesmerizing modern fresco/mural that overlooks Parc de la Villette. This magnificent piece of street art was created by one of France’s most famous street artists (that has his work exhibited around the work), Lazoo back in 2016.
Crossroad Rue de l’Elysée Ménilmontant/Rue Julien Lacroix
At the crossroad between l’Elysée Ménilmontant and Rue Julien Lacroix, you’ll discover one of the most fascinating street art murals in Paris. The mural is huge but still very detailed and was created by the No Rules Corp collective.
A few arrondissements south lies Belleville, one of the most popular street art neighborhoods in Paris. Belleville is to Paris what Mission is to San Francisco or Freeman Alley is to New York City. Historically, this was a working-class neighborhood, and even today, it’s an area with a lot of affordable accommodation options but it also happens to be one of the main street art hubs in the capital.
Rue des Cascades
Dotted with charming small houses and a lot of green surfaces, Rue des Cascades (English: Road of the Waterfalls) is one of the most charming parts of Paris. In addition to this, in this area, you can find some of the finest street art murals in Paris, including the famous Van Gogh-inspired mural of Jimmy C which is one of the most popular street art murals in France.
Rue Laurence Savart
There’s something about old-fashioned, narrow, cobbled streets that attracts artists and Rue Laurence Savart is no exception. Even back in the days, the street was popular among artists. A beautiful photograph of the street by award-winning photographer Willy Ronis taken in 1947 reached the headlines when the photograph was sold at an auction for 1,200€. Times sure have changed in the meantime but one thing still didn’t; artists still love Rue Laurence Savart.
Today, you’ll find a lot of beautiful street art murals, including the iconic Urban Jungle mural by Mosko et Associes.
This street stretches between the 10th and 11th arrondissements with a total length of 2 kilometers and our street art in Paris story wouldn’t be complete without it. Along this long street, you’ll find some interesting video game murals by Shepard Fairey and beautiful Frida Kahlo-inspired artwork by one of Paris’ most famous female artists Kashink. Not a lot of people know about this picturesque street and personally, it’s one of my favorite hidden gems in Paris. If that sounds interesting, you can also get some more information about other Paris gems in our list of non-touristy things to do in Paris.
Rue Oberkampf is another popular street art hotspot but also a vibrant lively area for a night out. Keep this in mind when planning your trip, you can always combine a pleasant evening of discovering some of the area’s best street art with an exciting night out. Around Rue Oberkampf, street art is noticeable on most buildings, metal constructions, and even street furniture but the highlight of the area is the famous Le Mur; a huge wall completely covered in beautiful murals created by some of Paris’ best street artists. In fact, a new artist is invited to transform the wall every few weeks.
Place Igor Stravinsky
If you ever visited Paris before, you surely heard of the famous historic Marais neighborhood. Located between the 3rd and the 4th, this is one of the most vibrant parts of Paris, filled with charming cafes, beautiful boutiques, and a lot of trendy hipster places. In other words, Marais is the perfect mix of the old and the new and there’s no better proof of this than the beautiful Salvador Dali mural at Place Igor Stravinsky located right beside the iconic Georges Pompidou.
The Left Bank
The left bank is famous for one of Paris’ oldest and most interesting street art traditions. Local composer, Serge Gainsbourg stayed in this neighborhood from 1969 and 1991, and during this time, his fans would often draw graffiti, pictures, poems, and even love messages for the artist on the wall opposite of his house. The tradition continued even after the author’s death and street artists still paint creative artworks on the wall opposite the house where the artist spent the last 22 years of his life.
Chinatown & 13th Arrondissement
Another great place to observe street art in Paris is Chinatown’s 13th arrondissement. Some of the highlights in the area include the numerous graffiti at Vincent Auriol Boulevard, the huge mural of a man and a woman kissing at Place Pinol, Seth’s iconic young boy surrounded by a spiral wave of colors created by his imagination, and Roa’s colorful skeleton next to Jardin Grands-Moulin. The area is filled with beautiful street art behind every corner.
Vitry-en-Scène appeared on the Paris map of street art in 2007 when famous local artist Christan Guemy (more commonly known as C215) opened his studio in the area. This attracted a lot of aspiring young artists to contribute to turning Vitry-en-Scène into one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Southern Paris.
Canal de L’Ourcq & Canal St-Denis
Last but not least, we round up this street art in Paris list with a couple of neighborhoods away from the central area. If you’re visiting Paris for a day or two, you may not have enough time to check out these places but if you stick around, you should definitely visit at least one of them.
Canal de L’Ourcq is located in the eastern part of Paris while Canal St-Denis is located north of Sacré-Cœur but both have one thing in common; both places are street art hubs and both showcase the lazy vibe of Paris’ riverside suburbs. Here, you’ll find a lot of lazy cafes, petanque, and you can even hop on a canal boat and explore the area.
A few more famous street artists of Paris (that we didn’t mention)
Paris has a rich street art scene and in this article, we featured some of the best places for street art. However, I feel that there are at least a few more artists that deserve a special mention. Here are some of the most famous street artists in Paris that we didn’t cover in this article so far.
M. Chat is one of the most popular cats in Paris. It’s a yellow cat that appears on the back of many buildings and streets around Paris. The artist drawing this cat has been doing this for over a decade. The artist behind this iconic street art piece is Thoma Vuille but because of his work, a lot of people refer to him as Mr. Chat.
Bom K is one of the pioneers of street art in Paris. He’s the founder of the famous DMV crew. He’s one of the main reasons why street art is starting to be considered as a legitimate art form in Paris and France. His work covers some unusual, interesting topics like madness, fear, and hate, but also showcases some difficult social problems like life in the French suburbs, social exclusion, etc.
Seth is one of the most influential local street artists in Paris. He devoted his life to studying this art form while traveling around the world. He also published the book “Globe Painter” which covers his journey through painted walls and murals in different corners of the world. His work is specific and attention-grabbing because his drawings always tell a story. The best part about his work is that every one of the stories covered in his paintings tells a story related to the neighborhood it lives in.
Shaka is a famous French street artist famous for his unique technique that makes carved incorporating elements that look like they’re coming out of the plane support. In other words, he’s one of the best street artists in Paris when it comes to 3D paintings.
Hopare is a young artist who was a student of Shaka. He has a similar style and is popular for his abstract and graphic styles and for combining straight lines and vibrant colors with the human face being the main protagonist in most of his paintings.
Mister Pee is another street artist that has been influenced by the Hip Hop movement. He’s famous for his humoristic paintings but unlike some of the above-mentioned artists, he doesn’t always have a specific style and he is an artist of many facets but in all of his work, the main motif is the meaning of freedom. He even has two permanent exhibitions with his creations; one at Adamastor Studios in Lisbon and one more at the Sin Glin Gling Gallery in Paris.
With that being said, let’s see which are some of the best places to see street art in Paris.
Popular street art tours in Paris
Alternatively, if you don’t like exploring on your own and would like to join a guided street art tour in Paris, we have a few suggestions for you. One of the first things that come to mind when speaking of tours for exploring street art in Paris is Street Art Paris, arguably the best tour provider in Paris in its niche. Another great tour is the tour of the 13th Boulevard that also covers a lot of interesting monuments and fascinating samples of art deco architecture. Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventuristic, you can also take this self-guided bike tour that helps you discover the best street art Paris has to offer.
Finally, if you need more inspiration, check out this list of galleries and art spaces that feature urban art in Paris. And if you want to try and follow our own self-guided tour of street art in Paris, take a look at our map.
Did you like this post about street art in Paris? Which area seems the most interesting? If given the chance which one would you visit first? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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