Street Art in Paris
Street art is a common sight nowadays from graffiti tags covering the walls along the Métro lines to large-scale commissioned murals. I have always been interested in this art form. Therefore, while I was in Paris last month visiting my family; I decided to stop by 20th arrondissement for a self-guided walking tour of Belleville and Ménilmontant and to explore the street art. Belleville and Ménilmontant are located in the north-east of Paris. While Belleville is cosmopolitan, Ménilmontant has a “village” feel to it due to its narrow little streets.
I remember the area as a working-class area with lots of artists’ lofts. Now Belleville is quite trendy, a bit like similar to London’s Shoreditch.
The Marais is the place where streets artists first expressed their creativity in Paris. When the location became more and more trendy thanks to shops like the now-closed “Colette” or the change in the housing market; the location became less affordable for the working-class people and artists. With that, artists started looking for other areas to call home. Belleville seemed like the perfect location.
Belleville, which means “beautiful town” is a working-class neighbourhood. It used to be predominantly populated by immigrants like Chinese and North Africans. Much like Montmartre, Belleville is on a series of hills, located within the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissements. Who says ethnically diverse neighbourhood, also says Chinese shops, Vietnamese restaurants, Algerian bakeries and Jewish-Tunisian restaurants so if you love eating, you will be pleased with the choices.
Street Art on Rue Dénoyez
I started my self-guided tour by exploring Rue Denoyez, one of the most unique streets dedicated to street art in Paris. Graffiti and street artists took over the street so you can see all sort of different art forms from tags, stencils, posters, stickers etc…
Nothing in the street is left untouched. The locals along with the graffiti artists took the time to decorate everything from flowers pots, walls, blinds have been decorated. If you look closely, you will see mosaics, poems, toys all sparsely placed on the walls creating a very quirky feel.
The street is undergoing a renovation and sadly one side of the street with equally bright coloured murals has been demolished. But fear not, the rest of the street will remain as it is. This legalised small street is the theatre of ever-changing murals. Since the murals are replaced frequently by other artists, you rarely see the same things.
Apart from Rue Dénoyez, I didn’t have a specific map of the locations where I could find the street arts so I just wandered around looking for them. However, you might want to join a guided walking tour. If you want to know more about Street Art in and around Paris, make sure to check out this article from Seine-Saint-Denis Tourisme (details found here).
Self-guided walking tour of Belleville and Ménilmontant
Exploring the street art on Rue Denoyez is not enough to see the extent of arts covering the neighbourhood. So I went on exploring the neighbourhood further. I noticed few other arts on the way but what surprised me was finding these little-hidden gems further up the hills.
Exploring Villa and Cité de l’Ermitage
Situated between Ménilmontant and Belville, the Villa and Cité de l’Ermitage are part of these small Parisian streets that gives you the impression that you are in a small village rather than the capital city. The cobbled streets lined with trees, maisonettes with gardens and courtyards offer a moment of quietude. Both offer a calm and quiet atmosphere just outside the hustle and bustle of the very busy streets.
Thanks to a law forbidding houses taller than 3 meters and factories to be built this little peaceful heaven has managed to keep its original state.
Cité Leroy, at only a few minutes from Villa de l’Ermitage now only has few townhouses and artists workshops. Thanks to the tenacity of the locals, the cité has escaped been demolished twice.
You can access both the Villa de l’Ermitage and Cité Leroy from 12 Rue de l’Ermitage to 315 Rue des Pyrénées.
After all this walking and exploring, if you are peckish like I was, why not stop by one of the many cafes and bars tucked away on the main road as well as side streets? As mentioned, the area is inhabited by people from North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia so you will be able to find all sort of cuisines to satisfy your hunger.
Have you been to Paris and Belleville? Have you participated in a street art walking tour? How was your experience? I would love to hear your tips for a street art tour in Paris.
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