Paris is the Capital of Street Art and Graffiti
Paris, the City of Light…and street art? YES! Paris is well-known for its street art, also known as urban murals or graffiti. Paris even has a Graffiti Museum! Paris has a deep, rich history of graffiti, starting in the 1970s with creation of urban art during the destruction of Les Halles, and growing more by the decade.
Today, decades of street art history can be seen in a mix of styles, from the popularity of stencil art, like Banksy creates, to Monsieur Chat’s trademark yellow cats, which bring smiles to all who see one.
Monsieur Chat at work. Wikimedia Commons: LoveBoat
Some street artists whose work you can see while walking Paris are very well-known, whilst more are lesser-known, as happens all around the world for most graffiti artists. Through their work, street artists provide social commentary, cultural cues, and beauty.
One website, Underground Paris, is a fantastic resource for finding and learning more about graffiti artists working in Paris. Be careful: one look at the site and you will find that hours have magically passed, while you’ve been immersed in this creative, beautiful world. I was entranced to read that Paris took off the heavy, destructive Locks of Love on the Pont des Arts, and replaced them with beautiful, evocative street art. This is street art at its finest – honoring the wishes of visitors, while preserving the Seine and the historic bridge, in a colorful and playful manner.
The locks were too heavy at the Pont des Arts. Photo Wikimedia commons: Mehdi Mhenni
Now, street art is alive and well in Paris, with museums and art galleries devoted to this art form. But there is nothing like wandering the streets and alleys of Paris, looking for spots of color, dashes of inspiration, walls filled with creativity. I bet you’ll also find plenty to learn about culture, interesting locals to talk with, fantastic boulangeries and crepe stands to help you maintain your art-finding stamina, and shops galore.
Are you an artist? All this art was drawing using spray and markers that you can find in special shops, such as bombingscience.
Want to learn about street art from locals? Take a free tour with The Free Original Paris Alternative Tour. Led by expats and locals, you’ll see all kinds of street art, alternative Paris culture, art history, cool bars, cafes, and markets, and cheap eats. The walk takes 2.5-3 hours, and starts every day at 11am. You must book it in advance, although the tour is available at no cost.
While you’re in Paris, be sure to make time to explore and photograph street art. You’ll remember your days, meals, and conversations had while being an urban art explorer, discovering authentic Paris.
What’s your favorite street art in Paris? How did you discover it?
Here's a handy map of street art, via google. Take a look!