Paris Street Art Tour + Happy Holidays

An iconic, long-standing work of street art by Jean Le Gac in Belleville

An iconic, long-standing work of street art by Jean Le Gac in Belleville

For the past six and a half years, I’ve lived on the border of the 11th and the 20th arrondissements. I’ve long known that these 2 districts have the highest concentration of street art in Paris.

But my specific neighborhood isn’t the hot center for seeking out these ephemeral works. For that, I need only hop on the metro a few stops. Yesterday, I did just that to join a street art tour.

Led by photographer and poet Richard Beban (and husband of my new writer friend Kaaren Kitchell; the pair produce the blog Paris Play), the tour began on rue Oberkampf.

La Maison de la Plage is an arts collective on Paris' most famous street for street art, Rue Denoyez.

La Maison de la Plage is an arts collective on Paris’ most famous free zone for street art, Rue Denoyez.

A cold December day, we spent a little too long at the outset standing in one place. It was easy to understand why, though. Richard is a font of knowledge and provided an excellent historical overview of why this particular area birthed the street art movement, backed by rich Paris history.

Once we got moving, we covered a lot of ground. Some works I’d seen before, but a great many were new to me. Of course, the very nature of street art means the landscape constantly changes. Weather, the elements, other people or the city itself covering up the works are just a few reasons works disappear from view. (A landlord can ask the city to paint over anything from ground level up to 3 meters high. Anything higher is at the landlord’s expense to cover. A reason many artists aim above the 3 meter mark).

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What a great boon to have an expert guide for mapping a lively itinerary and offering valuable background information. I learned so much about the different artists and the context, including political roots. And we were led to some incredible surprises!

On Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. A face created on this derelict wall by a combination of blasting and chiseling!

On Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. A face created on this derelict wall by a combination of blasting and chiseling!

We wound our way through much of Belleville, a neighborhood that Richard had a habit of pronouncing Bellevie. A lovely slip, non? Beautiful life.

Life preservers street art

Public art by Julien "Seth" Malland commissioned by the city

Public art by Julien “Seth” Malland commissioned by the city

I couldn’t help thinking it is a beautiful life. Paris is known for its beauty – often the architecture and lights first come to mind. But how energizing to move beyond the set pieces, too. Flying cat street art in Menilmontant

Through the lens of street art, the city comes alive in new ways. The canvas literally changes every day. You look up and around more, you search out the secrets, you’re rewarded with unexpected treats.

These are good reminders, I think. That sometimes we need to look harder; there is beauty amidst grit. It feels of the moment, too, as it feels so many are experiencing strife and pain.

A present from the Italian street artist HOPNN (Yuri written in Cyrillic) on the left and a tree of international flags on the right.

A present from the Italian street artist HOPNN (Yuri written in Cyrillic) on the left and a tree of international flags on the right.

In this holiday season, let us remember love. Let’s gift each other peace and patience and empathy. Let’s recognize each other’s light.

Large street art piece - woman

Vivre ensemble: live together.

Vivre ensemble: live together.

Kneeling angelIf you’d like to go on Richard’s tour (recommended!), you can join the Paris Photography Meetup and sign up for the street art tour. It’s 4 hours of walking (or more if you insist on a hot chocolate stop as we did). You’ll see and learn a ton.

Happy holidays, friends.

9 Responses to “Paris Street Art Tour + Happy Holidays”


  1. 1 Julie Christine December 22, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Stunning, Sion. Thank you for sharing and reflecting. Joyeux Noël!

  2. 3 Betty Carlson December 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Beautiful post and thoughts. Happy holidays to you!

  3. 5 andrewjameswriter December 22, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Great post, thanks. I love the works on the pillars at the top of Belleville Park. So interesting.

    • 6 paris (im)perfect December 23, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Thanks for reading! YES! Those works on the pillars at the top of Belleville Park were my favorite! It was hard to choose which picture to post of those because I love them, too!

      • 7 andrewjameswriter December 23, 2014 at 12:37 am

        I wrote a post about Belleville park a couple of months ago and included some too. So many good ones. I haven’t seen all the street art you included in your lost – next time I’m in paris I’ll have to do some more exploring!

      • 8 paris (im)perfect December 23, 2014 at 12:45 am

        And it’s so fun exploring! Just wandering around Menilmontant and Belleville (and I don’t know it as well, but the Buttes aux Cailles in the 13th, too), you stumble across so much street art. It’s wonderful. I love the focus of your blog, by the way. Unusual Paris facts and mysteries are my favorite approach to the city🙂


  1. 1 Paris in 6 Links at 300 Stations, Thursday, February 5, 2015 | 300 Stations Trackback on February 5, 2015 at 5:06 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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