Capture it while you can, because the next day it may be gone.
The multi-cultural section of Paris called Belleville has a storied past – and a fascinating present. The iconic French songstress Édith Piaf grew up here, and according to legend, was born under a lamppost on the steps of the Rue de Belleville. It has since seen new waves of immigrants establish themselves — with an abundance of Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan, and Ethiopian eateries tucked in among galleries and cafes.
But if you’re a street art junkie as I am — Rue Denoyez will stop your heart. It’s about a quarter mile of wall-to-wall, pavement-to-roof paintings, in a kaleidoscope of colors and styles, executed with a wide range of sophistication and raw talent.
Why? It’s legal.
The passageway is one of the few city-approved locations earmarked for what would normally be considered vandalism. This freedom has inspired local artists, residents, and tourists alike to contribute to the street’s organic growth; passersby see planters decorated with poems and mosaics, and discover miniature vases, teapots, and frames stuck haphazardly into quirky little holes in the wall. There is little blank space left — and somehow it all works.
The overall feel is somewhere between early junkyard and classic Basquiat. You can’t stop exploring, and sensing the art is alive.
Doubtful the Paris Office of Tourism will showcase this colorful section of Belleville in its marketing materials, but for an extraordinary visual jolt — it’s an easy ride on Le Metro.