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Leaving for London a few days later I recall Demian’s comment, “When I get a train into a city I can always tell what the overall artistic culture will be like.” Paris’s Metro, where graffiti tags stretch miles into the dark tunnels, give a hint of the city’s bursting street art scene, but around the tracks of the Gare du Nord is another story.

Through the Eurostar’s window I see toothy sharks, grinning cats, huge spiky slogans whizzing by – the bat-shit crazy street art underworld is on full display, a showcase of the city’s sophisticated, daring, and exhilarating artists. As an indicator of the city’s art scene, it’s bang on. 

For more information about Paris' street art or to book a walking tour (from £12pp) visit undergroundparis.org

Eat, drink, sleep


Eat

Budget: One of the Chinatowns of Paris is in Belleville, and it’s a good place for a bargain meal. Try Wen Zhou for steamed pork buns and other cheap Chinese dishes. Mains from around £6. (24 Rue de Belleville; tel. +33 1 46 36 56 33)

Midrange: Busy Belleville bistro and wine bar Le Baratin serves tapas and hearty traditional French gourmet dishes. Mains, such as cassoulet, duck terrine and roast beef, cost from around £10.  

LuxuryChez Jenny Brasserie Alsacienne serves traditional Alsatian cuisine, specialising in choucroutes and seafood. Make sure you leave room for the dessert platter, which includes mini chocolate fondants and crème brûlées. Mains from around £15. 

Drink

Budget: Cafe Aux Folies is famous for being a haunt of singer Edith Piaf’s in the Fifties. Take a seat at one of the outdoor tables here to gaze at the graffiti and enjoy a mint tea or glass of wine for £1.70. (8 Rue de Belleville; tel. +33 1463 66598)

Midrange: For drinks, live music and occasional literary events, try La Mariquinerie, one of Paris’s most popular gig venues. Glass of wine from £2.50. 

Luxury: Go for cocktails at artsy hangout Café-Restaurant de la Halle aux Oliviers, housed in a cultural centre called La Bellevilloise. The Sunday jazz brunch draws a trendy set. Cocktails cost from £7.60. 

Sleep

Budget: Snazzy new budget boutique hostel in Belleville The Loft has bright, comfortable rooms and is in a prime position for street art spotting. Dorm beds from £29pppn. 

Midrange: The middle-of-the-road rooms at Hotel Peyris have a contemporary style, with big comfy beds and a large, flat-screen TV. Breakfast, a decent continental buffet spread, is included. Rooms from £104pn.  

LuxuryLe Bristol might just be one of the loveliest hotels on planet Earth. You’ll feel like Marie Antoinette when standing in your opulent, neo-classically decorated room, gazing out at the Eiffel Tower from your balcony. If you splash out once in your life, make it here. Rooms from £811pn.  

Photos: Helen Elfer; Demian Smith


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Underground Paris: Discover the secret world of street art in the gritty Belleville district
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