Free exhibitions in the streets of Paris

You don’t need to go to a museum to enjoy art in Paris. Artworks can be admired in practically every district of the capital, and it won’t cost you a cent!

Fontaine Stravinsky, Paris

One must-see artwork is the strange Igor Stravinsky fountain, created in 1983 by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely; visitors to the Beaubourg district find it fascinating. The elegant Palais Royal is the setting for Les Deux Plateaux, better known as Buren’s Columns, the famous contemporary sculpture by Daniel Buren. Installed in the majestic courtyard, these 260 striped columns of varying heights are very eye-catching. In northern Paris, couples from around the world go to Place des Abbesses to admire the Le Mur des je t'aime (the I Love You wall) by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito.

In central Paris, art is also displayed on walls. Don’t miss Robert Combas’s fresco La femme est la lumière de l'homme at 3, Rue des Haudriettes in the 3rd arrondissement. There is another fresco, by Pierre Alechinsky, at 38, Rue Descartes in the 5th arrondissement, titled L'Arbre bleu. As for street art, the entire French capital is a canvas for internationally famous artists; turn a street corner and you might well stumble on a photo collage by JR, a poetic stencil by Miss.Tic or a Space Invader mosaic by Invader.

Art can also be glimpsed amid greenery in Paris parks and gardens. At the Jardin des Tuileries, visitors can admire several sculptures by Aristide Maillol. The Parc de la Villette hosts a work by Fabrice Hyber, L'Artère, le jardin des dessins – a sculpture created in memory of AIDS victims. A stone’s throw from the Jardin des Plantes, 40 or so works, including some by famous names, are displayed in the Musée de la sculpture en plein air along the Seine, and can be admired free of cost.

Musée à ciel ouvert de la Défense, l'Araignée d'Alexander Calder, Paris © 11h45 Defacto

In the suburbs, head for La Défense to browse works by about 70 artists including Calder, Miro and César in a vast open-air museum.

Along tramway lines T3a and T3b, between the Garigliano bridge and Porte d'Asnières, you can discover many contemporary works, in particular by Nancy Rubins (Monochrome for Paris), Claude Lévêque or Joana Vasconcelos (Cœur de Paris).

Alongside all these works, now an integral part of the Paris streetscape, free temporary exhibitions are regularly held in outdoor locations in various parts of the city: blown-up photographs on the railings of the Jardin du Luxembourg, on the Seine quaysides, and an offsite exhibition in the Jardin des Tuileries during the FIAC International Contemporary Art Fair.

Even more free outdoor visits to be discovered in our dossier Open-air art and heritage in Paris