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Where to Find Art Hiding in Plain Sight in Paris | Frommer's EQRoy / Shutterstock

Where to Find Art Hiding in Plain Sight in Paris

A new book reveals dozens of easy-to-miss, free-to-visit visual wonders in parks, restaurants, Métro stations, and other surprising spots throughout Paris. 

Paris is one of the world's undisputed art capitals. In addition to being the home of exceptional museums (starting of course with the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay) where countless masterworks are stashed, the city has been a source of inspiration, training, and community for generations of creative talents, from Picasso to the sidewalk painters still toiling at their easels in Montmartre.

In Art Hiding in Paris (Running Press; $24), author Lori Zimmer and illustrator Maria Krasinski show how art has so permeated Paris that works of beauty and invention can be found beyond and between the expected places. "If you know where to look," according to the book's introduction, visual treasures await discovery on restaurant ceilings, in quiet pockets of leafy neighborhood parks, and even down in the tunnels of the Paris Métro

Zimmer's informative, accessible text and Krasinski's charmingly detailed illustrations cover more than 100 spots, many of them free to visit and all connected to or created by great artists of the past or their modern-day successors. Each location is marked on an illustrated map so that you can plot your own artsy scavenger hunt the next time you're in Paris. 

Scroll on to see a selection of sites featured in the book.

Belvédère de Belleville

(Credit: Maria Krasinski)

27 rue Piat, 20th arrondissement

High above the Parc de Belleville in a neighborhood often ignored by tourists, what Zimmer describes as a "semi-covered pavilion dedicated to street art" overlooks an "epic panorama" of the city. Columns adorned with frequently changing murals frame a vista that takes in two of the skyline's most easily recognized components: Montparnasse Tower straight ahead and the Eiffel Tower off in the distance to the right. (A photo of the Belvédère de Belleville appears at the top of this article.)

Restaurant Le Dalí

(Credit: Maria Krasinski)

228 rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement

When Salvador Dalí would stay at the elegant Le Meurice hotel across from the Tuileries Garden, the Spanish surrealist was notorious, Zimmer writes, for eccentric antics such as asking for sheep to be brought to his suite so that he could shoot blank bullets at the poor creatures. Evidently, the hotel harbors no hard feelings toward the artist, having named one of its restaurants after him. Suitably surreal touches in the space include a slanted mirror and a swirling, Dalí-inspired ceiling painted by Ara Starck. 

(Le Meurice hotel in Paris | Credit: Petr Kovalenkov / Shutterstock)

Picasso's Homage to Apollinaire

(Credit: Maria Krasinski)

Square Laurent-Prache, 1 place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 6th arrondissement

Speaking of surrealism, the poet who coined that term, Guillaume Apollinaire, is honored with an easy-to-miss sculpture in a small city park behind the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The artist responsible for the work: none other than Pablo Picasso, a friend of Apollinaire's from the artist's early Montmartre days.

For whatever reason, Picasso chose to pay tribute to his pal with a bust not of the poet but of Picasso's former girlfriend Dora Maar. According to Zimmer, this is the "only public work by Picasso in Paris" if you don't count the Musée Picasso.

(Picasso's Homage to Apollinaire in Paris | Credit: Guilhem Vellut [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

Sèvres Art Nouveau Portico

(Credit: Maria Krasinski)

Square Félix-Desruelles, 168 bis boulevard Saint-Germain, 6th arrondissement

Around the corner on the other side of the Saint-Germain church, another modest park contains an incongruous wonder: a 32-foot-high, 40-foot-wide portico elaborately decorated with colorful, floral-patterned tiles, sculptures of produce, a frieze of cherubs, and a central medallion saluting the muse of pottery.

Looking like a "gateway into the Art Nouveau era," as Zimmer puts it, the grand arch (designed by Charles Risler) and its embellishments (designed by Jules Coutan) once served as the entrance to the pavilion dedicated to French decorative arts at the Universal Exposition of 1900. Now the portico serves as an ornate backdrop for dog walking and phone scrolling. 

The panel labeled "Sèvres" refers to the storied site of porcelain manufacturing just west of Paris. 

(Art Nouveau portico at Square Félix-Desruelles in Paris | Credit: Mbzt [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Vincent van Gogh Residence

(Credit: Maria Krasinski)

54 rue Lepic, 18th arrondissement

Zimmer highlights some homes and haunts of artists as well. Of the blue-doored building where Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo lived from 1886 to 1888, Zimmer writes that the painter churned out more than 200 works while dwelling in a three-room apartment on the fourth floor. One of his preferred subjects was the Moulin de la Galette, the still-standing windmill visible from the artist's bedroom window. 

(Vincent van Gogh residence in Paris | Credit: HansPhotoFactory / Shutterstock)

Art Hiding in Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the Secret Masterpieces of the City of Light by Lori Zimmer with illustrations by Maria Krasinski (published by Running Press; $24) is available now in bookstores and from online booksellers.

(Credit: Running Press)