This is one of my favourite secret places of Paris. It is find on the very popular royal square of Place des Vosges. Thousands of people would visit the square without knowing that it holds France – if not the world’s oldest graffiti. Follow me and I will reveal to you the exact location to the curious graffiti in Paris.
The oldest graffiti in Paris
1764. That’s the year when the world’s first graffiti vandalism was committed! If you are already on Place des Vosges, go to number 11. On the wall of the arcade facing the street, you’ll find the tag quite easily. It is etched in deep scratches onto the stone pillar.
The surprising message simply says:
Actually not, you might want to know a bit more about how it came to be etched here, in what was Paris’ most exclusive place. For this, we have to go back in time when Louis XV was the reigning king of France. Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806) was a writer who had worked in printing.
Born in Burgundy, Rétif de la Bretonne worked in a printer at Auxerre before moving to Paris. There he eventually became a novelist and produced a great number of books. Rétif de la Bretonne was actually a controversial author. He would often go out for a night-time rambling. A walk is always good to ponder about what to write on a book, isn’t it! However he would be seen scratching his name onto the walls of Paris. Because of this strange habit, people gave him the surname of « Le Griffon » (the scribbler).
How to get there
- Place des Vosges is a royal square in the Marais district (3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris).
- Closest métro station: Saint-Paul (line 1).
What to see in the neighbourhood?
- At number 6, Place des Vosges, make sure you enter Victor Hugo’s house (Maison de Victor Hugo). [closed for renovations till June 2020]
- The Hôtel de Sully, a Louis XIII-style private mansion from the 17th century. The beautiful estate is the seat of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN), the French national organisation responsible for national heritage sites. Address: 62 rue Saint-Antoine but there is public access from Place des Vosges. You can freely walk in the garden and the grand courtyard.
- Finally, the Carnavalet Museum showcases the history of the city. In fact it occupies two private mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau. [The free entrance museum is closed for renovation till the end of spring 2020]
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