Street art might not be one of the first things you’d associate with Marseille, but bohemian Cours Julien is a true street art and graffiti hotspot worth exploring!

Le Cours Julien: Marseille graffiti and street art hotspot

When I visited the south of France last year, our host kindly took us out to Marseille for the day. We ended up in the bohemian Cours Julien district, a very laid-back area where you can find plenty of bars, restaurants and curious little shops. But as a street art blogger, my eye was obviously immediately drawn towards the wild collection of street art and graffiti.

Rue Bussy L'Indien Marseille street art black and white mural of a woman

The main eye-catcher in graffiti-rich Cours Julian, is of course the building you see in the photo at the top of this article. This building on the corner of Rue Pastoret and Rue des Trois Rois, is completely covered in a large mural featuring Monsieur Chat, also known as M. Chat.

The maker of these grinning cats is Swiss-French artist Thoma Vuille who’s been painting them since 1997. In 2004 artist and film maker Chris Marker took the iconic symbol for his 2004 documentary The Case of the Grinning Cat.

Stencil art in Marseille

I noticed there was especially a great amount of stencil art in Marseille. I’m not sure what the reason for this would be. Perhaps there are just a lot of French stencil artists? Or perhaps it’s the fast nature of stencilling that makes it more appealing and convenient for artists to paint on the walls? Although, being such a street art and graffiti hotspot, I don’t think there’s much policing in this area.

Stencil art by C215

Whatever the reason is, I was excited to discover works by the world-famous French artist C215. Also known by his real name Christian Guémy, he’s one one of my favourite stencil artists. He’s known for his predominantly captivating portraits, with most of them depicting his daughter Nina. Unfortunately some of his works were covered in graffiti, but here are some photos of the best conserved pieces.

Stencil art by Alice Pasquini and Mahn Kloix

Besides works by C215, I was extremely pleased to find work by Italian artist Alice Pasquini (below, on the right). She’s so famous she only needs to add her first name as a tag. I was having a discussion with a friend about the works by C215 and Alice and that I sometimes have problems distinguishing between these two artists. He told me that in fact C215 used to be Alice’s mentor. I’m not sure if this is entirely true, but it does make sense if you look at their work.

To the left of the dog by Alice, you see a portrait of Julian Assange by Mahn Kloix.

Mural art in Cours Julien

Besides stencil art, graffiti and small street art pieces, you can also find a great variety of murals in Marseille.

colourful Marseille street art of fantasy figures in a boat by Sarti Mahn Gutan
This colourful mural by Sarti, Mahn and Gütan is one of my favourites. But why is there always a car parked right in front??
wall painting of a woman's head surrounded by a floral motive

There’s even space for popular culture. Here you see a portrait of Walter White, celebrity meth chef from Breaking Bad.

street art portrait of Breaking Bad character Walter White in Marseille

Or what about this portrait of Mr Burns from The Simpsons striking his characteristic pose?

mural of The Simpsons character Mr Burns in Marseille

Abundance of graffiti

I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to graffiti versus street art. Before I got more serious about street art, I wasn’t really aware there was a difference between these two art forms. However, mostly based on spray-painted ‘tags’, abstract figures or text, graffiti writing is distinctively different from street art.

Although I acknowledge the significance of graffiti – without it, there wouldn’t have been street art – I personally prefer documenting street art. And yet, I found the graffiti in Cours Julien extremely photo-worthy.

view of a street in Cours Julien covered in graffiti and street art with a comic-style face painted on a plant pot in the foreground
abstract graffiti piece in the Marseille district of Cours Julien
bold graffiti works in Cours Julien including a shark with an open mouth and 3D mannequin legs sticking out
Note the mannequin legs coming out of the shark’s mouth on the right!
graffiti texts with a comic-style woman painted on the wall

In this post I only shared a fraction of my Marseille street art photos with you. If you want to see more, I recommend a visit to Cours Julien and its surrounding streets. Have fun!

Have you ever been to Marseille? Did you get the chance to see some of the amazing local street art? Share your experiences/thoughts in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx

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  1. I should have taken a street art tour when I visited Marseille in May 2019, because I sadly don’t know the context or stories for the art that I photographed while wandering around Le Panier neighborhood. I ran across your awesome post while researching some tagged names…thanks for the narrative and great photos. Would love to see more of your work! (Are you on Instagram? my IG handle is seeshueshoot )

    • Hi Shue, thank you for your lovely message and apologies for the late reply. I haven’t been very active on this website in the last weeks… I do have an Instagram account connected to this website (@misstravelclogs), but things have also been quiet there lately so it’s better to follow my primary account (with lots of street art pics!): @dutchgirlinlondon. Cheers!

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