Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
It’s easy to see why Paris’s Rue Crémieux is such a hit on Instagram.
Filled with small pastel-painted houses, weathered cobblestones, and blooming window boxes, the car-free street near Bastille has become one of Europe’s most popular spots to strike a pose, with the hashtag #ruecremieux now linking to over 31,000 images.
But the popularity of this Instagrammer’s paradise is making it hell for residents. Sick of influencers, rappers, yoga aficionados, and fashion shoots blocking their doorways, Rue Crémieux’s residents have had enough. This week, the street’s residents’ association demanded that the city of Paris protect their privacy by closing the street to visitors on evenings and weekends.
Residents of the street certainly make the Instagram onslaught sound wearisome. According to Antoine, a Rue Crémieux resident interviewed by radio station France Info, the street’s ’grammability has turned daily life there into an ordeal.
“We sit down to eat and just outside we have people taking photos—rappers who take two hours to film a video right beneath the window, or bachelorette parties who scream for an hour. Frankly, it’s exhausting.”
We don’t need to take his word for it. A local resident has hit back with the Instagram and Twitter accounts Club Crémieux—tagline “shit people do Rue Crémieux”—which reveals a street thronged with dance crews, bachelorette parties, and even, for some reason, Japanese municipal mascot Kumamon. Filled with people attracted to a setting that looks idyllic with the right filter, a resident entering their home becomes an unwonted exercise in photobombing.
It might seem curmudgeonly to take issue with what is mostly harmless fun, but Rue Crémieux is not the sort of place that can be all things to all people. Built in the late 19th century for construction workers, the houses are small and they open directly onto a narrow stretch of cobblestones. There’s nowhere to hide a cat, let alone a film crew. Residents say this doesn’t really matter on a normal day, as the average tourist is fairly calm and respectful. But on evenings and weekends, it can become unbearable. That is why they want gates installed at each end of the street, to stay firmly closed to non-residents when the interloping is at its worst.
This sort of move isn’t completely unprecedented. Various small, car-less Parisian streets have barriers like these. Even Rue Crémieux did once, when it was privately owned, before being bought up by the city in 1969. The local borough has given itself until the summer to create some workable solution to the street’s influencer gridlock. It’s not yet clear what remedy they will propose, or whether the residents’ gate proposal is workable.
There is a twist to Rue Crémieux’s fame as a site for photographing an idealized Paris. The street’s current appearance was in fact created fairly recently. As journalist Charlotte Hervot notes on Twitter, it wasn’t until 1996 that a resident painted the front of their house, changing it to primrose yellow from “pissy grey.” The street is also an unusual outlier. It’s also far more common to see apartment buildings, not homes, lining Paris’s roads, and their limestone facades, in shades from pearl gray to deep honey, generally do not need an extra layer of paint to look pretty.
It’s ironic, then, that a street whose image is splattered across the internet for its appearance of bygone Parisian charm actually boasts a look that is neither very old nor especially Parisian. But that fact won’t stop the likes from pouring in.