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Chartres, France

Les Fresques de Bel Air

A once drab public housing estate is transformed into a colorful gallery of trompe l’oeil murals. 

Despite being an hour away from the tourist magnet of Paris, the town of Chartres has a famous cathedral that ensures it gets its fair share of tour buses. But beyond the well-trodden pathways around the small historic town, there’s something that few non-locals get to enjoy.

The facelift of a post-war government housing estate could have been just as boring as that sounds, but the Frescoes of Bel Air are quite amazing. In 2008, city-endorsed artists began transforming the apartment buildings using the trompe-l’œil method.

Inspired by local landmarks and trades, the murals were decided upon by the inhabitants of the apartments who are now used to seeing the occasional tourist snapping pictures outside their kitchen or living room windows.