7 of the world’s best cities for street art

7 of the world’s best cities for street art

Urban art is a great way to dive into a city’s local personality. Here are seven cities around the world to discover through street art.

Having evolved after years on the margins of society, street art is now recognized around the world as legitimate art. Some artists such as Banksy have even attained worldwide fame, but–like any great artwork–street art is much more dynamic when admired in person. All the more so because urban artists usually have a political engagement agenda. Anchored in their country and culture, they speak on behalf of an entire social reality.

Discovering a city through the artwork that adorns its streets always offers a refreshing perspective of the city.

1. Berlin

The German capital has one of Europe’s most important street art scenes. Urban art covers the entire German capital, from Mitte–the historic center where the famous TV Tower and Museum Island are located–to the popular district of Kreuzberg, where renowned Italian artist Blu created The Pink Man and two other famous frescoes, Handcuffs and East and West, which the artist himself has unfortunately painted over in black. The East Side Gallery is a must-see, a 1.3-kilometer section of the former Berlin Wall where international street artists have created urban frescoes that convey peaceful messages.

2. New York

Queens used to be the heart of New York City’s street art scene, but a real estate project destroyed everything so the artists looked to Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood that has since become an international street art mecca. Many artists also came straight from Williamsburg but had to move away when the rents became too high. The vibe is a bit like Williamsburg: Studios, art galleries (not to mention that Bushwick itself is an open-air gallery), cozy cafés, and super trendy bars and restaurants where nearly everything is eco-chic.

3. Bologna

Bologna is an intellectual city with a communist tradition, and its plentiful graffiti is a testament to this. Street artist Blu, originally from Bologna, not only removed his works from the East Side Gallery but also his creations in his hometown from the last twenty years. He scrubbed everything off to protest against a street art-themed exhibition that not only showed his works without his consent but also removed some of his creations from their original places to display them in museums; he considered this “looting”.

4. Paris

The twentieth arrondissement of Paris is well known for its street art, so stroll through the streets of Ménilmontant and Belleville to discover graffiti, frescoes and stencils created by Parisian artists. Large frescoes, such as the ones you might find in Brooklyn and Berlin, are rare in Paris, but dozens of small images recur throughout the city. Keep your eyes peeled for an octopus or sparkling diamonds, which–like artist signatures–are small visual creations that only the most attentive of passers-by will notice. Works by famous French artist Jerome Mesnager, such as Man in White, Nemo, or his black-raincoat-and-hat character that sometimes also sports an umbrella or a red balloon, can be found mainly in Ménilmontant.

5. Valencia

Valencia is Spain’s street art capital, characterized by an array of impressive technically complex and thought-provoking works. Visit the El Carmen, Ruzafa and Cabanyal districts where art expresses itself in many different ways and literally pops up everywhere. Go on a scavenger hunt in El Carmen to seek out David de Limón’s famous ninjas.

6. London

His name is world-famous, but his identity remains anonymous. All we know is that in London, it is possible to admire several of Banksy’s works, one of the most famous contemporary art personalities, whose creations are actually scattered throughout the world. Banksy expresses himself to protest or provoke, always in an irreverent and ironic way. His messages are clear and sharp, but always humorous.

7. Rome

Travelers visit Rome to see the museums, monuments, fountains and city squares – and to eat pizza, too, of course. But there’s also a thriving urban art scene that is worth checking out. From Pigneto and Ostiense to Garbatella and Tor Marencia, Rome’s street art speaks volumes. Urban art spots are sometimes hidden or off the beaten track, but once you discover them their visual impact is breathtaking. Tor Marencia, for instance, is a popular area on the outskirts of Rome where building facades are used as gigantic canvases for mind-blowing artworks.

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