Urban art is a great way to dive into a city’s local personality. Here are 14 cities around the world to discover through street art.
We’re all for visiting the Louvre in Paris, the Met in New York or one of the spots on Berlin’s Museum Island. But we’re also all for admiring some of the city’s most vibrant art without ever setting foot in a museum or gallery.
Here’s a look at 14 cities that, thanks to some of the most talented street artists around, that feel like a stroll through an open-air gallery.
From its colorful laneways, including Hosier Lane, to its less conspicuous nooks and crannies, Melbourne is a street art lover’s delight. Keep an eye out for works by Ghostpatrol along Napier and Exhibition Streets in the Fitzroy quarter; the world-renowned Meggs, who also has plenty to show in Fitzroy; and Rone, one of the city’s most prominent.
The hilly, picturesque Portuguese capital is made even more intriguing due to its displays of street art from an array of local and international artists. See fado-themed works in Mouraria and amazing displays in the lively Bairro Alto. Bibliophiles shouldn’t miss the Graça Literary Walk.
3. Buenos Aires
Art cognoscenti know that Buenos Aires is an incredible art destination thanks to international festivals like International Contemporary Art Biennial of South America and the arteBA contemporary fair. So, it’s no surprise that it’s is some of the world’s most thought-provoking. Don’t miss the large-scale works of Ever (Nicolás Romero Escalada), the whimsical murals of Martin Ron, or the delightfully provocative pieces by Milu Correch.
4. 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, cozy cafés, and super trendy bars and restaurants where nearly everything is eco-chic. Harlem is also a great place to see some beautiful works.
Paris is well known for its street art. Take a stroll through the streets of Ménilmontant and Belleville in the 20th arrondissement to discover graffiti, frescoes and stencils. 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.
6. Los Angeles
Los Angeles has a thriving street art scene. Mural Mile in Pacoima features 12 works from local muralist Levi Ponce, all painted in 2013. Colette Miller launched her Angel Wings Project in this city, so keep an eye out for some of those. Also of note is Kiss by Wrdsmith at One Santa Fe shopping center and the color-splashed black and white murals of Tristan Eaton. But these all just barely scratch the surface.
7. Mexico City
From its food to museums to everything in between, Mexico City has plenty going for it—and this includes street art. From references to Mexico’s Aztec and Maya civilizations to political statements, there’s an array of works to admire. Don’t miss the rooftop of El Museo del Juguete Antiguo in Doctores, Chris Dyer’s Spiritual Warriors in Parque Mexico or the creations along Calle Zacatecas in the Roma quarter.
8. Cape Town
The charming South African city has a thriving, eclectic street art scene. Having started in the 1980s, street art gave Cape Towners an outlet to express their frustration with apartheid and the government. Cape Town‘s most exemplary includes pieces on display in the Cape Flats, an area created by apartheid; the interactive mural Harvest on De Waal Drive; and the streets of Woodstock.
Istanbul is home to some of the world’s most impressive street art, and to see its finest, hop on the ferry to explore Kadikoy. Located on the city’s Asian side, Kadikoy, features some of the city’s best. In fact, the quarter hosts an annual mural festival.
While street art has just started to gain momentum in this lively Indian city, Delhi still has plenty of works worth checking out, thanks a good part to St+Art India. Founded in 2014, this non-profit paints the walls of different Indian cities so that everyone can enjoy art. Of particular note are an immense mural of Mahatma Gandhi at the Delhi Police Headquarters, the paintings that adorn the hip Shahpur Jat quarter, and the wall bordering the Agrasen ki Baoli stepwell.
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 containing the TV Tower and Museum Island–to the lively district of Kreuzberg. Here, 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.
Valencia has tons going for it. As Spain’s street art capital, Valencia is 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.
Everyone knows his name, but no one knows how he is. All we know is that in London is home to several of Banksy’s works. One of the most famous contemporary art personalities, Banksy’s creations are on display around the world. Banksy expresses himself to protest or provoke, always irreverent and ironic. His clear, sharp messages are often undercut with a tinger of humor.
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.