8 cities for Insta-worthy street art
Urban centres have long been a breeding ground for creative expression with colourful murals and political messages spilling out onto the streets. Graffiti is now a legit form of art with many major cities turning dedicated walls over to famous artists like Banksy, Anthony Lister and Os Gemeos. If you prefer your canvases on the street than in a museum, here’s eight cities to strike out and stroll for Insta-worthy street art.
Leake Street is a legal graffiti wall that runs under Waterloo Station in London. Also dubbed ‘Banksy Tunnel’ or ‘Graffiti Tunnel’ due to the proliferation of artworks by the secretive graffiti artist, this underground space is in a sketchy area off York Road, but worth finding to check out the awesome graphic art. Brick Lane in East London is another popular stop for street art aficionados.
Gritty Berlin is a renowned haunt of edgy artists and its street art is no exception. From the remnants of the Berlin Wall (pristine on the East German side and heavily graffitied on the West German side) to the hipster areas of Mitte and Kreuzberg, there’s plenty to check out. The East Side Gallery is where you can check out the preserved murals from the Communist era.
With a heap of local street art luminaries like Invader (space invader motifs) and Blek le Rat (stencils of rats), Paris has a flourishing underground and above-board graff scene. Street art tours will take you around some of the City of Light’s most famous street art arrondissements like Oberkampf, Belleville and Ménilmontant plus the newer mural district in the 13th.
Not a major city, or really a city at all, Doel is an abandoned village near Antwerp in Belgium that’s slated for demolition. The deserted streets – there’s said to be only 25 residents left - have been taken over by graffiti artists and transformed from a boarded-up ghost town to a large-scale canvas for works by famous artists such as Belgium’s ROA.
In a city where medieval sights number in double digits, a more modern attraction gained traction with the camera-clicking hordes. Known as John Lennon Wall, a wall opposite the French Embassy in Prague became a graffiti tribute to the former Beatle, who was seen as a pacifist hero to Communist-era Czechs. Last year, anonymous art students painted over the wall, leaving a new generation to change history.
The particular form of graffiti tagging in Brazil’s cultural capital is known locally as pichaçao, a divisive style that’s equal parts revered and reviled. In Brazil, if the owner allows it, any building can become a canvas. The best São Paulo neighbourhood to see street art is Vila Madalena – particularly the colourful backstreet called ‘Beco do Batman’ (Batman Alley).
BA is famous for the vibrant primary colours of the La Boca neighbourhood and you’ll find the boho artsy haven is also home to an array of stencils, tags and other street art tropes. Other barrios blanketed with murals and massive artworks include Villa Urquiza and the Coghlan Art District in northwest Buenos Aires. Take a street art tour to spot international and local artists’ work.
With its backstreets and alleys, the cultural city of Melbourne lends itself easily to street art decor and is considered the ‘stencil capital of the world’, even hosting the first ever international Melbourne Stencil Festival a decade ago. To see some of the best examples of stencils, paste-ups and graffiti artworks, head to Hosier, ACDC, Union and Rutledge lanes in the CBD.
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