I love art in public places. Rather than being shut away in galleries and museums, art should be a living part of life. It should be something that is encountered regularly, whether every day on your usual walk or out of pure chance. It should be part of your everyday life, something that inspires reflection, delight, conversation with others. Art has a long traditional of being placed in public places. From the statues in grand squares throughout the centuries past, to recent efforts by councils to install modern pieces and hold art festivals. However, neither of these fulfil the need met by street art, where new works appear and disappear at whim. They can be painted or installed by anyone, part of the spirit of the day, untempered by bureaucracy.
It’s delightful that so street art has become a feature of some many cities around the world, tempting travellers to go and search it out, from the well-known (Berlin) to the unexpected (Toowoomba in Australia). Come and explore some of the best examples from 15 cities around the world…
1. Berlin, Germany
The street art in Berlin is prolific and world famous. Its presence began after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when part of the wall now known as the East Side Gallery was left and decorated by 118 artists from 21 countries. These days it’s not hard to find street art in these city that’s a mecca for artists: just show up and take a walk.
Find out more and see more examples in Berlin:
- Journey to Design – Street Art Impressions from Berlin Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain
- This Battered Suitcase – Street Art in Berlin
- A Wandering Casiedilla – A Street Art Tour of Berlin: Guided by the Graffiti Monster
- Travelettes – The Travelettes Guide to Street Art in Berlin
2. East London, UK
The most well known street artist would have to be Banksy, the anonymous stenciller who was the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Originally from Bristol, he has also painted works at Brick Lane, Shoreditch, now protected behind plexiglass (see above). This area in the East End is the epicentre of street art in London.
Find out more and see more examples in East London:
- Girl Tweets World – Street Art Tour East London
- Stories My Suitcase Could Tell – Admiring Street Art in Shoreditch
- Philatravelgirl – London Shoreditch Street Art Tour with a Tween
- Postcards To Myself – Street Art in Shoreditch, East London
3. Zagreb, Croatia
Much of the street art in Zagreb has been organised by the Street Art Museum (MUU). Their first project was the 500m long Branimirova Street art wall, near the train station, which was launched as a public competition and judged by renewed artists. Another must-see site is Medica, a former medical factory that is now a squat and the centre of alternative culture in Zagreb.
Find out more and see more examples in Zagreb:
- Kathmandu & Beyond – Street Art in Zagreb, Croatia
- Kami and the Rest of the World – Sunday with Pictures: Street Art in Zagreb, Croatia
- The Picktures Travel Photoblog – Zagreb Street Art Gallery
4. Gdansk, Poland
The world’s biggest collection of street murals in a small area is surely located in the Zaspa district of the city of Gdansk. The first murals were painted in 1997 in honour of the Gdansk’s 1000th anniversary, and now there are over 50 murals on the walls of apartment buildings in this residential district. Every year in summer the Monumental Art festival is also held, with new murals painted.
Find out more and see more examples at Kami and the Rest of the World – Gdansk Street Art.
5. Paris, France
When I visited Paris, like a typical tourist I visited the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay. But as well as world class galleries, Paris also has world class street art. It varies between graffiti, paste-ups, commissioned murals and even works carved into buildings. The above photo is of a paste-up by one of the most well known Paris street artists, Fred le Chevalier, in his distinctive palette of black, white and red – very chic!
Find out more and see more examples at Philatravelgirl – Paris: more than graffiti, the street art walking tour.
6. Belfast, UK
Like Berlin, the street art of Belfast is rooted in the political history of this city, which was the epicentre of “the Troubles”, a period of conflict in Northern Ireland between the 1960s and the 1990s. Since the Good Friday Agreement, the “Peace Line” walls that divide Catholic and Protestant areas have been painted by artists, both local and international, to express messages mainly related to politics and human rights.
Find out more and see more examples at Fizzy Cola – Walking the Peace Lines in Belfast.
7. Madeira, Portugal
The Rua de Santa Maria is an narrow, old pedestrian street in Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira, which dates back to 1430. In an ingenious attempt to liven up the previously slightly run down and dilapidated street, in 2014 the local council launched the “Art of Open Doors” project. Local artists created works on over 200 of the street’s doors, and the street has now been transformed into an inviting, colourful thoroughfare.
Find out more and see more examples at The Girl On The Move – The Painted Doors of Rua de Santa Maria, Funchal.
8. Reykjavik, Iceland
During the grey, snowy days of winter, the colourful buildings of Reykjavik stand out. A great vantage point to see the rows of bright red, blue, yellow and green cubes is by ascending to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja Church. What also stands out is the delightful walls of street art. Despite a crack-down by the city council on authorised graffiti in recent years, street art continues to flourish, with most artists these days asking for permission off building owners or accepting commissions.
See more examples at The Start and the Bean – In Reykjavik: Street Art
9. San Francisco, USA
The birthplace and heart of the hippie movement in the United States, it’s not surprising that San Francisco has a flourishing street art scene. Many of the most famous alleyways containing street art murals are located in the lively Mission District, such as along Clarion Alley. Also try and check out the Coit Tower Murals, with its works dating to the 1930s, and the famous Jack Kerouac Alley.
Find out more and see more examples in San Francisco:
- Once We’re Young – Gritty is Pretty: Street Art in San Francisco
- sheridanlee – Flavours and Murals of the Mission
10. Miami, USA
The epicentre of street art in Miami is the Wynwood Art District. Located near mid-town Miami, the heart of the district is Wynyard Walls, a project in old warehouses that was launched in 2009 and has since featured works by over 50 artists. In 2010, Wynyard Doors was launched next door, with works on roller doors, plus there’s also murals on the exterior other buildings, referred to as Outside Wynyard Walls. The area also contains over 70 (!) art galleries, plus an art walk on the 2nd Saturday of each month, with galleries throwing open their doors, creating a festival-like atmosphere with music and drinks.
Find out more and see more examples in San Francisco:
- Wander The Map – Street Art in Miami at the Wynwood Walls
- Blonde Well Traveled – Exploring Wynwood: Miami’s Art District
11. Toronto, Canada
The city of Toronto in Canada is home to a vibrant mix of street art, some official and some not so official. Much of the art is found in the neighbourhood of Kensington, an edgy district on the border of China Town, which is also home to food markets and thrift stores. One of the standout works is on the Capra Building (see above), with the work painted by well known artist Uber 5000, creating a vibrant, colourful building that is hard to miss.
Find out more and see more examples in Toronto:
12. Buenos Aires, Argentina
The street art in Buenos Aires is very eclectic in style, with street artists from all over the world visiting to create works, such as BLU from Italy and ROA from Belgium. In particular, there are many amazing murals, many with political or historical messages. Some of the best street art is found in the districts of San Telmo and La Boca, but there’s new discoveries to be found anywhere you go.
Find out more and see more examples at Kami and the Rest of the World – Buenos Aires street art in pictures.
13. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne is world famous for street art, with the local laneways full of art one of the main attractions for visitors. In the CBD, if you wander down Hossier Lane or Union Lane, you’ll be sure to find countless people taking photographs of the works or listening to tour guides. There’s also more great art to be found by heading out to the inner city suburbs, such as Richmond and Windsor. If you want to see some original Banksys, head to the Revolver Upstairs Club (and restaurant) in Prahran.
Find out more and see more examples in Melbourne:
- Travelnuity – Melbourne Street Art Photo Essay
- Girl Tweets World – Street Art in Melbourne
- Philatravelgirl – The Melbourne Street Art Tour
- Itchy Feet Travel blog – Street Art Melbourne
- Sarah Alexandra George – The Painted Streets of Melbourne
- Atlas Adrift – Gaga for Graffiti : Melbourne V (and many more galleries)
14. Toowoomba, Australia
Despite living in Australia, I only recently heard about the street art in Toowoomba, a city located 125km inland from Brisbane, in Queensland (not your usual grungy metropolis). Many of the 50 plus murals have been created in conjunction with the First Coat festival, first held in 2014 and now an annual event each May. The above amazing work was created by the Melbourne based artist, Adnate, who also has other works scattered around Australia.
Find out more and see more examples in Toowoomba:
- 2 Aussie Travellers – 16 Amazing Street Art Murals in Toowoomba
- It’s time…: for First Coat Toowoomba
15. George Town, Malaysia
The city of George Town on the island of Penang, Malaysia, has been world-heritage listed for its historic buildings, but is equally famous for its street art and its food (particularly at hawker centres and street markets). Many of the most famous works were created for the George Town Festival in 2012, by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, including the above work, but more works are being created continually around the old town by various artists.
Find out more and see more examples in George Town:
- Travelnuity – George Town Street Art Photo Essay
- Fizzy Cola – Penang Street Art: A Guide to the Walls of Georgetown
Bonus: Rickshaw Art in Bangladesh
Finally, it may not quite be traditional street art, but it’s definitely art that you can find on the street! In Bangladesh, many of the one million rickshaws in existence have been elaborately decorated, usually painted completely over from the bicycle frame to the back panel. This tradition dates back to the 1960s, as a innovative way for rickshaws to stand out to potential customers.
Find out more and see more examples at Kathmandu & Beyond – Rickshaw Art in Bangladesh.
Do you have any other favourite cities for street art that haven’t been covered. Or a favourite gallery of street art photos? Share below!
A special thank you to all of the blogs that have contributed photos to this post!