One of the things I most miss about international travel is learning about local history and politics through art, and street art in particular can be so much more interesting and accessible than the old-school museum experience. From social commentary to the just plain weird, colorful murals and creative sculptures abound in destinations all over the world. Explore these popular street art cities when it’s safe to travel again.
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Athens hardly has a bare wall. On your own, you’ll see a wide variety from crude graffiti tags to whole walls designed by classically trained artists, corporate-sponsored designs to political commentary. Works by INO, Alex Martinez, STMTS, and Blaqk abound. Alternative Athens offers an excellent 3-hour tour led by local street artists and has strong COVID-safety policies in place.
London’s East End, and particularly the hispter-laden Shoreditch neighborhood, is chock-a-block with excellent street art. There’s a great mix of styles and more sculptural pieces. See works by Citizen Kane, Lily Mixe, Roa, Shepard Fairey, and Jonesy. Alternative London Tours offers an inexpensive tour if you feel you must have a guide, but their COVID-safety regulations are more mild and frankly I found the tour quality mediocre when I visited, so I’d recommend walking around Shoreditch and Brick Lane on your own
The East Side Gallery is a natural destination for street art lovers and a great example of how art fills a community’s wounds. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, which had been frequently graffitied by locals, artists from around the world were commissioned to design murals for what is now the world’s largest open-air gallery. Dmitri Vrubel’s “Fraternal Kiss” is probably the most famous of the wall’s 105 murals, but my personal favorites are Michail Serebrjakow’s “Diagonal Solution to a Problem” and Schamil Gimajew’s “Worlds People.” You can certainly find tours of the East Side Gallery, but it’s also very easy to visit on your own for free. You can use Google Arts & Culture to find the names of individual artists and their murals.
Prague is full of unique and interesting street art, from the John Lennon Wall to sculptures by David Cerny.
Metelkova Mesto, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is a former army barracks turned autonomous commune. Explore murals, sculptures and playful installations by day, and come back after dark for an epic party scene.
Read more: See my full guide to Ljubljana.
Stockholm’s underground metro is home to the longest art gallery in the world, with each station along the north-to-south Blue line featuring its own unique designs. For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, head north to the Snosatra Graffiti Park.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is highly lauded as one of the best street art cities in the world, and certainly the best in Asia. Read a local’s guide to the city here.
Buenos Aires, and particularly the Palermo Soho neighborhood, is riddled with street art. The Art Factory Palermo hostel features murals in its rooms and also offers an excellent pay-what-you-will tour from its front desk. (COVID-safety regulations are not clear on their website, so save this one for future inspiration.) You can also walk around Palermo Soho on your own to find works by Martin Ron, Gordo Pelota, Lapiz, and Aruma 8.
Nashville is well known for its colorful murals spread all over the city. You’ll find the best concentration in the 12South neighborhood for a quick self-guided tour, but one of the most popular installations — the #whatliftsyou wings — is located in The Gulch, closer to Broadway and downtown.
New York City
Obviously we can’t talk about street art cities without nodding to New York City. NYC has long been hailed as a mecca for the arts and street art has been prominent in the boroughs since the 1970s. Bushwick and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and The Bronx are your best bets, but you can find street art all over the city including works by world-famous artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey.
The United States capital hasn’t always been known for things like its arts and culture or food scene, but both are growing. You’ll find some of the District’s best murals around U Street, where you can also dig into the city’s Black history.
I’ll wrap things up by recommending one of the United States’ lesser known street art cities. Richmond, the capital of Virginia located just a couple hours south of DC, has positively exploded with street art in the past several years. You can find murals in practically every neighborhood, but Carytown is perhaps the trendiest destination for arts lovers. Check out this spectacular gallery on Packs Light by a Richmond local!
Street art cities also tend to make good bases for digital nomads and long term travelers. Seeing lots of street art in a neighborhood shows me that people there are creative and enjoy having art be a daily presence in their lives.