8 of the Best Street Art Cities in the World
Many tourists love to spend vacations visiting world-renowned art museums such as the Met or the Prado—but you don’t even have to step foot inside a museum to see creative and monumental art. If you prefer to spend a getaway wandering the streets, admiring the architecture, and seeing the hidden gems of your chosen destination, street art can be just as impressive (if not more so) than any museum or art gallery. And best of all, it’s free. With that in mind, here are some of the best street art destinations around the world, from Penang to Paris and beyond.
This Malaysian island has some of the quirkiest street art in the world in its capital George Town—and some of it’s even 3D. The city’s street art movement started in 2012 when artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to create street art in honor of the George Town Arts & Culture Festival. Since then, artists have flocked to Penang to stamp their creativity on the walls and pavements.
Some of the most famous art is located around Armenian Street in George Town. Key installations to see include Boy on a Motorcycle on Ah Quee Street, featuring a real motorcycle; Boy on a Chair on Cannon Street, featuring an actual chair; and Kids on a Bicycle on Beach Street, with a real bicycle. Meanwhile, the best way to enjoy and learn about the art is on a walking tour, which will also take you past colonial buildings and charming Malaysian shopfronts.
New York City
New York, USA
For edgy, creative, and colorful street art with roots in diverse cultures, New York City is the place to be. From Banksy to Keith Haring to Eduardo Kobra, art fans can see graffiti on Manhattan’s walls, but also on subway cars and even in art galleries and museums around the city.
Although there’s a large concentration of street art in the East Village, there’s much to see around the entire city. Don’t miss Banksy’s Hammar Boy on the Upper West Side, the portrait murals on 11th Street and 1st Avenue, the Houston Bowery Wall, and the Bowery Graffiti Wall. And those ready to head out to Brooklyn or the Bronx will also be rewarded with some iconic street art. With so much to see, consider a street art tour to make sure to catch all the most iconic murals and beyond without getting lost in the maze of New York City’s busy streets.
Berlin’s street art is often politically charged, and viewing it will help you understand a bit more about what’s going on in German society and culture. One of the most important areas of the city to view street art is the East Side Gallery, which features a mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) stretch of what was once the Berlin Wall. Although much of the art changes and is painted over, efforts have been made to preserve some of the most famous sections, such as the emblematic Kiss, which features two politicians, Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in an allegedly platonic kiss.
And Seurat isn’t the only one that can do Pointillism. Jimmy C used this dot-style technique to complete Berlin’s famous Anne Frank Mural in the Hackescher Markt.
Cape Town’s street art is distinctly African, with a focus on endemic wildlife, conservation efforts, and local people. The artworks serve up a kaleidoscope of colors, often backed by Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain in the distance, which makes viewing the city’s open-air murals an even more picturesque experience.
Some of the most famous pieces are located in an open-air gallery of Woodstock, including tributes to special breeds of elephants, rhinos, and giraffes heading towards extinction. The funky neighborhood of Observatory is another place to view street art, with many portraits of African women and brightly colored murals by renowned female street artist, Nardstar*. And don’t miss the portrait of Nelson Mandela by Mak1one in District Six.
Although muralism and cultural graffiti has always been popular in the capital of Mexico, it wasn’t until recently that the city’s trendy street art scene truly erupted. The Zona Rosa, an LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood in the Juárez district, is one of the best spots to see street art, including a large portrait of Frida Kahlo and a Day of the Dead–inspired mural by Sach Crew on Río Churubusco street. Make sure to also stop by the vibrantly-colored murals by artist Sego that line the walls of Mercado Juárez.
Another prime area for street art is the Roma district, where street art is frequently changed, added to, or repainted in spots such as the Plaza Luis Cabrera. And the Doctores area is another place where you can see paintings on the Hidalgo Market commissioned by Street Art Mujam. Taking a food and walking tour offers travelers the best of all worlds: street art, tacos, and other Mexican culinary and artistic delights.
Street art in this Australian hub continues to evolve. Thanks to Flash Forward, a group dedicated to creating and preserving the city’s creative culture, there’s more street art than ever, including 40 new installations, some of which are still in progress. A few of the most notable are the large human and cat mural on Little Lonsdale by Celeste Mountjoy, and the colorful hand symbols on Rainbow Alley by Gonketa.
And don’t miss the ever-changing art of the graffitied Hosier Lane; the bold murals of AC/DC Lane; and the city’s only Banksy stenciling located on Duckboard Place, sandwiched between many other paintings, stencils, and graffiti.
Street art in the Colombian city of Medellín is primarily contained in one special neighborhood with a lot of heart and soul: Comuna 13. Once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world, the hilltop barrio is now a much safer place thanks to the absence of paramilitaries or guerrillas and the cable car lift system that connects this relatively remote area to the rest of the city has also made a difference.
The street art takes inspiration from the neighborhood’s past, most of it created by local residents themselves. Expect to see colorful murals of local people, political statements, and tributes to music, society, and pop culture. The area is much safer now, but it’s best to visit via a group or private walking tour to gain insight into the history and culture of this one-of-a-kind neighborhood.
Seeing street art in Paris may take you a few days. From the enormous murals in the 13th arrondissement and the facades of the Oberkampf district to the famous murals of Paris’ city center, there’s plenty to see. You can even enjoy the stencils, column, and lamppost art in Vitry-sur-Seine, an art-centric suburb of Paris.
As you wander the city, look for the small mosaics by Space Invader and the hearts by the Peace and Love Crew collective. One of the most famous works is the massive Chuuuttt!!! (Hush!) mural in the Place Igor Stravinsky by Jef Aérosol, which was painted to inspire onlookers to stay present and listen to the world around them. And you can’t leave Paris without wandering down Street Art Avenue, which runs along the Canal Saint-Denis. Want to catch a lot of Parisian street art on the go? Consider a bike tour, which allows you to cover more ground in a shorter period.