6 Must-Visit Cities For European Street Art
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Sometimes my sightseeing, and possibly that of many others, gets taken up by the main attractions and culinary culture of the city. Something I always mean to get around to is street art scenes. My experiences with these are limited to Europe, but those places which I have visited are widely regarded as some of the best places to discover professional urban art.
Here’s my 6 top cities for European street art, from the heart of Rome to Banksy’s Bristol. I’ve highlighted select locations as best I can and have also suggested means by which you can reach them throughout.
Rome Street Art:
In most cities throughout the world the legal status of street art is a black and while affair, you can either do it or you can’t. Rome is one of those places where an emerging urban art scene is gradually beginning to wriggle its way into a position of social acceptability. In fact, we’re at point where vivid and substantial works can be seen cropping up in heartland districts such as Centro Storico and Testaccio. City centre areas known for featuring tags and murals include Via Galvani and the lengthy Via Cavour.
Rome Street Art, Samurai.
A traditional street art hotspot I’d highly recommend is the neighbourhood of San Lorenzo. Graffiti is a common feature throughout this vibrant district. It’s particularly prominent along the intersecting streets of Via degli Ausoni, Via dei Sabelli, Via dei Sardi and Via degli Enotri. The following link takes you to a simplified yet very useful street art map by Turismo Roma. If you’re alos looking for a way to get around the city then you might like to check out a few of the stops on the City Sightseeing Rome Tour.
Lisbon Street Art:
In comparison to Rome, Lisbon has a far more robust street art scene, at least in terms of age and acceptability. In certain areas of the city it’s practically become a badge of identity, such as in the narrow, winding streets of Bairro Alto and certain culture-focused areas of Belem. The scene is established in such a way that Lisbon regularly attracts the attention of international artists who turn entire buildings into stunning canvases.
An iconic piece of Lisbon street art.
A few worthwhile works I’d recommend seeking out can be found at the following addresses: Rua Cascais 10 (political mural wall), Rua Fábrica de Material de Guerra 1 (site of an urban culture centre), Rua Dom Luís I (various interesting graffiti works), Rua de Santa Marta 2 (various large-scale works), and Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo 26 (many international works).
For more Lisbon street art locations check out this map by Stick2Target. And like in Rome you might want to take a look at the city’s hop-on hop-off bus tour, which has stops close to the various street art spots.
Bristol Street Art:
It may be the only non-capital city on this list, but Bristol has an internationally renowned street art scene. It’s a status that we can thank famous graffiti artist Banksy for, himself a native of the city. Besides London, many of his most iconic works can be found at key locations throughout Bristol, such as the Queen Elizabeth ‘Aladdin Sane‘ above Workshop 22, ‘Mild Mild West‘ on the side of the Hamilton Building, and ‘Well Hung Lover‘ atop a sexual health clinic on Frogmore Street.
Elizabeth II as Bowie's Aladdin Sane, Bristol | Photo Credit: KylaBorg.
A good way to discover Banksy’s Bristol works if you don’t plan on doing a dedicated tour is the Bristol Insight Bus Tour, whose staff know where to find most of the works.
London Street Art:
With one of the world’s most robust alternative culture scenes it’s no surprise that London is a Mecca for European street art appreciators. Those who want to experience the very best of what the city has to offer should prioritise the streets of Camden, Shoreditch, Southbank and Brick Lane.
Shoreditch is perhaps the most famous, not least because it features some of London’s most recognisable Banksy’s, such as the satirical 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Chopper' atop Franco’s Fish and Chips.
Graffiti art in Shoreditch, London.
An alternative to Shoreditch I’d recommend would be Camden. See a portrait of John Lennon on the side of the Oxford Arms Pub (265 Camden High Street, London NW1 7BU), flashy graffiti at the bottom of Haven Street, portraits aside Alexander the Great Restaurant (London NW1 0JT), and the Flying Scotsman next to Chalk Farm underground.
Berlin Street Art:
For definitive insights into Berlin’s street art scene the two districts you can’t pass up are Mitte and Kreuzberg. The inner alleyways just off Mitte’s Rosenthaler Straße 39 are a wonder to explore (and photograph), while Kreuzberg boasts countless iconic murals. You can find most of Kreuzberg’s street art towards the eastern end of the district, near to the River Spree.
Famous Kreuzberg Mural by Italian artist Blu. This particular one has apparently been erased.
Here’s a link to a handy online map that highlights their exact location. To reach them you might want to hop-off at stop 10 on the Berlin City Tour. This stop also places you close to the East Side Gallery, probably one of the most famous urban art spaces in the world.
Budapest Street Art:
Something that I found great about Budapest in general was just how easy it was to navigate. The city is split into two clearly defined halves, separated by the Danube, and dotted with easy-to-locate reference points. Its small but vibrant street art scene is no exception, as a lot of the best murals can be found in District VII, better known as the Jewish Quarter.
While even a casual jaunt through this bohemian neighbourhood will turn up amazing works of art, my introduction to the highlights came while on the Grand Jewish Heritage Walking Tour. This variant of the tour examines the Jewish quarter's modern day culture, and covers key streets such as Rumbach, Dob, Madách Imre and Kazinczy.
Below are a couple of pictures I took while on the Grand Heritage Tour, just to give you an idea of what to expect. Bare in mind that seeing is just half the experience. Our guide offered fascinating insights into the 'Match of the Century' mural, Erzsébetváros on Rumbach Street, and more.
A mural on Rumbach Street depicting Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife to Franz Joseph I and a much loved monarch of Hungary.
Our guide talking about the 'Match of the Century' mural on Rumbach Street.
A mural celebrating the Rubik's Cube, whose inventor was Hungarian.
Street art on Kazinczy Street.
This piece depicts the extent of the Jewish Quarter (in red) and apparently urges visitors to explore more the capital.