8 Great Cities For Seeing Street Art
So, you love to turn a corner and see a giant elephant drawn in psychedelic hues looming on the concrete above you, or enjoy spying out the frescos of New Age hippies in the backstreets? You can think of nothing better than spotting serpentine creatures woven over the redbrick, or delving into districts in search of graffiti drawings? Great. This list of the world's top street art cities is surely the thing for you…
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is arguably the world's first canvas city. It's packed with color and creativity, from the shimmering sands of Copacabana Beach to the jungle-dressed hillsides above the Corcovado and Sugarloaf mountains. Back in 2008, street art in the great Brazilian city was totally legalized, which led to an explosion of mind-blowing, thought-provoking murals right across the urban fabric. You'll find futurist medleys of kaleidoscopic patterns dressing the walls of the Jardim Botanico, dystopian depictions on the age-stained facades of Santa Theresa, and one of the world's most famous pieces of metropolitan art in the form of the Escadaria Selaron – a mashup of multi-colored tiles and mantras made by the Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
Straddling seven beautiful hills on the edge of the Tagus River estuary, Lisbon might seem like a city that hardly needs street art to beautify it. Pastel-colored buildings with centuries-old Baroque and neo-classical styles pepper the cobbled streets from Barrio Alto to Alfama, while charming Portuguese cantinas spill onto palm-shrouded squares. However, the creative European spirit dies hard in these parts, and it's possible to discover some seriously awesome murals around the place. In fact, there's even a dedicated Lisbon street art walking tour, which reveals images of scientifically adapted horses and bobbing pirate galleons throughout the capital.
3. Georgetown, Malaysia
It might come as a surprise, but the multicultural melting pot that is Georgetown isn't just a gateway to the glorious beaches and five spice-scented Chinese-style cookhouses of Penang. It's also a mecca for street artists, who've been adorning the colonial-era architecture of this energetic spot for decades. And talking of colonialism, it seems the English influence runs deep in these parts, with many of the laugh-inducing images resembling those of the UK's own Banksy – think children riding bikes, men on bobbing fishing boats, reclining locals on ramshackle rickshaws and more!
4. Berlin, Germany
The German capital is famed for having erected what's now seen as one of the largest blank canvases for street art in all of history: The Berlin Wall. Sections of that winding concrete mass, once a symbol of human division and post-war political turmoil, still remain in the metropolis, offering up murals dedicated to peace, unity and prosperity in the modern age. However, Berlin's street art treats don't stop there, because commissioned works now decorate virtually all corners of boho neighborhoods like Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Wander the corners around those areas and the center and you'll soon spot psychedelic elephants playing with balloons, floating astronauts, Art Deco pastiches, and kissing Russian demagogues. It's all there!
5. Bangkok, Thailand
We know what you're saying: "Street food, yes. Street art? No". But don't be so quick to jump to the conclusion that Thailand's capital has mastered the culinary side of urban creation better than the artistic side. There's now a real burgeoning street art scene here, and even a dedicated street art festival once a year. Some of the top hotspots include galleries around Ratchatewi and the endless mural displays down Phaya Thai Road, which is home to works by some of the most famous graffiti workers in the Land of Smiles. You might just catch some time to head off and find these urban masterpieces between sessions on Khoisan Road and visits to gold-topped royal temples on our various Thailand tours. Maybe.
6. Sao Paulo, Brazil
If you've been taken in by the street art of Rio while touring the beachside metropolis and just can't wait for another bout of Latin urban creativity, then why not add on a trip to the sprawling megacity of Sao Paulo? This concrete jungle hosts some of the most acclaimed murals and graffiti works in the world. And while many are slowly fading away under a new plan to "beautify" the districts with grey paint, it's still possible to glimpse iconic ones in areas like Rua Vergueiro, Liberdade and Bela Vista – just get there before they disappear!
7. Mexico City, Mexico
A top entry point for travel odysseys through Central America, Mexico City is also no stranger to the world of mind-boggling street art. Regular local initiatives to attract world-famous street artists to the sprawling capital have seen the arrival of some seriously ambitious mural undertakings, with serpentine snake depictions and anthropomorphic mashups of tropical Mexican creatures now found adorning the old brick walls of the town. However, the veritable epicenter of street art in this capital has to be the Foro Cultural MUJAM. This re-hashed industrial depot has become the go-to place for lovers of urban creativity in the town, offering glimpses of works by iconic graffiti sprayers from the four corners of the globe, along with collaborative exhibitions that change throughout the year.
8. London, UK
Last but not least comes the enthralling capital of England. One of the most visited cities on the planet, most people flock here for the well-to-do, bucket-list sites of Big Ben, The London Eye, and the acclaimed museums that pepper the metropolis's center. However, head east, to areas like Shoreditch and Dalston, or south to gritty Brixton and beyond, and you'll soon find the Big Smoke is a veritable street art mecca to boot. Masters like the unknown and mysterious Banksy have been known to draw on the concrete here, and there are even dedicated street art walking tours in the eastern districts to enjoy.
Of course, this list only touches on eight of the top street art destinations in the world. There are oodles more besides, and we'd love to hear about them in the comments below if you've got something to add. Or, if we've tempted you with visions of kaleidoscopic murals in Rio and beyond, be sure to check out our offering of travel tours around the globe!