Stumbling upon vibrant street art may seem like you’re digging for a needle in a haystack but it’s actually easier than you think, especially if you know where to look. Many cities where street art culture flourishes have one or two neighborhoods where street artists tend to leave their mark. From Bogotá’s colorful La Candelaria to London’s gritty East End, here are 11 of the world’s best neighborhoods for spotting street art.
Williamsburg – Brooklyn, New York
For many tourists, a trip to New York City rarely includes visiting all five boroughs. Yet, just a short subway ride from Manhattan is Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods. Home to galleries, trendy bars and vintage shops, the area draws a young and culturally curious crowd with an appreciation for street art and other forms of creative expression.
Taking advantage of Williamsburg’s public spaces and abandoned lots, emerging artists come here to work on a variety of experimental street art ranging from stylized text to poster-work, stickers and stencils. While graffiti and murals are scattered throughout the neighborhood, North 3rd Street and Bedford Avenue is a good starting point. Keap and Hope streets are generally covered in street art as well.
Kreuzberg – Berlin, Germany
Even in Berlin’s quiet and more residential neighborhoods, street art is never far from view, so one can only imagine how much there is to see in punk-driven, alternative neighborhoods like Kreuzberg. Most guided street art tours of Berlin start in Mitte and end at the East Side Gallery, a section of the former Berlin Wall in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg consisting of 105 paintings from artists around the globe.
If touring the neighborhood solo, the best starting point is around the Kurfürstenstrasse and Mehringdamm U-Bahn stations, where various forms of street art are easily spotted. Don’t skip the “Spaceman” by Victor Ash, which is said to the biggest stencil currently in existence. If traveling in late April, there is an annual three-day Gallery Weekend celebrating art through a series of events, parties and special gallery openings.
La Candelaria – Bogotá, Colombia
Bogotá’s downtown La Candelaria neighborhood is starkly different than the modern buildings that tower over trendy Parque 99 in the north. The mere size of the city can be intimidating to travelers but the vast majority of local street art is conveniently located in La Candelaria, as are most of the city’s museums and various cultural attractions.
Despite the crowded squares, traffic-jammed roads and slew of budget hostels and bars catering to Bogotá’s boom in tourism, La Candelaria still maintains its old town charm. A simple walk through the pedestrian streets yields an array of old and new street art with subject matter ranging from thought-provoking political messages to pop-culture references.
Belleville/Menilmontant – Paris, France
The phrase “Paris is for lovers” goes way beyond the literal translation. While city landmarks like The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe do make for a romantic backdrop it’s just as easy to fall in love with the street art here too. For the most innovative and representative graffiti, head northeast to the Ménilmontant and Belleville neighborhoods.
Formerly two small villages, they became part of central Paris back in 1860 and have since become a hub for art connoisseurs and leisure travelers alike. Explore solo or tag along on one of the regularly scheduled street art tours where guides navigate the Parisian streets highlighting work from famous local artists like Space Invader and Jef Aerosol.
Brasil – Santiago, Chile
Several of Santiago’s neighborhoods have evolved throughout the years to cater to different industries. For example, El Golf serves as the center for international business affairs while Lastarria houses many of the city’s cultural museums and upscale restaurants. On the other hand, the often-overlooked neighborhood of Brasil is somewhat of an outdoor museum in its own right.
Before relocating to Las Condes, rich families built their mansions in Brasil, which explains why the area boasts a mix of architectural styles and a maze-like design. Nowadays, residents are evenly mixed between young university students and older tenants who never relocated. It’s the perfect place to spot vibrant street art in Santiago and also the most affordable neighborhood if on a budget.
Santa Teresa – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Unlike in most cities, street art is legal in Rio de Janeiro as long as the artists are granted permission by building owners. While street art can be spotted just about anywhere here, Santa Teresa has become the most recognized neighborhood for artists eager to showcase their work.
Located on the top of a hill in the center of the city, Santa Teresa was once an upper-class neighborhood that later fell into disrepair. Then in the 1960s and 1770s artists and other creative moved to the area and slowly transformed the deteriorated neighborhood into the artistic hub it is today. Narrow streets and colonial architecture keep the neighborhood’s history alive while street art reflects current affairs. Art galleries and studios are also located in Santa Teresa to appeal to all artistic talents.
Beyoglu – Istanbul, Turkey
Located just north of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Beyoglu (also known as Pera) was once a fashionable neighborhood with large apartment buildings in the late 19th century. As years passed, the wealthy residents moved to other neighborhoods and crime seeped into the streets. Today, gentrification has lessened crime and attracted the artistic community.
The result is a relatively quiet residential neighborhood with a good number of art galleries, cafes, restaurants and coffee houses. This cultural revival has in turn attracted aspiring stencil and graffiti artists to the area who use the alleyways as their own personal canvas.
East End – London, England
Similar to other global cities like New York and Berlin, London neighborhoods each have their own unique personality. A far cry from the city’s posh West End, London’s East End is an international mix of cultures that forms a uniquely cohesive whole. The gritty neighborhood has emerged as a prime location for spotting street art, with organized walking tours now a regular occurrence.
Banksy, who hails from England and is probably most widely-recognized street artist in the world, has several pieces still in tact in London’s East End. For a crash course in London street art, start in Spitalfields and make your way to Brick Lane via Fournier Street. If time permits, venture into the nearby areas of Shoreditch and Camden for more variety.
Wynwood – Miami, Florida
Breathing new life into Miami’s otherwise forgotten Puerto-Rican neighborhood, Wynwood is now bursting with color thanks to a few local artists who helped to give the area a much needed facelift. With the Midtown Miami urban development, people looked at Wynwood with new eyes, converting abandoned warehouses into trendy cafes, lounges and restaurants.
Now, there are more than 70 galleries, art collections and an impressive amount of street art to keep passerby entertained. Most of these art attractions are located between North 36th Street and North 20th Street. Every second Saturday of the month, the neighborhood hosts an “ArtWalk” where locals and tourists can browse from one gallery to the next at their leisure. Wynwood also has a thriving fashion and textiles industry.
Hosier Lane – Melbourne, Australia
Unlike many of the other cities rounding off our list, Melbourne artists steer clear of creating graffiti and tagging, which are both illegal here. Street art in Melbourne primarily consists of elaborate wall murals and stencil work but is equally impressive.
Spot new and existing work on Hosier and Rutledge Lane across from Federation Square and on Caledonian Lane where it intersects Bourke Street. Hosier Lane is a pedestrian laneway in central Melbourne where artists paint the walls with often-times political artwork. Up until 2011 when it was painted over, a main attraction on Hosier Lane a mural called “Our Lady Hosier”.
Newtown – Johannesburg, South Africa
Although the street art scene in Johannesburg is relatively new compared to New York and London, the city is showing definite signs of promise. The recent “I Art Joburg” project invited five international artists to create murals on prominent buildings like the MAMA. Many tourists head to Braamfontein, specifically Juta Street, to browse through street art but there are lesser-known areas that also offer colorful street art.
Newtown is one of several Johannesburg neighborhoods where emerging talent practice their craft. The best time to visit is on Sunday mornings when many of the local artists are working on their latest projects. The environment creates an atmosphere reminiscent of an open-air gallery.
-Megan Eileen McDonough