Some people believe graffiti art is vandalism. Others think it adds to a city’s unique character. Prominent street artists like Banksy and Keith Haring have shown that public art isn’t just a form of creative expression—it can also prompt necessary conversations surrounding important issues such as immigration laws and human rights. While it’s still illegal in most places to post graffiti without a property owner’s permission, these 15 cities display vibrant street art scenes that tend to be championed rather than opposed.
The streets of Buenos Aires are adorned with massive murals and charismatic stencils made by both international and local artists. Throughout barrios (neighborhoods) such as Palermo, Villa Crespo, San Telmo, and Colegiales, various urban artworks convey everything from political messages to lighthearted scenes. To learn how the city’s history is connected to its amazing street art movement, book a walking tour with the nonprofit urban arts organization Graffiti Mundo.
Australia’s second largest city is internationally known for its labyrinth of colorful “graffiti laneways,” as they’re referred to locally. Street artists from around the world have left their marks on Melbourne’s most famous passageways, including Hosier Lane, Union Lane, ACDC Lane, and Croft Alley. To see the city’s best spray-painted art, tour downtown’s Central Business District or the trendy Fitzroy neighborhood with Melbourne Street Tours, the only group in Melbourne that hires practicing street artists as guides.
Previous public-art initiatives like the Crono Project and Galeria de Arte Urbana have made various spaces across Lisbon available for street artists to adorn, from building walls to recycling bins. The Lisbon-based Underdogs Art Gallery leads guided tours around the coastal city, presenting a variety of significant murals and explaining the stories behind them.
Berlin brims with street art far beyond the graffiti-covered remains of the Berlin Wall. During the Cold War, the wall became a target for politically motivated art, as did abandoned buildings across the German city. Today, symbolic street art decorates facades in hip neighborhoods near the East Side Gallery (a remaining stretch of the wall) such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.
Each June, Montreal plays host to the 11-day Mural Festival, a lively event that attracts prominent street artists in celebration of the international urban art movement. But the local arts community in this Canadian city produces public works throughout the year (even during the winter cold). Take a self-led stroll down Saint-Laurent Boulevard to catch some of Montreal’s best outdoor art displays.
In, Valparaíso, Chile, street art is not only legal—it can also be found around practically every corner. For an overview of the city’s celebrated urban art scene, go on a free tour with Valpo Street Art Tours or simply wander the cerros (hills). There are 42 barrios to explore across the city, most notably the bohemian neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción.
Street art first gained prominence in New York City in the early 1980s. Since then, visual artists from across the globe have flocked here to spray paint their masterpieces on the walls of the concrete jungle. You can see pop art stencils, street installations, and massive wall murals across all five boroughs, from Keith Haring’s iconic “Crack is Wack” mural in Harlem to Brooklyn displays by members of the Bushwick Collective.
Paris doesn’t just embrace art within the city’s galleries and museums; murals also flourish on the walls that line its streets. The French capital is home to pieces made by many international muralists, among them Bristol-born Banksy, the elusive artist who took his message on refugee migration to the streets of Paris in June 2018. From Oberkampf to Belleville to the 13th arrondissement, street art has become a familiar part of the beloved City of Lights that can be explored on an artist-led walking tour with Street Art Tour Paris.
For grafiteros in Bogotá, street art provides an outlet for creative commentary on Colombia’s somewhat prickly political past. In the capital’s downtown area, Avenida Caracas and Carrera 10 are great spots to see large mural walls. In La Candelaria, the most historical part of the city, street art is displayed on hostels, storefronts, and cultural institutes. Bogotá Graffiti leads donation-based tours around the city daily and also offers workshops for those interested in mastering the art of aerosol.
Most travelers visit Istanbul to see landmarks decorated with delicate Byzantine mosaics and traditional Iznik tiles. But in recent years, the city’s street art culture has grown considerably, with modern neighborhoods such as Kadıköy becoming epicenters for this mode of artistic expression. Download Street Art Istanbul for a self-guided tour of Istanbul’s street art; the free iOS and Android app provides locations for the city’s most prominent pieces as well as information about the artists.
In Cape Town, street art evolved as a form of social and political commentary—largely in reaction to outrage over oppressive South African laws during apartheid. Today, some of the best displays from local and international artists are visible in areas such as Woodstock, District Six, and the Central Business District. Travelers can explore Cape Town’s graffiti scene on an Anima Tours walking journey, which focuses on public art that doubles as activism.
Street art in Los Angeles is famed for a distinctive calligraphy that evolved from a style first used in Latino gang tags. Although graffiti is illegal in the City of Angels, you’d never guess it from the look of downtown’s Arts District. Most buildings in this former industrial area are covered in massive murals and tags that can be viewed on a guided trip with LA Art Tours.
For a street art–centric experience in São Paolo, head to Vila Madalena, a trendy neighborhood filled with restaurants, bars, and murals galore. “Beco do Batman,” or Batman Alley, is a popular destination for art-lovers thanks to its dense concentration of colorful graffiti works. Another optimal spot for São Paolo street art is the Cambuci neighborhood, where two of Brazil’s most famous street artists, Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, were born.
Walk around Mexico City and you’ll see a plethora of painted murals and colorful walls plastered with poetry, political messages, and traditional imagery. Some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods for street art are Juárez, Roma, and Condesa. Take a private, graffiti artist–led tour with Style Walk Mexico.
London’s world-renowned street art scene is most prevalent in neighborhoods such as Shoreditch, Brick Lane, and Hackney, where spray-painted walls exist among Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end boutiques. For a look at Shoreditch’s best street art, book a wander with Shoreditch Street Art Tours. You can also admire unique pieces of street art around North London in Camden or the Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo.