Street art is a visual form of art. It is created both officially and unofficially in urban locations for public visibility.
How does street art differ from graffiti?
While all art openly created and displayed on the street sits under the umbrella of street art, there are differentials between the two. While graffiti in Europe is a display of words, line drawings and mainly the artist’s tag (street name), street art ranges from abstract to fine art paintings depicting just about anything and everything you can imagine. Fantasy creatures, famous characters, historical and political events, the list goes on. The street artist is sharing his or her vision through the painting for others to reflect upon and enjoy.
Is street art legal?
If it appears unofficially, it is illegal; however, street art is regarded by many as a valid form of art, and legally paid commissions are undertaken by artists often in urban areas that are being re-developed. Shoreditch in London is one such example.
When did the movement first appear?
European graffiti artists in the 1970s and 1980s started the movement of tagging their names onto buildings, trains and walkways. Bold and vibrant wording evolved into image-based graphics, and in turn, this became street art in Europe as we recognise it today. It has become a way to express emotions on all topics from war to peace and from suffering to happiness.
What mediums do street artists use?
Mediums such as spray paint, emulsion, permanent markers and recycled materials are used in various styles and different techniques. Spray paint alone tends to be the medium of choice for graffiti artists.
Which city in Europe has the most street art?
Berlin – The German capital has the largest concentration of street art in Europe and probably the world.
Who is the most famous street artist in Europe?
Banksy, the street artist from the UK, took the world by storm in 2010 when his first pieces of art started to appear in cities around the world. Girl with a Balloon and Kissing Coppers brought him to the attention of the public, and now Banksy artwork sells for millions. He remains anonymous and random pieces of Banksy art continue to appear in urban cities.
London has some of the most vibrant and exciting street art in Europe, if not the world. With an ever-changing repertoire from urban artists claiming their piece of London, you can see some fantastic and detailed examples of graphic street art in many of the different areas in and around the city.
The areas of Shoreditch and Brick Lane, are the best places to check out London’s outdoor street gallery but keep an eye out all over town and you will spot colourful daubings on some of the most unexpected objects.
Walking tours will take you around the most popular pieces ranging from amazon tribesmen to Banksy originals, the godfather of street art. Wander the around the area of Brick Lane starting at the Stolen Space Gallery on Osbourn Street and then head towards the markets. Either side of the street has artwork somewhere, and as Brick Lane merges into Shoreditch High Street, you will see London’s urban street art scene at its best and with new urban artists emerging you might be the first to spot a new piece of art.
Sheffield, UK is a utopia for street artists and those who love visual creativity. While much less thought of in the conversation of urban art – it’s hard to escape London’s long shadow – visitors to Sheffield can find a wealth of colour, vibrancy, political expression, artistic skill and boundless imagination on the city’s walls. As a fan of such things, the Sheffield street art scene exceeded my expectations spectacularly.
There are pieces all over the city centre, with large clusters located near Arundel Street and Wellington Street and the surrounding areas. You can even find street art spreading out into the suburbs along any of the main roads leaving the city centre, especially London Road leading into Abbeydale Road to the south.
Many globally acclaimed artists have pieces here, but in particular, Sheffield is the main base of Phlegm, whose unique dreamlike creations are in murals all over the city. Phlegm is a massive draw to the city for lovers of street art. In 2019, Phlegm held an exhibition of his work in Sheffield, which attracted over 12,000 people.
Located in the North of England, Manchester is home to some of the best street art in the UK.
Manchester has been my home for years, and if there is something, I’ve always loved about it, it’s the culture and importance of music and art. It’s a lively city. People are amicable and love to go out. Street art in Manchester is a beautiful representation of Mancunian culture. It doesn’t only tell you a story; it tells you Manchester’s story!
Manchester played a crucial role during the industrial revolution. Some neighbourhoods such as the Northern Quarter still carry this industrial background. If you head there, you will find a lot of old warehouses. In recent years, they became trendy spots for street artists.
As you walk around Manchester Northern Quarter, you will find a lot of murals, including Harry Potter and Game of Thrones ones! Stevenson Square is particularly famous as we get to see a new painting showing up very often. We got Arya from Game of Thrones, David Bowie and more.
This spot quickly became Manchester’s most instagrammable spot and every visitor loves it!
You will also find a lot of bees everywhere. The working bee is the symbol of Manchester. Mancunians are very proud of their industrial background and love to show off the bee!
Bristol has a fascinating street art scene that changes continuously. Bristol’s most famous street artist is Banksy who reportedly comes from the city and put it on the map with his thought-provoking creations.
There are some key Banksy pieces you can see in the city including Well Hung Lover, Mild, Mild West and my favourite The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum. Banksy isn’t the only artist operating out of this vibrant city though, Bedminster and Southville, in particular, are a hive of creativity, like the incredible portrait of Greta Thunberg by Jody Thomas which appeared there recently and which I love, I think it captured her perfectly.
There are specific walking tours you can take in Bristol to find out more about the fantastic street art scene. It’s an exciting city to get under the skin of and the street art adds to its vibrancy.
Each year Upfest: Europes’ largest street art and graffiti festival is held in Bristol due to the city’s importance in the urban arts community.
Exploring the Glasgow Mural Trail was one of my favourite things to do in the city. There are beautiful murals and street art all over the main downtown area and beyond. You can see a lot of the murals by walking around the city streets, and there’s practically a new one around every turn. These paintings are not only colourful and artfully designed, but they’re also meaningful, too.
The Saint Mungo mural by Smug is one of the most famous paintings in Glasgow. You’ve likely seen it shared on social media – it was shared 1.5 million times in a week after it debuted! One of my favourite murals is called Wind Power by Rogue-One (pictured). You can find this one on Mitchell Street of a woman blowing on a dandelion. All of the seeds that fly off the dandelion are tiny windmills. This mural celebrates Scotland’s move towards sustainable energy and becoming more eco-friendly.
While there is so much history and culture to explore in Glasgow, street art is a massive draw to the city. It’s free and is accessible to all, and brings splashes of colour and deep meanings to main streets and alleyways. The next time you’re in Glasgow, definitely discover the Glasgow Mural Trail for yourself!
Brussels is one of the artiest cities I’ve seen so far! If you ask me what was unique about this capital, street art is the first thing that comes to mind.
One thing that makes Belgian streets unique is the love of comics. Not only they have a whole museum dedicated to Comics Art, but there are comic murals all over the city. Probably the first thing that you notice as a first-timer is those long vertical strips on random buildings. You see them on every corner! It feels like Brussels tells a story, even if not all the characters are familiar to you. Walk west from the city centre to the Comic Strip Wall, and you’ll have a chance to see plenty of those murals on the way!
Another thing that comes to mind is local minority communities that have a voice. For example, I stumbled upon the whole wall of art dedicated to the LGBT culture. This art was part of an urban project that was implemented a few years back and meant to dedicate eight walls around the city to different socially essential themes. Still so many left to find in this city of whimsical street art in Europe.
I’m recommending Ghent to everybody as the best alternative to Bruges. The vibrant city comes alive with events, lovely architecture and even graffiti and is a fabulous city to find street art in Europe.
To admire the street art of Ghent, the number one spot to check out is the Graffiti Alley. The official name of the street is Werregarenstraatje, as it connects the streets of Onderstraat and Hoogpoort right in the centre of Ghent.
Artists are free to use the walls of the narrow alley as their canvas, so the murals keep changing each week. I loved it. You can walk all along, watching for small details, observing how the style changes from one artist to another.
Anybody can spray-paint in the Graffiti Alley, and you can often find artworks of famous Ghent resident artists, such as ROA known for black-and-white-animals and Bué the Warrior with his cheerful, colourful art.
Of course, it’s not just about the Graffiti Alley when it comes to street art in Ghent. There are many more locations with original murals or several works of street art. Once in Ghent, stop at the local information centre and pick up a copy of a map called “Sorry, Not Sorry Street Art Gent” with all locations marked.
Copenhagen, Denmark, is a beautiful city full of unique and understated beauty. It’s a premier location for architecture blending traditional Nordic style with modern Danish style. One of the Copenhagen attractions that shows off the unique charm of Copenhagen is the street art of Christiania.
Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous nation inside of the city of Copenhagen. Known as Freetown Christiania, it’s a commune of 850-1000 people who have lived on the site of an abandoned military barracks for generations. The residents live a bit of a hippie lifestyle off the grid that includes selling marijuana on the main street, Pusher Street, and the city’s most beautiful street art.
I love visiting the streets and think the art is beautiful. I love how creative use of the buildings are a part of the art. Additional elements are added to the murals to give dimension and creativity to brightly-coloured street art. Visitors to Copenhagen love to visit Christiania if they’ve heard of it. It’s still off the beaten path, but many tours and events take place in Christiania, and they include time to admire the fantastic artistry of Christiania’s street art scene.
Paris is well known for its world-famous museums and Haussmannian architecture, but people interested in street art and urban art will also have their fun when they visit Paris.
In Paris, there are many areas with good street art, especially in the most popular districts of Paris. Our favourite, however, is the street art of Paris 13 – on the Seine’s left bank – well known for its Mural Program.
During the last years, the major of the 13th Arrondissement – reported to be a street art passionate – has been actively promoting the Mural Program in Paris 13, inviting the most famous street artists around the world to participate in this artistic project. National and international street artists have been decorating the tall and impersonal housing blocks that populate this district and today; colourful giant murals have invaded the most prominent avenues in Paris 13 enticing visitors looking for “out of the box” cultural adventures in Paris.
Amongst the murals, street art connoisseurs will discover works by OBEY (US), Inti (Chile), Ethos (Brazil), ZED (Tunisia + Morocco), and Jana & JS (France-Germany). France is represented by Seth Art, Babs, Rero, SteW, and C215.
Berlin is a city that brings together many artists. It has the largest concentration of street art in Europe; therefore, a visit to Berlin’s street art scene is one of the many things to do in the city. There is also a lot of graffiti with new ones appearing regularly.
While not everyone comes to Berlin for street art in the first place, it is still part of the non-conformist vibe of the city. Many end up contemplating the different artworks all around the city, starting with the East Side Gallery, or the Old Berlin Wall, where you can see the most street art in Berlin in one place.
Indeed, this old part of the Berlin Wall is an open-air gallery gathering over a distance of 1.3 km a hundred murals made by international artists. I prefer the nearby district of Kreuzberg. To me, it might be your best bet to see the most exciting street art in Berlin. There are murals all around this district, with the most famous one probably being the Leviathan, by Italian artist Blu.
One of my favourite places in Europe for its street art is in Athens, Greece. The city has been home to street art forever. In older times it was carved into buildings, then it was graffiti during the war, now its art. Athens street art took off in the 1990s and has boomed since the economic crisis. But its roots go deeper. Even the word graffiti stems from an old Greek term. I was amazed at the sheer amount of it as well as its themes. While there is a range of subjects, from cats to politics, two main ones that stood out are love and fantasy.
Throughout Plaka and neighbouring areas there’s a string of street art of a curly-haired woman. I later learned that one man’s heartache had inspired these paintings after his girlfriend broke up with him. Other incredible pieces in Athens have a hint of whimsy to them, like winged Greek Gods and the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
Some of the key areas to look for street art in Athens are; Anafiotika, Plaka, Psiri, Metaxourgeio, Gazi, and Exarchina. But there are also street art tours, some by artists themselves, where you’ll not only find all the iconic pieces and hidden gems but also learn about the artists behind them and their message.
Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland and has a very new and developing street art scene in Europe. In 2015 and 2016 a city-wide project called Wall Poetry saw international artists decorate the city with art depicting the work of local musicians. This project was part of the annual airwaves festival which sees thousands of people visit the city.
This artwork is bold and whimsical with cartoon characters filling whole walls. Some shop fronts have been covered, and walkways and parking lots in the central area around Laugavegur Street and Grettisgata Street have bright and vibrant pieces, many of which depict the wildlife and landscapes of Iceland. While these are not the main reason for visiting, they are a part of the sights to find in this small and compact city.
Around the docks of Reykjavik is an entirely different style of work which is more subtle and understated. It is photorealistic work by Guido Van Helten. These pieces are in greyscale and appear to look like portrait photographs. These couldn’t be further from the cartoons in the centre of the city.
While not the main tourist draw, Rome has some pretty excellent street art spread out in many districts. Usually the collaboration between the local municipality and famous street artists, these colourful murals are part of projects for revamping grey areas and otherwise quite uneventful neighbourhoods.
Unless you are a fan of this form of contemporary art, you probably won’t find it, especially if you are in Rome for a limited time. The best street art in Rome is in cool neighbourhoods like Ostiense and Testaccio, quite popular also because there are several things to see and do and many delicious restaurants. But the more daring travellers should venture out of the well-known areas and snap their best pictures of the cool murals in the working-class districts of Quadraro and Tor Marancia.
Even though I’m not an expert in the field, I have visited these neighbourhoods for their street art quite often not only because there are so many murals that once is not enough to view them all, but because there are always some new ones.
Some of the well-known street artists that have contributed to sprucing up these areas are Blu, JB Rock, Sam3, and Axel Void in Ostiense, Alice Pasquini and Roa in Testaccio, Diavù, Zelda Bomba, Gio Pistone, Agostino Iacurci, Dilkabear and many others in the Quadraro neighbourhood.
Amsterdam’s Nieuw-West is hardly a tourist mecca. Situated about 20 minutes west of the city’s bustling canal ring by public transport, the post-World War II district has been plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment. When Ukrainian native Anna Stolyarova immigrated to the troubled neighbourhood in 1998, she couldn’t help but notice its bland, functional architecture and ubiquitous, identical apartment blocks—a stark contrast to the gabled canal mansions in Amsterdam’s historic centre.
To engage her predominantly Turkish and Moroccan neighbours in social dialogue while re-branding Nieuw-West, Stolyarova founded the Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA) in 2012. Conceived as “an eco-museum where art and stories come together,” SAMA has no gallery walls. Its growing collection of 200+ artworks by acclaimed street artists is spread over the streets and buildings of Nieuw-West.
In Glory, a SAMA-commissioned mural by street art icons El Pez from Barcelona and Danny Recall from Amsterdam, the milkmaid in Vermeer’s world-renowned painting appears with a cheeky bit of thigh. Community meetings and focus groups for the project took far longer than the work itself, which was completed in just seven days, without projectors or stencils, using only spray cans.
Stavanger is popular with many street artists, and there are works of art everywhere. From giant murals to tiny pieces that can easily be missed, street art seems to be the soul of the city. With a mix of political statements, brightly coloured images and those that simply induce a smile, the art is exciting and thought-provoking.
Guided tours and maps are available to help you find much of the artwork, but they aren’t essential. We simply wandered around and found plenty. Head away from the main areas into the side streets to see some of the best examples.
My favourites were the less obvious pieces. I enjoyed finding the smaller ones, many drawn by British street artist JPS, and we had a fun few hours looking for them. Other artists with work in Stavanger are Evol, a German who stencils buildings onto electricity boxes. And French artists Ella and Pitr whose work covers entire buildings.
Stavanger is a fantastic introduction to the world of street art in Europe as there is something to appeal to everyone.
While Lisbon, Portugal is known for its gorgeous architecture, cobbled streets and old-worldly charm, what many visitors don’t realise is that the city is, in fact, a fabulous street-art destination too!
Admittedly, some parts of the city do have somewhat unsightly graffiti and murals that aren’t pleasing to the eye. But, throughout the city, you will find other incredible murals and street art installations that are noteworthy and worth exploring.
One particular artist to watch out for is Artur Bordalo or simply known as Bordalo II. An artist who creates incredible street art sculptures entirely out of trash. His works are intended to spark a debate around consumerism and our constant obsession with consumption, hence his use of garbage to create these stunning pieces.
In Lisbon, in particular, you can find the ‘Two Pelicans’ in Chiado right next to the Santa Justa Elevator, ‘The Fox’ in Cais do Sodre, ‘The Lynx’ in Parque das Nacoes and ‘The Bee’ in the hip and happening, LX Factory.
If you’re visiting Lisbon anytime soon, be sure to add these to your Lisbon Itinerary and make the most of exploring the best street art in Europe!
While there are plenty of art museums in Porto that you can visit, the city’s best pieces of art can be viewed for free, right on the streets. Porto was the city that made me fall in love with street art. I’d always admired murals that I happened to pass by, but I’d never thought about who had made them, how, or why. Then I joined a street art walking tour in Porto and learned all about the city’s mural and the artists. I was hooked!
Porto is a small city, and you can see loads of great art just by exploring on foot around the city centre. Two streets in particular worth seeking out are Rua de Miguel Bombarda and Rua da Madeira, the latter of which is just behind the São Bento railway station. For more than a decade, from 2002 to 2013, Porto was run by a mayor who hated street art. He created an “anti-graffiti” brigade that whitewashed any new artworks as soon as they’d been painted. When a new city government finally took over, one of the first things they did was commission a massive mural by two of Porto’s most celebrated artists — Hazul and Mr. Dheo. You’ll find this mural right in front of the Trindade metro station. Other Portuguese artists of note to seek out include Bordalo II, Frederico Draw, and Vhils.
Mostly scattered around the neighbourhood of El Carmen (but also in Ruzafa and El Cabanyal), Valencia’s street art is sensational. El Carmen is a part of the city’s old town district (Ciutat Vella), and the contrast between the traditional and the modern is fascinating and captivating.
I love how colourful and artistic Valencia’s street art is. I especially like that you can admire a magnificent giant mural and a minute later discover a tiny, quirky figure on the corner of the street.
One of the most notable artists in the city is Julieta XLF. It’s easy to recognise her Japanese-influenced, whimsical, colourful art that almost always features a girl with her eyes closed, and animals surrounding her. Another renowned Valencian artist is Escif, who’s also known as the Spanish Banksy. He uses more neutral colours, and his art usually has a deeper meaning (though it’s not always so easy to figure out).
Valencia is such a fabulous city to visit because it has it everything – a great food scene, beautiful landmarks, enchanting streets, a relaxed vibe, and so much more, but its street art is one major thing that will put a smile on your face and make you fall in love with it.
Malmö is one of the most famous cities in Sweden when it comes to street art. There are several areas of the city where you can find murals. The best way to explore them is to bike around and follow the directions from a pre-made google maps route.
Some of the main areas with excellent murals include Holma, Davidshall, Möllevången and the Old town. Two particular artists who have made some very famous murals in the city are known as Phlegm and Smug One.
The murals are large, and several of them were part of an open art project a couple of years ago. I believe that it has drawn visitors since they are something unique and beautiful.
Personally, I did enjoy the street art in Malmö very much. I find them almost at the same level as murals I have seen in New York and London. My favourite murals in Malmö are “Trollet” and “the last embrace before departure”.
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