For visitors to London interested in the capital’s alternative urban art scene, the colourful Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel is a must-see London attraction.
Located under Waterloo train station, the tunnel links the tourist spots of historic Westminster to the more bohemian district of Waterloo.
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Leake Street Tunnel History
London’s graffiti tunnel popped up on London’s street art radar when the world-famous street artist Banksy held a spray can festival here in 2008. Artists came from all around to be part of this event and by doing so turned this once undesirable area of London into a vibrant urban art hotspot which now hosts London’s largest legal street art canvas.
After the success of Banksy’s event, the local council granted special permission for urban artists to freely express their creativity on the walls and ceilings of the Leake Street Tunnel, nicknamed the Banksy Tunnel, without fear of prosecution. Sadly, no Banksy originals remain in the tunnel.
Freedom to be creative
This iconic art space has now become a magnet for London graffiti artists, muralists, and tag artists as well as global street artists who want to be part of London’s urban art scene.
Wall murals depict subjects including political figures and whimsical characters to more intricate designs and mind-blowing portraits, worthy to be shown in any alternative London art gallery.
Vibrant designs fill the canvas of this 300-metre-long graffiti art tunnel, with not an inch of wall space remaining untouched.
The colourful artworks in the tunnel are forever evolving and no two visits will ever be the same. Urban street artists play by the rules that the space is for everyone and know that their graffiti art has a limited time on display. New visuals appear on a regular basis covering over their predesessors; that’s the deal in the Leake Street Tunnel.
If you are lucky you might see one of the street artists in action!
For photographers and, dare I say it, Instagrammers, a visit to Leake Street Tunnel is a chance to capture colourful shots of unique street art images juxtaposed against an industrial backdrop.
Street Art in London Neighbourhoods
While random graffiti still remains illegal in London, areas including Shoreditch and Camden are locations where street art is very much welcomed. Huge murals commissioned by local businesses and councils have re-generated these areas and Alternative London Street Art Tours lure visitors away from central London and into these nearby urban neighbourhoods.
Entertainment in Leake Street Arches
While walking through the graffiti tunnel at night wouldn’t be my number one thing to do in London, it is home to The Vaults, billed as London’s home for immersive theatre and alternative arts, which draws an eclectic crowd.
Banh Bao Brothers restaurant is also in the tunnel offering delicious pan-Asian style tapas dishes. If you are in the London tunnel at night be aware of your surroundings as you would in any capital city.
Sightseeing in the area around Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
At one end of the tunnel, you will be on Lower Marsh, an area known for its hip eating and drinking spots, quirky hotels and the famous Royal Vic Theatre. Stop for a drink at the arty Vaulty Towers Bar or enjoy artisan pizza at Pizza Pilgrims before settling down for the night at Ruby Lucy Hotel.
At the opposite end of the Waterloo graffiti tunnel, you will be near famous London sights such as the London Eye and Westminster Palace. It is here that you can also do one of the best walks in London along the Southbank.
Find London’s Graffiti Tunnel at Leake Street, London, SE1 7NN. Waterloo is the nearest mainline train station.
Street Art Beyond London
Interested in finding out about street art cities in other parts of the world? Check out my street art guides:
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