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Unearth Masterful Berlin Street Art and Graffiti in 6 Hot Districts

Berlin street art culture started with the wall. But since reunification, it has radiated outwards to encompass the whole city in a grand, sloppy spray of graffiti, murals, stickers, paste-ups and mixed media mash-ups. Berlin’s graffiti is everywhere and it’s impossible to see it all. But there are six distinct neighborhoods worth exploring because they show a characteristic range from edgy to political to the sublime.

Street art Berlin mural by Phlegm. Black figures and pink mural
This melancholic piece is in Shöneberg and is by Phlegm.

Berlin’s Street Art History and Culture

It all started with the wall.

When it began going up in the 1960’s, the Berlin wall caused the East to start shrinking back from the West. With subsequent enlargements and deadly fortifications, the deal was sealed. The eastern side of the wall became a grey concrete no man’s land enforced by guns and STASI paranoia. The western side of the wall became a canvas.

According to The World Atlas of Street Art, during the 1970’s, the western side of the wall “functioned as a sort of guest book for visitors to leave comments.” During that time, New York’s graffiti movement became an export product and graffiti started turning up on the wall. Visiting artists like Keith Haring began doing larger murals, turning the concrete into a more formal artist canvas.

Wall graffiti took on a decidedly more political tone in 1986 when five former GDR citizens (who had been imprisoned and deported for painting graffiti), made a pointed statement by painting a four kilometer white stripe along the wall.

The wall may have come down in 1989, but it has certainly not been relegated to the Germany’s historic dustbin. Chunks of it keep a colorful watch, a vigilant reminder of Berlin’s cold war past.

Berlin wall painted mural by Thierry noir. blue head and red lips on yellow background
You’ll find painted chunks of wall all over Berlin. By Thierry Noir.

With reunification, came a flood of cheap and free dilapidated housing stock, which provided a home for disaffected drop-outs, punks and starving artists.

That freedom of spirit combined with scruffy pre-gentrified working class neighborhoods are always a combustible mix for street art. Shoreditch London, San Francisco’s Mission District and Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighborhood all fit that bill. And like Berlin, they each have a robust street art scene.

Fast forward to today and street art in Berlin is still going strong. Not everyone is happy about it however. Berlin officials still consider graffiti illegal, although since it drives a sizable chunk of the city’s tourism economy, they don’t bother much about it. This means that well-respected guerrilla works will stay up longer than in cities that are more diligent about enforcement.

The artists themselves are concerned about rising costs and hipsterism fueled by gentrification, particularly in the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts. Large-scale commissioned murals are becoming more common and there is even a museum dedicated to street art in Berlin.

“This zombification is threatening to turn Berlin into a museal city of veneers, the “art scene” preserved as an amusement park for those who can afford the rising rents.”

Lutz Henke, co-creator of the Kreuzberg murals
Berlin street art East Side Gallery west wall. Graffiti on concrete
This graffiti is on the west side of the East Side Gallery.

“Berlin is dirty”, said my street art guide Ben. He’s a transplant from New Zealand and a graffiti artist himself. He wasn’t dissing Berlin. But rather, he likes that the walls are a messy college of art and vandalism and he thinks that Berlin is richer for it.

Let’s take a look.

Berlin Street Art Map

This Berlin street art map identifies six neighborhoods with a high concentration of works. I’ve noted some specific, popular murals and also indicated streets for you to stroll so that you can discover works on your own.

Click here or on the image below to open the fully interactive map.

Berlin street art map

6 Places to Spot Street Art in Berlin (+ 1 Bonus)

You don’t need to seek out graffiti to find it in Berlin. Just walk out the door and swivel your head. But, if you want to be a student of street art, then you may want to focus on just a few specific neighborhoods. That way you can take the time to really absorb the works.

Berlin East Side Gallery Fraternal Kiss Dmitri Vrubel. two men kissing
“My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.” By Dmitri Vrubel.

East Side Wall and Friedrichschain

The East Side Wall is an open air gallery painted on a 1.5 kilometer section of intact Berlin Wall. It opened in 1990 with works from 118 artists from 22 countries. Many of the murals feature themes of freedom of expression or celebrate Berlin itself.

The East Side Gallery is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, but I wouldn’t say that it offers the best examples of Berlin street art. Many of the murals seem to have been painted by artists not familiar with traditional street art techniques. The gallery is worth visiting because of the historical significance of the wall. And it’s fun to take a selfie in front of Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss.

But don’t stop there. Spend some time wandering the western side of the wall, which is covered in tags and wild style graffiti.

Berlin murals near Holzmarkt. man on bicycle and black and white mural.
Murals near the Holzmarkt.

Just north of the East Side Gallery, you’ll find a series of murals tucked into the courtyards just west of Holzmarktstrasse (between the World Trash Center and YAAM).

Berlin street art Urban Spree Toucan art BordalloII
Multimedia Toucan by the Lisbon artist Bordallo II.

Now, go a bit further east and check out the blocks just east of the Warschauer Strasse S-Bahn station. At the center of the action is Urban Spree. They curate urban art exhibitions and murals, and they host music events. Their courtyard is a melange of curated murals and guerrilla graffiti. The alleyways just east of Urban Nation feature a delightfully messy mix of murals, paste-ups and stickers.

Berlin mural Urban Spree Shinanov with Donald Trump
Berlin street art isn’t usually this overtly political, but artist Shinavov had something to say.
What to do in Berlin - graffiti near Urban Spree
Graffiti in the courtyard near Urban Spree.
Berlin Graffiti Urban Spree Felix Mattias Gephart. Black and yellow mural
Felix and Max Gephart in the Urban Spree yard.
Berlin mural by MTO- Publicity. Man in hoodie and ads on a wall
This mural is by MTO.

This MTO mural is entitled “Publicity”. He skillfully incorporated his street art figure into a wall with existing ads. It’s a statement on consumerism and he is concerned about the gentrification in Berlin.

“It is well known that large-scale “street-art” muralism has generated an increasing interest from city councils and real estate investors all over the world, as the practice now plays integral part in the gentrification process.”

Berlin street artist MTO
Berlin street art in Friedrichshaen by Sovr. Dancing figures
Dancing figures by Sobr.

Sobr has pasted up his dancing figures all over Berlin, and there are quite a few near Urban Spree. He photographed these very real people while out clubbing. He then did his magic on them by transforming the images into paste-ups.

Kreuzberg Berlin Graffiti. Green man and red woman mural
This green dud definitely has something to say about gentrification in Kreuzberg.

Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg is one cool neighborhood. The gentrification that MTO was worried about has hit Kreuzberg hard. But this also means that there are ethnic restaurants, parks and beer gardens in the area. In fact simply hanging out in the neighborhood is one of the coolest things to do in Berlin.

The neighborhood has an interesting mix of large scale murals and gritty guerrilla works.

Kreutzberg Berlin street art mural by Blu- Pink Man
In this disturbing mural, Blu is making a point about the evils of conformity.
Berlin kreuzberg mural Os Gemeos
By Os Gemeos.

Os Gemeos is a Brazilian partnership between two identical twins. They often feature yellow-skinned characters who are attempting to navigate their landscape. Down the left, you’ll also see a set of hieroglyphic-looking characters which is a signature move by Berlin Kidz. a prolific Berlin crew.

London Police mural Berlin Germany
By The London Police.
Kreuzberg Berlin Victor Ash Cosmonaut mural
By Victor Ash.

This Cosmonaut stencil by Victor Ash is one of the oldest and well preserved in Kreuzberg. It went up in 2007 and (so far) has managed to float above the creeping tags.

Roa mural in Kreuzberg Berlin. Elk and storks on a wall
by Roa.

Never one to shy from edgy material (and dead animals), Roa’s mural is perfect for the gritty walls along the Görlitzer S-Bahn station. You can also find Roa’s creepy characters in Chicago’s street art scene.

Berlin mural by Case. Two hands
By Case.
Berlin Rosenthaler Strasse mural
Mural in the Rosenthaler street alleyway in Hackescher Markt.

Hackescher Markt in Mitte

Most of the Hackescher Markt features pretty little shops and cafes with tree lined courtyards and shady benches. But tuck into the alley near the Anne Frank Zentrum and you’ll get a much grittier experience.

On your way over, take time to poke around under the nearby U-Bahn rail tracks and you’ll find a lot of graffiti. Then head over to the alley.

This L-shaped space has a mix of graffiti and commissioned murals along the east wall. You can also visit the Neuro Titan gallery, which curates urban art. The stairway up to the gallery is sticker-central and be sure to poke your head out the gallery window for a good look at some murals in the courtyard below.

While there, make time for the Monsterkabinett. It’s a strange performance exhibit with animatronic monsters with an improbable story-line. It’s goofy and totally worth it.

Berlin murals: Ten Hun in Hackescher Markt. Pink and tortoise mural characters
by Ten Hun.
Berlin Rosenthaler strasse Alice in Wonderland sticker
This captures the alleyway perfectly. Simply jump down the rabbit hole.
Berlin Germany Mauer Park graffiti practice wall. Woman standing framed
Frame-up of the Mauer Park graffiti wall.

Mauer Park, Prenzlauer Berg

Mauer Park is another great place for spotting pure Berlin graffiti. The western area of the park shares a wall with a sports complex. This wall (and the surrounding concrete retaining walls, garbage cans and any other surface) have been designated legal practice walls.

If you come on a Saturday in the summer, you can also hang out for the infamous Bear Pit karaoke. If you visit on any Sunday, just below the graffiti wall is a flea market and tasty food trucks.

Mauer Park Berlin- graffiti garbage can
Mauer Park garbage can sentinel.
Berlin Mauer Park Gorilla graffiti
Watchful gorilla on the Mauer Park graffiti practice wall.
Berlin Urban Nation building: Dima Arbus & Space Invader
The frontage of the Urban Nation street art museum. Top piece by Space Invader and blue and pink mural by Dima Arbus.

Shöneberg and Urban Nation

If you are more a fan of big pretty murals from world class international artists, then be sure to hit up Shöneberg. The center of street art action in the neighborhood is the Urban Nation museum. The museum opened in 2013 and has a mission to transform Berlin’s facades into a giant outdoor gallery.

They do work all over the city (and even helped to get a street art movement started in Reykjavik). However, their biggest impact has been in the area right around the museum.

Stop into the museum first to get some eye candy from their resident artists and permanent exhibits. Then head out into the streets. There is a cluster of murals between the Nollendorfplatz and Bülowstrasse U-Bahn stations, and also down the surrounding streets.

Berlin Schoneberg mural by Julien de Casabianca. Angel and wings on black background
by Julien de Casabianca
Schoneberg Berlin mural Tank Petrol. blue mural of a woman
by Tank Petrol
Berlin murals by D*face and Shepard Fairey
By D*Face (left) and Shepard Fairey (right)

This facade features four skinny murals that all share a similar color palette. These two guys have been busy. I’ve also seen D*Face pop up in in Paris and Shepard Fairey has been making the rounds at street art festivals. They both have street art books out and this sort of large scale exposure is good for their marketability.

Berlin graffiti: Obey Giant sticker
Also spotted….this old sticker by Fairey’s Obey Giant.
Berlin mural in Shoenberg by Bullough, 1UP and Berlin Kidz
(from the left) Berlin Kidz, 1UP and Bullough

Like Berlin Kidz, 1UP is another famous Berlin crew. They are fearless about scaling up (or repelling down) buildings to spray their gigantic tags. They don’t do pretty portraits, but you have to admire them for their ballsy location choices.

1010 mural in Berlin Shoenberg. blue and green circles
By 1010.

The artist 1010 specializes in trippy three dimensional murals. They are a stylized form of a black hole. Maybe these are the rabbit holes referenced in the Alice in Wonderland poster above.

Vhils mural in Berlin- Go Forth
Go Forth by Vhils.

Portuguese artist Vhils is all about texture. He uses no paint at all, but rather adds plaster to existing surfaces. He then chisels away the plaster to reveal a portrait underneath. In this case, it’s a representation of a local club bouncer.

Berlin Cranio blue figure murals
This series of blue figures by Cranio are too cute.
Berlin Blek le Rat bugle stencil
Blek le Rat is still at it and stenciling in Berlin.
Berlin Stefan Ways polar bear
By Stefan Ways.

This beautiful polar bear is worth noting for both its message and its medium. He used a mixed medium of advertising inserts, glue and paint to make the a point that “over consumption is killing us”.

alternative things to do in - Berlin Teufelsberg listening station- abandoned tower and graffiti
The tower at Teufelsberg.

Teufelsberg Listening Station

Take a half day to visit Teufelsberg. It’s an old listening and broadcasting post used by the US during the cold war. They used the station to listen in on Eastern European signals and also broadcast US propaganda into the east. It was abandoned by the Americans when the cold war ended.

Teufelsberg been unofficially taken over by a collective of street artists, URBEX fanatics and entrepreneurs. You pay a small fee to enter and you can wander freely around the site. They even have a little barbecue joint where you can get food and drink.

You can’t currently climb the large white tower, but some of the buildings are open and you can walk the entire site.

Plan for a 35 minute train ride into the suburbs and then a 30 minute walk through the woods to the site. Give yourself at least two hours once there.

Teufelsberg listening station tractor graffiti
This guy was having a blast playing King of the Hill.
Teufelsberg Listening station mural - atomic bomb
Memories of the cold war.
Berlin graffiti in Teufelsberg- its it me
Why yes, it is you that I’m looking for.
Alternative Berlin street art tour. tour guide and purple graffiti
Color coordinated tour guide from Alternative Berlin, showing off wild style.

Bonus: Graffiti in the Reichstag Building

Surprise, there’s actually graffiti in the Bundestag legislature building. When the Soviet troops rolled into Berlin at the end of WWII, they occupied the Reichstag. The building was pretty trashed from all of the bombing and the soldiers left their own mark by carving their names and saying into the walls.

When the building was restored and the Bundestag moved back in, they deliberately left some of the graffiti panels intact as a cultural record. You can only see the graffiti if you take the Reichstag tour. It’s free, but popular, so get a reservation way in advance.

Germany Berlin Bundestag graffiti

Take a Berlin Graffiti and Street Art Tour

You can see all of this Berlin street art on your own…but you’ll learn more on a tour. I took several different tours with Alternative Berlin. They have actual street artists leading the tours and they even offer a stenciling session in their studio.

Book the Alternative Berlin tour here.

Stencil workshop with Alternative Berlin street art tour
Stencil workshop with Alternative Berlin.
Berlin Neurotitan urban art gallery with street art and exhibits
Neurotitan Gallery.

Galleries Featuring Urban Art and Berlin Graffiti Artists

  • Neurotitan Gallery: Features installed works and outdoor murals by international artists. Located in Mitte.
  • Urban Spree: Murals, graffiti, exhibitions and music concerts. Located in Friedrichshain.
  • Museum of Stickers: A street art supply store that also features an expanding array of stickers. Located in Friedrichshain.
  • Let it Bleed Gallery: An art print shop featuring local artists. In Kreuzberg.
Berlin Louis Masai mural in Friederichshein. Wild common carp.
Louis Masai paints endangered species. The wild common carp featured here is painted near Urban Spree.

When I took a recent street art tour in Melbourne, my tour guide proclaimed that “street art in Berlin is dead”. Clearly, he hasn’t been to Berlin lately. The scene there is very much alive and it’s spreading like a spilled can of paint, oozing into the cracks all over Berlin.

Find More Great Global Street Art

Study great street art in other cities by checking out my guides to:
Top Street Art Cities in the World | Books About Street Art|Street Art Festivals | Buenos Aires | Bogota | San Diego | San Francisco | Los Angeles |Nashville | Chicago | New York | Havana | London | Reykjavik  | Belfast | Bristol | Berlin | Paris | Estonia | Rural Australia | Melbourne | Honolulu | Salt Lake City

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