If you like your London with a bit of edge, then you’ve got to see the Shoreditch street art. The neighborhood is ground zero for a global street art movement that has attracted both local and international talent. The murals and graffiti in Shoreditch coat the neighborhood with edgy, political, ever-changing spash of paint.
The Culture of Street Art in Shoreditch
Shoreditch was first settled by brick makers (1600’s) followed by waves of immigration from the Huguneots (1700’s weaving), then the Eastern European Jews (1800’s tailoring and rag trade) and then the Bangladeshis (1900’s restaurateurs). This history has given the neighborhood a hard-working, gritty edge.
Street art tends to flourish in neighborhoods with economic adversity or an immigrant culture and Shoreditch is no exception. A creative class has emerged in the neighborhood and it has become a fertile ground for graffiti and street art.
The global origins of street art stem from the 1980’s hip hop and graffiti culture. Graffiti and tagging started out as a territorial pissing contest but by the 1990’s it had evolved into artistic movement. Like Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood or San Francisco’s Mission District, Brick Lane has become a hub for street art in London. In all of these cities, the street art expresses the neighborhood’s history, culture and modern sensibilities. But Brick Lane’s murals in particular are very specific to London and the way that the murals interact within their space is unique.
For instance, in Buenos Aires there is a reverence for for the pieces. They stay up for the long term and there is an unspoken agreement among muralists and taggers not to cover up each other’s work. But the Brick Lane murals tends to layer over one another with one artist adding onto or covering up the work of another. Sometimes this is done in the spirit of post-facto collaboration but sometimes it is done as a statement of disapproval of the previous artist’s work. Even some of the larger, commissioned pieces may only last a year or two before being reworked.
Because of this, you will find the street art in London to be evolving, provocative and messy, and it’s always interesting.
Shoreditch Street Art Map
There are murals and graffiti everywhere in Shoreditch so no map will include everything. But the streets, blocks and parking lots that I’ve indicated here include some of the best and most prolific spots for the street art in Shoreditch.
This self-guided Shoreditch street art tour will show you some of the best places for spotting graffiti and murals in the neighborhood. The images below are some serious eye candy. However, bear in mind that street art is essentially ephemeral, especially in London. There are very few pieces that stay up for the long haul so what you see below may not be there when you get to London. But when possible, I’ve tried to identify the artist so that you can look for their other works in London or other cities where you seek out street art. While you are wandering around, be sure to check out all of the quirky museums, great pubs and yummy street food with my Shoreditch neighborhood guide.
Brick Lane Street Art
Brick Lane street art is the epicenter for the art form in Shoreditch. While there is some graffiti on Brick Lane, you’ll want to wander off onto the side streets and parking lots to see the best bits.
The walls (and street signs and doors) are not sacred. You can visit the parking lot below which is covered in murals. But return a month later, and you might see something completely different.
The first series of images are from the Seven Stars car park. This used to be the site of the historic Seven Stars tavern. But now it’s become an evolving gallery of the latest…and grittiest Brick Lane graffiti and murals.
Read More: Get more ideas for cool spots with this London three day itinerary.
Street Art Elsewhere in Shoreditch
The streets around Brick Lane are just some of the many spots where you can find Shoreditch street art. You can wander all over the neighborhood finding pieces down alleyways and up the sides of buildings.
For some large scale murals sure to stop by Holywell Lane. It’s located about six blocks northwest of Brick Lane. In the grand tradition of unimaginative place names, Holywell was established in 1158 with a holy well and a nunnery.
It’s hardly a crusty old nunnery now and the street art there has a very modern sensibility. Do a full lap around the Citizen M hotel to find more pieces. On a side note, if you find yourself scoping out street art in NYC, go to the CitizenM Bowery hotel, they have a whole mural museum in their stairwell.
Murals and Graffiti near Bethnel Green
There is another cluster of art around Bethnel Green, Slater and Grimsby streets. It’s not only on the walls but there is a lot of it in the parking lot next to the Box Park and all along the railway embankment.
The Nomadic Community Garden
This quirky spot is a community garden wedged against the rail line just northeast of Brick Lane and south of Bethnel Green Road. The landowner isn’t quite ready to develop yet so he has allowed community members to temporarily transform the space into a garden, maker space and community hang-out. While there, you’ll find sculptures make of found objects, structures cobbled together from creative materials and a large mural space.
There is also graffiti in the nearby Allen Gardens and on the nearby street that lead to the garden.
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Shoreditch Street Art Tours
You can see plenty of street art in Shoreditch walking around on your own, but you’ll get more context for the culture and artists if you take a tour.
- Quick tour and overview of Shoreditch. This guided tour is 2 hours long and provides a quick overview of the history of Shoreditch as well as a look as some of the key areas in the neighborhood for street art. It’s a good introduction that you can use as a base for exploring on your own.
- A deeper dive private tour. This 4 hour private tour is specifically focused on street art photography. It’s run by a professional photographer and throughout the tour, you’ll get photography tips. It’s more expensive than a group tour, but you’ll get personalized attention and be able to go at your own pace.
- Make your own street art. Alternative London runs a variety of Shoreditch street art tours. They offer 2 hour bike and walking tours but you should really do their street art workshop. It’s a 4 hour event that combines a street art tour with the opportunity to make your own street art in their gallery.
Read up on 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
This piece is meant to serve as an inspiration for you to visit London and see the Shoreditch street art. The pieces there are edgy, exciting and most of all…evolving. So go now…and then go again next year. That’s what I’ve done and I know that I’ll be back. Happy mural hunting.
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