Street art is an open air museum, forcing humans and their physical environment to engage with one another. It runs the gamut from protest to pretty and these 26 of the best street art cities cover the full range.
Street art has come a long way since scrawling it’s way out of the 1990’s hip hop movement. It has exploded into the mainstream with mural festivals, laneways and Instagram-friendly art showing up in the most unlikely places.
This list of street art cities isn’t exhaustive, but it does represent a diverse mix of well established urban art locations along with a few surprising up-and-comers. Scroll the list, choose a few cities that you’d like to explore further and then click through to find more information (and eye candy) about each.
“…as cities grow, they realize that culture, spirit and lasting meaning comes from art” –Faile
Best Street Art Cities in North America
New York City, New York
New York is the birthplace of the modern street art movement and it still has some of the best graffiti in the world. You can find pockets of it in Astoria Queens, Bushwick Brooklyn and the lower East Side. There’s even a new Citizen M Hotel in the Bowery that commissioned artists to full their full twenty floors of stairwells.
Chicago’s street art is BIG and political. The South Wabash corridor is home to an extensive big walls movement but you can also find guerrilla works in the Latino Pilsen neighborhood and hunkered down underneath the L tracks in Wicker Park and Logan Square.
Read More: Get the full guide to how to find the murals in all three Chicago neighborhoods.
Los Angeles, California
Like LA itself, the best street art in this city sprawls all over the place. You can find quite a concentration of it in the downtown Arts District, which features global artists like El Mac.
Read More: Take a visual walking tour of the Arts District murals.
Montreal, Quebec Province Canada
Montreal put itself on the global street art map with the annual MURAL Festival, which takes place in June. Over time, they have created 80 new works and in the process have transformed themselves into a world class street art city.
Read More: Learn more at Wall to Wall Montreal.
San Francisco, California
There is street art all over San Francisco, but the Mission District hosts a large concentration of it. The corridor along 24th street is home to many community-sponsored murals with themes around the Latino immigrant experience and socio-economic struggles.
Read More: Take a walking tour of the murals in The Mission.
Up and Coming North American Cities for Murals
San Diego, California
San Diego isn’t a strong street art city, per se. However, like San Francisco, their Chicano Park has a concentration of murals that are specific to Latino culture. The park was founded out of a protest movement and murals are very moving.
Read More: Learn how the Chicano Park murals came to be and check out their unique vertical structure.
Nashville went from zero to WOW in just a few short years. Their cool street art scene is spreading all over the city with world class artists (like Blek le Rat and Guido van Helten). The whole city is very Instagrammable.
Read More: Get the guide for finding Nashville’s murals in three distinct neighborhoods.
Miami’s Wynwood Walls project was conceived in 2009 by Tony Goldman (of Goldman Saks). He had the big idea to transform the Wynwood warehouse district into a gigantic canvas. The annual festival has covered over 80,000 square feet of of wall with global street art from the likes of Roa, Daze, Kashink and Kobra (featured above).
Read More: Learn more about the festival at Wynwood Walls.
Unlike Miami, Austin doesn’t have a festival or even one particular area for its street art. But there are murals popping up all over the city with a fun “keep Austin weird” kind of vibe. They also have a graffiti park with open season on tags and throw ups.
Read More: Find it all with this local’s guide.
Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada
Downtown Las Vegas is in the throes of gentrification. They are working on shucking off the drab bus station vibe and have been brightening up the area into a more community-centric space.
Denver is also gentrifying what had been a light industrial district. The RiNo neighborhood is now filled with breweries, galleries and murals. CRUSH WALLS runs an annual festival in September where they fill in the narrow alleyways of the district with local artists and world class talent.
Read More: See video of CRUSH WALLs here.
Best Street Art Cities in Europe
If NYC has the best graffiti in the US, London owns that distinction for Europe. London’s street art is defined by an ethic of guerrilla installations, layered messes and constant do-overs. You can find a great concentration of perpetually evolving works in the Shoreditch neighborhood.
Read More: See more of it and figure out where to find it in this street art guide to Shoreditch.
Bristol was one of the first to really own its identity as a street art city. They grabbed the distinction with both hands and now have a thriving community with commissioned and guerrilla works covering three neighborhoods and fueled by the huge annual Upfest street art festival.
Read More: Find Banksy and more with this thorough guide to Bristol street art.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast’s street art looks backward and forward. You can tour the sectarian murals for a lesson on the polarizing effects of civil war and then wander downtown for equally edgy but more modern works from artists like Connor Harrington.
Read More: Two ways to find street art in Belfast.
Paris is a mix between London and Chicago. Like Chicago, they have a big walls project in the 13th arrondissement which features huge pieces from the likes of Shepard Fairy and D-Face. Like London, the Belleville neighborhood and canal areas house an ever-changing variety of smaller murals, graffiti and multi-media materials.
Read More: Get the full Paris street art tour covering four neighborhoods.
Graffiti may be illegal in Berlin but that doesn’t prevent its artists from creating a whole lot of it. Berlin’s own particular brand of street art was influenced heavily by a historically artsy culture and the cheap rents and underutilized buildings that surfaced after the wall came down. It’s chaotic, political and and clever. Not only do they have some of the best graffiti in the world, but they have some large scale murals and an urban art museum.
Read More: Get some historical background and book a tour at Street Art Berlin.
This medium sized city nestled among Norway’s fjords and hiking paths may not be an obvious place for street art to flourish, but Stavenger has made it happen. Their mural culture is largely curated by the Nuart festival, which occurs in September every year. They are deliberately challenging conventional notions of art, all over Stavenger.
Read More: Here’s a rundown of murals and their context.
See More: Check out Nuart’s video below which is a recap of the 2018 festival.
“There is a revolution in public practice and how artists engage with cities and public space” — Martyn Reed, Nuart Festival
Up & Coming European Cities for Murals
Street art in Reykjavik is heating up. They don’t have a huge culture built around it, but several collaboration events with Urban Nation have populated the city with some world class murals.
Read More: Take a self-guided walking tour of Reykjavik’s murals.
Tallinn & Tartu, Estonia
Estonia may be the picture perfect poster child for UNESCO heritage, but they also have some serious street art going on. Their particular brand of it comes with a strong dose of folk culture, nature and wry commentary on their political climate.
Read More: Get the full tour with this guide for Tartu and Tallinn’s street art.
Cool Street Art Cities in Latin America
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Street art is legal in Buenos Aires (with the building owner’s permission), and a culture of it is proliferating there. Buenos Aires’ urban art culture is a historical mix of big murals, Aztec cultural touchstones and political paste-ups. Most of the art can be found in the Los Colegiales, Palermo Soho, Chacarita and San Telmo neighborhoods.
Read More: See more Buenos Aires street art and learn how to take a tour there.
In the Comuna 13 neighborhood of Medellín, the street art is personal. This was once the most dangerous neighborhood in the most dangerous city in the world. They see the murals as an expression of change as the neighborhood has become more safe and economically stable.
Following the tragic shooting of graffiti artist, Diego Felipe Becerra, a public outcry forced officials in Bogota to change their stance regarding graffiti and street art. Now, murals are bursting all over the city, most particularly in the La Calendaria, downtown, Distrito Graffiti, and La Macarena areas.
Read More: Learn more in this article from NY Mag.
In Chile, street art popped up as a form of political protest. All of Valparaiso’s 44 hills are painted with tags and murals and they are as wild as the city itself.
See More: Check out Lonely Planet’s great video tour of Valparaiso’s colorful hills.
Havana, Cuba (Up & Coming)
Cuba has a culture of necessity and they use their can-do attitude to transform unusual materials into urban art. You can find it in the Callejon de Hamel, Fusterlandia and sneaking around the walls in downtown Havana.
Read More: Art lover’s guide to urban art in Havana.
Street Art in the Asia/Pacific Region
Melbourne, Victoria Australia
Melbourne is another city with a color bombs. In the laneways downtown, world class muralists elbow in to find a space amidst the graffiti and stencils. The city has an uneasy relationship with the graffiti, but the artists are clearly wining the battle, making Melbourne one cool street art city.
Read More: Learn more about Australia’s street artists.
George Town, Penang Malaysia
George Town’s urban art hit the walls in 2010 with a series of 3-D sculpted works featuring cartoony figures made from steel rods. Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic then sealed the deal with his series combining murals of children with objects like bicycles and motorbikes welded onto the walls. Whimsy and nostalgia characterize the tone in George Town, giving it a very unique culture relative to the other cities mentioned here.
Read More: Learn more with this guide to Malaysian street art.
What’s your favorite street art city…and why? Comment below and let other readers find new favorite places to explore.
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Learn More About Street Art
Study great street art cities by checking out my guides to:
Buenos Aires | San Diego | San Francisco | Los Angeles | Chicago | London | Reykjavik | Havana | Belfast | Bristol | Paris | Nashville | Estonia
Become an even bigger street art connoisseur and educate yourself on the medium by using an encyclopedia like the New Street Art, Street Artists 2: The Complete Guide, the World Atlas of Street Art & Graffiti or Lonely Planet Street Art.
In fact, if you have an Amazon Prime account, you can get the Lonely Planet for free as an ebook on Kindle Unlimited. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, you can get a 30-day free trial HERE.
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