Street art, no matter what side of the “wall” you stand on, is no longer just a graffiti artist’s tag. Some of the biggest names have (literally) made the world their canvas. These cities are among the best for spotting street art around the world.
Northern Ireland's "Troubles" have inspired a vibrant— and sometimes brutally honest—street art scene in the country's capital. Hundreds of murals with political, religious, and cultural themes can be found throughout Belfast. The 40-foot long, 40-feet high Peace Wall is a great place to spot murals that document some of the country's struggles and politically significant moments in history.
Philadelphia is so rich in street art that it's been dubbed the City of Murals. The Philly's Mural Arts Program (MAP) has been around for decades and remains the largest public arts program in the United States. As a result of the program, Philly is blanketed in some impressive and inspiring examples of how street art can enhance a community. Be sure to visit Mural Mile, stretching from 7th and Chestnut to 6th and South streets to spot a high concentration of Philadelphia's murals.
Prague serves as a perfect example of the ephemeral nature and resilience of street art. During Communist rule in the late 1980s, the wall served as a canvas for political messages. Shortly after police would cover the wall with fresh paint, new graffiti would appear. The Beatles—especially John Lennon, whose portrait was once prominent—inspired some of the original art and messages. Communism fell, but the wall still stands as a constantly changing canvas.
Graffiti first started appearing in NYC the late 1960s, and with the first tags on street cars and the blank canvases of the city's concrete, a movement was born. Even though the street-art scene has suffered setbacks recently—most notably the demolition of 5 Pointz, a Queens warehouse that was NYC's best-known graffiti mecca—there's still plenty to see in the five boroughs. Some of the best places to start are Brooklyn's Bushwick (pictured).
The underground art scene in Paris has become very much above ground over the last decade. The city has played host to an array of artists from around the world, and has launched several local artists onto the international street art scene, including Blek le Rat and Invader (pictured).
Brazil doesn't just tolerate street art—it practically encourages it with lax legislation allowing for any building to serve as a canvas so long as the owner has granted permission. You’d be hard pressed to walk any length of the city without stumbling on at least one example of the city’s thriving street art scene. Make sure to visit Vila Madalena. Nicknamed Batman's Alley (pictured), the concrete walls of this residential neighborhood burst with the colors of countless artists' work.
Lisbon's street art scene was well established before 2010, but the launch of the Crono Project that year helped bring it international attention. This initiative successfully organized and encouraged local and international artists to enhance the facades of deteriorating buildings with their artwork. Lisbon's supportive stance toward street art has inspired international artists such as Brazil's Os Gemeos (pictured) to leave their mark on the city.
Street art has long occupied the walls of Australia's second biggest city. Melbourne has been dubbed the "stencil capital of the world" and played host to the inaugural international stencil festival was in 2004. All forms of street art are prevalent in the city and can be spotted throughout Melbourne. Hosier Lane (pictured) is among the city's most famous graffiti landmarks.
London's street art scene draws, and breeds, a lot of big names. London is where Banksy made a name for himself (despite maintaining anonymity); thanks to him, Leake Street (pictured) has served as London's sanctioned street art space since roughly 2008, and serves as the site of an evolving display of work by up-and-coming artists. Brick Lane is another must-see, along with the Shoreditch and Brixton neighborhoods.
Los Angeles has had a thriving street art scene for decades, one that has spread from exterior walls to the inside of art museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) hosted the first major U.S. exhibition about graffiti and street art in 2011. Head to La Brea Boulevard, the L.A. Arts District, Culver City, and Melrose Avenue (pictured) for some of the city’s best examples of street art.
In the city of "fair winds" the street art scene thrives, with murals lining city streets, garage doors, and underpasses, with barrios and city centers alike painted in vibrant hues. Street art tours are a popular way to see the work of Argentine artist Martin Ron and international street artists such as Blu, as well as examine the history of the city, from its tumultuous political past to the 2001 economic crisis that drove artists to the walls to express their frustrations.
Montreal plays host to a Mural Festival every June, but the local arts community keeps producing work year round, even in the coldest days of winter. Much of the work has a political bent, calling attention to decaying buildings, speaking up about community issues like poverty, or making fun of politicians.