Planning a trip to Europe? The guide books will tell you there is a bounty of famous art museums that are must-sees. And, while internationally recognized venues such as Paris’ Lourve, Madrid’s El Prado, the Uffizi in Florence, Italy or Tate Modern in London, all offer the chance to see renowned works of art up-close, there is one thing the guide books don’t include – street art.
A burgeoning art form since the late 1980s in Europe, street art has become some neighborhood’s claim to fame in European cities. Since it is still considered illegal, these daring artists across the continent remain mostly a mystery (like Banksy, who even has celebs clamouring to get his work), operating under the cover of darkness, to get their artistic message created before the first crack of sun.
Street art, by definition, is art done in public spaces and often communicates the artist’s message to the people. It can take on a number of different forms – graffiti, video, stickers, posters, flash mobs – however, for this story, it is used to refer to the paintings and graffiti adorning buildings across Europe. Artists taking to the street to create their works tell stories of political unrest, love, loss and more. Unlike gang-related tagging and the like, street art is not designed to lay boundaries to neighborhoods or incite violence. Its main goal is to tell the audience something.
Taking a stroll down an urban area in any city can normally result in a street art sighting. However, some cities in Europe are leading the way and bringing street art to the forefront of pop culture. Heading to any of these cities? Be sure to bring a camera and capture the art. Given the nature of this art form, you never know when it will be removed. Or when something will take its place.
: It may have started with the mysterious Banksy, but street art has grown wildly in the past 20 years. Neighborhoods in East London, such as Brick Lane and Shoreditch, have become hot spots for street artists to create their works of art. There are even blogs devoted to the rise and growth of street art in London. For those who want a structured tour, there are a few groups in town who offer an underground tour of the scene at no cost. Coupled with cheap flights to London
, these tours make street art accessible to the masses.
Street artists to know in London: Pablo Delgado, Stinkfish, Banksy.
: What started in the late 80s under communist rule has now grown to enormous popularity. Yes, the Wall is the well-recognized street art in the city, but it is certainly not the only example of street art. In fact, if there is one city to visit for street art, Berlin is the
one. With the fall of the Wall came an upswing in this form of expression. Neighborhoods including Mitte, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg all became places where artists flocked to display their passion. Today, there are artist squats to visit, the ever popular YAAM Beach Bar which includes a massive urban art project, and more. It’s enough to send any street art fan searching for Berlin flights
Must-visits in Berlin: East Side Gallery, Kunsthaus Tachales (a former artist squat with amazing art in every nook and cranny), and the Eastside Gallery.
Zagreb, Croatia: This Eastern European city and capital of Croatia is a great city for street art. Zagreb actually has the Museum of Street Art, an ever-moving homage to the art form. In addition, there is the Zagreb Street Art Initiative supervised by Croatian artists to create a street art gallery. This group recently completed the Branimirova Street work, a collaboration of numerous street artists, all leaving their mark on the massive wall. There are three walls in Zagreb where street art is legal. However, there are many more, despite being illegal, where art can be found in the city.
Don’t miss: strolling any of the meandering and narrow streets in the city’s old Upper Town.
Prague: While not as well-known for its street art as London or Berlin, Prague is an up-and-coming city for it. The infamous John Lennon Wall, which sprung to life during the communist regime, is a free-for-all canvas which attracts graffiti artists and would-be graffiti artists daily. Created to inspire love and peace, the Wall can be found just off of the Charles Bridge. Today, many of Prague’s street artists are still shrouded in mystery, but it won’t be for long, as museums in the city begin to embrace this style and include these artists in exhibitions dedicated to their craft.
Become your own artist: Grab some money and hit the Graffomat to obtain your own can of paint and head to the John Lennon Wall to leave your mark.