You've heard of Banksy, right? Who hasn't!
Graffiti and street art makes a city buzz with colour and is just so damn visually appealing, I usually spend a whole day on my holidays dedicated to discovering it – learning about its history – soaking it in. Lots of cities will have street art tours so you can learn from the locals all about who slapped or sprayed those gorgeous murals onto the walls, and why these vibrant political protests were enacted in the first place. Sometimes the tours are even run by artists, and my advice is that these are also the best people to ask about local nightspots, cafes and off-the-beaten-track things to do.
So, if you are like me and would prefer to see your art framed by skyscrapers than gilded frames, then check out my favourite cities for street art below.
New York City isn't just a hub of high culture, but it is also a thriving street art capital. In between your visit to MOMA and taking in a play on Broadway, make sure to set aside some time to pound the pavement. This is the home of street art royalty like Basquiat and Poster Boy. Long Island is home to a sprawling 200,000 square feet urban canvas that has been tagged by local and international painters with a whole array of pieces. You should also visit the Bronx Wall of Fame on East 173rd Street, Manhattan's Bowery, and for hip hop fans the Ol Dirty Bastard memorial in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn.
Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, is a favourite among street artists because it is one of the few cities where anyone can legally tag a building provided that they have the owner's consent. This little golden nugget of legal wisdom has given rise to one of the most eclectic mixes of street art I have ever seen. You will see an abundance of well-known names in the graf scene across the city with works from Jef Aerosol (France), (Aryz (Spain), Ron English (USA) and many, many more. The content covers the whole spectrum: from soccer portraiture to political commentary.
Head down under and you will find that Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, takes street art very seriously. Here you will find a seemingly never-ending maze of laneways covered in government-sanctioned graffiti. These lanes are also home to some amazing boutiques and cafes which serve up cup after cup of the delicious coffee that Melbourne is also famous for. The local government has a Graffiti Management Plan to carefully curate what takes up the prime space of the cities walls. While this takes off some of the outsider edge street art usually has, there is still plenty of sharp content peppered in the mix.
Berlin is a city steeped in history with a huge art scene, and these are two perfect ingredients for creating controversial and captivating street art. Most of the best pieces are found in and around Kreuzberg which was previously east of the Berlin Wall. Large sections of the remaining wall have also been turned into canvas space for some of the most politically charged pieces. The political murals of Italian artist, Blu, stand four stories tall and are a sight to behold. Some of the sites surrounding these pieces are so hip that I accidentally happened my way upon an experimental underground rave/art show only to surface the next day with a very big headache. If you play your cards right, maybe you will be so lucky too.
Colombia has well and truly opened its doors to tourists and is worth visiting for a number of reasons. It is comparatively cheap to travel compared to other parts of Latin America, the food is to die for, and the people are so incredibly warm. The capital, Bogota, also has miles of murals within its metropolis. The best are around the La Candelaria and include psychedelic romps alongside protest pieces against the group known as FARC and various political figures. Remember to stop in at one of the gorgeous candlelit cafes in the area once you're done.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and you will probably find street art in almost any city in the world. Take a leaf out of my book, and set aside a little time to seek it out on your next holiday. You won't be disappointed.