Global Street Art: Travellers Share Their Favourite Murals
It might have passed you by, but I’m a big fan of street art. It’s for that very reason that Berlin and San Francisco are on my travel bucket list, although I think the day I ever make it to either one of them my head might explode from the sheer impressiveness of my artsy surroundings. In the meantime, then, I thought I’d put a call out to fellow frequent travellers and bloggers to find some other global street art hotspots around the world. So, here are some traveller favourite pieces of street art from Quebec to Malaysia, Shoreditch to Spain, and then some.
GLOBAL STREET ART
LAUREN FROM, WELL, NORTHERN LAUREN
I’m super obsessed with street art, so choosing my favourite piece proved very difficult. In the end though, I settled on this spectacular, full wall mural by Areúz that can be found on Mexico City’s UNAM campus in Ciudad Universitaria. Why is this my favourite, out of all the pieces I’ve photographed throughout Mexico? Well, the combination of the woman, nature and my favourite colour (green) just make it endlessly appealing to me. I can offer you an answer with no greater profundity than that one.
Related Post: A Local’s Guide to Mexico City Street Art
MAGALY FROM BORDER FREE ADVENTURES
While outsiders carry an image of Tijuana that is often not too favourable, city residents are constantly surrounded by street art that reminds them of their city’s proud past and future.
For me, Tijuana’s street art is yet another reminder of how vibrant this misunderstood city really is. Murals depict images of hope, a youthful movement towards revitalisation, and an ardent love affair with the city’s proud cultural background.
However, my favourite piece of Tijuana street art can be found downtown on Tijuana’s Pasaje Rodríguez, a jaw dropping alleyway lined with many murals and impressive pieces of street art. Storefronts along this alley are all decorated with socio-political commentary in the form of murals and walking the halls is akin to taking a stroll inside a live museum.
ELISE FROM TRAVEL, WORK AND PLAY
My favourite piece of street art is located in Battambang, Cambodia, which is a sleepy colonial destination, despite being the second largest city after the capital. It’s home to the Phare circus and lots of writers, artists and photographers and has a really cool vibe.
Some background to the piece: Cambodia is essentially built on bribes and corruption and there are lots of problems regarding sex tourism and child abuse. This image is a stencilled/spray painted twist on the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil from the ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ proverb. This take seems to suggest that even these three wise monkeys can be bought in today’s society, potentially indicative of Cambodian society. The eye at the top also gives me the shivers – it is reminiscent of much of the Illuminati symbolism. I also love that it has been stencilled onto such an old and damaged wall, as it really adds gravitas to the piece. I really love street art that means something and makes you think so this has to be my all-time favourite.
Related Post: Socially Conscious Street Art in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
JULIANNA FROM THE DISCOVERIES OF
My favourite piece of street art is this colourful piece from Mr Cenz in Shoreditch, London. Mr Cenz is a prolific British artist who’s been decorating London’s streets since the late 80’s. He uses lots of colours and has a really flowing but punchy style that I just love.
I actually bumped into Mr Cenz working on a piece around the corner from this one when I was researching a piece on street art in Shoreditch and he took a few moments to talk to me about his work. It was great to see someone who’s really passionate about his work and also so skilled.
He told me that he normally does a small-scale version of his work back in his studio then creates it in full scale completely from memory. Watching Mr Cenz work at such a large scale without really thinking about it was fascinating and seeing the artwork come to life was a real experience. This piece is located on Fashion Street in Shoreditch, but you can find Mr Cenz’s work all over London.
APRIL FROM JUST LEAVING FOOTPRINTS
I absolutely love finding street art in different parts of the world so a few months ago I asked my fiancé to take me through La Romita. La Romita is a small area within La Roma (a neighbourhood in Mexico City) and is absolutely bursting with beautiful pieces of urban art, cute cafes and irresistible book shops. This particular piece of art is one that I found down a little alleyway. I just love how the bright colours playfully contrast with the rustic window bars. If you ever get the chance to visit Mexico City, don’t miss out on La Romita.
CRISTINA FROM LOOKNWALK GREECE
I discovered the fabulous street art in Athens during my first trip in March 2012. Our accommodation was close to Monastiraki Square and on our way to it we would pass by amazing samples of drawings. Soon enough, we would literally hunt them on our daily walks.
Fast forward to our next trip in May 2017 and my host stops while he shows me the area and says: “check out that graffiti. The owner of the shop paid an artist to do it”. It was a lovely Icarus!
The next day, during our food tour, I was shown the building pictured. It is on the way from Omonia to Monastiraki and I love it. The area is quite ‘grey’ but this building just jumps with joy offering an incredible contrast. Omonia is not the safest or most beautiful area in Athens but it is perfectly fine to visit during the day (although I still recommend a guide).
A short walk around the area and you can see a lot more such examples of street art. Some of the murals do have a story, so you should definitely ask your guide about the dog (which I sadly couldn’t photograph because of the sun).
JANINE FROM SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT
It doesn’t take long to realise Valencia, Spain is a city full of street art. You just have to walk around El Carmen (the old town) for a short time and you’ll see brightly coloured murals filling the walls.
My favourite piece is located around a market in the old town, Mercado de Rojas Clemente. I love the 3D effect of the things crashing around, and the mixture of amazing vibrant colours.
It’s so cool that they’ve decided to do something creative with the outside of the market. Markets here are generally very traditional places, so I like the idea of adding something more modern, by embracing the emerging street art scene of the city. It was done as part of a project to rejuvenate certain areas of the city and I think it was a really great idea.
Related Post: A Mini Guide to Spanish Swearwords
LIZA AND LISA FROM SOUL DRIFTERS
We had travelled to Varanasi, in northern India, one winter. Along the banks of the Ganges River there is so much activity going on, including everything from ceremonies, boat rides and yoga, but what was most eye catching was the artwork on the walls of the towers leading up from the stairs or Ghats. Varanasi is typically a very colourful and vibrant city but in winter the water levels drop and the dull concrete walls of the buildings become exposed. However, as you walk along it becomes a canvas of colour and self-expression, as locals as well as people from different parts of the world hand paint messages or murals for everyone to see, which turns into a story promoting peace, love and togetherness. Being such a holy city there were also paintings of spiritual symbols, words of peace and protection too.
Even so, what caught my attention was a painting of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi next to each other, two figures who both fought for the rights of the people in our home country of South Africa. Next to it were these handwritten words ‘We can change the world and make it a better place, it is in your hands to make a difference’.
MEGAN FROM WANDERTOES
Street art can communicate so much about a place and a people, including what is important to the people of a city, their struggles and protests or love and passions. In Quebec City, Canada, I found murals that stop you in your tracks with not only their realism, but with the rich history they convey.
In Quebec City, at the end of Rue du Petit Champlain, a predominantly shopping street, is my favourite mural: La Fresque du Petit Champlain. The mural is so realistic, it appears as if the sky is showing through the roof being constructed, and the tree behind the building is peeking through.
The mural itself depicts life in the Lower Town area in early colonial days, and it is rich in the stories it represents. The kids in the attic on the top right are shooting a sling-shot at a woman gazing out the window, looking toward the water as if for her husband at sea, which was likely a common occurrence at the time in this sea dependent neighbourhood.
Just to the right of her, you can see Gustave Guay, a prominent sail repairer of the time. Below Gustave is a dashing man embracing a woman in a doorway. This is Lord Nelson, famous for defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Trafalgar. While in the Quebec City area, he fell in love with and married a local girl, Fanny Nisbet, and rumour has it had to be dragged away from her and back to his ship! The scene to the right of Lord Nelson shows a ship captain gesturing to a map. That is Captain Bernier, a Quebec ship captain who explored the Arctic and claimed the Arctic Archipelago for Canada.
See? All those fascinating tidbits of history in one picture. Much better than a school lesson!
LOLA FROM MISS FILATELISTA
Street art is one of the top reasons why I travel, right up there with cuisine and architecture. I am always pleasantly surprised when I arrive in a city and find it’s been painted with moving murals of local culture. Most recently I visited Penang (an island in northern Malaysia) that’s famous for its street art. But don’t expect to find many tags or controversial, political messages here. Instead, the art that can be found around the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown depicts locals in various moments of day to day life. Children are painted in various playful scenes – shooting hoops, swinging, and riding bicycles. Vendors are portrayed hawking their goods, women are portrayed in their beautiful traditional garments, and there are more murals of cats than I can count! My very favourite piece was this lesser known ice cream cone with melting flowers that I was able to see from my room at B Street Hotel!
Related Post: Street Art Mexico: San Miguel de Allende Edition (Including a few murals of cats!)
NAOMI FROM PROBE AROUND THE GLOBE
As I had an unexpected, extra day in Bucharest, the rapidly changing capital of Romania, I decided to book an alternative tour of the city. Together with my guide, I walked around Bucharest and she showed me different pieces of sculptures, hidden buildings and a lot of street art. At the end of the tour, we turned into a street. My tour guide explained to me that the street is used each year for an alternative festival of trade and arts. Each year, a famous street artist can submit their piece and it will stay on the main wall for a whole year. As we approached the end of the street, we came to the wall where the winner of the festival would have their art displayed for a whole year. I was shocked! There was this vibrant, colourful and thought provoking piece of art and it was been painted over! As we came closer, the painter slapped thick white paint on the colourful mural and within minutes, a huge part of the 2016 winner’s piece of art was covered. But that was good because it meant that the new festival was fast approaching and the artists of 2017 needed a blank canvas for their pieces of art. I was just glad that I got to see this one before it was too late.
What do you think to our selection? Where is your favourite piece of street art in the world? Let me know in the comments!