Street art is recognized as both a tool for social activism and a decorative draw for tourists. It has the power to permeate the public’s consciousness and does so while adding a unique flair to an otherwise drab cityscape. To help you map out your next art-focused trip, we've rounded up our favourite places to enjoy some truly unparalleled street art around the world.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The walls of B.A. have always been a canvas for activism during its tumultuous political past, but today they’re a free-wheeling showcase for the many artists around the city. Due to a lack of painting restrictions, the city is full of frescoes – from Villa Urquiza’s abandoned buildings, which have been painted over, to incredibly realistic large-scale murals in Palermo. If you’re looking for some context on the graffiti, join a daily ‘Free Walk Buenos Aires’ tour.
Since graffiti was decriminalized in 2011 (when a 16-year-old was shot by police for tagging his signature Felix the Cat) street art has flourished in the Colombian capital. With creative freedom, the walls of the city have become an experimental platform. From feminist murals and paintings depicting the war on drugs to colourful staircases, the city – and especially La Candelaria – is covered in graffiti by artists like Stinkfish.
Melbourne completes the hipster holy trinity with epic street art to go with all the coffee and cocktails. Hosier Lane, just across from Federation Square, is a cobblestone pedestrian laneway filled with shops, bars and tons of vivid graffiti. Next up, check out AC/DC Lane for bogglingly realistic artwork that jumps right out of the wall – the arm doodling robots and David Bowie with crayons is particularly mind-bending. Pay homage to the down-under musicians the lane is named after by stopping at music venue Cherry Bar.
Cape Town, South Africa
Originally emerging in the ’80s as artistic protests against apartheid, the Mother City has developed some beautiful streetscapes that serve as a powerful reminder of its troubled past. Visit Woodstock just outside central Cape Town for some of the best the city has to offer, like Freddy Smith’s black-and-white mural commemorating 20 years of democracy in South Africa. Or head to District Six, an eclectic area with a chequered history that has been transformed by art pieces like the Nelson Mandela mural by eminent local artist Mak1one.
Back in 2012, when London-trained Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to paint a series of murals, new life was breathed into the UNESCO World Heritage site. The street art project, called ‘Mirrors George Town’ consists of a handful of (now slightly fading) murals like Little Children on a Bicycle, a 3D piece that features an old bike mounted to the wall. Stumble on other artists’ works in the back alleys, like the ice cream cone with melting flowers on the wall of B Street Hotel.