Street art is more than just a graffiti tag on a wall – it’s an exciting art form that brings life and passion to the bare surfaces of a city.
After all, as human beings we have had the instinct to paint on the walls ever since the early days of cave paintings. Murals along underpasses, splashed across the sides of buildings or down alleyways turn the urban space into an outdoor museum. They are not only beautiful to look at, they can have powerful cultural and political messages.
There are some cities around the world that have embraced street art more than others. In these places the experience of admiring the murals is an important part of cultural immersion and it helps visitors to understand what life is like in the location. Here are some examples of amazing street art cities from around the world:
Cultural Immersion Through Street Art
A laid-back, hip port city only 1.5 hours from Santiago, Valparaiso has an effortlessly cool vibe. It’s a mix of the artsy bohemian residents, the unique coffee shops and the live-music-fueled nightlife that goes on until dawn – as well as the brightly-hued paintings that adorn almost every public wall.
The colourful buildings here cascade down the steep hills, with views of the vast blue Pacific that once inspired Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The local government here doesn’t just allow street art, it promotes it. Many local cafes, bars, and restaurants are eager to have the talented local artists paint their buildings and during your visit you can take a street art tour to discover some of the best large-scale paintings within the winding, steep streets.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo has embraced and cultivated an incredible street art scene. However, if you want to see it you had better book your trip soon. The new mayor of the city has been threatening to “beautify” the city by painting over the street art, as he calls it “visual pollution.”
To see the best street art in Sao Paulo, you can first head to the Vila Madalena, which is known for the street “Beco de Batman.” It is a narrow laneway filled with colorful artwork. Each of the walls is owned by a different artist and it’s fascinating to see the different styles.
The street art scene in Istanbul has grown considerably in the last several years. The city hosted the Mural Istanbul festival, which was an opportunity for local and international artists to show off their artwork on the sides of buildings all over Kadikoy. This vibrant district is packed with local bazaars, vintage shops and pubs and is covered in bright murals.
Another one of the best neighborhoods in the city to look for cultural immersion into the street art scene is Tünel, where almost all of the shops are decked out with colourful shutters.
BBC Culture recently published a feature about the thriving street art scene in Bangkok. This form of expression was once discouraged, but it is now a way to share beauty, communicate humour and identify social issues.
Street art has been embraced all over Bangkok – even the Beat Hotel Bangkok now features rooms painted by some of Bangkok’s best loved urban artists. The city also hosted BUKRUK, which translates to “invasion” and is a cultural immersion festival of street art featuring artists from around the world.