10. London, England
The East End of London, in particular, is well-known for its graffiti, so much so that a London-based company called Noteworthy offers graffiti tours of the area. The tours include a history of graffiti as an art form, a look at several Banksy murals (of course), and a chance to make your own mural on a 6-foot canvas that they'll ship to your home. If you'd rather just go out and experience it for yourself, though, there's certainly no shortage of opportunities to explore.
9. Paris, France
Graffiti art is heavily associated with hip-hop culture in the states, so it might surprise some to learn that stencil graffiti was actually born in Paris. Xavier Prou, better known as Blek le Rat, first started stenciling rats—which he called "the only free animal in Paris"—onto the sides of buildings in 1981. If you haven't heard of him but his style seems familiar to you, that's because Banksy owes a heavy debt to Blek le Rat. A debt he's the first to acknowledge. Paris also features a bounty of exhibitions by pixel-mosaic artist Invader who uses ceramic tiles to render video game-inspired art around the city and the world at large.
8. New York City
From Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island to Hunts Point in the Bronx, New York is home to one of the most bountiful and widest varieties of graffiti in the world. Trailblazers like Crash and Daze and strong collectives like Tats Cru call New York home. From traditional tagging to eye-catching murals, New York is so alive with graffiti that you can find lists of graffiti destinations just within the city, and "top 50" rankings of artists in the city alone.
7. Bogota, Colombia
Street art is actually legal in many places in the capital of Colombia. In other areas, the attitudes are relaxed. The result is a dizzying array of graffiti. Locals note that since artists aren't in a hurry to finish the job and get away without being caught, the result is often much more intricate and polished than graffiti found elsewhere. While some residents complain of the defacements—scrawled, amateurish tags are also common here—there are many well-done, thought-provoking murals in a wide variety of styles.
6. Sydney, Australia
Sydney is one of several cities to turn a problem into an asset. One of the most noteworthy is May Lane. A local entrepreneur, sick of the scrawled, sickly tags that marred his building, invited street artists to "do better." As other locals joined in, May Lane went from a dingy back alley to a bright outdoor gallery. There's also the Sydney University graffiti tunnel—open to anyone with the desire to paint, as long as you can deal with the fumes. Several other spaces around the city have followed suit, making it a great destination for graffiti cognoscenti.
5. Jakarta, Indonesia
Graffiti is often political in nature. The accessibility of the art allows people to give voice to the frustrations of people on the street. This is certainly true in Jakarta, which is possibly Southeast Asia's biggest graffiti hub. Collectives like MediaLegal and artists like Bujangan Urban have drawn international attention from organizations like MOCATV and the Kosmopolite Art Tour.
4. São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo has an innovative street art scene. It's not hard to find videos of moving art installations projected onto public fixtures. It's also a large enough movement that it attracted the attention of the Google Cultural Institute, which curated an outdoor exhibition through the Google Art Project. Graffiti fans should also check out Vila Madalena, known locally as "Batman's Alley," for a constantly-changing landscape of art.
3. Berlin, Germany
The graffiti scene in Berlin is not exactly legal, but it’s certainly sanctioned, as the city tries to live up to its designation as a UNESCO “City of Design.” In some ways the scene may be considered past its prime. Several state art agencies have been shuttered, and the two most famous murals in Berlin were actually painted over late last year by the artists who created them, under the assertion that they had become the anchor for a sort of artistic gentrification. Still, in its heyday the city was thought to be the most heavily-tagged city in Europe, and what remains is beautiful, striking, and challenging in turns.
2. Beijing, China
Writing on buildings has long been part of Chinese culture. In the 1920s, revolutionaries would paint slogans on buildings. Once the Communists came to power, they used the walls as a canvas for propaganda. Small businesses will advertise on interior walls. In this light, it makes a little more sense that the capital of a country perceived in the U.S. as a police state could be so lax in its policy on graffiti. Street artists here tend to be upper-middle class—disposable income is hard to come by—but graffiti is often permitted, as long as it’s not on temples, and as long as it isn’t too critical of the government. Of course, there is also a strong undercurrent of protest graffiti, but you might have to look harder to catch those works before they are removed.
1. Cape Town, South Africa
Social injustice and civil unrest are cornerstones of street art. Even so, you'd be hard-pressed to find a city where themes of oppression and liberation are more dramatically captured. In the aftermath of apartheid, artists like Faith47, Freddy Sam, Nardstar, DALeast, and Mak1One have adorned streets with images of anti-apartheid leaders like Nelson Mandela, often on the very buildings in District Six from which nonwhite citizens were forcibly removed.