There are few things cooler these days than street art — the rebellious grown-up sibling of graffiti –, which utilizes spray paint, stickers, sculpture, and more to create public art (sometimes with a political message) pretty much always at the expense of someone else’s property. And while such hip self-expression isn’t 100% legal (in 2013, legendary British street artist Banksy infamously engaged in a cat-and-mouse war with the New York Police Department for a whole month), it’s still gained massive public acceptance in the last ten years. Good examples of this are the Academy-Award-winning documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, Shepard Fairey’s Obama “Hope” poster, and thousands upon thousands of Instagram accounts. And if you too love street art and want to see it at its best with your own eyes, there’s one place you need to go: Berlin.

The dynamic German capital attracts artists from all over the globe, and its ever-evolving urban art scene reflects the city’s unique history and eclectic present. Street art in Berlin goes back to the days when the city was literally divided and West Germans painted graffiti (from simple political messages to elaborate pieces) on their side of the wall that the Soviet Union built to keep East Germans from fleeing. Today, the city is covered in street art of almost every kind–in shop windows, standing freely in parks, projected on underpass walls, and more.

But street art isn’t permanent, making almost every glimpse unique, as well as easy for tourists to miss out on completely. So how can you delve into Berlin’s complex artistic subculture when you visit? Well, let’s get started…

Explore the Scene on Your Own

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Taking your own self-guided tour through Berlin to seek out art isn’t as hard as it sounds. By just checking out a few sites and updated online lists like Street Art Berlin or even the official Berlin website, you can find the exact locations for plenty of elaborate and famous pieces. But be forewarned: a well-researched approach to touring street art kind of takes out the wonder and surprise of the experience.

If you’d prefer a more unplanned style, which is all about walking the streets, your best bet is to head to Berlin’s Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts. They were some of the first areas where international artists settled in the 1990s and are now home to numerous galleries as well as some of the most vibrant examples of public art in Berlin. From graffiti to paste-ups, to stencils and sculptures, there’s no shortage of art on which to feast your eyes in these eclectic neighborhoods.

One must-visit spot is the Raw Tempel in Friedrichshain, a former industrial space that has become one of the biggest and most established art complexes in the city by bringing music, theater, drinking, and politics together. It is comprised of four buildings that host visual and performance art, arts and crafts classes, concerts, lectures, and many other social activities. Since its inception in 1998, international street artists have adorned the Raw Tempel and surrounding area with graffiti and murals that draw inspiration from nature, politics, and the human body among other themes.

You may also like: Polaroids, Puppets, and Street Art: Your Guide to Edgy Detroit

Or Take a Tour with a Local Artist

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Probably the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on anything amazing in terms of street art is to sign up for a guided tour of the city with someone who knows all the places to spot street art in Berlin. It never hurts to do this right after booking your flights to Germany to be sure that it will be available the days you’re visiting.

Companies like Alternative Berlin work with local pros who will take you on a detailed tour of street art created by international artists in the city. In addition to showing you some of the Berlin’s most impressive stencil art, throw-ups, mural art, paste-ups, ad busting, and installations, they’ll provide you with insight about the inspiration and motivation behind each piece. Since Berlin street art is always evolving, you may even get to watch an artist working on a new creation. The tour ends in an abandoned margarine factory turned artist co-op in one of the newer arts hot spots, Lichtenberg, where visitors can try their hand at various techniques and even get to take home a canvas that they painted!

Have you taken in the street art of Berlin (or another city)? Have any pieces or experiences you want to share? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!   

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About The Author

Jen Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing (www.luciditewriting.com) and Bouchard Design Co.