For someone who doesn’t have a driver’s licence, I’m a very outspoken proponent of road tripping.
What could possibly be more fun than packing a bag, a few friends and racing toward the horizon? Even the inevitable drama resulting from being cooped up together for hours on end has a certain romantic quality to it, at least in retrospect.
So when my friend and fellow blogger Kash asked if I’d like to spend ten days driving around Germany in search of its best street art spots, I was game. One brisk October morning we loaded five bloggers into a minivan and drove off into the graffiti-covered sunset.
When you include all the detours, we drove nearly 2,000 km (1243 miles) on our #StreetArtGermany road trip. We saw ten cities, more street art than I thought humanly possible and met some incredible artists along the way. It was a fast-paced blur of spray paint and interesting conversation, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
I’d definitely recommend taking your time – a day or two is not enough to full enjoy any of these destinations. But let this serve as a short overview of the thought-provoking street art you can see all over Germany…
Our street art road trip started in Munich – the quintessentially German capital of Bavaria. You probably know it as the home of Oktoberfest but there’s a lot more to it than beer, sausages and dirndls.
Munich is the perfect place for street art lovers, as our guide Sebastian Pohl from Positive Propaganda demonstrated with a quick tour. When we asked him about the difference between street art, urban art and graffiti, he didn’t mince his words.
“Street art,” Sebastian explained, “is directly related to the place where it’s located.” Street art is like political commentary or visual satire, forcing us to look at different places more critically. Urban art is more about aesthetic appeal, while graffiti is all about lettering and – in a way – marking your territory.
Stuttgart is well known as the home of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, but there’s a lot more to it. Stunning architecture, delicious food and lots of nature – all these make it a fun place to visit.
My favourite place to see street art was the Hall of Fame. You will find these in many German cities and they’re a place for established artists to show off their craft, as well as a practice ground for future generations. Another great spot is the area around Nordbahnhofstraße, right by the train station.
If you’re looking to explore the local street art scene at night, visit Sarah Haberkern’s little gallery. She hosts lots of meet ups there – you’ll be able to drink beer, look at art and even meet the men and women behind the canvases.
3. Völklingen Ironworks
The Völklingen Ironworks (Völklinger Hütte in German) first came into being in 1873. It started as a steel works on the banks of the Saar river, and smelting continued here until 1986. Now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a museum which focuses on how iron is made.
What does any of that have to do with street art? The site is host to UrbanArt Biennale, one of the biggest urban art exhibitions in the world. The last one took place in 2015, with 120 works created by 80 artists from 21 countries. Not bad, eh?
I didn’t actually get to see much of Mainz – only the wonderful art left behind after Meeting of Styles 2016. The Meeting of Styles network started back in 2002 in nearby Wiesbaden, and has grown a lot since then. They have put on more than 250 events worldwide, attracting half a million spectators and thousands of artists.
Tip: On your way from Mainz to Frankfurt, stop in Wiesbaden. It’s one of the oldest spa towns in Europe – with fourteen hot springs still flowing – and is internationally renowned for its architecture. Meeting of Styles started there, so there’s also plenty of street art around.
Frankfurt is more than the dry financial metropolis it’s often presented as. Sure, it’s home to lots of bankers and businessmen. But there is also a strong anti-establishment undercurrent. It’s no wonder – the cost of living is the highest in Germany, which can breed a lot of resentment.
The Hall of Fame on Ratswegkreisel is the perfect place to see a lot of street art if you’re short on time. But there’s a lot you can see around the city centre and train station. My favourite was this mural by Herankut, but if you want to see it you’ll have to hurry up because it’s soon to be knocked down.
But that’s the beauty of street art – it’s always changing, always evolving, always being replaced by something new. It reflects life quite nicely, don’t you think?
Tip: Take a small detour on your drive between Frankfurt and Cologne, and visit Eltz Castle. This medieval gem is probably the most beautiful castle I’ve ever seen in my life. If you’re into photography it’s a must-see for shots like this (my most liked Instagram post of all time).
Cologne was one of my favourite stops of the whole trip. Not only because of its street art scene – the city itself is a magical kingdom come to life.
You can’t miss Ehrenfeld while you’re in town. This is where you will find artworks by famous street artists like ROA, Herakut, Borderline, Tika or El Bocho. But there’s more – the Belgisches Viertel, northern borough of Nippes or Mülheim.
My favourite mural is in the photo above, designed by Christian Böhmer who kindly showed us around Cologne. As someone who literally spends most of their life on the Internet I could definitely relate to its message!
Most of you probably know Bremen from that Brothers Grimm fairy tale. In the story a donkey, dog, cat, and rooster flee the mean farmers who own them and head to Bremen, to live there as musicians. Turns out those four farm animals were onto something!
Bremen gets the balance between historic and cool just right. My favourite area was the Viertel which is full of intricate street art and great nightlife spots.
But we got to see a lot more of Bremen than your average tourist thanks to our guides from Lucky Walls. Their company specialises in beautifying urban spaces in impoverished neighbourhoods. The photo above is an example of a mural they put together with the help of local children – the perfect way to lead those littluns down the right path.
Oh, Hamburg! I only spent one day in the city but it completely charmed me. The air is 1% oxygen and 99% pure creative energy, with fashion and art weaved through the fabric of everyday life.
Nicknamed Germany’s gateway to the world, Hamburg is a cosmopolitan city – and that’s particularly obvious in the street art scene. Artists from all over the world have left their mark on its streets which makes them very fun to explore.
While you’re there check out Rosenhofstraße and its decorated doorways, as well as the alternative Karoviertel. Don’t forget Reeperbahn – the red light district – which is full of large murals and political messages.
Trying to explore Berlin’s street art scene over two days was mission impossible. The hipster neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, the Berlin Wall and pretty much every alley in between have all been painted over.
You don’t just have to stick to central Berlin, either. I recently posted about Teufelsberg – a former NSA spy station, built over a Nazi college that couldn’t be destroyed after World War II. If you have an adventurous heart this is a place you shouldn’t miss.
This was my second time in Leipzig in the space of one month, and boy do I like that city! Its Connewitz district is a great place to see local street art, especially if you’re into political commentary. The neighbourhood is home to Conne Island – a famous music venue and stronghold of the radical left.
Another interesting place to explore is the Spinnerei – formerly a cotton factory with 1,600 workers, now an artist community. More than a hundred artists have settled here, and you can find anything from galleries and exhibition halls to restaurants and film clubs around here.
Oh, and if you love Banksy don’t forget to check out the work of Blek le Rat at Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 7. He is widely seen as the godfather of stencil graffiti and his “pour Sybille” was designated a public monument by the local authorities. It’s the perfect high note to end your street art journey on!
Do you like road trips and street art? Is this the kind of travel you’d like to read more about on Girl vs Globe?
Disclaimer: My trip to Germany was made possible by the German National Tourism Bureau and iAmbassador. Many thanks to the #StreetaArtGermany team: Gloria from The Blog Abroad, Kash from Budget Traveller, Peter from Travel Unmasked and Mark from Trademark Pictures. Check out their fabulous blogs!