One of the first things you will notice upon setting foot in Berlin is the sheer abundance of street art. In parts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain one can scarcely find a square foot of blank wall space. It’s no surprise then that Germany’s capital is widely regarded as the global center of street art — an art form that, just like the city, is continually reinventing itself. The vibrant street art that lines the walls of Berlin captures snapshots of its history, culture and politics.
While wonderful street art can be discovered in almost any Berlin district if you stay alert for it, here are some special locations that play host to the most iconic displays of the city’s street culture, as well as a few lesser known but nonetheless priceless gems of Berlin street art.
- 1. East Side Gallery
- 2. Teufelsberg
- 3. Haus Schwarzenberg
- 4. RAW Gelände
- 5. Urban Nation Museum
- Some Lesser Known Gems
1. East Side Gallery
Location: Mühlenstraße 3-100, 10243
The East Side Gallery is one of Berlin’s most beloved tourist attractions and for good reason. At the ESG artists from around the world painted the murals that line 1,316 meters of the Berlin Wall, the longest section of the wall still standing after most of it was toppled during the peaceful revolution of 1989. Inaugurated as an Open Air Gallery in September 1990, it forms the largest open air gallery in the world and is certainly one of the most remarkable. Two of the most iconic and compelling paintings on display are Dmitri Vrubel’s painting of the ‘Bruderkuss’, ‘fraternal kiss’ shared by Soviet and East German leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker and Birgit Kinder’s Trabant car smashing through the Berlin Wall.
Location: Teufelsseechaussee 10, 14193
If you want to leave the bustle of the city behind, there’s no better day out than a trip to the Cold War spy tower turned graffiti gallery that is the Teufelsberg. Since the Americans abandoned their listening tower on Teufelsberg in the Grunewald Forest after the fall of the wall, street artists have put the former espionage site to use as an urban art gallery. The Teufelsberg is a 120-meter-high man-made hill and was built from 75 million cubic meters of debris from Berlin 20 years after the end of World War Two, so if you’re up for the hike you can take in this monument of both Berlin’s history and its modern street art culture.
3. Haus Schwarzenberg
Location: Rosenthaler Str. 39, 10178
Founded in 1995, Haus Schwarzenberg in Mitte is a unique center for Berlin culture, housing art studios, workshops, an indie cinema, a memorial center, a bar and, of course, galleries displaying the works of local and international artists. Here you will find an almost overwhelming collection of fantastic works of street art, including artist Sky Black’s anthropomorphic artwork “Mine” or John C. ‘s mural of Anne Frank next to the Anne Frank Zentrum, a gallery dedicated to her life.
4. RAW Gelände
Location: Revaler Str. 99, 10245
Berlin’s most beloved cultural open space is home to bars, nightclubs, food stands, flea markets and even a climbing gym. Mirroring the new lease of life this alternative subcultural scene has brought to the former Reichsbahn railway workshop, artists have brought brilliant color to the dilapidated brickwork of the RAW Gelände. At the heart of the RAW Gelände you will find the artistic space “Urban Spree”, where you can explore the incredible urban art gallery and discuss the works with your friends in the delightful beer garden. You can even check out a concert while you’re there.
5. Urban Nation Museum
Location: Bülowstraße 7, 10783
In this vibrant center of contemporary art you can enjoy works by renowned international and local artists completely free of charge. At the Urban Nation Museum stunning exhibitions of street art, photography and sculpture are on display, but equally impressive is the museum’s initiative to invite world renowned artists to Berlin to create murals across the city, which has been an outstanding success. The results include the remarkable murals at Mehringplatz by renowned artists Shepard Fairey and Don John, postcards of which can be found in shops and kiosks around the city. All of these works can be located through their art map.
Some lesser known gems
On a stroll along this central street of the Kreuzberg district you will discover some of the colossal murals painted during the 2007 Backjumps Art Festival, including Victor Ash’s monumental “Astronaut/Cosmonaut”.
LEGACY BLN Hall of Fame
On a 160-meter stretch of a wall beside the Gleisdreieck skatepark there is a communal graffiti space where hundreds of artists, beginners and experienced alike, have left their tags. If you want to contribute and display your artistic talent, painting passes and supplies are available over at the LEGACY graffiti shop at Yorckstraße 53.
The Young and African Arts Market is a multicultural space where you can enjoy some wonderful food, listen to live music performances and admire the brightly painted murals on the banks of the Spree river. One to look out for is Andreas Preis’ stunning and mysterious “Lion” mural.
Berlin: The city as gallery
In a street art mecca like Berlin you only have to look out of the S-Bahn window to catch a glimpse of the culture of youth protest and the legacy of the city’s complex history inscribed onto the streetscapes. Perhaps you may even find the inspiration to pick up some paint and make your own contribution to Berlin’s thriving urban art scene, in which case there are plenty of tours and workshops available to get you diving into the scene.
Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.