‘Is street art in London legal?’ people often ask me on my history & street art tours in East London. Technically, street art in London is very much illegal. However, having become one of the world’s leading cities to feature such high-quality urban artworks, some local authorities condone it. You won’t be able to find street art in all London neighbourhoods so to help you, I’ve compiled a guide with the best places to see street art in London.
The 10 best places to see street art in London, by area
This article is by no means a complete list of all the locations where you can find street art in London. I’ve only chosen areas where you’ll be guaranteed to find several outstanding murals that will make it worth travelling to that destination. And by venturing to some of these lesser-known areas, you’ll get to explore some of London’s hidden gems. However, due to gentrification these street art locations might not exist anymore in the near future of course.
If you want to explore some of London’s street art areas, but don’t have that much time in the city, then I’d recommend to focus on East London. Shoreditch would be my number one street art destination, especially for its famous Brick Lane street art scene.
Before we start, I’d like to point out that I’ve used a combination of brand-new and slightly older photos for this post. So, some of the artworks you see here might no longer be around.
East London street art locations
It’s hard to imagine wandering around hipster Shoreditch today, but this London neighbourhood wouldn’t be on any tourist’s radar until the late 90s. Neither would the average Londoner venture over here for that matter.
The historical East End of London is best known for its gritty past, characterised by its multi-cultural and rather poor residents. No wonder that East London areas such as Shoreditch and Hackney became the playground for graffiti writers and urban artists.
As time passed, the area slowly changed. Graffiti tags developed into sophisticated street artworks and artists such as Banksy emerged on the scene. But years before these extraordinary murals would attract droves of world-famous artists and tourists to Shoreditch, local authorities still regarded all forms of urban art as illegal. As a result, most of the iconic Banksy pieces are now a thing of the past.
Due to gentrification, the character of street art is changing once again. Quite typical for the area, even street art is becoming more commercial. Over recent years, I’ve seen murals pop up in Shoreditch that promote luxury brands such as Gucci or commercial products and new record releases. I find this development rather sad and dispiriting, but also very telling for the direction the once free spirit of London is slowly moving to.
Streets to check: Princelet Street, Hanbury Street, Corbet Place, Brick Lane, Dray Walk, Wheeler Street (tunnel next to Shoreditch High Street), Pedley Street, Grimsby Street, Bethnal Green Road (Brick Lane end), Sclater Street, Whitby Street, Chance Street, Ebor Street.
How to get there: London Liverpool Street station or Shoreditch High Street Overground station
Hackney is another East London neighbourhood that’s always been a popular destination for urban artists. It’s a huge area and street artworks are spread all around. But in this blog post I’m concentrating on the streets of Hackney that are right next to Shoreditch and also the area around Broadway Market.
Especially Rivington Street is a good street art location as it’s home to many iconic pieces such as one of the few remaining Banksy works in the area.
Streets to check: Holywell Lane, King John Court, New Inn Yard, Rivington Street, the streets around Broadway Market
How to get there: Old Street Underground station, Hoxton Overground station, Shoreditch High Street Overground station or London Liverpool Street station, Cambridge Heath Overground station
3. Hackney Wick
Hacney Wick would be the latest ‘victim’ of gentrification. I guess that the succes of the new area of Stratford, developed on the former marshlands for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, turned the land of neighbouring Hackney Wick into gold for property developers.
Granted, when you would get off Hackney Wick station a few years ago, you’d only see derelict buildings that were covered in graffiti. I hadn’t been to the area in a couple of years, and was rather shocked when I returned last summer. With the exception of the famous former pub The Lord Napier which you see in the first photo below, all buildings had been demolished and replaced by rather characterless flats and the obligatory hipster café.
Yes, it’s a good thing they’re building houses as there’s a real shortage of them all across London, but I doubt that the original residents will be able to afford these new flats or even to remain living in the area.
Streets to check: Hepscott Road, Wallis Road, White Post Lane
How to get there: Hackney Wick Overground station
Personally, I don’t know Dalston as well as other areas I’ve described in this street art guide, but whenever I’m there I’m always impressed with its authentic feel and colourful streets.
You’ll be able to find several street artworks in this area without being surrounded by other tourists. The most striking artwork in Dalston though is the Dalston Lane Mural (first photo below) as it chronicles local history.
Street to check: Kingsland Road, especially around Dalston Junction
How to get there: Dalston Overground station, Dalston Kingsland Overground station, Hoxton Overground station
North London street art locations
Camden is one of the top tourist destinations in London. I hardly go there anymore as I find it too much of a tourist trap to be honest.
But I think that Camden is the number two street art location in London, with Shoreditch being number one. So I do come down to Camden once in a while for a quick self-guided street art tour in the early morning.
If you have time, then just around the streets in Camden and have your camera at hand because you’ll find tons of street art in the area!
I first discovered the Camden street art scene when I was invited to go on a London street art tour in Camden in 2015. You can read the article I wrote about it at the time here: In Search of New Street Art with Camden Street Art Tour.
Streets to check: While the number of streets of walls available for street art in Camden are getting smaller, these are your must-go to street art and graffiti spots: Miller Street, Hawley Street, Hawley Mews, Stucley Place.
How to get there: Camden Town Underground station or Mornington Crescent Underground station
If you really want to get off the beaten track and find some unusual things to do in London, then you might want to consider to pay a visit to Walthamstow.
This upcoming South East London area has some great food and cultural offerings, including an impressive street art trail with artworks by some of the world’s greatest artists.
Streets to check: You can find the complete and up-to-date Walthamstow street art map here on the website of Wood Street Walls. (Choose the E17 map.)
For more photos and information, head over to my older blog post Walthamstow Street Art Trail with Wood Street Walls.
How to get there: Walthamstow Central Underground and Overground station
Central London street art locations
With the exception of a few small murals, usually hidden in some side-streets, chances of finding street art in Central London are rare. However, there are two great graffiti spots in London located at just a few minutes’ walk from Waterloo Station.
7. Leake Street Tunnel
Situated on the same street as the station, you’ll find the famous Leake Street Tunnel, also called the Banksy Tunnel. This is a true graffiti hotspot, the perpetual paint fumes are sure testament to this.
Leake Street Tunnel isn’t only very popular among street artists and graffiti writers, but also among tourists. In recent years several venues have opened in these gritty looking train arches, including the board game café Draughts and Bar @ 26 Leake Street.
In 2014 female urban artists set the Guinness World Record for the largest spray paint mural by multiple artists in Leake Street during the first edition of Femme Fierce. After Femme Fierce 2015, but then the dodgy organiser disappeared abroad.
Where to find Leake Street Tunnel? It’s on Leake Street, a side street off York Road (the main road you follow from Waterloo station to London Eye).
How to get there: Waterloo station
Anna Rewinska at work during Femme Fierce 2014
8. Southbank Skate Park
If you wouldn’t know it’s there, you’d never expect to find a graffiti-clad skate park right in heart of the cultural hub on the Southbank.
Where to find the Southbank skate park? The Southbank skate park is located right underneath the Southbank Centre. It lies in walking distance of some of the most famous London landmarks: London Eye, Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey.
How to get there: Waterloo station
South London street art locations
The multi-cultural London area of Brixton is a lively and colourful neighbourhood. Thanks to its large Afro-Caribbean community, you can eat some of the best food here. But Brixton is also a great location to find urban art in London.
Streets to check: The most famous street artwork in Brixton is this David Bowie memorial by Jimmy C on Tunstall Road. This blog post lists other great street art locations in Brixton.
How to get there: Brixton Underground station
The pretty South London neighbourhood of Dulwich isn’t an obvious tourist destination. But if you are interested in unique things to do in London, then definitely head down to Dulwich!
Besides plenty of unique shops and cosy cafés, Dulwich is also home to the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery. This huge street art project was initiated by Ingrid Beazley who worked at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I was introduced to this wonderful art gallery by Ingrid Beazley when she gave me a private tour a few years ago.
Beazley invited street artists to bring the Old Master paintings in the gallery to the streets of Dulwich. Sadly, Ingrid Beazley passed away much too early in 2017. Thankfully her legacy remains and you can still see the magnificent classical art-inspired urban artworks in the streets of Dulwich.
Some of the artists are the world-famous London-based artist Stik, the legendary South African muralist Faith47 and Irish painter Conor Harrington. (top photo)
Streets to check: Find more photos and information on the exact street art locations in Dulwich in my blog post Dulwich Outdoor Gallery: When Street Art Meets Fine Art.
How to get there: Dulwich is a big area and the murals are spread out all over this South London neighbourhood. You can therefore get off at any of these national rail train stations in Dulwich and walk around (part of) the area: East Dulwich train station, North Dulwich train station and West Dulwich train station.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and will find it useful for your own urban explorations of London! Being passionate about street art myself, writing this article and sharing some of my personal favourite street art spots in London has been a real pleasure. Deciding which photos to use from my archive that contains thousands of street art photos was a bit of a challenge though…
Which artworks are your favourites? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx