What are the best street art cities in the UK? Besides street art capitals London and Bristol, you have far more places to see mural art and graffiti in Britain. After having explored street art cities around the world from Marseille to Dunedin (New Zealand), I’m staying closer to home this time for my list of top 10 street art cities in the UK.
The best places to see street art in the UK
Granted, considering the UK covers four countries, a list of only ten cities seems far from complete. And as I continue my travels through England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland I’ll probably add more cities to this list. But for now, here are some top destinations to get started.
Top 10 street art cities in the UK
Listed in alphabetical order, the following cities all make for great British city breaks!
1. Aberdeen (Scotland)
The northern Scottish city of Aberdeen first appeared on my radar a few years ago after seeing photos of Nuart Aberdeen on social media. Established in 2017, this annual event has quickly grown into one of the preeminent street art festivals in the UK.
During the first three editions of Nuart Aberdeen, over thirty spectacular murals have been created by some of the world’s top street artists. Amongst them were artists such as Smug, Bordalo II, Fintan Magee and Ernest Zachaveric, whose works I first discovered on my street art explorations of Singapore.
Besides live paintings, you can also attend talks, walks, workshops, film screenings and other cultural events at Nuart Aberdeen. Usually taking place over three days in April, 2020 sees a special lockdown edition online.
Website: Nuart Aberdeen
When does Nuart Aberdeen take place?
Nuart Aberdeen takes place over three days around mid-April.
How to get to Aberdeen?
You can fly directly to Aberdeen International Airport. Alternatively, fly to Edinburgh and take the 2.5-hr direct train from there.
2. Belfast (Northern Ireland)
Prior to my work visit in 2015, I hadn’t even considered the presence of street art in Belfast. Coincidentally, we were booked into a hotel in the Cathedral Quarter. Not only a vibrant and culturally rich district of Belfast, but also a great street art neighbourhood.
I even got a taste of spray-painting myself when I accidentally participated in a graffiti workshop by local artist Eoin McGinn. Struggling to spray-paint a straight and even line, I learned first-hand that creating street art is hard work!
Besides some great contemporary street art, Belfast is also home to a great number of political murals. Our hosts drove us to West Belfast to photograph them but I felt a bit awkward about this as it’s still a tricky situation. However, as they reflect Northern Ireland’s troubled past, these political murals do (literally) paint a picture of the country’s history and identity.
Where to find street art in Belfast?
The best places to find street art in Belfast are: High Street Court, Hill Street, Kent Street, Lower Garfield Street, North Street, Talbot Street and Union Street.
3. Bristol (England)
Being the hometown of possibly the world’s most famous street artist Banksy, Bristol boasts an impressive art and music scene. In my opinion, Bristol is definitely one the most notable street art places in the UK!
You won’t have any problems finding murals and graffiti in Bristol. However, my tip for you is to venture a bit further south and explore Bristol Bedminster. This Bristol neighbourhood is host to the annual event Upfest, Europe’s largest free street art and graffiti festival.
Upfest covers almost 1.5 kilometres of North Street and also its surrounding streets, with the cultural hub The Tobacco Factory as its centre. With hundreds of artists and visitors alike flocking down to Bristol Bedminster, you’ll sense a true laidback festival vibe. There’s live painting, music, food, drinks, nice people and even the occasional shower, typical festival weather indeed.
When does Upfest Bristol take place?
Upfest takes place over three days in summer (typically late July, but sometimes earlier).
How to get to Bristol?
You can fly directly to Bristol Airport or take the train from London.
Combine your Bristol city break with a visit to nearby Bath
Within 15 minutes you’ll find yourself in the quaint city of Bath, famous for its Roman baths and being the hometown of British author Jane Austen.
4. Cardiff (Wales)
When I think of Wales, I first think of breath-taking landscapes, dramatic cliff views and rolling hills. Then I’d think of castles and elegant architecture. I’d in fact think of many other things before street art in Wales would come to mind. And yet, its capital city, the cultural hub of Cardiff, boasts a great number of grand murals.
In recent years, the public walls of Cardiff have transformed into large canvasses for some of the most terrific national and international artists.
5. Cheltenham (England)
This entry is a bit of a naughty one. Because, mostly famous for its horse jump racing, Cheltenham is a town and not a city. However, I chose to add it to this list because of its annual Cheltenham Paint Festival. Over the last three years, this free festival has invited some of my favourite artists such as Irony, Trust Icon and My Dog Sighs.
Website: Cheltenham Paint Festival
When does Cheltenham Paint Festival take place?
The 2020 edition of Cheltenham Paint Festival is scheduled to take place from 4 to 7 September. The organisation expects to welcome around 130 artists who will paint at various locations across town.
How to get to Cheltenham?
Take the direct GWR train from London Paddington Station to Cheltenham Spa. The journey takes just over two hours.
6. Glasgow (Scotland)
What I remember most vividly about my trip to Glasgow was being told that George Square, where our hotel was located, had been the filming location of one of the most dramatic scenes of the zombie film World War Z. This was where all hell broke loose early on in the film and Brad Pitt and his family had to leave the car. Supposedly taking place in Philadelphia, this iconic scene was actually filmed in Scotland’s largest city.
Whilst following Brad Pitt’s footsteps (at a much slower pace and less panicked mode), I fortunately didn’t come across any zombies. I did however come eye to eye with some beautiful murals. I later learned these were part of the Mural Trail initiated by the Glasgow City Council. Featuring numerous large-scale murals, walking the trail will keep you entertained for one or even two days.
7. Leicester (England)
Combining history, interesting architecture, urban art and swanky cafés, Leicester was the perfect destination to celebrate our wedding anniversary last year. Located in the East Midlands, Leicester is a little gem worth visiting. It’s one of the most fascinating places I’ve visited in recent years. If you’re into culture and history, then Leicester is a real must-visit.
First you have the impressive Guildhall building that has been frequented by notables such as William Shakespeare! But Leicester’s true historical gem is the tomb of Richard III. The unmarked grave of this English king, killed in battle in 1485, was lost for centuries. Until its incredible discovery in 2012 when they found it under the council car park in Leicester! This location now houses the Richard III visitor centre. You can visit his tomb, worthy of a king, in the Leicester Cathedral next to it.
However, personally, the real icing on the cake of our day trip to Leicester, was its impressive collection of street art. To my great surprise and delight, I spotted some of the largest and most beautiful murals here, thanks to the annual mural and graffiti festival Bring the Paint. The best places to see street art in Leicester are around Graff HQ (4 Norths Mills, Frog Island, LE3 5DL), a great place to stock up on art supplies or to have a vegan lunch. But also the Cultural Quarter (including Rutland Street and Yeoman Street) is a must-visit area.
Website: Bring the Paint
When does Bring the Paint festival take place?
Bring the Paint normally takes place during the last weekend of May. The next edition will take place in 2021.
How to get to Leicester?
Take the direct East Midlands Railway train from London St Pancras to Leicester. The journey takes just over an hour.
8. London (England)
London isn’t only the capital of England, but in my opinion also the street art capital of the UK. I might be biased though because this is the British city I know best. Having lived near Shoreditch, London’s main street art neighbourhood, this is where my love for urban art took off when I immigrated from the Netherlands to the UK in 2012.
In hindsight, I realise I was incredibly lucky to have landed in this hipster London neighbourhood. It introduced me to some of the world’s best urban artists and graffiti writers, but also to the supportive blogger community.
Discover all top 10 London urban art hotspots in my full London street art guide.
Where is the best street art in London?
Considering its sheer size, you’ll find several urban art hotspots in London. The alternative areas of Shoreditch (East London) and Camden (North London) aren’t only popular tourist destinations, but also two of the best places to find murals in London.
9. Manchester (England)
If I were to move to another city in the UK, Manchester would be a serious contender. It has a vibrant art scene, charming architecture reminiscent of the typical New York brownstone buildings and super friendly people.
Known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and the Suffragette Movement, Manchester has played a significant role in British history. Today it’s the third largest city in Britain and also one of the best street art locations in the UK.
Where to find street art in Manchester?
Fortunately, the centre of Manchester is much smaller than London, making it a lot easier to navigate around the city in search of street art. Especially the trendy neighbourhood of Northern Quarter boasts a great number of fantastic murals but also dozens of hipster cafés, bars and restaurants.
10. Sheffield (England)
In recent years, the vibrant city of Sheffield has been voted as one of the top 10 student cities in the UK. However, my first association with Sheffield is illustrator and painter Phlegm.
This outstanding artist whose work adorn walls all over the world, is one of my favourite artists. His captivating monochrome works always feature his signature mythical features and conjure up some magical landscape. Calling this city his home, you’ll find several Phlegm murals in Sheffield.
Other Sheffield-based muralists, graffiti writers and paste-up artists include D7606, Faunagraphic, Kid Acne, Pete McKee, Mila K and Rocket01.
Where to find street art in Sheffield?
Use this Sheffield street art map to find all the local artworks and artist information.
How to get to Sheffield?
Take the direct East Midlands Railway train from London St Pancras to Sheffield. The journey takes just over an hour. Alternatively, take the London North Eastern Railway train from London King’s Cross to Doncaster. Change for the Crosscountry or Northern trainline from there. The total journey takes just over 2 hours.
Have you been to any of these British street art cities? Which ones are you keen to visit next?
Let me know in a comment below!
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