Recently updated on December 1st, 2022 at 01:25 am
Great beaches and amazing weather. Gaudi architecture and Pablo Picasso. Football stars and Michelin stars. And… let’s not forget the epic street art scene that defines buzzy Barcelona. While the Mediterranean city has skyrocketed in popularity over the years, it has still managed to retain its creative edge with cool graffiti, paste-ups and tags covering the streets.
If you have a few days to explore the Spanish city and are wondering about unusual things to do in Barcelona, add a street art crawl to your list. Whether you join a guided walking tour or hit the streets solo, it’s easy to track down Barcelona’s ever-evolving creative edge. Forget galleries and museums, the best place to see art in the Catalan capital is on the streets.
The history of street art in Barcelona
Barcelona’s love of street hasn’t always been peachy. Graffiti arrived in the 80s with rap music and American movies. It evolved in the 90s when Barcelona made its name as the European capital of street art, despite the local council’s efforts to erase artworks. At the turn of the century, laws against vandalism made it harder for artists to get permits and find surfaces to paint, but in the last decade, the city has opened up. Barcelona now has legal graffiti walls, artist collaborations and cultural programs to support street artists. While the city is still cleaning up rogue tags and graffiti, Barcelona is now an ever-changing outdoor art gallery. You never know what you will find.
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When is the best time to see street art in Barcelona?
If you want to explore the city’s street art scene, the best time is outside of business hours. Why? Loads of cool artworks and pieces have been painted on window shutters and roller doors, meaning that if the business is open you can’t see the art. Try wandering some neighbourhoods before 10am, between 2pm and 4pm when many take a lunch break, or on Sundays when small businesses are closed. Of course, there’s always after-dark too.
El Raval Neighbourhood
“Art is for everybody.” – Keith Haring
Considered the heart of street art in Barcelona, El Raval is the place to wander looking for fresh works and classics. Located between the Old Town and La Rambla, the street art here changes constantly so it’s usually impossible seek out certain pieces. That said, there is a famous 30-metre-long Keith Haring mural surrounding the MACBA (Museo Contemporáneo de Arte Moderno de Barcelona). Painted in 1989, the red lines show the importance of preventing AIDS, a disease that ultimately led to Haring’s death.
While here look for the large pacifiers or dummies of El Xupet Negre (The Black Pacifier), and the giant lollipops with one eye by Konair (aka Sr. Polo and Onergizer). Wander through the gardens around the Sant Pau del Camp monastery looking for murals. Visit Agora Juan Andres Benitez, a community garden with great street art on the surrounding walls. Drop by Plaça de Terenci Moix, a plaza with graffiti-covered walls, and wander down Tallers St looking for paste-ups.
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Explore the Gothic Quarter
The Barri Gòtic or Gothic Quarter is home to hidden street art. The centre of the city is home to the Catalan capital’s main Cathedral, many medieval squares, the Jewish quarter and Santa Maria del Pi church. This means the council is keen to keep the walls and streets here clean, but that doesn’t apply to windows and shutters. Visit outside of business hours to see secret artworks appear.
There are also plenty of established street art galleries in the Gothic Quarter, and a permanent artwork you can’t miss. Make sure you view the photo-mosaic El Beso de la Libertad by Joan Fontcuberta. Pictured is two mouths kissing, made to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the fall of Barcelona during the War of Spanish Succession using photos from the people of Barcelona.
“The sound of a kiss is not as loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts much longer.”
Beachside Poblenou District
A once-industrial area, the old factories of beachside Poblenou have been transformed into art centres, university buildings, technology labs and creative headquarters. Amid this ongoing gentrification, there are still loads of unused and abandoned buildings. These are prime for street artists to unleash their creativity. It’s a big neighborhood to explore, so come wearing walking shoes or even hire a bike.
You can actually book space to paint legal walls across Barcelona, and Poblenou has a few. Explore where the streets Veneçuela and Agricultura cross, and visit Forum Beach. Wander the outskirts of Parc del Centre del Poblenou, and the streets around La Escocesa, a factory turned artist hub. In Poblenou, you can download an augmented reality app called Poblezoo. It will help you locate and play with 3D animals painted by Tim Marsh.
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Keep exploring art in Barcelona
On all Trafalgar tours that pass through Barcelona you’ll join a Local Specialist. Embark on an in-depth tour soaking up Las Ramblas, the elegant Passeig de Gràcia, and Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Família. Use your free time to keep exploring the downtown neighbourhoods and get to know the local street art scene.
Are you planning to seek out street art in Barcelona? Let us know in the comments….