Street art and graffiti are everywhere in Berlin. Maybe they even have some in Dahlem. We’ll all find out soon enough. But you can definitely find loads of the stuff in Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Neukölln. There’s so much of it over here that various clever people have started making it a part (or all) of their city tours. More about that in a bit.
The streets around Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg have some amazing street art. A huge astronaut floats over Mariannenstrasse and the U1 overground line, and a group of dead but arty animals hang from the top of a high wall on Oranienstrasse. Standing next to them is a strange, robotic-looking rabbit. Further on towards Friedrichshain and the Oberbaumbrücke (probably the coolest bridge in the world), two people making Eastside and Westside hand gestures signify the joining of East and West after the Wall came down. Closer to the bridge, tucked away on one side, is a creepily fascinating painting of a person made up entirely of tiny naked people. If you venture over the bridge and keep going, you’ll eventually get to the RAW Gelände, a former railway works that is now home to various cultural projects, clubs, bars, an indoor climbing wall, a skate park and goodness knows what else. Wander around here and you’ll find lots more reasons why one German newspaper called Berlin the street art capital (of what, I don’t know – the world? Europe? Cities that specialise in curried sausage? Tricksy German grammar means the paper could leave it vague).
I love all the big, look-at-me bits of street art, but the smaller, quieter ones are also brilliant – partly because they take you by surprise and often make you smile. Imagine you’re scooting down the road, late for a friend-date, and out of the corner of your eye you see a bright orange, leggy jelly bean trying to catch your attention. What’s not to like about that?
Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about street art, I can recommend this tour. You need to have a good 4 (maybe 5) hours free, but it’s well worth it. You’ll tour all the big paintings I mentioned above, as well as others, and you’ll learn about how they were done and what they represent. The guides also explain the difference between street art and graffiti and point out smaller examples of both. The first part of the tour is mostly walking around Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. The second part takes you out further east, to a place where they show you how to do your own street art and then let you loose with the spray cans. VERY cool. And VERY legal:
Text & photos: Jen Metcalf