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From its humble beginnings to headline-grabbing auctions with works selling (before self-shredding) for upwards of $4 million, street art has shed its grimy reputation and acquired critical acclamation in the process.

Still, spotting urban masterpieces in situ – from tiny stencils by renowned artists peeping from the cracks of the pavement to colossal murals of unknown origins crawling up the sides of a high-rise building – is hard to beat, as these outdoor galleries prove.

1. Wynwood District, Miami

Miami may be known for parties and palm trees, but beyond its glossy veneer, the city’s creative scene offers a different perspective. Peaking during Art Basel, Miami’s acclaimed contemporary art can be enjoyed all year round – if you know where to look. Home to over 70 galleries and with street art adorning every wall in sight, Wynwood Art District is one of the city’s most vibrant areas. If you’re visiting on the second Saturday of the month, stroll “Art Walk” – a monthly, late-night gallery event with free entry and free drinks. Expect crowds of people and a vibey atmosphere, supplemented by a solid bar scene.

2. Woodstock, Cape Town

Woodstock has transformed into a burgeoning cultural neighbourhood, largely owing to a 2009 street-art project which aimed to change the area through colourful, socially-conscious murals. The regeneration project is plastered across the walls of the suburb, with over 100 paintings and installations by 40 artists on display. Themes range from the deeply political, such as Freddy Smith’s black-and-white piece commemorating 20 years of democracy in South Africa, to interpretations of Cape Town’s mountainscapes and wildlife. Our advice: book a thought-provoking graffiti walking tour gain insight the art’s wider context.

3. The Mission District, San Francisco

A city known for creativity, social movements and political progressiveness, San Francisco’s liberal spirit is palpable. From crocheted bin covers to building-cum-sculptures, art is abundant throughout. Visit Balmy Alley, an ever-evolving canvas used to express communal concerns ranging from gentrification to governmental injustice. A few blocks away is the Mission Cultural Centre for Latino Arts and further along that stretch you’ll find Clarion Alley. Stop to peruse social-political murals before grabbing an ice-cream from Bi-Rite Creamery and lounging on the grass at Dolores Park.

4. Melbourne, Australia

The self-proclaimed “edgy part” of Australia, Melbourne’s street-art scene certainly backs up its title. A hub for hipsters and creatives, this temperamental city’s graffiti is as changeable as its weather. Ramble through Fitzroy Street where you’ll find sophisticated and technically skilled street daubings covering every alleyway and backstreet. Continue to Rose Street for more of the same, bypassing the throngs of tourists crowding along Union Lane.

5. Krakow, Poland

Street art probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Krakow, but this historical city has a longstanding tradition of graphic art. Stroll through the city’s centre and you’ll soon happen upon masterpieces big and small, thanks to a government who has embraced the creative movement with opens arms. Commissioning murals to transform the grey walls of apartment blocks, these colossal pieces draw a major crowd. Works by duo Etam Cru stretch up buildings all across Poland; ID the pair’s distinctive style by its blend of modern design with traditional motifs derived Polish folklore.

6. Paris, France

Romantic French balconies, beautiful architecture and cheese-oozing croque monsieurs are quintessentially Parisian, but more and more the city’s independent underbelly is showing. Streets aplenty boast skilful street art, but Rue Saint-Maur in the 10th and 11th arrondissements is one spot to mark on your map. Wander along until you meet Rue Oberkampf, a stretch rife with works by Kashink, Paris’ most notable female street artist. On this same street is Le Mur, a space where new artists are invited to transform every few weeks – if you’re lucky you’ll spot them at work while you’re there.

7. Berlin, Germany

With a penchant for restoring derelict buildings and a soft spot for breaking the rules, it makes sense that Berlin is the most tagged city in Europe. While the German capital is known for its constantly evolving cityscape, unsurprisingly its sense of history runs deep. Nowhere is this relationship of past and present more tangible than in the murals of The East Side Gallery. While the famous Fraternal Kiss is worth a visit, walking the entire 1.3km stretch is equally vital viewing. Over 100 murals were painted after the wall came down in 1989, transforming this past symbol of division into a national symbol of creativity and spirit.

8. Bristol, England

In a perpetual game of cat and mouse, street artists work quickly to elude police when creating their work. The result sees an endless cycle of new art appearing and disappearing across the city. Home to graffiti’s most revered artist, Banksy’s pieces can be found plastered all around Bristol. Well Hung Lover adorns the side of a sexual health clinic, while Girl with the Pierced Eardrum can be found in Hanover Place. While Banksy’s works certainly warrant a tour, Bristol’s street art goes far beyond this household name. For a mix of styles head to Stokes Croft – a mini-Berlin with street art to match. Be sure to pay Breakdancing Jesus a visit before popping in for a cider at The Canteen next door.

9. São Paulo, Brazil

The financial hub of Brazil, São Paulo is an urban jungle of skyscrapers and concrete pathways. Injecting some colour into this monotone landscape, local artists have taken to sketching murals and creative masterpieces across the city. Head first for Beco do Batman in the Vila Madalena neighbourhood; along this narrow alleyway, each artist actually owns the wall on which they work. More fine art than street art, you’ll find grander designs and large-scale murals in neighbouring Pinheiros. Make sure to visit on a Saturday when Benedito Calixto Square is filled with artisans peddling their wares. Although the mayor of São Paulo painted over many of the murals in a bid to “clean up” the city early last year, there is still much to be admired here.

10. Valparaiso, Chile

The beautiful port of Valparaiso is instantly recognisable thanks to the colourful facades of its hillside houses in shades of purple, yellow, red, blue and green (think Amalfi Coast, but more modest). Taking its cue from the charming architecture, local artists have adorned the port’s walls with kaleidoscopic masterpieces of their own. With a government that supports local street-art culture, works appear anywhere and everywhere. Head for the hills to get the best views; we recommend Carcel, Miraflores, Alegre, Pateon, Concepcion or Bellavista. Be sure to add Templeman Street on Cerro Alegre to your list too.

11. Lisbon, Portugal

Like many country’s, Portugal’s relationship with street art is grounded in politics; the art form emerged as a means to revolt against the right-wing dictatorship that controlled the country for the first half of the 20th century. Today, it continues to flourish with Lisbon’s landscape of contemporary buildings and medieval structures providing ample canvas. Most walls in lively Bairro Alto – particularly along the Calcada da Gloria – are drenched in design. Expect a mixture of artworks poking fun at pop culture alongside dreamy abstract pieces crawling up the side of a high rise. Travessa dos Dies de Deus, Rua da Vinha and Rua de Sao Boaventura are good spots to start.

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