The Walls Have Art: Mural-Rich Cities for Your Next Visit

By Asyraf Naqiuddin

The Walls Have Art: Mural-Rich Cities for Your Next Visit

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Add colours to your travel pix with these attention-grabbing stencils.

What started as graffiti in the early 70s where stylised initials and signatures known as ‘tags’ began appearing on trains in New York has evolved into a powerful way to deliver social or political messages and today, a contemporary art form with new techniques.

While some still label the movement as vandalism, street art is mainstream enough that a large number of city councils and corporate entities around the world have started commissioning artists, turning alleyways, buildings and even public transports into a free gallery – a tourism boost – attracting locals and travellers alike.

Let’s have a look at some of the cities that embrace street art for everyone to enjoy:


One of Zacharevic’s beloved artwork ‘Little Children on Bicycle’. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Olivier & Pascale
Large-scale murals can be found all over George Town. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Olivier & Pascale

Staying true to UNESCO’s elements of living heritage and cultural diversity values, Penang’s George Town is not only known for its century-old Peranakan mansions, but also the vast collection of street art that pays homage to Malaysia’s rich history and culture. Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic started Penang’s street art craze after creating six murals in conjunction with the George Town Arts & Culture Festival in 2012. His work gained worldwide acclaim and since then, more murals by local and foreign artists have been strewn across the island. Wandering around the island couldn’t get any better. Just when you think you’re lost, art finds you.

Hong Kong

Bruce Lee Mural, Tank Lane (Sheung Wan, Hong Kong) CC BY-ND 2.0 Mark Lehmkuhler
A motorcyclist takes time to appreciate the beauty of a street art along Peel Street in Hong Kong. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  Jinny

Not only does Hong Kong, China, play host to world-class art exhibitions, the thriving art hub also attracts artists like Shepard Fairey who created the iconic Hope poster featuring former US president Barack Obama. Fairey, who came to Hong Kong for a solo exhibition last year, painted a few large murals around the city. Although a few of his works were painted over, opportunities remain open for artists to showcase their talent, evident in the number of fresh murals that crop up from time to time.


Several artists collaborated to create this larger-than-life ‘Dating Tagpuan’ in Taguig City. Image: Japs Antido
A street art of High street at Bonifacio Global City. Image: © Yooran Park/123RF

Living up to the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan, the streets of Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, Metro Manila are filled with large-scale murals mostly at least three storeys tall! Local and international artists collaborate during the annual ArtBGC Festival to produce these larger-than-life art pieces.


Striking artwork at Hosier Lane. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 graeme maxwell
No wall left unpainted at Hosier Lane. CC BY 2.0 SalTheColourGeek

A collection of striking artwork adorn Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Australia, making it a landmark for street art. Artists from around the world, including the controversial Banksy, treat the walls as their canvas time and again that the local council designated it a “graffiti tolerance zone”.  The cobble-stoned alleyway gives visitors a super colourful feast for the eyes. Definitely something you don’t want to miss.


A mural in St Asaph Street. CC BY-SA 2.0 Jocelyn Kinghorn
CC BY-SA 2.0 Jocelyn Kinghorn
A giant mural of a ballet dancer near Armagh St, Christchurch. CC BY-SA 2.0 Jocelyn Kinghorn

Following the devastating earthquake that hit New Zealand’s Christchurch in 2011, a lot of efforts were put into revitalising and brightening the country’s third largest city, including street art. Amazing talents gather during the city’s art festivals, lifting Christchurch alongside New York, Barcelona, Berlin and London as one of 39 cities with a rich street art scene by Lonely Planet. Simply beautiful.

Chiang Mai

This street art piece is located near Payap University, and features an umbrella, an icon of Chiang Mai.
The cat face artwork by British artist Himbad Sultan along Moon Meung Road, Soi 6, is the largest street painting in Chiang Mai.

Past the most obvious landmarks of the Lanna Kingdom lies another Chiang Mai that’s not apparent at first sight — another dimension you can never escape, no matter where you go. It’s a vivid and colourfully painted world, full of recurring characters, unforgettable faces and intriguing patterns, constantly blurring the borders between past and present, traditional and modern. Graffiti is tolerated, and at times, even encouraged by Thai authorities. Among the places to look out for is Nimmanhaemin Road. Have fun exploring!

GETTING THERE: AirAsia flies to various destinations from Kuala Lumpur. For fares and info, visit


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About the Author

Asyraf Naqiuddin

Having served various desks at Malaysia's oldest daily, Asyraf Naqiuddin believes there’s a story anywhere you turn that could inspire readers around the world. With a penchant for high-powered motorcycles, he hopes to one day get back in the saddle and cover the globe on two wheels.

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