When I go to any new city, it’s never the overpacked tourist attractions or overpriced main streets that I really want to experience. The city’s heart, its culture and its real people are what stays with someone long after their trip has ended. And there’s no better indication of what is making a city tick than the street art it produces.
Street art and graffiti have been a way for grassroots artists to express their personalities, political and social commentary and their area’s culture for decades. While our minds may go to the murals of Brooklyn or the constantly evolving art of Berlin when we hear the word graffiti, Ireland also has a rich history of amazing street art. In recent years, the scene has exploded in popularity due to the beautiful ways that the artists have interpreted the hot social topics of the time. Who could forget the George’s Street Marriage Equality mural by Joe Caslin, or the short-lived Repeal stamp by Maser?
Next time you take a last-minute road trip around the country, or if you just want to explore your own city a bit better, check out our picks of the best artwork each of our lovely Irish cities has to offer.
We’re kicking off with the capital, which has been the home of some of the most talk-about street art in the country in recent years. There are small gems dotted all over the city, but if you’re looking for a route, we’d recommend starting off with the Bernard Shaw on South Richmond Street, where you can enjoy a few drinks while sizing up their unbelievable beer garden walls. From here, head to the Tivoli car park on Francis Street to enjoy it before it’s gone (the Tivoli has been confirmed to be demolished by Dublin City Council in the next few years). Walk back towards the centre of the city down Camden Street (where you might spot a Maser masterpiece on the way) and culminate with an exploration of Temple Bar, where there are new pieces continuously cropping up among the cobblestones.
Limerick has long been home to some of the country’s most important cultural influencers, from the Cranberries’ iconic Dolores O’Riordan to the cultural commentator of this generation, the Rubberbandit’s Blindboy. With its recent campaign to be named as a European Capital of Culture (it unfortunately lost out to Galway on the Irish front), its street art presence grew to new heights. What’s great about its street art is that many of the best pieces are within a few minutes walk, which gives you more time to explore the rest of the city. Start off with Little William Street and make your way down Catherine Street, ducking in to see the great pieces on Roches and Thomas Street on the way down.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that just 40 years ago, Belfast was a city at civil war. The city is famous for its Nationalist and Unionist murals depicting both sides of the struggles of the Troubles and these are must-see for anyone interested in the history of the area. But aside from its identity as a historical hub, Belfast is also a bustling cosmopolitan city with the contemporary street art to match. Head to Library Street to get a glimpse of Visual Waste’s Kanye mural, or to the Docklands to catch Glen Molloy’s (dubbed the Banksy of Belfast) series of Legends.
Waterford may seem an unlikely addition to our list, but its street art scene is one of its biggest attractions. Back in 2015, when the city had been ravaged by the recession, a group of Waterford natives got together to inject some colour back into the city. The result was the annual Waterford Walls project, where artists from at home and around the world gather in Waterford to paint the town walls with murals of all shapes, sizes and themes. The pieces from 2017 are still in sight, but 2018’s festival will August where a whole new batch of murals will be unveiled. There are some great pieces all over the city, but for the real action head to New Street Gardens.