Disclosure: I was given a complimentary tour in exchange for this review but as always, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.
What first comes to mind when you think of Valencia, Spain? Perhaps it’s the fiery Las Fallas festival, the impressive City of Arts and Sciences or the delicious paella. But what most people don’t know is that Valencia is famous for something else as well: its street art.
Street art has been popular in Valencia since the early 90s amongst both local and international artists alike. Now the city boasts many local street art festivals that attract collaborations amongst some of the best street artists in the world.
Although I enjoy seeing art in museums, there’s something exhilarating about street art. It’s relevant. It’s bold. It’s educational. Street art provides you with an insider’s look at culture and is arguably the best way to understand the values and struggles of the locals by the locals.
Last week, I had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with the works of street artists on the Urban Adventures Street Art in Old Valencia tour. Although I had done my fair share of street art exploring while wandering through the cobblestoned streets of the Valencia old town, I knew almost nothing about the arts scene.
That’s where my tour guide, Lenny, came in. She’s a street art enthusiast to the max and incredibly knowledgeable about the arts scene here in Valencia. Not only does she go hunting for new art in her spare time, but she’s also met a lot of these artists personally. How’s that for some serious street cred?
The best part of this tour was that it didn’t feel like a tour. In fact, I felt like Lenny was an old friend who just happened to know a ton about street art in Valencia. Those of you who know me personally know I’m terrible with names, but somehow, I’ve managed to remember the names of over a dozen of these street artists because the tour was that good.
I’ll give you some more details about the tour itself later in this post, but first, let’s
take a selfie meet some of the prominent artists that dot the streets of Valencia!
One of the pioneers of the Spanish graffiti scene. He has so much respect that nobody will paint over his work!
David de Limón:
His iconic not-quite-ninjas-but-look-like-ninjas can literally be found all over the city in various forms. They are often times incorporated into other artists’ work. Scavenger hunt, anyone?
La Nena is one of the most popular female street artists in Valencia, and her stencil of the woman pictured on the right can be found on various buildings throughoutout the city.
I found Escif’s work to be particularly mind blowing. Not only is it distinct in style but that style seems nearly impossible to create with a spray can. So impressive.
Check out those crazy optical illusions and colors! I could stare at his work for days.
Just like David de Limon’s non-ninjas, you can find these photographer figures all over Valencia – in both spray paint and sticker form.
Disneylexya is from Mexico, which is obvious from the vivid colors and indigenous inspired designs.
Fun fact – this Moses wall is the most Instagrammed wall in Valencia. Pretty easy to see why, huh?
Deih has tons and tons of pieces scattered throughout Valencia. By the end of the tour, I was getting really good at spotting his swirly and futuristic murals.
I kid you not, this graffiti artist paints cheese cubes all over the city. I feel like we’d get along. #CheeseLoversUnite
Although this isn’t a piece my amateur and untrained eye would have considered street art, it totally is. These self-portraits are quite easy to spot with their distinct style.
Unlike many of the other artists that depict satire or politics, Julieta’s cartoon-like pieces are happy and bright and meant to be enjoyed by all.
Arguably some of the coolest murals to see are the collaboration pieces between the different artists. Once I’d learned more about them and their distinct styles, it was fun trying to figure out who contributed which part to each piece.
More cool pieces:
Apparently, street art includes a variety of mediums, not just graffiti and murals. The more you know!
Cross stitch yarn bombing: I know, I know – what a name! If you look closely, this building is actually covered with wire, which provides the canvas for where artist Raquel Rodrigo stitched this design. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.
Vinyl photographs: I had no idea that vinyl photographs could be considered street art, but they are. I can’t remember the name of the artist who took these, but he photographed a bunch of interesting characters from the eclectic El Carmen neighborhood and posted these photos throughout town. Cool, huh?
Obviously, my descriptions are much more succinct than Lenny’s. She answered all 1,000,000 of my questions and even showed me photos of older pieces of art that have since been painted over. However, I did manage to impress my local Valencian friend with my newfound knowledge when I spotted a David de Limón piece. I clearly learned a lot!
Other stuff you should know:
- The 3-hour tour starts at 4:30 pm in front of the Mercado Central. People are still waking up from their siestas at this point, so it’s the best time to get photos and avoid the crowds.
- The tour starts in the Old Town (Ciutat Vella), but mostly takes place in the eclectic / hipster El Carmen neighborhood.
- During the tour, you’re also treated to a traditional Valencian horchata (not the same as a Mexican horchata) and a farton from the historic Horchateria Santa Catalina.
- The final stop is at a local Valencian brewery for all the beer lovers out there. Or in my case – a refreshing Fanta ;).
This was my first time doing an official street art tour and I’m confident it won’t be my last. If you’re planning on visiting Valencia and want to see more than the churches, museums and the beach (not that there’s anything wrong with those), I highly recommend you do the Street Art in Old Valencia tour.What better way to educate yourself about local culture than through the eyes of the artists themselves? Besides, because street art is so fluid, the content of this tour changes from time to time; Lenny reminded me to take plenty of photos because we would frequently stumble upon freshly painted pieces. It’s pretty cool to think I could do this tour again the next time I’m in Valencia and see completely different murals than the ones I’ve posted here.
Note: If you’re not planning on going to Valencia anytime soon but want to take a guaranteed awesome tour in another city, check out Urban Adventures. They offer a huge variety of tours and all of them are capped at 12 people. Plus, all the tours focus on responsible travel and supporting local businesses, two philosophies that I firmly believe in. Although I’m someone who tends to shy away from tours because they often feel too touristy, my experience with Urban Adventures wasn’t like that all, which is why I wholeheartedly recommend them. Be sure to check them out when planning your next trip!
Tell me: Do you ever search for local art while traveling? Which city do you admire the most for its art? Share in the comments below!
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