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Graffiti on Public Structures All Across Europe

Hi to All Rick Steve Travelers:

Over the past 20+ years, I have traveled by mostly trains to at least 10 countries in Europe, to include Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Spain, Czech Republic. I have also traveled to India, New Zealand, Japan, and the UAE. And, in most of these European countries, you see extensive and large displays of graffiti on train structures, buildings, bridges, and all kinds of public or private infrastructure, some of it very well done on many levels, some not....

However, rarely, if at any time I have actually seen any human being/people actually doing this painting on these structures. (I have not traveled on trains at night, so if they are doing it at 3 AM - I would miss it??!!)

So my questions are: (1) When does this graffiti work get done - only at night or in very secluded periods of time?, (2) Is this graffiti "painting" actually illegal in most countries, and if so, do they enforce those legal restrictions?

As the old adage used to say: "An inquiring mind wants to know." I will be doing added graffiti research in selection countries via Google and other sources.

Let me know your reactions.


Dale Weeks
Minneapolis, MN, USA

Posted by
7078 posts

I was able to watch a graffiti artist at work during the day when I was in Paris in 2012. On one of my walks around Montmartre I saw what looked like an abandoned building that must have been okayed as a 'canvas' of sorts for graffiti artists because the immediate area around it was roped off and people were standing around watching him at work. There were many different artists' work on it already so his was just one more. The photo I took of it is one of my favorite photo memories from my time in Paris.

Now, I'm sure most of the graffiti we see on buildings all over the world are not approved and probably done in the dark of night, but not all.

Posted by
7659 posts

I have to imagine most graffiti happens at night, when it’s harder to get caught. Illegal? I suspect so, but enforcement and removal are costly and probably not a priority. Then there’s the likelihood that if you clean it up, there’ll be more the next day. Sad. There are people who don’t clean up after their dogs, either. Clods.

You’re right about trains and the areas around tracks. That seems to be universal, including in the Good ol’ USA. And the pull-down metal panels that cover storefronts in so much of Europe when they’re closed - sloppy graffiti. It’s an unfortunate paint version of tagging, like the people who carve their initials into trees along a trail. Really - it hurts the tree and nobody cares that you were there on a certain date. Or “AJ+SM” - that’s not sweet, it’s just stupid.

Except last month in southern Ireland. The almost complete absence of graffiti was really noticeable. Either potential graffitists couldn’t acquire (or afford?) paint, graffiti gets cleaned up immediately, or perhaps there just a societal idea that littering someone else’s property with graffiti is wrong - and isn’t done.

Murals are another matter. They seem to be springing up all over cities and towns in Colorado. Most are truly works of art, and are certainly agreed upon by the owner of the wall. Graffiti is not requested, and not welcome, but there’s an element that doesn’t care, and tags away, leaving a mess. Sometimes the lettering is neat, but it’s still a mess.

Granted, the graffiti at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Nemea is an interesting artifact from ancient times. But some initials painted on a wall along train tracks today? Irrelevant and thoughtless.

Posted by
4175 posts

Graffiti or Street Art?

I find street art so interesting that the last time I was in Rome I took a street art tour on the back of Vespa. This is the one through Scooteroma: I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although it may be offensive to some, street art is a big enough deal that there are a variety of tours to see it in many cities.

Googling street art with the name of a place will likely produce results that you might find surprising. These are 2 that I found for Rome. The first includes the long history of street art in Rome. The second is more contemporary. Unfortunately, the pristine pictures shown in both may have had graffiti sprayed on them. I don’t get that kind of vandalism and never will.

Open Air Museum: Your Guide to Street Art in Rome:

22 places to see street art in Rome, the best street artists, and the history of Rome’s street art:

I can't claim objectivity on this issue since I live near a city with a wealth of excellent street art murals. Here's a link to "A map and 120+ photos of Tucson's beautiful murals" you're interested.

Be aware that unless you have high quality wi-fi or data which we don’t in the desert where we live (satellite DirecTV, closest cell tower about 8 miles away, can't get BritBox ☹️) the amazing pictures of the art linked may take awhile to load.

Posted by
12 posts

Wow, Thanks to all of you that have replied so far in such a timely manner. I may want to ask the same questions on this topic to some of the public officials in such cities as Rome, London, Paris, etc. and in the United States to get their reactions as well.

In brief, what are the "best practices" regarding Street Art and/or the worst practices and begin or continue a global process for improving the state of our world on this level.

Keep the ideas coming.