A Quick History Of London’s Street Art


When you're in London, there's barely a street you can walk down without coming across street art. From the underbelly of bridges to the shutters of shop windows, there's hardly a surface that isn't decorated with collages and images.

Street art can take many forms, including:

- memorials
- statues
- portraits
- graffiti tags with subtle political messages.

In all its forms, street art has, over time, become a crucial part of London's character and charm and visitors and tourists from all over the world often head to Brick Lane and Shoreditch specifically to admire the street art that the area has become famous for.


The Montcalm Hotel Shoreditch is one of the best 5 star hotels in London for people wanting to check out London's street art hot spots. Based in the heart of Shoreditch and a short bus ride from Brick Lane, we're ideally located for people who have a love of London's street art.

Now, for a (not-so-brief) history…

The legalities surrounding street art in London

For as many people who love London's street art culture, many view it as vandalism. Some people feel that it brings down the areas surrounding many of the 5 star hotels in London.

Those that do enjoy street art, though, tend to see it as more of a political protest or artistic expression.

Regardless of how any individual feels towards street art, it is, technically, still illegal in the UK. This can mean that despite the popularity of the movement, local authorities often try to conceal and cover street art displays.

On the flip side, this means that searching for different street art pieces around London becomes something of an adventure. You can be sure that whenever you visit London, there'll be new pieces to check out. Make sure you act fast though, as in a matter of days - or even hours - new displays could on gone forever.

With the popularity of street artists like Banksy, however, there are cases where artists are commissioned to create pieces on the sides of individual buildings. This gives artists the chance to work on more elaborate and detailed pieces; some of the most complex can be found in the East End. Banksy made such a name for himself that today his murals are classed as valuable works of art and often sell in auctions for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Several of his installations are now protected in their original locations throughout London.

How did the street art scene in London first start?

The London street art movement started making waves in the city in the hip-hop and electronic music-filled streets of the 1980s. Over the decade, London's streets were transformed into vivid canvases as street artists began "tagging" their names all over the city and on almost every tube line. The artists would use pseudonyms to hide their real identity and protect themselves from prosecution.

By the 1990s, Shoreditch (now known as the centre for street art in London) had become an incredibly popular location for artists to make their mark. The rise in popularity of the street art movement made Shoreditch both a more desirable place to visit and live. As the movement grew, street artists began to leave their tags on everything and everywhere they could, particularly around London's East End. Street art was often used as a way to mark an artist's territory and fight back against the local authorities who were persistently trying to cover the artwork.

The arrival of Banksy changed the street art scene forever and changed many people's perceptions of street art. Today, he's still one of the most famous street artists in the world. His installations have often been sold at auctions for thousands and thousands of pounds and gained critical recognition as some of the most politically inspirational art pieces of his time.

What are the different types of street art in London?

Like all types of art, London's street art comes in a variety of forms, from murals that cover entire walls to sculptures glued onto buildings. Some street art installations are made using combinations of non-traditional art supplies, such as wheat paste and stickers. Street artists use many different textures, materials and techniques to express their message and creativity, making it one of the most diverse forms of art in the world.

While most examples of street art are quite small, due to the rush to finish them before being caught by authorities, there are a few larger installations. The world-famous "Seven Noses of Soho" is an excellent example of these larger street art pieces. The different noses can be found on several buildings throughout the Soho area, making finding them an exciting challenge for street art fans.

Because many street artists started their careers as taggers, even the most famous street artists continue to leave graffiti tags around the city today. This simple method is the street artists way of claiming their work and allows fans to follow their movements and find new pieces.

Where to find street art in London

Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields are packed full of street art. They have a little something of everything from massive murals to old-school graffiti pieces and tags. Their variety of art makes these areas an excellent place to start if you want to search for London's best street art. It’s why hotels on Old Street in London and other fiver star London hotels like our Montcalm Hotel in Shoreditch are some of the best hotels for street art lovers.

But London's street art scene isn't just limited to the East End. There's a ton of artwork scattered throughout the city. Neighbourhoods like the Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Camden and Brixton, are great locations to find new and exciting examples of street art.

Banksy is (arguably) the most famous street artist who has ever left his mark in London. His art has appeared in places like Mayfair, Brick Lane, and Shoreditch. Unfortunately, much of Banksy's work has been covered up or even defaced over the years, but here are some places you can still find his pieces:

Portobello Road

-Underneath London Bridge on Tooley Street

Chiswell Street

-The Regent's Canal banks in Camden Town

-Under the Cannon Street rail bridge arches.

Other famous London street artists to keep an eye out for include:


-Stick is renowned for his "stik people" pieces around Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Hoxton and Bloomsbury)

The Belgian street artist ROA

-This artist created a famous three-storey-tall crane which can be found on Hanbury Street.

Jimmy C

-Another well-known name in the East London area is Jimmy C. Although most of his work has been painted over, you can still find his "Joe's Kid" piece on Fashion Street.

Who are your favourite street artists in London? Leave us a comment!