When thinking about the best places to see street art and graffiti, Bristol is the sort of place that comes high on the list. For many, it is the undisputed capital of street art and graffiti in the UK. To be fair there are few other places with as much of a connection to the scene as this city.
It’s scene in places is raw and uncurated and it is all around. In others, some of the best organised art in the country. Bristol is the home of Upfest. Europe’s biggest street art festival, whilst also being considered by many to be the birthplace of the UK’s graffiti scene.
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Banksy and Bristol
Banksy made his name in Bristol, before going to London, painting edgy stencils and becoming all lonesome. Back in the day he was a grafter with the best of them and he started in that city. Evolving from letters and cartoons. Nowadays the likes of Inkie, Sepr and SPzero76 all continue the legacy. Their works are those amongst many which cover the walls of the city today.
And the graffiti is all around from the north in St. Paul’s and St. Werburgh’s through the city around the area of Nelson Street. Then into the south around Bedminster and North Street where Upfest is focused.
So for this post I thought I’d pick out some of the key spots to see street art and graffiti in the city of Bristol. There are still a few Banksy’s knocking about. But that’s not what Bristol is about anymore. There’s a lot more to see just make sure you give yourself enough time to see it.
Bristol street art and graffiti
The City Centre
In the centre of the city, the area around Nelson Street has some impressive large scale murals from some of the best known artists around. The likes of Conor Harrington, Aryz, Stik, Pixel Pancho, Nick Walker and El Mac can all be seen in a relatively small area. A lot of the works were created as part of the ‘See No Evil‘ festival hosted in 2012 and are survivors from that time.
Close by there are also a few pieces to be seen by heading up to College Green. There, Banksy’s famous ‘Hanging Man’ still survives in a pretty prominent location. Then a little bit further down on the quayside a piece by Inkie covers the place once occupied by Banksy’s ‘Grim Reaper’ on the Thekla boat. That’s best seen from over the river but is moored on ‘The Grove’ on East Mud Dock.
To the north east of the city the area around St. Werburgh’s and St. Paul’s has more of an urban feel to it. Much more graffiti than street art in this part of Bristol. There are some murals but most of the work around here is more akin to graffiti than anything else. The Eaton Way flyover for example as it crosses the M32 has numerous underpasses all of which are covered.
There are other spots too though, the area around St. Werburgh’s city farm reveals a mixture of works with the Farm pub in particular being a good place to visit painted head to toe as it is in farmyard related art and then having pieces from the likes of Rowdy and SPzero76 in the garden.
The Duke of York pub on Conduit Place is another painted building although at the time of my visit most of the works were covered in scaffolding. Nearby the area around Mina Road and Mina Road park has a number of murals dotted around.
The street known as Stokes Croft leads into the city centre from the north. The area of particular note is from where it becomes Cheltenham Road into the roundabout known as the Bearpit.
This is also quite a student area with again a mixture of mural based works and graffiti. Banksy’s famous ‘Mild Mild West’ piece is here on the side of Hamilton House. It depicts a teddy bear throwing a petrol bomb at three riot policemen. It sits just across from Cosmo Sarson’s breakdancing Jesus and just round the corner from impressive works from Phlegm and Stinkfish.
The stretch of road itself isn’t long but there are plenty of side streets so if you ever do go make sure you take enough time to wander round those. The Bearpit right at the end is a roundabout underpass system with a lot of graffiti which has become a bit of a makeshift skateboard hangout. It’s worth walking through at least.
North Street, Bedminster
The home of Upfest which takes it’s name from the Upfest gallery which is located on North Street in Bedminster to the south of the city. It’s a canny bit of marketing, the festival has become huge and a sought after gig for many artists. North Street itself has become a canvas and the result is a whole bunch of high quality albeit curated artwork from the painted Steam Crane pub at it’s southern end to the Tobacco Factory at it’s northern.
You can find murals from previous Upfest festivals along the street. In 2016 the festival made the conscious choice to become more child friendly and teamed up with the people behind the Mr Men and Little Miss cartoons. It resulted in local favourite artist Cheo creating a Mr. Graff character and a whole bunch of other artists recreating old favourites on the street.
The pictures in this post were taken over the weekend of the 27th and 28th August 2016. For more Street Art Bristol related posts, click on the links. Have a look at art from Upfest 2017 and Upfest 2018.