Take one of these five walking tours to explore graffiti and street art in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, Chelsea and Williamsburg. Options range from affordable two-hour walks to private, customized tours that include stops in galleries and bars.
RECOMMENDED: Street art and graffiti guide
5 Pointz NYC Graffiti Tour
Explore this warehouse turned renowned graffiti attraction with founder and curator Meres One as he pulls back the curtains on colorful murals by international artists from Brazil to Japan. Meres points out a stunning Pointillistic spray-painted portrait of a young kid wearing a hoodie by Australian artist James Cochran and the familiar face of murdered rapper the Notorious B.I.G. by New Zealand artist OD. This behind-the-scenes tour includes a spray-painting demonstration, in which Meres creates a detailed mural in less than ten minutes, and a visit to the roof to view the juxtaposition of colorful graffiti against the concrete Manhattan skyline. 45-46 Davis St at Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Queens (sidetour.com). Next tour May 5 2–2:30pm; $35. Advance purchase required.
Discover the graffiti work of well-known artists on the Lower East Side and in the Village with this two-and-a-half-year-old company that also offers tours in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Highlights include a four-story-tall stencil mural of a tattooed woman in a whimsical forest by Mike Owen, stencil work by Shepard Fairey (best known for his Obama “Hope” poster) and a mural featuring Popeye by John Matos (Crash One) on the Bowery Graffiti Wall, one of New York’s most famous downtown spots. The company provides similar tours in Williamsburg and Bushwick, and 90-minute graffiti workshops in Brooklyn, where you spray-paint on a wall with the guidance of local artists ($45). Meet at Bleecker St and Bowery (grafftours.com). Sun 1—2:30pm; $25. Reservations required.
Levys’ Unique New York
For a customized tour, opt for Levy’s graffiti and gallery tours in Brooklyn and Manhattan. On the Brooklyn tour, expect to see tags, throw-ups, stencils, murals and wheatpastes in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Bushwick, Dumbo and Bed-Stuy, accompanied by a visit to English Kills Gallery (114 Forrest St at Flushing Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn; 718-366-7323, englishkillsartgallery.com) and artisanal chocolate factory Fine + Raw (288 Seigel St at Bogart St, Bushwick, Brooklyn; 718-366-3633, fineandraw.com). The guide also discusses the history of gentrification in the area, explaining how cheap rent attracted artists to industrial Williamsburg and Bushwick, which transformed the neighborhoods into creative hotbeds. These private group tours are personalized, so meeting points, times and prices will change accordingly. Two-hour walking tour rates range from $150 for one person to $400 for eight. Visit levysuniqueny.com for details.
View painted murals, mosaic installations, sculptures and art embedded in the pavement on two different walking tours, in Chelsea and on the Lower East Side. Founder and guide Lia Buffa rocks her signature saddle shoes as she points out illegal street art in Chelsea from Michael De Feo, best known for his iconic, large-scale flower images (you’ll see one that’s six-foot-tall on this tour), and on the Lower East Side from Stikman, an unidentified artist who creates little men in different shapes and sizes. The Lower East Side tour also includes a zany cartoon galaxy spray-painted on a roll-down security gate, part of a (legal) 2011 project by Kenny Scharf. Lower East Side to Soho: Meet at Second Ave and 2nd St • Chelsea to Meatpacking District: Meet at Ninth Ave and 14th St • saddleshoetours.com. Weekends, by appointment; group of four $100, each additional person $20.
Street Art Walk
Join this two-hour jaunt around Bushwick and Williamsburg to see some of the area’s best pieces, such as Belgium artist ROA’s two-story-high wall mural of a giant squirrel, raccoon and fox with their tails wrapped around windows, or the work of French stencilist Christian Guémy, known as C215, who creates portraits of orphans, the homeless and refugees. Guide David Meade, an ex-graffer born and raised in the Bronx, also teaches participants the difference between paste-ups, stencils, murals, stickers and graffiti. Williamsburg tour: Meet at North 7th St between Bedford and Driggs Aves; Sat 2:30–4:30pm • Bushwick tour: Meet at Harrison Pl between Bogart St and Morgan Ave; Sun 2:30—4:30pm • streetartwalk.com. $20. Reservations required, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Private tours available.