When you take a stroll through Berlin’s hip quarters of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg or Neukölln you quickly notice the abundance of graffiti and street art colouring the streets. Be it simple tagging, political messages, New York-style name art, murals, stencils or hand-made printed graphics glued on the walls –- they all reflect Berlin’s vivid urban culture and vibrant art scene.
You can wander around the city and see a lot for yourself, but you’ll need a guide to help you get under the surface. The Hidden Path is a guided city tour specialising in street art and graffiti, whose knowledgeable guides help you to discover the urban art hidden in Berlin’s busy streets, providing you with an insight into the history of both the art and Berlin itself, away from the popular tourist sights of the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie or Potsdamer Platz.
The Hidden Path
We met our guide David on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Kreuzberg, at the infamous Cottbusser Tor. From our meeting point could observe all the activity of the square, which is full of Berlin’s filthy charm and covered with tags of all colours. After a short introduction to the turbulent history of Kreuzberg, David led us to the first spots on our three-hour walking tour. He gave us an interesting explanation of the differences between the various forms of urban art and explained what graffiti culture was like before and after Berlin’s post-wall rebirth twenty years ago.
Plus, he told us all about who had painted the artwork we saw, as well as why and when the artwork was done. Supported by a backpack full of graffiti magazines and street-art books, he showed us additional pieces by artists whose artwork we admired first-hand on our tour — helping us to understand their styles and see recurrent themes.
During the tour I especially enjoyed the clever street art of Viktor Ash, who painted a floating astronaut on a typical Kreuzberg housing façade at Mariannenstraße. I was also fascinated when David explained the creative technique of Alexandre Farto, who uses explosives to create huge portraits of inspiring Berlin personalities on visible places spread all over the city. In general, I was overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity of urban art taking place in the public space of Berlin.
But we didn’t just see graffiti and street art on our walking tour through Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. David also introduced us to the concept of guerilla gardening. This relatively new approach wants to develop the urban space by harnessing wasteland. It was amazing to see how residents embellish their environment by growing vegetables and fruits, by creating little gardens or by maintaining a little farm for donkeys and other animals.
The Hidden Path costs about €18 and group size is small — usually around five to ten people. The guides are keen to adjust their three-hour tours through the streets of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain to your wishes and expectations, and are always ready to share interesting anecdotes about the area as well as about the art you see — giving you a chance to learn a little history as well!
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