Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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In 1990, Chilean artist Jorge Selarón began renovating a set of worn-away stairs near his home, covering the 215 steps in blue, green and yellow tiles, fragments of mirror and other ceramics. A “tribute to the Brazilian people”, Selarón’s creation straddles the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhoods of Rio and has become globally beloved, having appeared as the backdrop for everything from a campaign for the city’s 2018 Olympic bid to Snoop Dogg’s Beautiful film clip.
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, India
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The five storeys of Hawa Mahal, also known as the Palace of the Winds, are the stuff of little girls' dreams. Made from red and pink sandstone in 1799 for the women of the royal family to observe street festivals unseen, the repetitive nature of the curving bay windows somehow soothes the soul (and the tinge of fairy-tale blush just takes it over the edge).
Salvation Mountain, California, United States
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Rising out of the Colorado Desert, this pastel-hued hill is the genius of the late California resident Leonard Knight who, in 1984, grabbed some adobe clay and straw and began creating this five-storey, Navajo-inspired monument in an effort to spread his message that “God is love”. Thanks to its joyous depiction of everything from Bible passages to flowers and butterflies in flight (and to its cameo appearance in the film Into the Wild), it’s become a place of pilgrimage and countless whimsical photo ops.
Yardhouse Studios, London, United Kingdom
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Originally created by architecture collective Assemble as a prototype workspace for artists and designers, the handmade pastel-tinged concrete tiles of this East London event space are cleverly arranged in a scale-like pattern. The distinctive, modern exterior has become one of the city’s most frequently captured facades. Photography credit: The Modern House (Yardhouse Studios)
Toledo Metro Station, Naples, Italy
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If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to arrive at the Pearly Gates, this metro station in Naples might give you a good idea. The softly vaulted ceiling and the careful speckling of white and navy blue mosaic tiles across this underground station give the impression that ascending the escalators is a journey towards the heavens. The reality isn’t too far away: Via Toledo, the popular cobbled shopping promenade, is just outside.
Banksy’s Cash Machine, London, England
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A Banksy is a fleeting thing, which makes the ephemeral street art that much more tempting to include in your feed. While many London-based creations from the Bristol-born artist have been removed or painted over, there are still a few that remain, including 2007’s Cash Machine – a particularly large and detailed piece depicting a young girl attached to an ATM via a robot arm, said to be a comment on capitalism.
Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia
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There’s no shortage of photo-ops among Melbourne’s laneways but a trip to Hosier Lane boasts more inspiration than the average alley. A regular stop on walking tours of the city, the grungy, gritty lane – which also hosts popular eatery MoVida – gained popularity as a hotbed of street art in 1990s and has even been the canvas for a now-destroyed Banksy stencil, which popped up in 2003.
Ndebele tribal houses, Limpopo Province, South Africa
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Originating in the 18th century, mud huts of the South African Ndebele tribe were initially decorated with natural pigments as a result of being defeated in a war with the neighbouring Dutch settlers, the Boers. The artworks were used by Ndebele to communicate with one another under the noses of the settlers and express their cultural resistance. With the introduction of bright acrylic paints in the 1960s, modern designs took on more graphic geometric forms. Used like artistic noticeboards, they now depict the lived experiences of tribal members in communities in the districts of Pietersburg, Bakenberg and Potgietersrus – everything from marriage announcements to prayers feature.
The blue walls of Chefchaouen, Morocco
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There’s nowhere quite like the north Moroccan city of Chefchaouen, where the entire town, from walls, steps and riad doors, is painted in shades of blue. The distinctive chalky azure colour that dominates every surface is believed to be the result of a mass migration of Jewish refugees in the 1930s who used blue to reflect the sky and heaven, bringing God closer to their homes.
Post Alley, Seattle, United States
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Located behind Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Post Alley’s walls are the canvas for a very unique, evolving artwork. The almost-invisible brickwork is dotted with endless globs of vibrant, chewed bubblegum, creating a surprisingly picturesque confetti effect. It’s the perfect background for your Stateside Instie shot – just don’t lean on it.
The Maid, Adelaide, Australia
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If you’re still reeling over 2016’s loss, local Adelaide artist Lisa King’s enormous David Bowie homage on the side of popular pub The Maid on Magill Road is worth a pilgrimage. The self-taught artist created the mural just after the singer’s passing in January 2016 and countless visitors have since flocked to the site to leave tributes of their own. Photography credit: Facebook, Adelaide Street Art
Capela das Almas, Porto, Portugal
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This ornate chapel on Rua Santa Catarina in Portugal’s crumbling and character-filled port city is a typical example of traditional azulejo – the beautiful glazed ceramic tile-work that adorns many of the country’s buildings, from bars to monasteries.
The Most Famous Artist, Los Angeles, USA
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The Most Famous Artist, aka Matty Mo, had a career in advertising technology and marketing before he began creating the sort of street murals that people snap selfies with. His Polka Dot Wall, created in 2014 on brickwork at former downtown Los Angeles café and wellness centre The Springs, was specifically designed to encourage the social media set to engage with his art. At an impressive 25 metres long, the rainbow-coloured spots continue to draw a crowd, despite the attached eatery abruptly shutting up shop in September. Photography credit: Courtesy The Most Famous Artist
Stadion Station, Stockholm, Sweden
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Stockholm is home to many elaborately decorated cave-like metro stations but a standout is the rainbow rendering that arcs over the mouths of the platform tunnels in Stadion Station, making for a pretty heavenly commute.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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The temple of Ta Prohm, featured in the 2001 Angelina Jolie film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, is one of Angkor Wat’s most distinctive sites. The UNESCO World Heritage area of this 12th century Khmer city actually spans 208 hectares of Cambodian jungle but the twist of trees that engulfs the exterior of Ta Prohm makes for a particularly ethereal setting for a photo.
The courtyard of Casa di Giulietta, Verona, Italy
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Before the lumbering lock-covered Parisian bridge that is Pont de l'Archevêché, there was Casa di Giulietta. Let us explain: in the passageway leading to fair Verona’s most romantic balcony (the one attached to the 13th century home of the Cappeletti family, said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet), visitors have turned to the tunnel to express their affection for their own true loves. Everything from poetic words, bubblegum and folded love letters adorn the walls – in short, it’s the messiest, loveliest graffiti you’re likely to see.
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
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Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap’s mix of Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian architecture is vividly brought to life by the painter’s palette array of house fronts. Said to be a revolt against a long-standing rule that required leased houses to be white, the contrasting colours make the area one of Cape Town’s most distinctive suburbs.
Baker Street Station, London, United Kingdom
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Since the subway tile made its way out of stations and into every new café and bathroom renovation, London’s underground has become a mecca for ’grammers. Baker Street is particularly distinctive though, thanks to its role as the home of fictional detective (and a Benedict Cumberbatch TV character) Sherlock Holmes, which is reflected in the silhouette pattern repeated on the station’s walls.
Templeman Street, Valparaíso, Chile
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Intriguingly ramshackle and brimming with artistic heritage, the port city of “Valpo” is best discovered on foot, especially on Templeman Street. Snaking up Cerro Alegre (Happy Hill), this winding road is lined with many decorated façades, inviting endless opportunity for one-of-a-kind snaps.
Sketch, London, United Kingdom
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Originally famed for its afternoon tea, Mayfair eatery Sketch has secured a place on every must-see list of London thanks to the plush pink interiors of the Gallery dining space, which brings to mind a puff of carnival fairy floss. If you’re a fan of the visual playfulness of director Wes Anderson’s films, you’ll find plenty of corners in this restaurant to make a photo-shoot worthwhile. Photography credit: Sketch (The Gallery at Sketch London)