Istanbul is huge, it has tens of different districts, and the recent start art revolution has made it possible to spot pieces all over the city. You can find building tall murals, train graffiti, and stencil pieces even far away from central city districts like; Fatih, Maltepe, Üsküdar and so on, it is a never ending journey. However, If you have limited time to see Istanbul and want to see some of the best street art in the city, here are the top 5 districts not to miss. You can think of this list as a route and this tour could be completed in about 4 hours long with visiting both sides of the Istanbul.
After the Galatasaray High school start looking at the side streets for some graffiti awesomeness. At *Nur-i Ziya St. you can find a whole section of building covered with layers of graffiti patterns by Luxury Hands. Or just one street later at *Eski Cicekci St. there is the famous Leo Lunatic panda waiting to surprise you. There are also ever changing graffiti works on construction panels, and also surprising stencil works and stickers all over.
If you keep walking down Istiklal, you'll reach the Tünel area, where almost all of the shutters of shops are covered in graffiti. You can easily recognise famous German graffiti artist Kripoe's yellow hands. Once you see one of them, you'll see that they are everywhere. At the cross section of Balkon Sk. there is one of the three Space Invaders mosaics by invader, from 2003. It's definitely a must see. If you keep walking down from the Yüksek Kaldırım St you'll reach the seaside; Karaköy. It has been Istanbul's all time favourite musical instrument shop district. Apart from the hundreds of colorful graffiti, vintage shops and the music coming from the stores makes Karakoy a really cool place.
When you come to the Karaköy, the first thing you'll recognise is the amazing view of the old city. But keep your eyes open for the top of the buildings. There are so many old graffitis done by foreign artists like 1UP. Kripoe's yellow hands works by local graffiti artists Leo and Mr.Hure's works are also must sees in this area. Walking towards Kabataş- on the left side- will take you to the new Karaköy, which is becoming the hip place to hang out among creatives. There are very unique street art pieces to see around, like ones from Demo and Gezi. Depending on the time you're visiting, you can also enter the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and see local graffiti artist Nuka, whose work was commissioned by the University itself! If you're still up for more action, then head over to the Karaköy-Kadıköy ferry line. It takes around 30 mins, with a wonderful view of the city and its one of the cheapest ways to get to the Asian side.
Kadıköy is a wonderful district, it's very diverse and not so packed compared to Istiklal. There are really good local fish bazaars, pubs and vintage shops. The street art scene in Kadıköy-Moda area is also very colorful. There are couple of buildings with tall murals done by famous foreign artists like; Pixel Pancho, Dome and Amose. They are all very close to each other, you can start the journey from Tayyareci Sami St. at the other side of the Kadıköy, towards Moda; look out for the car parks. Most of them are covered with street art and graffiti pieces, and may need some extra effort to recgonize. And if you ask kindly, car park owners will let you to enjoy your time, and may even make comments on the art with you. One piece not to miss is just near to the ferry; Misbah Muayyes St. done by local artist Esk Reyn. There will be another Mural Ist festival, in the next couple of months which will host world wide artists to create remarkable murals in Istanbul.
Istanbul feels like you can find whatever you want, and most of the time it is. However when it comes to art supplies, there are only a few places you should look for. There are many stationery and art shops in Eminönü, however for cheaper local paints, masks and gloves look around Karaköy shore. For high quality paints like Posca, 94, and marker pens check out Donut Store at Osmanbey. It's the only art supply store dedicated to street art and graffiti.
How not to loose track and keep learning about the artists on the way?
If you're using iPhone, than you're the lucky one. There is free iOS app, StreetArt-Istanbul where you can view the curated street art and graffiti works with artist and place info on a map. They're also sharing the recently found street art works through instagram.com/istanbulstreetart . Follow up not to miss the contemporary street art scene in Istanbul.