The highest concentration of street art murals can be found in El Carmen, a once run-down neighbourhood at the northern end of Valencia’s Old Town district that is now becoming famous for its quirky nightlife and art. Crumbling, neglected walls covered with colourful graffiti sit in contrast with grander buildings, cobbled streets and pretty pavement cafes, making for an unusual atmosphere and striking sight.
The rise of street art in Valencia is largely due to the work of local resident artists like Hyuro. Originally from Argentina, Hyuro has been adding to the street art scene since she moved to Valencia in 2005. Much of her work has a dream-like quality that invites us to reflect on the monotony and occasional cruelty of city life.
She’s the artist behind what’s probably the best-known (and one of the biggest) wall murals in Valencia: a depiction of the Bible’s Moses—or more specifically his beard transformed into a nest of snakes. Found on the busy Plaza del Tossal in El Carmen, it’s one of the most photographed walls in Valencia.
Next to Hyuro’s mural is another famous work featuring cars tumbling down a concrete wall. This work is by Escif, also called the ‘Spanish Banksy’, a local artist who treats the walls of Valencia like his own canvas. His murals usually have a political slant or a dystopian feel to them. Hyuro and Escif are two local artists who share a minimal palette of greys, whites and ochre, though their styles are distinct.
While graffiti is not officially permitted in Valencia, you can still come across street artists working in broad daylight. For the most part, locals feel that the murals contribute positively to the area, inviting people to engage with their surroundings. Because of the street art’s high public approval rating, the authorities mostly turn a blind eye. Some of the wall murals are so big, it’s a wonder the artists were able to complete them without any interference.
The ephemeral nature of urban art means that these artworks often vanish or are replaced overnight. A street in El Carmen can look completely different from one day to the next when large, popular murals are transformed. Though it’s sad to walk down a familiar street one day to find your favourite artwork is gone, the constant change means the mural’s messages stay current, whether they’re comments on society, politics or local culture.
You can see many of the large murals on a stroll around the small neighbourhood of El Carmen. Starting from Plaza del Tossal, head for the nearby cobbled streets of Carrer de Dalt, Carrer de Baix, Carrer de Llíria and Carrer de na Jordana.
Along the way, make sure to duck down any little alleyway that strikes your fancy and check around every corner—you really never know where you might find the most amazing pieces of art.