Art can be found in the most unexpected of places. While museums and galleries are often the first places that come to mind when thinking about viewing art, there are many intriguing and unique art destinations located outside of traditional art institutions. From small galleries tucked away in alleyways to large-scale outdoor art installations, art can turn up in the most surprising spots. Here are 7 unexpectedly intriguing places to discover art.

Abandoned Subway Stations

Many cities around the world have abandoned or no longer in use subway stations that have been transformed into underground art galleries and street art hot spots. These eerie yet fascinating settings allow urban artists to let their creativity run wild without fear of their work being immediately removed.

New York City

New York City’s abandoned City Hall subway station closed in 1945 but remains a popular spot for urban explorers. The elegant Guastavino tiled arches provide the perfect backdrop for colorful graffiti pieces that cover the walls and ceilings. Visiting requires some urban spelunking through still active tunnels, but offers an intriguing look at a historical subway station frozen in time.

Paris, France

Sections of the Paris Metro that are no longer in use have also become ad-hoc art galleries covered from floor to ceiling in graffiti. Porte des Lilas is one of the most popular abandoned stations to view street art. A rotating selection of graffiti murals cover the tiled walls, making the dark tunnels feel much more inviting. It requires some effort to access, but offers an eerie urban exploration experience.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin has many historically fascinating abandoned subway stations from when the city was divided that are now popular for street artists. Naturkundemuseum station has been closed since 1945 and its crumbling architecture is blanketed in colorful paint from years of undisturbed graffiti accumulation. Visiting Berlin’s ghost stations offers a vivid look into the city’s storied past through an artful lens.

Alleyways and Side Streets

Narrow alleyways and side streets around the world have become canvases for street artists, transforming urban landscapes into impromptu outdoor art galleries. Distinct artistic styles and techniques can emerge within the same small community, creating diversity packed into confined urban spaces.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne has designated many of its alleyways as legal graffiti zones for street artists from around the world. Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane host constantly changing graffiti murals that push creative boundaries. They provide the unique opportunity to compare different artists and styles side by side in a colorful outdoor gallery setting. From photorealistic portraits, to bold stencils, to colorful abstractions, Melbourne’s alleys showcase an impressive range of urban creativity.

Penang, Malaysia

The back alleys of Penang’s Georgetown have become overflowing art galleries thanks to the Hin Company’s Walls Project initiative bringing in muralists since 2012. Wandering around Waterfall Road and Armenian Street reveals a diverse collection of imaginative wall murals with many intriguing cultural themes and visual styles. It provides an impactful medium for local artists to beautify public spaces and share ideas.

Telephone Booths

Once an essential means of public communication, telephone booths have decreased in necessity with the advent of mobile phones. But a new purpose has emerged for neglected phone booths in cities around the world – street art canvases! Painting the glass panels or interior of outdated booths gives urban artists spaces to create tiny art installations.

New York City, USA

The New Museum’s annual Holding Pattern exhibition selects a group of artists to transform Manhattan phone booths into miniature galleries. Passersby peek into the vivid booths filled with displays ranging from plants to miniature models without having to pay a dime. Holding Pattern takes an overlooked urban structure and repurposes it into interactive public art spread throughout the city.

London, England

Rogue artists have embraced London’s iconic red telephone boxes as street art outlets for years, but BT Artboxes gives creatives legitimate canvases. Selected artists are provided with a decommissioned booth as a blank slate for their work. The project has produced over 100 artboxes since 2008 showcasing local talent and creativity.

Building Facades

From historic architectural landmarks to modern office buildings, artistic facades and murals provide the opportunity to transform urban landscapes. Artists can utilize the large canvases offered by building exteriors to create monumental works of public art. Massive art installations add visual intrigue, brighten public spaces, and showcase local talent.

Los Angeles, USA

Downtown LA is home to over 1,600 massive wall murals, making it one of the world’s largest outdoor art galleries. The LA Freewalls Project brings in artists from around the globe to create murals on architectural facades that reflect the city’s diverse cultures and creativity. Colorful photorealistic and abstract murals of all scales beautify alleyways, parking garages, and building exteriors across the city.

London, England

Street artist Phlegm created a 7-story mural in east London, transforming a Brutalist apartment building into an epic monochrome artwork. The mural’s highly detailed pen and ink style depicts imaginative characters and cityscapes that make the building come alive. Massive murals by leading street artists like Phlegm showcase how public art adds character to urban environments.

Scenic Settings

Art that integrates and enhances naturally scenic outdoor settings results in an impactful synergistic effect. Sculptures, structures, and installations strategically organized within landscapes allow viewers to experience art and nature simultaneously. Public art in parks, gardens, and scenic sites create intriguing artistic spaces.

Naoshima, Japan

The island of Naoshima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea is a scenic paradise with museums, architecture, and outdoor art installations integrated into the lush natural landscape. Visitors stroll through the island and forests discovering sculptures like Yayoi Kusama’s iconic pumpkin along with indoor galleries like Tadao Ando’s Chichu Art Museum built into a hillside. The harmony between art, architecture, and natural beauty makes Naoshima a breathtaking art island.


Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay public park contains Supertree Grove featuring eighteen 16-story tall sci-fi inspired supertrees covered in over 160,000 plants. They form a surreal grove where the futuristic manmade structures seamlessly blend into the natural landscape. The nightly sound and light show illuminates the alien supertrees, making them a breathtaking artistic oasis.

Unexpected Materials

Unconventional or unexpected materials used to create art can add intrigue. Items like recycled trash or disposable objects given new life as an art medium divert waste while providing social commentary. Art made from atypical materials allows artists to innovate and challenge perceptions.

Washed Ashore, USA

Non-profit Washed Ashore aims to eliminate plastic pollution from oceans and waterways through art. The organization collects trash from beaches and transforms it into giant sculptures of aquatic animals. Viewing a large parrot fish sculpture made from colorful plastic debris packs a visual punch and highlights the pressing issue of environmental waste. The thoughtful repurposing of materials makes this public art truly eye-opening.

Bordalo II, Portugal

Portuguese street artist Bordalo II creates playful mixed-media murals using only discarded trash and scrap materials he finds on the streets. He arranges colorful pieces of plastics, fabrics, cardboard, wood, and metal into portrait murals of humans and animals. The texture and depth provided by the recycled materials brings his imaginative sculptures to life while promoting an environmental message about waste.

Small Towns and Rural Areas

Art is not confined solely to major metropolises. Small towns and rural regions often have thriving local art communities and unique art spots worth discovering off the beaten path. Intriguing art can be uncovered in charming main streets, converted warehouses, and repurposed rural buildings.

Beacon, New York, USA

Despite being a small town along the Hudson River, Beacon has become a hotspot for contemporary art. Dia:Beacon housed in a former Nabisco box printing factory features large-scale installations spread across 25,000 square feet of gallery space spotlighting major artists. Meanwhile, Hudson Beach Glass and other studios and galleries have moved into Beacon’s old industrial buildings creating a thriving creative community.

Naoshima, Japan

The remote island of Naoshima off Japan’s coast has been transformed into an outdoor art oasis. Formerly a declining mining town, it now draws visitors from around the world to experience its modern and contemporary art museums, installations, and architecture that integrate art into the island’s natural beauty. The remote location adds to the appeal of discovering world-class art in an unexpected pastoral paradise.


This sampling of artistically intriguing spots provides just a glimpse into the diverse array of unexpected places around the world where art can be discovered and create delight. Exploring art in outdoor settings, forgotten structures, alleyways, and unconventional materials allows artists to engage with the public in new ways while adding beauty, meaning, and character to any space. Seeking out art in surprising locations beyond major institutions can lead to adventurous urban wanderings and rural journeys that will surely offer fresh artistic perspectives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about 7 Unexpectedly Intriguing Places for Art:

What kinds of unexpected places can you find art?

Some unexpected but intriguing places to find art include abandoned subway stations, alleyways and side streets, telephone booths, building facades, scenic outdoor settings, small towns and rural areas, and places using unexpected materials like recycled trash. Urban art tends to tuck itself into overlooked cracks and spaces in cities.

Why do artists choose unusual locations to display their art?

Artists often are drawn to display their work in unexpected spots for the novelty, to reach new audiences who may not frequent traditional art venues, and for the raw visual impact of seeing art in uncommon settings. Urban street artists enjoy using overlooked urban infrastructure as their canvas. It also comes from a desire to beautify everyday spaces.

What are some advantages of viewing art in unexpected places?

Viewing art in unconventional settings provides the advantages of discovering work in a new context, appreciating the relationship between art and location, accessing art for free, and the excitement of stumbling upon art organically. It adds an adventurous scavenger hunt element to experiencing art.

How do you find these unexpected art locations?

Many intriguing art spots grow organically thanks to local artists and are spread by word of mouth within communities. Social media, blogs, and tourist guides can provide clues to uncover art in unlikely places. Exploring off the beaten path and keeping your eyes open for creative interventions is key. Some cities like Melbourne openly promote their urban art zones.

Is there public art in rural areas and small towns too?

Absolutely! Small rural towns and communities are wonderful spots to uncover local artistic talent, galleries, and charming public art, especially as industrial spaces are converted into arts centers. With support, any community no matter how small can become an art destination like Naoshima, Japan or Beacon, New York.

How do installations in natural settings impact the viewer experience?

situating art in natural landscapes creates a synergy between the manmade and natural worlds. It allows you to experience nature and art simultaneously, appreciating how they complement each other. The environmental setting adds deeper meaning to the works and enhances the creative inspiration.

What message do artists convey by using recycled materials?

Repurposing recycled materials and trash not only diverts waste, but provides social commentary on our wastefulness and relationship to the environment. It transforms disposable objects into something long-lasting and beautiful. The creativity and resourcefulness of upcycling discarded materials inspires viewers to see waste differently.

Do you need special permission to view some urban and alternative art venues?

Some alternative art venues like active subway tunnels require advanced permissions and tours for access or could be trespassing. However, cities sanction many public alleyways, walls, and telephones as open galleries. Be respectful of any restricted locations and use common sense when adventuring off the beaten path.


Art’s ability to turn up in unexpected places keeps our creative senses engaged and reminds us to see the world through an artistic lens. Wandering through an inventive art installation tucked away in a scenic park or stumbling upon a mural around an urban corner adds whimsical ripples to our daily lives. By venturing beyond conventional art institutions, we allow art to interject itself into the fabric of our environments and communities. Let the intrigue of discovering art in the most unlikely spots spark new adventures as you explore the world!