GERMANY: Berlin Guided Tour – As a Guest in Berlin’s Streetart Scene – Critical Examination of the Topic

A critical look at a tourist city tour, presented as a journey of discovery through the alternative art and graffiti scene for people who don’t fancy run-of-the-mill sightseeing and overcrowded tourist traps.  –  18th March 2024  –  Photographer & Author:  AURORA IRXNSCHMOIZ

Big Promises and legal Subtleties

A gift “experience voucher” finally wants to be redeemed at the beginning of March 2024. Event organizer Jochen Schweizer promises ‘a 3-hour extraordinary city tour in Berlin‘ with a ‘discovery of the Berlin street art scene, well-known graffiti artists and their works and history‘ as well as the opportunity to learn everything about the artistic techniques and stylistic devices. ‘Charming and knowledgeable guides with wit and in-depth knowledge of the scene‘ are on hand to fulfill the promise.


However, Schweizer is not entirely sure what the “experience” will ultimately entail, as elsewhere on their website there are small but subtle differences in the service description to what was previously promised: ‘The guide will tell you all about Berlin’s most famous graffiti artists and their works, as well as about different techniques, styles and the history of this special art.‘ After redeeming the voucher, you learn that the city tour takes place on foot and that the experience lasts 3.5 hours. A group tour is limited to 15 people, the tour can also take place with a single person. This is a confirmation from Schweitzer, which – as mentioned above – does not act as an organizer, but as an agent for an offer from a third party. And you can get that for 20.90 euros per person.


What does the organizer Berlinwalks say on its own website? It’s once again full of superlatives: ‘Take a walk through vibrant, everyday Berlin away from the tourist crowds and discover the city’s best works of art with our street art experts. See corners of Berlin that you would not have found or overlooked on your own and gain an insight into this unique scene and alternative art form. Versatile and always new, we will show you a Berlin that you are guaranteed not to have seen before! Get to know the real Berlin. We take you out of the tourist hustle and bustle and into the neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, where street art is celebrated in all possible forms: whether huge murals, small stickers or graffiti created with stencils; experience a (…) tour that is new and a little different every time.‘ And all for 20.00 euros per person. The bar has been set very high; it is already clear: unattainably high.


It should be mentioned that the organizer Berlinwalks limits the (according to agent Schweitzer at least!) 3-hour city tour to this duration, includes a short break, requires a public transport ticket (BVG/Zone AB) and does not limit the minimum number of participants. So there are different claims in the fulfillment of the contract, depending on whether you bought your “experience” from the agent or the organizer.  We are talking about 3.50 or 2.40 euros per person for a ticket and as the tour does not end at the starting point, you may also have to pay for the ticket to the starting point. The 90 cent difference between the agent and the organizer “buys” you the freedom to choose a date: A voucher from Schweizer is valid for three years, you are very flexible when it comes to redeeming it; Berlinwalks requires a specifically scheduled online booking, so it is clearly spontaneously oriented towards tourism.


“Where Berlin’s Walls glow with Color”

The group – 21 (!) people plus guide – meets in front of a snobbish coffee bar on Hackescher Markt, self-described as a “creative center between Friedrichstraße and Alexanderplatz”, which is literally besieged by tourists on this day. Three of the participants have already been in contact with street art; the rest want to be surprised and are waiting to see what comes their way.


About 8 minutes late, we set off on an alternative city tour; three hours on foot through the capital with a tour guide who knows the scene, in search of the coolest street art, far away from mass tourism. The group was directed to a quieter corner of Hackescher Markt to listen to a 15-20 minute introduction to street art. The guide made an effort. Unfortunately, the terms were not clearly differentiated. What is the difference between street art and urban art? Are there any differences at all? What constitutes street art? Where does it start, which forms and styles belong to it – and which don’t? Which object is a work of art, which is more of a “running gag” by a prankster? During the introduction, the guide only scratched the surface of these aspects. His explanations of (important) fundamental facts about the historical development of the diverse art forms of street art also remained rather pale. But you can’t really blame him for that, because the topics are too complex to be adequately appreciated in depth on such an “experience tour”; but you should at least have tried to give a broad outline.


This was followed by a 250-metre walk to HAUS SCHWARZENBERG on Rosenthaler Straße – fighting through the extreme tourist hustle and bustle to reach another heavily frequented tourist hotspot. Passageways and backyards of the property are literally “plastered” with leftovers, paste-ups, stickers and a few stencils. The area around HAUS SCHWARZENBERG and the entire Hackescher Markt is generally characterized by an extremely high density of street art objects, is one of the top spots for this in Berlin and is not missing in any current tourist travel guide – to be found even without a guide!

SOME1 (stencil with R2D2)  &  OKSE 126 aka CMYK DOTS (dots below)

However, the guide focused his attention on a large-format mural, spray-painted portraits by JAMES CHOCHRAN aka JIMMY C and LAKE, two leftovers including CMYK DOTS and an older paste-up. We were given 8 minutes to self-explore the other objects that characterize this spot; explanations were largely omitted afterwards. Instead, they talked about the place itself, the building, the two museums in it – yes: extensively, very well-founded and comprehensive. But that’s not what makes this spot! The brief references to the murals, portraits and leftovers were good and testified to knowledge that, given the time constraints, could not or was not allowed to be called up in full. Very much remained unexplained.

OKSE 126 aka CMYK DOTS (dots below)

The group walked back to Hackescher Markt and followed the 750-metre stretch of Dircksenstraße, along the railroad viaduct with its many street art objects (or what was left of them), to Alexanderplatz S-Bahn station. Understandably, the guide was only able to introduce and explain a few selected objects. He did this well, even if I would have liked his explanations to focus on other paste-ups, stencils, posters and leftovers. Although I doubt whether the selected objects came from Berlin’s best-known artists. At “Alex”, after almost 2 hours, there was the break announced by the organizer: Sanifair was able to increase sales, while the rest of the group waited on the platform. After what felt like 15 minutes, we finally boarded the S-Bahn to Warschauer Straße station. Participants who had bought a full BVG AB ticket in advance should be annoyed: The ticket from “Alex” to Warschauer Straße is already available for 2.40 euros per person in the short-distance fare.


To the next Hotspot

The tour led to the intersection of Warschauer Straße and Revaler Straße, where the “Swiss Made” mural by ONE TRUTH and AKTE ONE was explained in detail. Had it not been for the firewall next to it, which features a completely unsuccessful roll-on by the 1UP CREW and a rather below-average tag in the cryptic Pichação style by PARADOX from the BERLIN KIDZ on the gable, the topic of graffiti and its writers would not have been considered at all on this tour – as if this street art genre did not even exist. The guide was confident and competent when discussing the objects and provided some background information on other activities by the two crews.

Then, after walking about 250 meters along Revaler Straße, a small hotspot in itself, we entered the RAW area with the URBAN SPREE GALLERY – one of the top spots for street art in Berlin; known by almost every travel guide and: for tourist hustle and bustle. The guide pointed out a few more objects by artists already mentioned on the tour, but without going into detail about styles and techniques. More time was spent on the “Teledisko”, the smallest discotheque in the world, housed in a discarded telephone booth, than on explaining the most important street art objects at this spot. The tape-style work by OSTAP and a mural by MARINA ZUMI, as an example of female street art in a male-dominated environment, were chosen for this purpose. However, the explanations for both remained unconvincing, time was pressing; shortly afterwards, the tour in the western area of the RAW grounds ended rather abruptly after 190 minutes. Other important works were skipped. You could discover these and others for yourself.



Street art has become socially acceptable. It is hardly surprising that it is also used for tourist purposes, here in the form of a guided tour that is certainly not an everyday experience. The target audience for the “experience” reviewed here is primarily the capital city tourist, followed perhaps by the “local”, for whom street art is new territory. For this clientele, the tour described above provides a good, thoroughly useful introduction to the subject of street art, which could arouse the interest of some participants to take a closer look at the various art forms, their historical backgrounds, styles and techniques. But the tour only scratches the surface and leaves more questions than answers at the end. However, the price-performance ratio must be considered reasonable. The tour guide showed only a few weaknesses and revealed a deeper knowledge of the scene, but without being able to expand on it – three hours is not enough time for that. Advanced street art connoisseurs will realize after this tour that they neither got to know new, unknown spots, nor did they gain any deeper, new insights into style, technique, artistic intention or history. This was in particular disappointing, so this tour is not recommended for an advanced clientele.


For everyone – whether tourist, beginner or “connoisseur” – the following applies: If you check the full-bodied promises of the agent and especially the organizer in advance, you can only describe them as exaggerated after completing the tour. Here in detail:

  • “A 3-hour extraordinary city tour in Berlin”  >>>  correct
  • “Discovery of the Berlin street art scene”  >>>  can be accepted as such
  • “Discovery of well-known graffiti artists and their works and history”  >>>  if graffiti = street art (a restriction that I reject), one can agree with the statement in parts – otherwise not; with regard to the historical background of the artist: very unsatisfying
  • Opportunity to learn all about the artistic techniques and stylistic devices”  >>>  did not happen
  • Charming and knowledgeable guides with wit and in-depth knowledge of the scene”  >>>  correct
  • The guide teaches you everything about Berlin’s most famous graffiti artists and their works, as well as the various techniques, styles and history of this special art”  >>> not fulfilled in the slightest
  • Stroll through vibrant, everyday Berlin away from the tourist crowds”  >>>  the tour took you right through the middle of the masses
  • Discover the best works of art in the city today”  >>>  a very high, ultimately untenable claim, therefore a wrong promise
  • See corners of Berlin that you wouldn’t have found or overlooked on your own”  >>>  the tour led to three nationally known hotspots that are easy to find and where you can’t miss the objects, so rather a wrong promise
  • Gain an insight into this unique scene and alternative art form”  >>>  it was okay, but nothing more
  • Versatile and always new, we show you a Berlin that you are guaranteed not to have seen before”  >>>  this may be true for most tourists;
  • We take you out of the tourist hustle and bustle and into the neighborhoods like Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain”  >>>  not on this tour
  • Experience a tour that is new and a little different every time”  >>>  you can be curious and see after a few months whether the tour route and content have really changed. But I have my doubts about that.
  • Search for the coolest street art”  >>>  the selection of street art objects presented focused on old murals with a more official, tolerated and even commissioned character. Cool is different.

Critical Résumé

With the partially contradictory service descriptions of the agent and especially the grandiose announcements of the organizer, an expectation is created that easily lead to disappointment at the end of a tour. The “normal” tourist or “uninformed resident” may have read past this and still be satisfied at the end of a tour lasting actually less than three hours; in the end, they may not care what was “spread” in advance. But not the “connoisseur”. The following applies to everyone: whether they are shown a Berlin on the tour that they would definitely not get to know, just want to escape the tourist hustle and bustle or want to learn “everything” about street art: in the end, they too will not get what they were promised beforehand and may then have to pay 25-30% of the ticket price for unannounced additional costs when traveling by public transport.

I can only appeal to the tour operator to massively tone down the language used in the tour description so as not to give rise to critical comments, to stifle customer disappointment in advance with honest information or – better still – to simply deliver what has been promised. But with a realistic service description, will just as many people book this tour as before? Hardly. It is therefore understandable from the perspective of the organizer and agent to argue with completely exaggerated superlatives in order to appeal to customers for this – indeed – extraordinary tour and convince them to book. However, this is very close to the edge of the tourist trap that they actually wanted to avoid. All text passages marked in italics are information from the provider and agent.  –  AURORA IRXNSCHMOIZ


Adventure Tour Agency:  JOCHEN SCHWEIZER


Tour Page:

City Tour Agency:  BERLIN WALKS


Tour Page:

Photographer & Author:  AURORA IRXNSCHMOIZ

Hashtag:  #irxnschmoiz



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