Despite being British myself and growing up hearing his mysterious name, the only place I have actually had the opportunity to see the elusive British artist Banksy’s graffiti up close in real life was all the way out in Palestine’s West Bank of all places.
Some of Banksy’s most notable and thought-provoking pieces are here – including the legendary masked thug throwing flowers, and the somber image of a girl frisking a soldier. Banksy has made his stance in support of the Palestinian people and their struggles quite clear. He even opened an art hotel in Bethlehem (“the walled off hotel”) from which the proceeds go towards assisting the locals.
Admiring the street art and the Banksy graffiti in Bethlehem, the nearby refugee camps and the 25 foot separation wall that stands between Israel and Palestine is a worthwhile and rewarding experience. Is it to make light of the hardships and struggles felt by people in this part of the world? Of course not. However I see the art here as a form of peaceful, political expression. You can really see and feel the emotions and pain expressed in some of these pieces so I really recommend taking the time to admire them while you are in Bethlehem.
Banksy Graffiti in the West Bank
It’s easy to get to Bethlehem and the separation wall from Jerusalem. You don’t need to hire a local guide or do a tour in order to see the city’s street art, and this part of the West Bank sees a lot of tourists so it’s perfectly safe.
Getting to the Separation Wall
From Damascus gate in Jerusalem, there are several buses that run into Bethlehem and only cost 7 shekels. Crossing the border is an easy process for international tourists. To be in the best location for checking out the graffiti, be sure to get off the bus straight after the checkpoint. You can take the number 21,321 or 324 Arab buses. When the bus stops, you will see the “Walled off hotel” to your right.
You can follow the wall to check out the various art pieces, and go on an artsy treasure hunt for Banksy paintings all on foot.
Stop off at the Walled-Off Hotel
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Boasting the “worst view in the world”, Banksy’s relatively newly opened walled off hotel has made waves in putting Palestine’s West Bank on the radars of open-minded international travellers. The rooms here offer up the chance to stay and sleep within a work of art. Each of the rooms have unique, individual designs and have been lovingly created by some of the best artists in the world – including Banksy, Dominique Petrin and Sami Musa.
Some of the rooms and suites here are quite pricey, but hostel style “barracks” are also an option for budget travellers and whichever room you choose is certainly worth it for the experience. If you’re not a guest of the hotel, you can still check out the bar and lounge which features regular musical performances from local Palestinian Jazz musicians, in addition to art exhibits and contests.
Check out rates and events at the walled off hotel here.
From the walled-off hotel, turn and face the imposing wall behind you and among all of the colourful paintings and stenciling that has been done by hotel guests you will find Banksy’s newest addition to his Palestinian street art collection – Two angels fighting over a crowbar.
Girl Frisking a Soldier
From the walled off hotel, continue down the main road that leads away from the separation wall. The Girl Frisking a Soldier graffiti is tricky to find on account of the fact that a shrewd local business owner has built a wall around it and now charges people for admission. To find the piece, you can use the coordinates 31°42’57.8″N+35°12’05.7″E in your Google Maps.
You will basically see a touristic looking shop with a little shed type outhouse building adjoined to it. Unfortunately when I was in Bethlehem the store was closed. Despite walking back and forth for a while and asking some locals, I realised that the piece was inside the store and the owner was nowhere to be found.
It’s kind of unfortunate that this has been claimed as someone’s own personal Banksy. From what I understand from other travellers, the proprietor charges people to look at the piece.
The Armored Dove
From the site of the girl frisking the soldier and the stomping ground of the sneaky shop owner, continue down the same main road leading away from the separation wall. When you arrive at the junction for Manger Road, you will see the beautiful painting of a White Dove visible from afar. It’s splashed along the walls of the Palestinian Heritage Centre. For your reference, the map coordinates of this place are 31°43’02.1″N+35°12’08.8″E.
The Angel Scattering Hearts & The Masked Thug
The “Angel Scattering Hearts” is a piece that is under debate as to whether it is a genuine Banksy graffiti or not. It is situated in close proximity to the “Masked Thug”. The latter is probably one of Banksy’s most famous works and my personal favourite. Until I arrived in Bethlehem, I hadn’t actually realised it was here.
The Masked Thug throwing flowers is phenomenal. No matter how many times you’ve seen this photographed or splashed over websites and magazines, it doesn’t compare to seeing it in real life. The piece extends over several stories and has been painted on the side of a gas station – the owner of which seemed really excited and proud to have been chosen for this Banksy West Bank piece.
To get to both of these spots, you need to walk along Manger Street, past the old town until you approach the Ararat hotel. The angel awaits at 31°42’16.9″N+35°12’52.5″E. From there, follow Beit Sahour westwards using the coordinates 31°42’15.1″N 35°13’41.9″E to find the masked thug.
Peace on Earth
The “Peace on Earth” painting which adds “terms and conditions apply” is one of Banksy’s most recent pieces in the area (along with the Angel’s Fighting). It seems that the anonymous mystery man is in Palestine quite frequently for his Walled Off hotel and so new works are popping up again.
From the masked thug, backtrack and walk back towards Manger square. “Peace on Earth” cannot be missed and is located opposite the milk grotto.
Other Street Art Along the Separation Wall
It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to actually see world famous Banksy pieces in the flesh. One benefit of venturing to off the beaten path Palestine is that you will find that you have the paintings entirely to yourself. That said, the works of local Palestinian artists are equally worthy of your time and do a great job of expressing the struggles faced by locals.
In order to see the best local street art, continue walking along next to the separation wall from the walled off hotel. Murals show a desire for a peaceful unification between Israel and Palestine and boast hopeful slogans such as “Make hummus not walls!”.
West Bank Travel FAQs
I know that Palestine is not exactly your typical tourist destination. I was really touched by my time here though and despite wandering around as a solo woman sweating and frantically trying to find Banksy Palestine pieces, the locals were really kind and friendly.
I would recommend spending a little longer in the West Bank if you are able to do so. To answer any questions you may have and for a little Palestinian travel inspiration, I have written this comprehensive Travel Guide to Palestine’s West Bank.
Is it Safe?
Travelling in the West Bank requires more assertiveness than travelling to a lot of places. The region is not unsafe in terms of hostility towards tourists, but the small chance of getting caught up in a clash between Israeli and Palestinian forces. Unfortunately the most common place that this occurs is at the separation wall where the trail I’ve outlined here leads you.
Check your government travel advice and the local news consistently throughout your trip and prior to embarking on this spray painted journey. If you see signs of a gathering, or local businesses start pulling down their shutters, head into a restaurant or hotel and wait.
Finding the Graffiti
Unfortunately street art tourism isn’t really a thing in the West Bank. Everyone can point you to the spot where Jesus was born but nobody can tell you where the Armored Dove is or the Girl Frisking a Soldier. When I asked people, they just looked at me blankly, and they already thought I was strange as it was for wandering there alone with a huge pink selfie stick! I recommend writing the coordinates from this guide down just in case.
You can also hire a local cab driver to show you around. There are many of them congregated around the separation wall. By all means negotiate with them on the price. This is a nice way to support the locals.
Getting a Guide
If you prefer to explore Bethlehem and its meaningful street art scene with the help of a guide, I understand you! I would recommend that you hire a local Palestinian Guide, rather than an Israeli Guide in the interests of supporting local tourism. The Visit Palestine site shows the profiles of plenty of guides with excellent reputations that you can hire.
Other Banksy Work in Palestine
Once upon a time there were more Banksy pieces in Palestine than those that are contained within this list. Unfortunately they were destroyed or painted over so the ones I have mentioned are all that remain.
Have any questions about Banksy West Bank pieces or travelling in the West Bank in general? Feel free to reach out to me in the comments below or drop me an email!
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