For the traveler who’s determined to make the best out of a city, visiting all its main attractions and dining at some of its best restaurants is not enough. If your really want to know what’s happening outside the over-crowded touristic areas, where everything looks nice and clean, then maybe you should start by checking out some abandoned buildings. You might be surprised by what you can find there: instead of some stray cats and drunk homeless, you might just run into the middle of an experimental theater representation or some mind-blowing art installation.
Since artists began to use the abandoned buildings for creating and exhibiting their works several decades ago, it became a norm for each European city to have at least one squat. Squatting Europe doesn’t necessarily mean that you must give away all your belongings and search for some abandoned building where you can make your den and join an anarchist group. It simply means that, if you are an (underground) art enthusiasts, then it really works paying a visit to some the following locations, in addition to blindly following your travel guide.
If there is one European city that can claim to be the squatters paradise, that is definitely Amsterdam. Ironically, despite the housing shortage and high accommodation prices (or maybe just because), Amsterdam has numerous abandoned buildings and some very permissive laws in what concerns squatting, not to mention its well organized squatters community. As for art squats, some of the best known are OT301, Pakhuis Wilhelmina, Molli and Zaal 100.
Good old London has quite a history with squatting, but it hasn’t been much since art squatting has gone mainstream. Today, there are numerous squat residences scattered all over the big city, most of them inhabited and managed by young artists. If you want to get a taste of some very radical and challenging works of art, I suggest getting in touch with the Artspace Lifespace, the Da! Collective or !WOWOW!.
The inhabitants of Fabrica Yfanet in the Greek city of Thessaloniki are showing as a good example of how anarchy and social protests can live under the same roof with avangardist cultural manifestations. Fabrica Yfanet was occupied in 2004, and in its 6 years of existence it managed to organize the most various events, from a documentary festival to anti-consumerist street demonstrations (they have even gone as far as throwing eggs and rotten tomatoes against the Museum of Modern Art’s building).
Although it’s hard to imagine that any house would remain unoccupied in a city with such a splendid architecture and dynamic cultural life as Barcelona, the truth is that Barcelona has quite a number of squats (over 40!), many of which serve as underground concert halls. And just to prove how serious Catalan squatters are about this, there is even a public agenda, listing all the upcoming events organized by each squat.
There has been much dispute around Rozbrat, one of the first art squats in Poland. Situated in the historic city of Poznan, the squat, which will be celebrating 16 years in 2010, is now on the point of being closed. The decision of the local council to sell the Rozbrat building has transformed these peaceful artists into social activists. We can only wish that Rozbrat will continue to enchant locals and visitors with its exquisite events!