Drain Spotting: Looking For Art Under Your Feet

Drain Spotting: Looking For Art Under Your Feet
A manhole cover in Prague, Photo Credit: Poh Smith /

Take a tour around the world through the art of manhole covers

Sayani Manna
August 19 , 2021
08 Min Read

‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ goes the famous line and you will find plenty of beauty in the art found in public spaces around the world. But have you been looking down enough to find some spectacular art underfoot? Drain, sewer or manhole covers, however you would like to call them, mark the mouths of tunnels, pipes and shafts that run under the belly of cities and towns. While most of these cast iron discs are plain and simple, some are worth crossing lands and seas for a visit!

Bratislava, Slovakia
A bronze statue of a man sticking out of a manhole in the Old Town of Bratislava
Have you met Culmil the sewage worker yet? Somewhat of a peeping tom, he is Bratslava’s notorious sewer worker who sports a cheeky smile and coolly checks you out as you walk by. 


Osaka, Japan

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A post shared by Milo Anthony Ventimiglia (@miloanthonyventimiglia) on Jun 28, 2019 at 2:38pm PDT

Manhole covers in Japan are like street jewellery—they glitter just like their stunning cities. In fact, the city's manhole covers are one of the top attractions for tourists, and you'll find them all over Instagram This eye-catching one in Osaka depicts the Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo), complete with cherry blossoms since the castle is a popular hanami (flower-viewing) spot.

Berlin, Germany
A manhole cover with famous monuments of Berlin

Featuring the most popular landmarks of Berlin—the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin TV Tower, the Reichstag Building, the Victory Column of Berlin, and the Federal Chancellery Building—this manhole cover made by Germany’s largest water works company, Berliner Wasserbetriebe, is almost like a symbolic compass that works as a reminder of all the fascinating landmarks that dot the city.

Budapest, Hungary

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A post shared by Dafni Bug (@dafnitin) on Oct 7, 2017 at 4:09am PDT

Budapest’s streets are a canvas of art, and the fleurs de lis is the commonest icon that you’ll come across along with their coat of arms. This gorgeous sewer cover is one of the many found here that has intricate details of the four lily flowers, with ash leaves pointing out the compass directions.

Stavanger, Norway
Cast iron manhole cover on a cobblestone street

Norway’s rainy town of Stavanger sports beautiful manholes like these that capture the idyllic rustic life of the people living there in white wooden houses.

Vancouver, Canada

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A post shared by Manholes of the world (@worldofmanholes) on Aug 10, 2018 at 6:57pm PDT

Did you know the city of Vancouver runs contests to design their city sewer covers? This constellation-like manhole cover is a result of one such competition and is now one of the most identifiable icons of the city.

Galway, Ireland
A decorative iron lid with Celtic art
From engravings in ancient monuments and kirks to jewellery and tattoos – there is no doubting how much the Irish love their Celtic knots. An extension of this love is this spectacularly intricate manhole cover that sports a Celtic knot along with an old Celtic pattern.

Denver, Colorado 

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A post shared by Manhole Covers & Their Stories (@sidewalk_candy) on Mar 12, 2020 at 4:17am PDT

Hand-drawn and later cast in iron, this sewer cover is an iconic one. Head over to Denver Colorado’s artsy Lower Downtown Historic District and you will definitely come across this one.

Gunma, Japan

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A post shared by Sarah (@manholesnme) on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:39pm PST

That the Japanese do art like no one else needs no further proof than the sight of its bright popping manhole covers. This kawai-style colourful drain cover in Gunma can be found near one of the hot springs (or 'onsen') that dot this place and shows how yumomi (the traditional method of cooling hot springs using paddle boards) is done.  Don’t be surprised if you find the same art printed on T-shirts and coasters too.


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