People have been marking their bodies with ink for thousands of years, pricking the skin with sharpened steel or wood and using soot, ink, or other DIY pigment to create permanent decorations. It’s a way of expressing individuality, and tattoos can serve as signs of nobility, infamy, or property and almost everything in between.
They’re not for everyone, but when it comes to making a masterpiece or memento that you can carry around with you, there’s nothing like them. While Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City are filled with skilled tattoo artists operating out of storefronts, sometimes a tattoo from an incredible trip is just the souvenir you’ve been looking for.
Ahead, some of the most unique places to get a tattoo around the world.
Black Out Tattoo, Hong Kong
British-born, Hong Kong-based Rob Kelly—who is also known as Rodeo Rob—has a reputation that reaches around the globe. His shop on a bustling street in the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong is known for its cleanliness (he’s a self-professed germaphobe) and for putting out some of the most beautiful ink around. Kelly isn’t the shop’s only tattoo artist, though, as Black Out Tattoo frequently brings in talented artists from around the world to show off their skills.
Salon Serpent Tattoo Parlour, Amsterdam
Salon Serpent is the homebase of Angelique Houtkamp, one of the premiere tattoo artists in the world. Not only does she create dazzling illustrations, but she also helps breast cancer survivors by tattooing realistic nipples. If you’re not up for permanent ink, the shop also sells paintings and books that collect Houtkamp’s vibrant images. The shop is located near the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, so if the art work inspires you, or you’re simply feeling bold, swing by—they accept walk-in appointments on Saturdays.
Modern Classic Tattoo, London
Modern Classic Tattoo was opened by renowned ink artist Valerie Vargas opened her own tattoo parlor in London in 2014. While she is known for her feminine style, don’t let that fool you. She can ink anything from dragons that stretch across a full-back to Dia de las Muertes inspired skulls, giving them her distinctive, vibrant style. The shop is conveniently located near the Tube stop, right off Fulham Road.
Tattoo You, São Paolo, Brazil
When the original outpost of Tattoo You opened in 1979, it gained the title of first professional tattoo studio in São Paulo. While the company has expanded to two locations in São Paulo and one in Orlando, Florida, the shop’s mission has remained the same: create memorable, unique art that you’ll love for a lifetime. The shop has many excellent artists on staff, but Felipe “Fe Rod” Rodrigues is building a global reputation for his incredible artistry, which you can see on his Instagram feed.
Calypso Tattoo, Liège, Belgium
Liège was one of T+L’s top destinations for 2016, thanks to its blossoming art and food scenes. Add that to the growing tattoo scene lead by Calypso Tattoo and Daniel DiMattia, and you’ve got a vacation destination. DiMattia is known for working just in black ink, but thanks to his impressive eye for detail and serious skill with shades of grey, his greyscale work feels downright colorful. If you’re looking for geometric patterns to decorate your arm (or leg), book a flight to Liège.
Mana’o Tattoo Studio, Tahiti
While a vacation in Tahiti is always memorable, if you want a lifelong souvenir, make an appointment at Mana’o Tattoo Studio in Papeete. If you’re interested in getting tribal art, Mana’o’s resident tattoo guru Manu Farrarons, is arguably the best in the world, having won multiple honors around the globe for his impeccable work. His traditional Polynesian work is truly stunning, and you don’t have to be a resident of French Polynesia to want to adorn yourself with it.
If you can’t get an appointment with renowned German tattoo artist Peter Aurisch, who requires a heartfelt essay to convince him to pick up his needle, head to AKA Berlin, instead. This hip tattoo studio/café/performance space in Kreuzberg is home to some of Berlin’s finest ink artists. Sophie Lee creates minimalist, cartoonish designs as well as detailed replicas of Frida Kahlo’s art, the cast of Absolutely Fabulous, and a slice of pizza. Basically, whatever you want on your arm, she can deliver. If you’re not thinking about a permanent addition to your body, the shop also runs an online store selling their artists’ edgy work in T-shirt form.
Hunter & Fox Tattoo, Sydney, Australia
Tucked into a storefront on the outskirts of Sydney (on the way to Bondi Beach) sits the unassuming storefront of one of the best tattoo parlors in Australia. Hunter & Fox is home base for Lauren Winzer, who has earned a serious Instagram following thanks to her vibrant designs of Kewpie dolls, kitty cats, and snow globes, and counts Miley Cyrus among her fans. Make an appointment in advance or simply walk in to the shop on a whim. If you regret your decision or want to make room for bigger and better art, Hunter & Fox also offers tattoo removal.
Whole Glory, Various Locations
Don’t go to Whole Glory if you’re determined to get your sorority letters, Daffy Duck, or any design in mind because the tattoo is entirely up to the artist. Customers simply stick their arm in a hole in the wall, and pull it out when the tattoo artist is completely finished with the design. This performance art piece/tattoo parlor is the brain child of celebrity tattoo artist Scott Campbell who counts Marc Jacobs, Orlando Bloom, and Courtney Love among his clients. The exhibition has done stints in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Moscow, and London so far and there’s no telling where it will pop up next. If you’re eager for one of Campbell’s designs, his home base is Brooklyn’s Saved Tattoo.
Honey Tattoo, Tokyo
Japan has a long history of tattooing and there’s no better place to get in touch with that history than at Honey Tattoo, which uses traditional tebori techniques to create vivid designs. Based in Ikebukuro, the resident artist, Horimitsu, works mostly by hand to create his large scale pieces. The work takes a long time to complete, but if you want a masterpiece to call your own, this is the place to get it.