Sometimes, you don’t want to spend your vacation laying around on a beach. If you’re an art lover, you might be looking for a city that can provide you with a vibrant arts scene filled with unique culture and great collections. Luckily, there are plenty of cities throughout the world that offer just that. Ready to plan an art-oriented vacation? Start by taking a look at these eight cities, which offer world-class museums, one-of-a-kind collections, and must-see displays.
1. Berlin, Germany
This European city is a leader when it comes to art. It’s filled with great art venues, new architecture, cutting-edge exhibits and high-end art galleries, per Shermans Travel. A priority while you’re there should be the Museumsinsel, also known as Museum Island, which is a complex of five museums on the site of an original city settlement.
“This UNESCO World Heritage arts center features the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), celebrated for its German and French Impressionist paintings, plus works by celebrated German artists like Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Caspar David Friedrich, Max Lieberman, and Berlin’s own Adolph von Menzel. The island plays host, as well, to the Altes Museum (Old Museum), dedicated to antiquities from Rome and Greece, and the Pergamonmuseumm, named after the fascinating 180 BC Greek temple it houses,” according to Shermans Travel.
But if that’s not peaking your interest, you can also try the Dahlem Museum, a cluster of four museums filled with exotic art from India, Asia, Africa, and the South Seas, as well as pieces from Native American and Early European cultures. Make sure to try and make room on your itinerary for the Gemaldegalerie, a museum that features paintings by many great European artists.
2. Florence, Italy
Florence has attracted visitors for centuries – its art not only lies in museums, but also resides in the architecture displayed throughout the city. The palaces scattered throughout Florence are built with local stone, and they “take on a certain magnificence when day breaks and when the sun sets; their muted colors glow in this light,” according to Fodor’s Travel.
Take time to walk along the Arno, which offers views that travelers have been admiring for more than 700 years. And, of course, you’ll want to stop by the Uffizi, located in the heart of the city, known as Piazza della Signoria, which holds some of the most admirable works of Italian Renaissance art.
3. New York City
The Metropolitan, The Guggenheim, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Modern and the Chelsea Galleries are just a few of the art attractions that New York has to offer. But, if you’re looking to go a little off the beaten path to get your art fix, try the PS1 Center for Contemporary Art, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, International Center for Photography, The Brooklyn Museum and Williamsburg and Brooklyn Galleries, writes Art Bistro.
Looking for a place to stay that will continue to satiate your art needs? The Gramercy Park Hotel, which was decorated by “Julian Schnabel, the Brooklyn-born artist who first drew attention in the 1980s for his ‘plate paintings,’ featuring images applied to broken ceramics,” says ABC News. The hotel’s art collection includes pieces by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Richard Prince, Keith Haring, and Julian Schnabel.
The New York Palace is another great choice – you’ll find a courtyard displaying a hand-painted, multi-colored bronze sculpture by artist Dorit Levinstein entitled Renoir’s Dancers. There are also seven smaller sculptures that are on display in the hotel lobby. The New York Palace leaves no rock unturned when it comes to offering guests the ultimate art experience. The hotel even has a cocktail, called Renoir’s Dancers, which features multi-colored seeds that appear to dance in the glass when stirred, writes ABC News.
4. Cordoba, Spain
“Córdoba today, with its modest population of a little more than 300,000, offers a cultural depth and intensity—a direct legacy from the great emirs, caliphs, philosophers, physicians, poets, and engineers of the days of the caliphate — that far outstrips the city’s current commercial and political power,” according to Fodors.
Where you should you start when visiting Cordoba? The Mezquita-Catedral (mosque-cathedral) is a great place to begin – it’s one of the greatest mosques ever built, per The Guardian. It’s a beautiful building that has a lot of cultural significance. It symbolizes the many religious changes that Cordoba has been through over the centuries. Most of its art and architecture can be attributed to the work of Islamic architects, who originally built it as a mosque in the eighth century, according to Sacred Destinations. Also, be sure to take in the beautiful jasmine-, geranium-, and orange blossom-filled patios, as well as the uniquely-built Renaissance palaces. There are also two dozen churches, convents, and hermitages that are absolutely worth exploring.
5. Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City offers visitors ample choices when it comes to its art scene. You’ll want to check out the Art Institute of Chicago, a museum that greets you with two iconic lion statues, which hosts one of the world’s most impressive collection of Impressionist paintings, as well as works created by Picasso, Dali, Pollock, and Warhol, says Shermans Travel. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art – you can expect to see a mix of paintings, sculptures, and photography.
Chicago even offers some niche museums, including the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Oriental Institute Museum. Don’t forget to take time to walk by The Loop. It includes an untitled Picasso piece, Miro’s Chicago, Chagall’s Four Seasons, and Calder’s Flamingo, per Shermans Travel.
6. Laguna Beach, California
This is a great place for art visitors to visit if they’re not ready to jet-set across the world. Known as an artistic haven, this beachside town is filled with museums, art galleries and events. Check out the Laguna Art Museum, which features permanent collections, special exhibits and educational programs. This museum is also unique for that fact that it only collects California art (but includes many different periods and styles).
You’ll also find art galleries scattered through the city, as well as fun events such as First Thursdays ArtWalk, a monthly art event that is free to the public and celebrates the city’s diverse cultural art scene. If you happen to be there during July or August, you will also be able to take in the Festivals of the Arts, including the Pageant of the Masters, which has real-life reenactments of famous paintings, per Nerd Wallet. An event dedicated to promoting the art created in Laguna Beach, the Sawdust Festival, also occurs every summer and winter.
7. Milan, Italy
Known as the business capital of Italy, this city is also a great destination for art lovers. It holds Italy’s most renowned opera house, La Scala, which was built in 1778. One of its most unique features is the concave channel under the wooden floor of the orchestra, credited to giving the theater great acoustics, per National Geographic. Milan is also central to Italian fashion and design, a great thing for any art enthusiast who also loves to shop.
Let’s also not overlook the fact that you’ll be able to find Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, along with many other famous artists’ pieces. There are also many unique and somewhat hidden artistic displays scattered throughout the city. “A side street conceals a garden complete with flamingos (Via dei Cappuccini, just off Corso Venezia), and a renowned 20th-century art collection hides modestly behind an unspectacular facade a block from Corso Buenos Aires (the Casa Museo Boschi-di Stefano),” writes Fodor’s Travel.
8. Phoenix, Arizona
This Arizona city is oozing with great art. Start with the Phoenix Art Museum, and then be sure to follow up with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, according to Art Bistro. For designers traveling to Phoenix, a must-see destination is Taliesin West, which is where Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home resides. Many of Wright’s most famous works were designed in the drafting room at Taliesin West.
There are also galleries and artist studios that can be found throughout the city. Finally, if you’re hoping to take in some free art in the form of beautiful views, drive through the Apache Trail. Look out for great sites throughout the scenic route, including the Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town and Theodore Roosevelt Dam, per Art Bistro.