If you’re an art lover, captivated by the magic of painting, sculpture and architecture, there’s a whole wonderful world out there to explore. From Rome to Mexico City to Amsterdam, St. Petersburg, Cairo and Taiwan, the great cities of the world are also great destinations for art lovers. So what are the best places to visit for art lovers? We’ve compiled a short list, but keep in mind that this is only the beginning.
Vacation spots for art lovers
Why not combine your vacation with visits to the some of the most renowned museums for art lovers? Some of the top destinations for art lovers are listed below, but not in any particular order. We found it impossible to rank them, since masterpieces are just that: masterpieces of human creation that transcend the barriers of time and space.
1. Rome and the Vatican
The Eternal City with its magnificent architecture, its Roman ruins and historic sites from the Renaissance, with its museums and churches, it rich history and culture, is one of the focal points of western art. The Capitoline Museum, Borghese Gallery and Ara Pacis will leave you awestruck. Walk around to get the feel of the cityscape with the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the churches and the squares.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and museums in the Vatican are an artistic pilgrimage as much as a religious one. We would have to write an encyclopedia to include everything an art lover should see in Rome and Italy. Space only permits us to add that trips to Florence, Milan and Venice are a must on this visit.
History and culture meet in Istanbul, one of the great crossroads of the world. Its mosques, palaces and museums are a source of infinite fascination, and everyday life is equally worth watching. Begin with Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, and carry on exploring the mosques, markets, gardens, and parks in a setting which defines civility. A museum pass will gain you three or five days of entry to the city’s museums, including the archeological museum, which houses antiquities dating back to the 6th century before Christ.
3. St. Petersburg
The Hermitage Museum collection was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 and opened to the public in 1852. The collections are housed in a series of six beautiful historic buildings, including the Winter Palace. The collection includes art from prehistoric times, Classical antiquities, works from the Italian Renaissance, arms and armor from the 15th to 17th centuries, fine arts, and 17th century Golden Age and Baroque paintings, including one of the best collections of van Dyck, Rubens and Rembrandt anywhere.
There are also English painters like Gainsborough and Reynolds, Russian art and Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. And keep an eye open for the museum’s genius loci, the Hermitage cats who were originally recruited to keep the basements free of mice. They are now regular members of the staff with their own press secretary, caretakers and kitchens.
Located on historic Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is home to masterpieces by van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, Holbein, Turner, Caravaggio, Vermeer and many others including the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. The lack of space at the National Gallery led to the construction of the Tate Modern, which is home to British and contemporary art. The British Museum houses one of the largest collections of art and antiquities anywhere in the world.
The Rijkmuseum with its collection of works by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer is the centerpiece of a visit to Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum is devoted to the works of the tortured genius and a visit is both a sobering and uplifting experience. There’s also the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam with modern and contemporary art with works by van Gogh, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Chagall, Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Appel, Warhol, de Kooning, Marlene Dumas and Lucio Fontana. A canal tour is a good way to view the city’s rich 17th century architecture.
Paris is the gateway to all the artistic treasures of France. Beginning with the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and Musee d’Orsay, you will rapidly come to the conclusion that the city is itself a work of art. A work in progress, at that. As with many European cities, the churches are home to some of the greatest art. The cathedrals of Notre Dame and Monte Marte are staggering testimonials to faith. A short way away is Versailles with the palace of the Sun King. Beyond the central Paris region are the chateaux and the cathedrals, the palaces and forests soaked in history and romance.
6. New York
If any city could claim to be the center of the contemporary world, it must be New York. For art lovers, your visit begins with a visit to The Met, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its famous steps are a New York landmark. The magnificent entrance hall leads you into room after room full of masterpieces from all ages and around the world. The Egyptian Collection is housed in its own new annexe.
For those who like modern art, MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) is the place to go. The sculpture courtyard with works by Rodin is a wonderful quiet retreat from the rush and bustle of the city. The Whitney Museum of American Art has much to delight. For the avant grade art scene, Soho and Williamsburg are just a short hop in the subway.
Like many of the cities listed here, Madrid is the gateway to Spain and its rich history. The Royal Palace Museum houses some of the classic works by Goya, Velasquez, Hieronymus Bosch and many others. The Modern Art museum shows why Spain has been at the forefront of the art world for at least four hundred years. It is home to Picasso’s Guernica. Beyond Madrid, Seville and Barcelona are art destinations. The fabulous architecture ranges from Andalusian palaces in Granada to Gothic cathedrals and churches to the modernist monuments of Gaudi.
8. Mexico City
The capital city of Mexico was founded on the site of the city of Tenochtitlan, built by by the Mexica people in 1325. Legend has it that the Mexica god Huitzilopochtli showed the site where the city was to be be built, by sending an eagle to perch on a cactus plant. Like all the destinations listed here, the museums, architecture and art are tied in with the history of the city and the country.
The Museo Nacional de AntropologÃa (National Museum of Anthropology) is Mexico’s national museum and contains the finest collection of pre-Spanish art and archaeology in the world. A tour of Mexico City’s cultural riches would begin with the Centro HistÃ³rico, the city’s historic center with the Palacio Nacional, the Cathedral Metropolitana, and the recently excavated monuments of the Templo Mayor. The surrounding buildings date from the 16th century and include the Church of Santo Domingo. Contemporary museums, colleges and cultural centers offer visitors glimpses of the cultural vitality of one of the great cities of the world.
As you would expect, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo has the finest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world, including the Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun. The city’s mosques and buildings are a fascinating view of various styles of architecture. And the great monuments of the ancient Egyptians are a short trip by bus, train or boat on the historic Nile River.
10. Taipei, Taiwan
The National Palace Museum has the finest collection of ancient Chinese art and artifacts. It covers 10,000 years from the Neolithic period to the Qing dynasty, and many of the objects in the collection belonged to the emperors. The museum is related to the Palace Museum in Beijing.
The National Museum has a fine collection of Japanese art and paintings as well as early art from the Buddhist cultures that flourished along the Silk Road. Parts of the Royal Palace are open to visitors as well, and the numerous shrines with their gardens around the capital city are a welcoming and serene environment for art lovers. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Tokyo for the spring Cherry Blossom festival, you get a glimpse of a way of life that is an art in itself.
The Indian capital is rich in history and architecture, even though many of the historic remains are in ruins. Recent renovations at the Tomb of Humayun and Safdarjung have turned these into tourist destinations. The National Museum showcases five thousand years of history from the Harappan civilization, the Buddhist age with sculpture from the Gandhara and Mathura schools, medieval miniature paintings and objects. Nearby Agra with the famed Taj Mahal and Agra Fort are a short train journey away. We would recommend including Fatehpur Sikri on this trip. The enigmatic 16th century city has some gorgeous architecture and remains a monument to religious tolerance.
In case your favorite art destination has been left out here, please add it in the comments section below. This listing is necessarily very incomplete, but that’s a good thing for art lovers. It means there’s a whole lot more to see and do out there! Happy traveling!