You might be a super alternative 23 year old art-schooler, you could be an elderly Japanese sculptor, hell, you could be Picasso himself or (God forbid) an ordinary tourist with no artistic talent whatsoever – but there’s no denying that there are plenty of people for whom a city break is incomplete unless it includes discovery of the artistic and cultural solar plexus of their chosen destination. Yep, you guessed it…it’s another dealchecker top five wonder…this time, our top five arty cities! Don’t say we never do anything nice for you!
Berlin: land of Bratwurst and techno, and the proud owner of its very own uber-alternative subculture, the German capital is also famous for its artistic output. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the capital has been utterly reinvigorated as a majorly influential European arts venue, with controversial exhibits and high end galleries all jostling for space in the deliciously zeitgeisty melting pot that is Berlin’s cultural life. That said, it’s not all just the new and the cool – there are various museums dedicated to the appreciation of all facets of the artistic world, for example, Museumsinsel, which is a complex of five museums. This UNESCO World Heritage arts center features the Alte Nationalgalerie, celebrated for its German and French Impressionist paintings, plus works by renowned German artists like Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Caspar David Friedrich, Max Lieberman, and Berlin’s own Adolph von Menzel. Whilst visiting Berlin you should also see the amazing Gemäldegalerie, featuring paintings by many great European masters, from Botticelli to Rembrandt. For a more alternative experience, you should check out the hundeds of makeshift squat galleries that you can find in Kreuzberg and other such poor but cool areas – I can personally vouch for these being amazing! The ‘East Side Gallery’ (the fond name for the chunk of the Berlin Wall that has been both comically and beautifully decorated) is also worth a look (see below).
San Miguel de Allende
The other cities on this list have earned their place by being avid proprietors of stunning architecture/fully stocked museums/dedication to the progression of the arts/delete as applicable. This city is a little bit different. San Miguel de Allende is a picturesque town located in the mountains outside of Mexico City. It is known less for its accomplished curation of art and more for the draw it holds for those who wish to create their own. New York magazine described it as ‘the closest thing Mexico has to Florence’. Partly due to the unusual light bestowed upon the town and partly because of a natural artistic progression, the town boasts amazing art classes; from painting, jewelery-making, ceramics and sculpture, there’s virtually every medium available. There are lots of fantastic art galleries to visit if you seek inspiration.
You simply can’t talk about arty cities without mentioning their presiding Italian aristocrat du jour. Florence is the big daddy of artistic citites, and with good reason. The birthplace of the Renaissance movement, Florence is home to frescoes, paintings, sculpture, altar pieces and is no less than Michaelangelos home town! The Galleria dell’ Accademia is where you’ll find Michelangelo’s David, the Duomo and, the Galleria degli Uffizi, the first modern museum in all of Europe and a rituous celebration of works by Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, and of course Michelangelo. Close by is the Palazzo Strozzi, which initially positioned itself as an “anti-Uffizi” of contemporary art when it opened its Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina (Center for Contemporary Culture) in 2007, housing video installations in its courtyard and showcasing other groundbreaking artistic movements. Every corner of Florence is a masterpiece, and even if you don’t visit a single museum whilst you’re there, you’ll still feel like you’ve immersed yourself in culture, beauty and artistic splendour just by going to the supermarket for a loaf of bread.
Where all good art-lovers come to die, Paris is a city uncompromisingly dedicated to the celebration of beauty. Its museums boast some of the world’s most thrilling pieces of art, ranging from the charmingly archaic to the most ground breaking, contemporary pieces imaginable, with masterpieces coming out of its chic-ly dressed ears. The mighty Louvre will initially dwarf all other museams; showcasing over 35,000 works of art, it is packed to the rafters with tourists at pretty much every time of the year, holding treasures Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the legendary Venus de Milo sculpture like it does. The Musée d’Orsay hosts a gorgeous collection of late 19th- to early 20th-century pieces. Fans of Impressionism will certainly be visiting the striking works of Cézanne, Renoir, Manet, Monet, and Van Gogh, among others. The Centre Pompidou, known to Parisians as “Beaubourg,” is a controversial paean to modern art – some Parisians hate it, while others feel it is a strong step forward for modern architecture. The city itself is, like Florence, an ever evolving work of art, which manages to change and adapt whilst still retaining the intrinsically archaic charm it is famous for.
New York City
New York: land of ambition, hedonism and Sex and the City – and fantastic art. The famous ‘Museum Mile’ area bordering Central Park boasts a dizzying variety of different museums. Here, you can visit the Guggenheim Museum with its changeable and exciting exhibitions, as well as a permanent collection that includes such art heavyweights as Picasso, Kandinsky, and an array of French Impressionists. Nearby, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or as it is generally known, ‘The Met,’ is undoutably the toast of the New York art world with its huge collection from ancient to 20th-century works. The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, is an amazing exhibition space that displays works of art ranging from Monet’s Water Lilies to Rodins sculpture. Other museums of reputation include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Frick Collection, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. New York’s galleries are a day out in themselves as well; from the louchely expressionistic freedom of the cities underground subcultures to more upmarket, gentrified galleries and establishments, theres something to suit every artistic taste in this most cosmopolitan of cities.
Yes, we know we’ve left lots out *coughRomecoughVienna* but its just impossible to fit them all into our tiny five city bracket! If you really disagree with our choices, do let us know!