Europe’s best cities for art lovers dot the continent from the British Isles to Russia. They all boast priceless art pieces. Each is unique, and some will appeal to you more than others.
To put seven in the frame of the best category is a tall order. I’ve chosen seven of these based on my personal experiences.
London has some of the most excellent art museums and galleries in Europe. The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s leading decorative arts and design museum. With 2.3 million objects spanning 5,000 years, the V&A buildings are also works of art.
If you like contemporary art, head over to Tate Modern, located on the banks of the Thames. Part of the attraction is the Tate Modern building, a former power station. Also, visit Tate Britain, the sister museum featuring British art from the 16th century to the present day.
Those who like hieroglyphs and Egyptian art may want to visit the British Museum. Check out the Rosetta Stone and Mummy of Katebet. I love the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. The highlights are Giotto’s Pentecost, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist, Michelangelo’s The Entombment and two of Raphael’s works – The Ansidei Madonna and The Madonna of the Pinks.
Most of the art museums and galleries do not require an admission fee.
2. St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg has some of the most exquisite art pieces in the world. For starters, the State Hermitage Museum or simply, the Hermitage, was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 spans across six buildings showcasing over three million pieces of art including the Peacock Clock, Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna and child – Madonna Litta and Madonna Benois, Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy and Raphael’s Madonna and Child (1483).
Another of my favorite art museums in St. Petersburg is Faberge Museum – a museum dedicated to the works of Russian jeweler Carl Faberge. Other newcomers include New Museum (Novy Muzei) and Anna Nova Gallery.
Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemsiza, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia are three world-renowned art museums in Madrid. Spain’s most famous painter was and still is Diego Velazquez. Velazquez was the court painter of King Philip IV. The Prado houses over 50 of the approximately 120 paintings by Velazquez. One to look out for is Las Meninas, an oil on canvas painting of Infanta Margarita, her two maids and Velazquez himself in the background. There are over 7,000 pieces of art in the Prado including works by Spanish painters Goya and El Greco.
It’s fair to say that Rijksmuseum holds a special place for Rembrandt’s art lovers. The highlight being The Night Watch, Rembrandt’s biggest and most famous art. The newly refurbished Rijksmuseum has over 8,000 artworks, and the building itself is a work of art. Other renowned art pieces are – The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer and Self Portrait by Van Gogh.
The museum’s Cuypers Library is the oldest and largest art library in the Netherlands. Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum are two other museums to consider when visiting Amsterdam.
Paris’ most famous art museum, the Louvre can be overwhelming if you’re traveling with young kids. Believe it or not, when I visited the Louvre with my kids when they were seven and eleven, my focus was to see only three pieces of art. They were the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike of Samothrace) and Venus de Milo. It was worth the trip! I could only imagine what I would’ve seen if I spent an entire week at the Louvre.
For those who like Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings, Musee d’Orsay is a must. For the famous Rodin’s creation, check out The Thinker and The Kiss at Musee Rodin.
Florence was the cultural center of Early Italian Renaissance art. Some of the greatest of that age were Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. The most famous among all the artwork is the sculpture of David by Michelangelo in Bargello and Galleria dell’Accademia.
Equally impressive are works by Botticelli and Caravaggio in Uffizi Gallery. Check out Birth of Venus (Botticelli) and Medusa (Caravaggio).
Classical music and artwork go together in Vienna; the city has been made famous by composers like Strauss, Haydn, and Mozart. The most famous Austrian painter is Gustav Klimt. He was the Art Nouveau pioneer. The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I are two of the most celebrated pieces he created. You can see The Kiss and 23 of his other paintings at the Upper Belvedere, a baroque palace in Vienna.
For other Austrian artists’ works visit Leopold Museum in MuseumsQuartier and Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi