Discovering art on your travels is one of the best ways to get to know new cultures and histories. From exploring art galleries to strolling through street art, there are so many ways to get inspired by art travel. Whether you want to feast your eyes on works by Europe’s greatest masters, famous graffiti art, incredible architecture, or modern sculptures, here are some of the best destinations for the ultimate high art travel experiences.
If you’re looking for the best art travel experiences, you can’t miss the gorgeous Italian city of Florence. It was the cradle of the Renaissance, home to some of the world’s most Old Masters including Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael and Titian. From churches to chapels to galleries, there are endless masterpieces to feast your eyes on.
So what are the must-do’s in this artistic city? Start with Michelangelo’s legendary David sculpture and the famous Uffizi gallery where you can see da Vinci’s The Annunciation, Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. You also can’t miss seeing Brunelleschi’s incredible duomo at the Florence Cathedral. If you’re looking for some lesser-known gems, check out the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which also holds art from the Duomo, and the Bargello sculpture museum, home to early works by Michelangelo.
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As the cultural capital of Australia, art lovers flock to Melbourne, where art seems to, quite literally, flow out of the streets. The vibrant street art is one of the most beloved characteristics of the city, and you can go wandering through the laneways of Melbourne’s CBD to discover side alleys covered in graffiti art, spray paint, stencils and installations created by both local and international artists. As you marvel at all the different artworks, you’ll also stumble upon small galleries, boutique designer stores, lively bars, and cafes serving up the famous Melbourne coffee.
Don’t miss Hosier Lane, ACDC Lane, Union Lane, Degrave Street and Croft Alley in Chinatown. You can also see New York artist Keith Haring’s renovated 1980s mural at Johnston Street in Collingwood. For more art on the streets, head to the Bourke Street Mall to see Simon Perry’s Public Purse. There’s also Birrarung Marr Park where you’ll see the Federation Bells and Deborah Halpern’s Angel sculpture.
Once you’ve got your fill of street art, there’s art galleries galore! The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is home to some of the country’s biggest collections of art, with two sites houses both an international collection and an Australian indigenous and non-indigenous collection. Soak up the works of Dalí and Picasso, or check out Australian artists like Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin. You can also visit the trendy Fitzroy district to see the Gertrude Contemporary or head to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.
GET INSPIRED BY: Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road
An artistic powerhouse, Paris is one of the ultimate art lover destinations in the world. It’s famed for its legendary art galleries like the Louvre (home to da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa) and Musée d’Orsay. There’s also the Centre Pompidou, the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, and the Musée National Picasso-Paris (which houses Parisian resident Pablo Picasso’s private collection)… And there are over 1,000 more spread across the city.
But Paris is more than simply art galleries. There are beautiful neighbourhoods like Montmartre and Belleville to explore, with stunning architecture and vibrant street art to enjoy while you fill up on macarons and croissants in quaint cafés. You can even head to the nearby Palace of Versailles for an unforgettable visual feast, or take a day trip to the village of Giverny, the home of the Impressionist master Claude Monet. You’ll see the gorgeous pink farmhouse where Monet lived and wander through the dreamy gardens that inspired his famous paintings.
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New York City, USA
Famed as the art capital of the world, the Big Apple is a must-do travel experience for art lovers. It’s home to three of the world’s most renowned art galleries; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim. But the highlights don’t stop there. New York is also home to the Whitney Museum of American Art, where you can see Warhols and O’Keefes. And don’t miss the Frick Collection of Old Master paintings and fine art by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Bellini and Fragonard.
If you’re after something a little more contemporary, head to the Socrates Sculpture Garden and Queens Museum in the borough of Queens. Or check out the funky Bushwick neighbourhood in Brooklyn for incredible street art and cutting-edge galleries. There’s also the Red Hook neighbourhood, the artist’s hub where you can explore galleries, use studios, or take art lessons. There are endless artistic pleasures to enjoy in New York and you could spend weeks soaking it all in… Lucky for you, it’s the city that never sleeps!
GET INSPIRED BY: East Coast USA and Canada
Famed for its architecture, parks and museums, Barcelona is a mecca for art travel experiences. It was the stomping ground of Catalonia’s most famous artists and architects including Antoni Gaudí and Salvador Dalí, and you’ll find their works spread across the city. Don’t miss La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s magnificent masterpiece that’s still under construction, and his Parc Güell, lined with psychedelic mosaics. For more architectural magic, visit Casa Batllò and Casa Milà, or La Pedrera, the last private residence designed by Gaudí.
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You can also visit Museu Picasso where you’ll find one of the biggest collections of art by the Spanish master (over 3,500 works!), or wander through the Gothic Quarter, filled with vibrant street art. And don’t miss the El Raval area, where you’ll find modern exhibitions at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, along with trendy bars, boutiques and street art. If you’re a Dalí fan, take a day trip to Figueres, where you can visit the Dalí Theatre and Museum. The building itself is the world’s largest surrealistic object, built by Dalí on the ruins of a 19th-century theatre destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
GET INSPIRED BY: Treasures of Spain and Portugal
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is an unmissable stop on any list of the best contemporary art travel experiences. The political art movements that thrived from the 1920s to the ‘70s coloured the city in social realist murals and incredible architecture. You can spend hours seeking out the greats like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Be sure to visit the Barragán House by the famous Mexican architect Luis Barragán, and Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul, the electric-blue house in the Coyoacan district that’s become an art pilgrimage site. Kahlo once lived in the house and it now houses a large collection of her work and personal items.
Explore the Palacio de Bellas Artes for the most famous artworks, including Rivera’s reproduction of the Man at the Crossroads and murals by Rufino Tamayo. Take a stroll through the UNESCO-listed campus of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to see the beautiful murals by the likes of Siqueiros and Juan O’Gorman. You can even head to the Mercado Abelardo L. Rodríguez, a produce market where Rivera once encouraged his students to paint.
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London, United Kingdom
Where do you begin your art travel experience in London? Whether you’re after classic, contemporary or something else, London has it all. The city is home to over 1,000 galleries – including some of the world’s largest and most famous – like Tate Modern, where you can see works by Picasso and Warhol. There’s also the National Gallery (see works by van Gogh and Constable here), the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the cutting-edge Saatchi Gallery. It’s also a street art mecca, home to works by Bansky and colourful murals in neighbourhoods like Shoreditch and Brixton.
If you’re after something more traditionalist, visit the royal collections at Kensington Palace and The Wallace Collection in Marylebone. Or if you prefer modern art, check out the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, the Whitechapel Gallery or the Chisenhale Gallery. You could even head to the Fashion and Textile Museum, or explore the vibrant West End. London has inspired the likes of David Hockney, Lucian Freud, William Morris, along with Shakespeare, Dickens, Eliot and Orwell… And you’re almost guaranteed to find something in this city to inspire your artistic journey too.
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What are your favourite art lover destinations or art travel experiences? Let us know in the comments below!