If you’re an art lover looking to combine your summer holiday with some cultural indulgence, get inspired by our top five museum cities in Europe, where you can explore some fantastic museums in some awesome places.
Arty types are flocking in their thousands to the blockbuster Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern. If you’re one of them, extend your Matisse worship and visit his chapel in the charming town of Vence (below), on the south coast of France- his sublime designs for the chapel feature in the exhibition. With its soothing white walls and distinctive colourful stained glass windows designed to reflect columns of light into the chapel, it is a labour of love, worked on in the last few years of his life, and the epitome of his life and work.
While you’re in Vence, don’t miss the Chagall mosaic in the cathedral and the pretty town square, and while you’re on the beautiful French Riviera, go to Antibes, favoured haunt of many artists, including Monet and Picasso- make sure you visit the Picasso museum, which is housed in his former home, a castle overlooking the sea. Other places you shouldn’t miss include beautiful Nice, glitzy Cannes and starry St Tropez. Under the blazing Mediterranean sun, make the most of the beautiful beaches to sun worship on, before dining at a beachside restaurant, perfect for star-spotting- Johnny Depp, Elton John, Brigitte Bardot and Brangelina (to name just a few) have homes here.
Van Gogh fans will rejoice in the refurbished Van Gogh museum (which triumphantly reopened in 2013). This magnificent museum houses the largest Van Gogh collection in the world- over 200 paintings, drawings and letters- including some of his most famous paintings, such as the Sunflowers, which take pride of place. A range of other 19th century artists are also represented here.
Make the most of your time in Amsterdam by walking along the picturesque canals, visiting the colourful flower markets and trying some of the delicious Dutch cheeses, such as Gouda and Edam, which are temptingly piled high in the cheese shops.
The distinctive and groundbreaking Guggenheim museum (below) has become a bit of a landmark in Bilbao, single-handedly putting this previously unassuming industrial town firmly on the Spanish and European tourist trail. This museum is a must-see for visitors to the city: housing an eclectic collection of contemporary works of art by artists such as Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol, you may find yourself browsing rather longer than you intended.
The Guggenheim museums in Venice, and further afield, New York and Abu Dhabi, have also become landmarks in their respective cities, and the Guggenheim may be the star attraction in Bilbao too, but there are a number of other interesting galleries here, as well as an atmospheric old quarter (Casco Viejo), some characterful cafes and restaurants and a charming funicular railway that takes you up to the summit of Mount Artxanda for sweeping views over the city and valley.
Opened in 2009 and an exciting newcomer to Europe’s museum scene (it had half a million visitors in its first year), the award-winning Magritte museum in the heart of Brussels is dedicated to this master of Surrealism, and showcases hundreds of his works, including sculptures, photographs and films, from bowler hats and pipes to trains coming out of fireplaces and men falling out of the sky.
While Magritte’s visions draw you in and make you think, Brussels itself is also well worth exploring, from tempting chocolate shops, fine beers, grand cafes and gourmet restaurants to luxurious hotels, impressive Art Nouveau architecture and beautiful parks- as well as nearly 90 other museums to visit.
Immerse yourself in the unique world of Dali. The Dali museum (below) in Figueres, Dali’s hometown, is not your average museum. Designed by Dali and showcasing many works that he created especially for the museum, such as the Mae West room with its red lips sofa and the Rainy Cadillac, this is a perfect place to take children, who will be enchanted by Dali’s unique world of magic and mayhem. There’s also a toy museum, a castle and bustling markets to explore. Fly to Barcelona and get the train to Figueres from there- and Barcelona, of course, has lots of treasures of its own, thanks to a certain visionary called Antoni Gaudi...