The Best European Cities for Art Lovers

The Prado is a great place to start your artistic exploration of Madrid, with impressive collections of works by Velázquez and Goya
The Prado is a great place to start your artistic exploration of Madrid, with impressive collections of works by Velázquez and Goya | © angel manzano / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Konstantina Pyrnokoki
Travel Writer22 June 2021

Home to some of the most magnificent museums and art galleries in the world, Europe has long served as an important hub for artists to inspire one another and for the rest of us to stand in awe of their majestic masterpieces – and these European cities in particular are paradise for art lovers.

From the impressionist works on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to the detailed frescoes in the churches of Florence, Europe offers a plethora of museums, galleries and cultural sites where we can quench our thirst for art. Browse through this selection of the most artistic cities in Europe and plan your next cultural escape.

Berlin, Germany

The number one meeting point for art lovers in Europe is no doubt Berlin. The German capital boasts a lively art scene, with Museum Island at its centre. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the complex encompasses five distinct museums that showcase a wide range of pieces, from Islamic artworks in the Pergamon to exquisite sculptures in the Bode. With its architecture resembling an ancient temple, the Alte Nationalgalerie houses a comprehensive art collection dating from the French Revolution all the way to World War I – including famous works by Monet and Renoir. For alternative art spaces such as East Side Gallery, wander around the Friedrichshain district, and for works by local artists, try the Berlinische Galerie.

The Alte Nationalgalerie houses a comprehensive art collection dating from the French Revolution through to World War I | © travelbild-germany / Alamy Stock Photo

London, UK

London is one of the most artistically diverse cities in Europe. Here, you will find everything from classic to contemporary artworks, housed in esteemed museums and galleries or small pop-up spaces. Head to the National Gallery for more than 2,300 works spanning seven centuries – from pieces by artists of late medieval and Renaissance Italy to those by French impressionists. Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus and the Van GoghSunflowers are among the greats. The Tate Modern is a mecca for modern-art enthusiasts, displaying splendid works by Picasso and Warhol among others, while the Saatchi Gallery houses cutting-edge contemporary pieces. For street art, explore the vibrant murals in the colourful Shoreditch area.

This mural, by Claudia Walde, on Chance Street in Shoreditch, East London, is just one of many vibrant murals you can find in the city | © Jeff Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo

Paris, France

Romantic and beautiful, Paris is of course packed with art. Take your pick from more than 1,000 art galleries and museums, among them the emblematic Louvre. Housed in a prestigious palace where the kings of France formerly resided, the museum covers almost 10,000 years of history. Apart from the Mona Lisa, it’s worth scouring its every floor to find wonders such as the Venus de Milo or the Winged Victory of Samothrace. For modern art, head to the Pompidou Centre, and if you’re more of an impressionism aficionado, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée Marmottan Monet are sure to astonish you – the latter displays Monet’s iconic Impression, Sunrise painting, which inspired the very name of the movement.

The Louvre is just one of around a thousand art galleries in Paris, but the breadth of its collection is unparalleled | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Art can be found anywhere in Amsterdam, from classic museums to unconventional culture spaces. The Rijksmuseum holds the country’s largest collection of art, showcasing Dutch and Asian works, with the biggest draw being Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Don’t miss the Van Gogh Museum, displaying 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the famous artist, among which is one of his celebrated Sunflowers paintings. Catch Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring in the Mauritshuis Museum, and visit Hermitage Amsterdam for some impressive pieces loaned from St Petersburg. The quirkiest art venue in the city has to be De Nieuwe Kerk (or New Church), a 15th-century church holding exhibitions and cultural events.

The Rijksmuseum holds the largest collection of art in the Netherlands, including Rembrandt’s The Night Watch | © Daryl Mulvihill / Alamy Stock Photo

Madrid, Spain

Navigating Madrid’s vast array of museums and galleries can be a daunting task, but the Prado is a great place to start. The most venerated museum in the city, it houses masterpieces by French, Italian, Flemish and Spanish artists, including the marvellous paintings in the Velázquez and Goya rooms. Madrid is also the home of Picasso’s legendary anti-war Guernica painting, displayed at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum – housing a private collection of 775 paintings – mark the area known as the Art Walk of Madrid. For some fascinating pre-Columbian American exhibits, head to the Museo de América.

The Prado, home to Goyas and Velazquez galore, is the most venerated museum in Madrid | © adam eastland / Alamy Stock Photo

Vienna, Austria

Austria is justifiably proud of symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, and it’s in Vienna that you’ll find one of the largest collections of his works; his dreamy work, The Kiss, is on display in the Belvedere Palace. The regal Kunsthistorisches Museum houses an amazing art collection put together by the Habsburg family, which includes sculptures, decorative items and paintings dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt. For drawings and watercolours, make sure to pass by Albertina, and for modern art, the MuseumsQuartier has got you covered. Part of this art complex, the Leopold Museum houses an extensive collection of Austrian art from the second half of the 19th century and Modernism.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses an art collection put together by the Habsburg family | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Florence, Italy

In this small Italian city, art is present in every corner. Florence is one of the most prominent Renaissance art hubs, with Galleria dell’Accademia and Galleria degli Uffizi leading the way. The former displays some of Michelangelo’s finest pieces, including his David, while the latter showcases gems such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. If you’re craving contemporary artworks, the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina hosts thematic exhibitions, many of them exploring the intersection of art with other aspects of life. In the city’s churches, especially Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce, you will be able to marvel at elaborate frescoes by artists such as Giotto.

The Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the top galleries in Florence, a city that’s steeped in art | © JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo

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