10 Artistic Cities Around the World

Posted on May 30, 2012 by

Marble sculptures, Renaissance paintings, urban street art. The world’s most artistic cities know no boundaries when it comes to teasing your creative senses. So for those seeking an aesthetically pleasing and museum-filled getaway, this list is for you. You may walk away feeling like attending art schools like Academy of Art University after.”

1. Rome, Italy

The Vatican Museum alone earns Rome its place on any artistic list. With galleries measuring over nine miles, the sacred destination lures the masses for reasons beyond the religious. Among the vast collection of Renaissance art, visitors will inevitably be drawn to one of the world’s most famous masterpieces: Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Beyond the Vatican, Rome oozes art, not just in the basilica- and piazza-filled streets, but in a host of other museums such as the Galleria Borghese and the National Etruscan Museum.

Vatican MuseumPhoto credit: 
Erin Ridley

2. Paris, France

What artistic tour would be complete without a stop at the world’s largest and arguably most famous museum? The Louvre indeed packs enough masterpieces — over 35,000 to be exact — to keep you busy for days (in fact, some say it would take nine months just to view each and every piece, serious connoisseurs better start hunting for apartments in Paris here). If you’re looking for something a bit more digestible, don’t forget to check out other worthwhile stops such as the Musee d’ORsay, whose treasure trove includes impressionist and post-impressionist works by greats like Monet, Van Gogh and Cézanne.

LouvreFlickr photo by thomas pix

3. Berlin, Germany

Post-Berlin wall, the city has become an indisputable destination for art in Europe. Not only is it home to hundreds upon hundreds of galleries and loads of statement-making street art, but it also offers up museums in spades. In fact, it even has its own district especially dedicated to art and antiquities, called Museum Island, which is home to five different museums. Other worthy stops in Berlin include the Dahlemer Museum and the Gemäldegalerie.

Museum IslandFlickr photo by thomas pix

 4. Valencia, Spain

Madrid may have El Prado, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Valencia deserves an artistic nod. Spain’s third largest city rises as a creative hub on many fronts, boasting imaginative flavor around every turn. It wows first-time visitors with the wild architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences and its buildings constructed to resemble a whale skeleton, a giant eye, and one that appears to look like some sort of space helmet. During April, Valencian creativity even comes to life in the streets with massive meticulously designed sculptures, called fallas. Often conveying a political message, the colorful structures burn at the end of the week to the pleasure of the city’s citizens. Along with a slew of museums, don’t dismiss taking in outdoor masterpieces by street art greats like Escif, especially in the bohemian El Carmen neighborhood.

Valencia Street ArtPhoto credit: 
Erin Ridley

5. Hong Kong

Hong Kong rises as Asia’s art epicenter – whether that means trade, gallery openings, or massive museums. Set on becoming an art destination, the country even ambitiously works on the opening of M+; a museum that will rival those found in cities like New York or London (set to open in 2018). Hong Kong still may be growing its “collection,” but in the meantime it remains a hotspot that art lovers should keep their eye on.

Hong Kong SkylineFlickr photo by das farbamt

6. New York City

The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty….the Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; indeed, some of Manhattan’s museums rank right up there with the city’s world-famous sights. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum impresses from both the inside and out, with its cylindrical exterior, and impressionist-, contemporary- and modernist-art-filled interior. And of course The Met — so mainstream that it has its own affectionate nickname — offers a massive collection of art from all eras. Still not satisfied? Head to the Frick or the MOMA, among many other museums that fill the cosmopolitan center of New York City.

Flickr photo by eschipul

7. San Francisco

Perhaps I’m a little biased (after all, it is where I’m from), but San Francisco undoubtedly claims awesome-art status. Museums aren’t in short order: from contemporary pieces at the de Young to pop art at the MOMA, and Japanese woodblock prints of the Asian Art History Museum — just to name a few. Street art lovers can get their urban-expression fill (with a side of Mexican food) by traversing the alleys of the city’s cultural mixing pot, the Mission District. Then, visitors can even appreciate a bygone era by strolling the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts, where the Panana-Pacific Exposition took place in 1915.

MOMA Elephant
Photo credit: Erin Ridley

8. Florence

While Rome claims the Vatican Museum, Florence undoubtedly challenges the Italian capital with its own vast collection. Browse the galleries of one of the world’s oldest museums: The Uffizi. Get up close and personal with Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” as well as pieces by other Italian greats, all while scoping out occasional views of the passing Arno River. Then, don’t pass up the Galleria dell’ Accademia, where you can admire the sculptural genius of Michelangelo via his massive marble creation, David.

Ponte Vecchio, UffiziPhoto credit: 
Erin Ridley

9. London

Not only does London offer art for a range of tastes but, even better, the majority of the government-run museums are free to enter. Capitalize on the cost-effective opportunity by browsing the antiquities of the National Gallery and the British Museum. Then you can check out historical and contemporary British art on display at the Tate Britain, or stop by the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, the Tate Modern. If you tire of these spots, you can be certain that more museums await, or just hit the streets for a healthy helping of urban art.

Tate Modern giant spider, LondonFlickr photo by .Martin.

10. Vienna

Vienna is undoubtedly one of Europe’s major art destinations. This is largely due to over 600 years of Habsburg rule — from 1282 to 1918 — during which time the royal family amassed a robust art collection now on display in museums throughout the city. An impressive cultural space unto itself, the MuseumsQuartier flourishes with contemporary art in both the Leopold Museum and Museum Moderner Kunst (Museum of Modern Art).  A visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) promises pieces by Europe’s most famous artists through time, along with antiquities from Egypt, Greece and beyond. Vienna brims with more museums, so rest assured if you’re still hungry for art, the city will satisfy.

Moderner Kunst MuseumFlickr photo by roryrory

What are your favorite artistic cities and spots around the world?

About Erin

Erin Ridley is the Editorial Assistant at WildJunket. She left a marketing career in Silicon Valley to live in Madrid, Spain, and take a chance on love. Four years and a career change later, she now blogs at La Tortuga Viajera, and contributes to various publications, covering everything from travel to art and food.

11 Responses to “10 Artistic Cities Around the World”

  1. Imperator May 31, 2012 1:37 am #

    I would definitelly add St. Petersburg on the list with its impressive museums and palaces.

    • Erin May 31, 2012 8:40 pm #

      I think we might need an "Artistic City Part 2" version of this post :). St. Petersburg will for sure be on that list! Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Erica May 31, 2012 11:33 am #

    Random question: do you know how many of those gigantic spider statues are around? So far I only know of the one in London and the one in Tokyo.

    • Nellie May 31, 2012 5:12 pm #

      I was just wondering about the same thing! I know there\’s also one at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. That makes three of them… anyone else knows of any other giant spider statues?

      • Erin May 31, 2012 8:39 pm #

        Hmm, do I sense the need for a post on spider statues in the future?

  3. Regina May 31, 2012 4:38 pm #

    Nice Erin! But what about Havana and Barcelona? I always think of Havana as the artsiest place I've been because of all the music and art in the street — but that could just be me!

    • Erin May 31, 2012 8:38 pm #

      Most definitely! I'm sure this list could be so much longer. I tried to highlight some obvious and not-so-obvious spots. Havana definitely would have been a good inclusion, though!

  4. Barbara June 1, 2012 4:27 am #

    My number one would actually be Barcelona. Joan Miro, Gaudi, and lots and lots of public art make it an art destination. :)

    • Erin June 4, 2012 2:12 am #

      I love Barcelona too, and I'm actually heading there tomorrow!

  5. Gezi July 15, 2013 8:01 pm #

    Nice choices. So there's no reason in Istanbul with history and natural beauty on this list?


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