We’d go as far as saying that you’ve never truly discovered a destination until you’ve delved deep into its arts and culture. Yes, we’re all for a city break crammed with sea, sand and sun-worshipping. Yes, we’re guilty of long, lazy lunches spent scoffing half of the local taverna’s menu. But, there’s something truly magnificent about exploring a city’s history through its art, says SuitecaseMag.com.
Take Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, showcasing the rolling hills of rural Provence, or John Constable’s The Hay Wain, featuring Suffolk’s shrouded meadows. The point is, regardless of the age of an artwork, generations continue to recognise and appreciate a landscape based on its association with art. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up our nine favourite cities to satisfy your artistic desires.
Culture connoisseurs: nine art destinations to visit in 2022
Vienna is not known primarily as a home of epoch-defining modern art, but that all changed in 2020, when the city welcomed the Albertina Modern to its roster of art institutions. Built within the shell of the city’s 19th-century Künstlerhaus at an expense of €50 million, this architectural collage of white space and renovated baroque-style rooms form the background to a 60,000-piece collection of modern art by some of the 20th century’s most illustrious names, including Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Gerhard Richter. The Albertina’s Schiele and His Legacy exhibition remains open until 23 January.
Norway’s long, daylight-filled summer days make it a prime spot for gallery-hoppers with stamina. Want to discover Norwegian artists? Try Standard (Oslo), Galleri Riis and Galleri Brandstrup. On a clear day, you can’t go wrong with a tour of the pine-studded Ekebergparken Sculpture Park, either (our tip: bring binoculars and look up). This year’s favourite gallery is the 2020-launched Munchmuseet, which was relocated from an unassuming 1960s gallery east of the city centre to a teetering glass edifice on the waterfront in Bjørvika. The museum showcases some 1,150 paintings and 18,000 prints and features a staggering seven-metre-high bronze Tracey Emin statue at the entrance. Insider tip: visit on a Sunday to catch classical music sessions. We’re sold.
After 18 years of plans and disruption, the Heneghan Peng-designed Grand Egyptian Museum is well and truly open. Among other gilded artefacts, it contains all 5,400 precious objects unearthed from Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. But, Cairo is not all about ancient history. Inquisitive travellers with a penchant for snooping out arty enclaves can find treasures of their own. The Townhouse Gallery’s crumbling facade might be off-putting, but inside, you’ll find a complex of multi-use art spaces. The same goes for Room Art Space, a DIY performance venue hidden in the basement of a deceptively officious-looking building in the Garden City. Wander the city streets and you can expect to come face-to-face with Mohammed Mahmoud’s street art. It’s politically motivated, ever-changing (to the ire of local authorities) and distinctly Egyptian. The pyramids can wait.
Don’t be deceived by Cluj-Napoca’s apparent Transylvanian folksiness: this city is alive with the same post-Soviet, get-up-and-go attitude found in Berlin. Subject to the whims of its dense student population, the city’s museums are constantly in flux and refreshingly unpretentious. Visit the National Museum of Transylvanian History and you’ll likely find students or gallery assistants mid-installation. At the post-industrial Paintbrush Factory, ambitious students present their meditations on theatre, dance and contemporary art, while at the Matthias Corvinus House, the Art and Design University’s most talented members of staff present their works.
There’s something about canalside cities that results in both a tremendous café culture and effervescent art scenes. If you like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, try Ghent. For those with a finger on the pulse of contemporary art, there’s KIOSK, a launchpad for young artists housed in a creaky, neo-gothic lecture theatre; the Herbert Foundation, a souped-up warehouse sparsely filled with Annick and Anton Herbert’s private collection of avant-garde art, and Kunsthal Gent, a church-turned-artists’-residency.
A high-desert town sitting on the northern corners of New Mexico, it’s no secret that Santa Fe draws crowds for its sprawling blue skies and toasty temperatures. But, it’s also home to a surprisingly large smattering of galleries – stroll the central plaza to see for yourself. We’re heading straight to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, whose location is just as impressive as its artworks: think soft adobe walls, rugged bluffs and perfectly pruned piñon trees. Both intimate and educational, programmes here range from online drawing sessions to watercolour classes, making it more of a community than a gallery – check out the website to reserve a slot. Or, for a space that spotlights craftsmanship from all around the world, visit the Museum of International Folk Art.
It’s near impossible to not fall head over heels for Kyoto. This is a city that’s virtually spilling with Buddhist temples, botanical gardens, shinto shrines and majestic machiyas, so it’s for good reason we’re booking a one-way ticket (as soon as our purse permits). Karate Kid fanatics should make a beeline to the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum. Okay, this isn’t exactly the most serene setting, nor is it home to pristine paintings, but this place offers an insight into real-life samurai materials alongside intricate details of their history. Rest assured, if a front or side kick isn’t exactly your vibe, there’s plenty of other locations to discover: Kyoto Railway Museum, Kyoto National Museum and the Museum of Kyoto are all well worth a look.
While we’re on the subject of art, it would be rude not to pay tribute to the birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence is a destination that brims with a contagious and positive spirit, found in its market squares, museums, galleries, boutiques and cafés. So, after seeking out the obvious sunset boat ride, Gucci Garden and Medici Chapels, you’ll want to spend time in its world-famous galleries. Drop by the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, before spending an afternoon at the Bargello Museum. You’ll need to set aside an entire day for the Uffizi Gallery. After all, it’s ranked as one of the oldest museums in the world and houses works by the likes of Botticelli, Correggio, Michelangelo and da Vinci. Don’t miss its Giardino di Boboli for a sun-drenched green space.
There’s no denying that the Louvre likely sees bigger crowds than Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage (and that’s on an average day), but Paris is, in fact, home to 150 other museums. So, after snapping a shot of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, swerve the crowds and tour between (deep breath) Musée Rodin, L’Orangerie, Musée Jacquemart-André, Palais de Tokyo, Musée Picasso and Musée Nissim de Camondo. You’ll also want to check out some of the city’s most eagerly awaited exhibitions of 2022. We’re most excited about Machu Picchu et Les Trésors du Pérou at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, which is running from 16 April to 4 September. Other big exhibits here feature works from Cézanne and Gaudí.