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The best travel destinations for art lovers

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Written by
Alex Carey, Byron Thomas, Katie Holmes & Jennifer Richt

Art plays an important role in shaping the identity of a city and its people, but so often visits to galleries while on holiday are merely incidental.

You might slow as you pass some thought-provoking street art and take a few snaps for Instagram, or pop into a gallery if you find time. However, with the rise of speciality tours, it’s becoming more common for enthusiasts to build their holidays around art.

If the very idea has you examining how much spare wall space you have to fill, then take a look at the best travel destinations for art lovers.

Exterior view of the Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa

Possibly the most anticipated gallery opening in recent years, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in Cape Town welcomed its first visitors in September ’17. We can organise you an exclusive tour here, incorporating some of the city’s other important galleries and studios. Together with expert guide Joao Ferreira, you’ll have the opportunity to meet curators and artists and get a behind-the-scenes look at the arty side of the Mother City.

Mohau Modisakeng Ditaolo art tour, The Silo Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa

Aside from the Zeitz MOCAA opening events, we can also assist with other art-focussed trips. Ferreira offers Art Conversationstours, and Coffeebeans Routes hosts a Creative Cape Town tour which includes street art as well as visits to studios like that of ceramicist John Bauer. And then there are the exciting Juma Art Tours through Woodstock, led by Juma Mkwela.

South Africa, Cape Town, Art
Aerial View of London, England

England

Popular with artists and collectors alike, London lies at the heart of the world’s contemporary art market. Post-war and contemporary art specialist Alex Baddeley takes you Inside London’s Contemporary Art Scene, giving you an intimate look at this exclusive world.

Art tour, Hauser and Wirth, London

Visit artists’ studios, get a fresh perspective on contemporary art and connect with London in a new way, from the inner workings of Mayfair’s top auction houses to institutions and smaller galleries that showcase innovative new work.

fountain on the Trafalgar Square, London, UK
torre-bellesguard-stained-glass-barcelona

Spain

Many famous artists have come out of Spain. From architecture to painting and sculptures, there’s much to appreciate across this vibrant country. Start with a visit to the other-worldly Guggenheim Bilbao, a silver space-age construction dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The inside is just as impressive with three floors centred around the atrium by means of curved walkways and glass elevators.

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Barcelona is also known for its architecture. On our tour, you will learn more about Catalan Modernism which flourished between 1888 and 1906, and discover some of Gaudí’s most famous works including the bright mosaics of Güell Park and La Sagrada Familia. If you have enough time you may also get to visit Casa Batllò, and Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera (stone quarry), an exhibition space and the last of Gaudí’s civic works.

park-guell-barcelona-spain

Dali enthusiasts will relish the opportunity to explore Dali’s Catalonia, and visit the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres. The museum itself is the largest surrealistic object in the world, built by Dali over the ruins of a 19th-century theatre destroyed at the end of the Spanish Civil War.

The Dali Theatre and Museum, Figueres, Spain

And don’t miss the chance to visit the Prado and Reina Sofia Museums in Madrid with a Spanish artist. This tour is ideal not only for those wanting to gain more insight into Spanish art, but also for avid painters, photographers and sculptors.

almudena-cathedral-madrid
Closeup on Astronomical clock in square San Marco, Venice, Italy.

Italy

The birthplace of Michelangelo, Raphael and da Vinci, it’s little wonder Italy is a major destination for those with an interest in the arts. But the country has a lot more to offer than these big name artists.

Michelangelo's David, Florence, Italy

The colourful island of Murano has been known for the art of glass-making since the 1200s. On our tour, you’ll learn how the intricate glasswork is made and visit the showroom where you will see the work of masters like Signoretto. Then pop over to Burano, a fishermen’s island known for its brightly coloured houses and lace school.

Murano Glass Sweets, Italy

Stroll around one of the most famous museums in the world without having to share it with thousands of other tourists, on a special tour an hour before opening in the Vatican City. At the sprawling Vatican Museum you’ll get to browse the vast collection of treasures as you make your way to the artwork that dwarfs them all: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Finally, end the tour with a visit to the extraordinary St. Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo, The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Rome itself is a treasure trove of notable works. See pieces by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in palaces, houses of noble families, churches, galleries and museums. The first stop on our tour of the city’s artworks is Galleria Doria Pamphilj, a beautiful private gallery hosting two early masterpieces by Caravaggio: The Penitent Magdalene and the famous Rest on the Flight into Egypt.

Caravaggio's David and Goliath, Rome

After that, you’ll visit the San Luigi dei Francesi church, Sant’Agostino church, and the Borghese Gallery, which houses one of the most important art collections in Italy, as well as Madonna of the Palafrenieri and David with the head of Goliath.

Villa Borghese (Galleria Borghese) in Rome, Italy

Florence is one of Europe’s most enchanting and historically influential cities and is home to some of the world’s greatest Renaissance artwork. Our walking tour of Florence will take you to Uffizi Gallery with masterpieces by Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael, da Vinci and Michelangelo, and the Accademia Gallery, which is home to Michelangelo’s David.

The dome of the Duomo, Florence
The dome of the Duomo, Florence, silhouetted against a blue sky.
Interior, MONA Art Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Australia

Not only can you enjoy bold and challenging art at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania, but you can also stay at one of the luxury MONA Pavilions on the River Derwent. Each is named after an influential Australian artist or architect and features artworks from the MONA collection. The largest privately funded museum in Australia presents antiquities as well as modern and contemporary art from the David Walsh collection.

Walter Pavilion, MONA Pavilions, River Derwent, Hobart, Tasmania

And then there’s the Henry Jones Art Hotel where everything has been carefully considered, from the architecture right through to the furniture design and featured artworks. There are over 500 original and contemporary pieces throughout the hotel, by both established and emerging Tasmanian artists.

henry-jones-tasmania-bar-australia
Old Havana downtown Street - Havana, Cuba

Latin America

Discover the eclectic mix of styles and media in Havana where you’ll get to meet a variety of artists in their local studios. Whether it’s painting, ceramics or print work, art is an important part of Cuba’s identity and this is a fascinating way to experience this vibrant culture.

Sculpture, ISA Art Studio, Havana Cuba

Buenos Aires boasts a number of well-known street artists, some of whom have even been invited to create works in Lisbon, Portugal. Our guides will take you on a street art tour to see some of the latest and most interesting murals.

Tegui-Restaurant-Palermo-Buenos-Aires-Street-Art

Famous for the artist Frida Kahlo, the vibrant and colourful Mexico has produced some iconic works. In Mexico City you can view Kahlo’s husband Diego Rivera’s murals, and visit their house. Mexico City also hosts an impressive annual art fair, Zsonamaco Mexico Arte Contemporaneo.

Museo Frida Kahol, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Then head to Bogotá in Colombia where an experienced art guide and artist will take you to some of the city’s most exciting art galleries. You’ll get to view works that haven’t been installed in museums yet and talk to the artists about their processes.

Bogota skyline in watercolour

Chicha art, screen painting and lettering, has a rich history in Peru. Take a Chicha Art Tour in Lima and discover how chichi posters and graffiti emerged in the 1980s, informed by the music scene of the day, as well as traditional textiles of the Huancayo region, blending urban and rural art forms.

Peruvian woman weaving, The Sacred Valley, Chinchero
Traditional weaving in and around the Cusco area of Peru

Finally, walk the colourful streets and winding alleys of Valparaiso in Chile with a local expert to see the ever-changing array of anonymous street art and murals that adorn much of the city. The art form was born as a means of political protest during the years of Pinochet and attracts artists from around the world.

Streetart in Valparaiso - Chile
Light poles, Naoshima Island, Japan

Asia

Take a look at the fascinating history of Vietnam through the lives and works of its artists on Sophie’s Art Tours. Covering Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the tours look at each city’s distinct art scene, as well as the country’s history.

Fine Arts Museum Ho Chi Minh

Naoshima Island in Japan is a haven for art lovers, as is nearby Teshima Island. Use the luxurious Benesse House Hotel as a convenient base from which to make the most of the rapidly developing art scene on the islands.

Yellow Pumpkin, Naoshima Island, Japan

Or, travel back in time and discover the culturally rich past of Myanmar with a guided tour through Yangon’s art and antique scene. There are plenty of galleries to visit and shops to browse.

Bogyoke Market, Yangon, Myanmar

Talk to one of our expert travel designers and start creating your once-in-a-lifetime art tour.

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