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When you think of art, what immediately springs to mind? From classic masterpieces and Renaissance sculptures to contemporary installations and street art, it’s a hotly debated topic (and is one that art aficionados probably won’t agree on!) So what are Europe’s best cities for art? And where are the best art galleries, exhibitions and sights? Here are the top artistic cities in Europe that every art-lover should try to visit at least once in their lifetime...

Barcelona is one of the best cities for art

Parc Güell in Barcelona
Parc Güell in Barcelona.

 

Mosaics and ceramics, curved lines, fairytale shapes, vibrant blue and candy-colours define the glorious city of Barcelona. Created by architectural genius Gaudi, his creative stamp can be seen throughout the city.  So where can you spot Gaudi’s work? In short – it’s everywhere! The most famous is possibly the Sagrada Familia, an immense Roman Catholic Basilica which is still under construction. Clever clogs Gaudi knew it wouldn’t be finished before his death, so he utilised simple geometric lines that future architects would be able to understand. Construction began more than 135 years ago, and it’s anticipated that the building will be finished by 2026, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. 

Next on the Gaudi checklist should be Parc Güell – children and adults alike will be stunned by this colourful oasis – while Palau Güell’s mosaic chimneys and the egg-shaped windows of Case Batllo are equally impressive. A hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a great way to get a real sense of just how influential Gaudi was in this colourful city.  

If you fancy something a little more traditional, then The Museu Picasso should be top of your to-do list. Housed in five adjoining medieval palaces, it’s home to one of the most extensive collections of artworks by Pablo Picasso. Featuring an impressive 4,251 works of art, the gallery is unconventional – it doesn’t hold some of his more famous paintings, but as it was curated by his friend, it’s a very personal insight into the artist. Fundamentally, you’ll love it if you’re a fan of Picasso.

Elsewhere, you’ll find an impressive collection of Catalan art at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, while the El Raval is undeniably alluring. Fancying itself as the cultural hub of the city, it hosts a deluge of modern art at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. And if all of this creativity has inspired you to decorate your own home with something gorgeous? Then Artevistas is where you need to be. Treat yourself to something gorgeous from an up-and-coming local artist, then stagger home to your equally lovely home swap. The stylish prints on the walls of this cool home swap in Barcelona make us think that this could be the perfect place to stay!

Explore more homes for exchange in Barcelona.

 

London is one of the most artistic cities in the world

Winding staircase in Tate Britain in London.
The Tate Britain in London.

 

From Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament to The Shard and the London Eye, London's iconic skyline has been the source of many works of art (many would argue it’s a masterpiece in its own right!) So what better excuse to explore its rich history than in the many museums and art galleries dotted around the city?

VisitLondon.com describes London as ‘one of the world's greatest destinations for art and culture’ – and we couldn’t agree more! The Tate Modern (which is also London’s most visited tourist attraction) is a huge draw for families, particularly as the Turbine Hall houses large-scale contemporary sculptural projects – and children love the freedom that this vast space offers. Alternatively, head to the Tate Britain where British artists are celebrated.

For something more traditional, The National Gallery which is situated in Trafalgar Square tells the story of European art from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Hosting works of art by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Monet, Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, Raphael and Van Gogh (to name but a few) it’s the perfect way to inject a little culture into your home swap in London! The Wallace Collection is also a hot favourite with tourists, while the Victoria & Albert Museum is jam-packed with paintings, sculptures, ceramics and so much more. For thought-provoking shows explore the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre, while the Saatchi Gallery celebrates up-and-coming talent.

All of this art will inevitably make you hanker for something exquisite to decorate your own four walls – which is just as well, as London is awash with opportunities! Check with the local art universities to find out when their students are selling their work, or explore Columbia Road’s Nelly Duff gallery where you can pick up something fantastic from a wide range of artistic talent. For small-scale homemade art (we’re talking pretty fridge magnets here) you can’t beat Greenwich Market.

Looking for a really central location for your cultural trip to the capital city? Then this home swap in Covent Garden could be just the ticket.

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Paris is one of the most artistic cities in Europe

 View of The Louvre in Paris light up at night
The Louvre in Paris.

 

Undoubtedly one of the best cities for art, Paris has long been a huge draw for artists and art-lovers alike. Home to The Louvre – which is the second largest and most visited art museum in the world – there’s something for every taste in the city. The Louvre itself has to be seen to be believed. With the famous 21-metre high glass pyramid serving as the main entrance of the museum, the Louvre’s most famous painting – Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa – is at the heart of a glorious collection that includes tens of thousands of works of art. Originally a fortress (in the 12th century) before becoming a palace and then a gallery, the museum primarily features Western art dating from the Middle Ages to about 1848.

If you fancy something a little more modern (up to 1914) then Musée d’Orsay is an impressionist and postimpressionist haven. Monet and Renoir jostle for attention alongside Degas, Pissarro and Van Gogh, so you’re bound to spot something that you recognise. Want to spot something even more cutting-edge? Then wrap your eyes around the National Museum of Modern Art which is located in the Centre Georges Pompidou – some would even argue that the glass and steel centre is a work of art itself. From Pablo Picasso to Andy Warhol, it’s (not literally) bursting at the seams with the most spectacular paintings, sculptures, photography and objets d’art.

If you’re looking for a little something to hang on your walls, then swing by the neighbourhoods of Saint Germain-des-Prés, the Marais and the 8th Arrondissement to explore the numerous boutique galleries. As a former squat that now hosts a changing roster of artists, 59 Rivoli is a thrilling experience, while Marché de la Création is an open-air market that offers affordable art.

Regardless of what you’re planning to see and do on your artistic tour, make sure you arrange a gorgeous home swap. With art adorning the walls of this beautiful apartment, this stylish 4-bedroom home would be ideal for a home swap in Paris.

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Madrid is a top contender for the most artistic city in Europe

Rooftop view of Madrid's streets
Madrid’s streets are full of small art galleries.

 

With about half of Spain’s artistic establishments being based in Madrid, it’s fair to say that the city has a delightful love affair with the creative arts.

If you’re looking for something off the beaten track, then Arte Madrid is a great resource for identifying some of the smaller galleries that might get overlooked. And while it’s always nice to find a hidden gem in Madrid, there’s also a lot to be said for immersing yourself in the flashier artistic establishments!

First and foremost, make sure you download The Essential Art Walk app, which will guide you through the world-famous Paseo del Arte, (which translates to Art Walk). This one-kilometre stretch is affectionately known as the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ and will take you to three of the best art museums in the world (The Prado National, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía). Between them, they are home to more than 4,000 works by artistic giants such as Goya, Picasso, Dalí and Van Gogh.

The Prado National Museum boasts one of the world's finest collections of European art, with work dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is said to be Madrid’s best Spanish contemporary art museum – even the onsite Nubel café restaurant is a feast for the eyes  – and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum houses everything in-between these two behemoths!

If you’re staying in a home swap in Madrid, then you’ll benefit from being able to easily shop for and store some incredible art while you work out the logistics of either mailing your souvenirs home, or taking them on the plane. Mercado Central De Diseno (Design Central Market) is a great place to start, and Doctor Fourquet, a small street in Lavapiés has plenty of boutique galleries. Pick a gorgeous home swap like this peaceful apartment, and find your artistic inspiration from the lovely art on the walls.

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Rome is one of Italy’s most artistic cities

 View looking up to Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Michelangelo.

 

In a city that boasts the Sistine Chapel – which was painted by Michelangelo himself – it’s hardly surprising that Rome is regularly cited as being one of the best cities for art. So let’s talk about the Sistine Chapel. With two expansive and iconic pieces of art – scenes of Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgement on the alter wall of the Chapel – it’s hardly surprising that thousands of people flock to this beautiful city to immerse themselves in the artistic vibe. Art-lovers are well-catered for, with much of Rome’s art found in churches, palazzos and museums – simply look up and around you, and you’ll find it everywhere. From the Gallery of Mirrors lies which is in the Renaissance Palazzo Doria Pamphilj through to Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (which you can find in the Santa Maria della Vittoria Church), artistic sculptures, ceiling frescoes and architecture are decadently scattered throughout the city.

If you’re looking for something a little more current, then head to the National Gallery of Modern Art where you’ll discover Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh to name but a few. MAXXI Arte is also hugely popular with contemporary art fans – don’t forget to admire the building itself – while MACRO Via Nizza is popular with Rome’s artistic residents.

If all the art and culture in Rome has whet your appetite, then adorn your own walls with some street art – pay a visit to Piazza Navona to buy something directly from the artists, though be careful to make sure that you’re not buying a knock-off print that has been touched up with paint to make it look authentic! The head home to your gorgeous home swap in Rome to rest your weary feet!

Explore more homes for exchange in Rome.

 

One more thing…

It goes without saying that there are literally oodles of incredible places to visit in Europe, and the best cities for art are everywhere! From the Renaissance grandeur of Florence to the street art in Lisbon and the huge arts scene that exists in Berlin, there are simply masses of fantastic places to explore – and our gorgeous community of Love Home Swappers have amazing properties in each and every unique place. Whatever you’re looking for, our friendly Customer Service team will be delighted to help you come up with some ideas, and turn these into a reality. And our community of travel-loving home swappers are always full of good advice too, so head over to our Facebook groups to strike up a conversation.

 

 

 

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