5 must-visit cities for culture vultures
Fed up of beach holidays? We reveal the 5 best city breaks for those seeking their cultural fix.
Happier admiring some Renaissance art than relaxing by the pool? Prefer exploring the ruins of an ancient civilisation than sipping a cocktail on the beach? Well we can now reveal the best cities to get your cultural fix. These cities have the best art, history and museums that will leave you feeling truly intellectually satisfied by the end of your trip.
Madrid is a city for art lovers. El Paseo del Arte (the Art Walk) is a 1km stretch where you’ll find three of the world’s best galleries – El Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza. El Prado – the most famous of the three - is home to a fine collection of Flemish and Italian art as well as an unrivalled collection of Spanish works including those of Velázquez, Greco and Goya- a true highlight being Goya’s Pinturas Negras – a deeply disturbing and eerie collection of oil paintings from the later years of his life. Thyssen-Bornemisza has a vast and varied collection of paintings including the works of Van Gogh, Monet and Caravaggio. Finally the modern arts museum, Reina Sofía, is home to Picasso’s most famous and moving piece, Guernica, that details the bombing of the town at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Madrid also has plenty of cultural events in the evenings, with a growing theatre scene and plenty of bars and venues showing traditional flamenco. Visit Spain’s capital during one of Madrid’s major festivals such as San Isidro and La Paloma where the streets are alive with people, music and events.
Berlin prides itself as being Germany’s hub of culture and creativity. The city has over 400 galleries and numerous other museums. Head to the UNESCO world heritage site, Museumsinsel (Museum Island) where you’ll find five of the most famous museums that cover everything from the dawn of civilisation right up to the modern age. If you want to discover the more bohemian side to this diverse city, rent a bike and explore Kreuzberg, the heart of Berlin’s alternative scene. Highlights include the East Side Gallery, a freedom memorial that is a 1.3km section of the Berlin Wall that has over 100 paintings. It is an interesting snapshot of the feelings in the city when the wall came down. Nearby you’ll find Aufbau Haus, a former factory that is now an artistic centre, filled with galleries, cafes and workshops.
Rome is the kind of place where you’ll find something interesting around every corner. Its ancient ruins, religious buildings, art collections and Italian charm offer endless possibilities for the culture vulture. Explore the city’s well preserved ancient structures such as the Pantheon, the Arch of Constantine and of course the Colosseum. Take a day drip to Vatican City, as regardless of your religious beliefs, seeing how emotional it is for some people to be in Saint Peter’s Basilica is something completely unforgettable. Afterwards you can visit the Sistine Chapel and admire Michelangelo’s fresco.
Since the 2004 Olympic Games the city has been undergoing serious renewal, but it is the crumbling monuments that this city is littered with that remind you of its important history and the legacy of its powerful ancient civilization. The Acropolis sits above the city and its most important building – the Parthenon – is considered to be the most important structure from the Athenian Empire. The New Acropolis Museum houses the largest collection of Greek architecture, sculptures and statues. On the south-side of the Acropolis you’ll find the Thiseion Cinema, a charming open air cinema with such incredible views that you probably won’t be able to concentrate on the film!
Immerse yourself in the mayhem of central Marrakesh’s Djemaa El Fna and take in the sights and spice-scented air of this frantic city. This large square is full of cafés where you can enjoy a traditional cup of mint tea and watch street performers juggle or charm snakes. For a true insight into Morocco’s past make sure you visit El Badi and El Bahia palaces. El Bahia, meaning ‘brilliance’, was constructed in the 1800s and its beauty truly lives up to its name. Wander around and admire the intricate carvings in the arched entrances and its wonderful mosaics. El Badi on the other hand is a ruined palace from the 12th century that in July hosts the Festival of Popular Arts where you can witness Maghrebi culture at its most enjoyable.