The Art Lover's Journey: 12 Cities That Showcase Masterpieces

Whether you've got a thing for Picasso or love discovering new artists, these cities will give you something to marvel at.

Man and woman in fancy eveningwear looking at art in a museum

7min read

Published 14 May 2024

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Kaitlyn Funk

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Whether you've got a thing for Picasso or love discovering new artists, these cities will give you something to marvel at.


We can’t help but think about all the things we love. Our friends and family, of course — but also exploring the world! Travelling allows you to experience all your favourite things in new destinations, whether you’re a foodie, an outdoor adventurer, a thrill seeker, a culture vulture or even an art lover.

Speaking of art lovers... this blog post is for you! We've rounded up some of the best cities for art in the world. Keep on reading to learn about the art galleries, museums, street art and public art that you can discover in destinations like New York, Tokyo, Melbourne, Mexico City and more.



Paris, France

It would be impossible to talk about art without mentioning Paris. The French capital is home to hundreds of art galleries and museums, including the iconic Louvre Museum in the 1st Arrondissement and Musée d’Orsay in the 7th Arrondissement — two buildings that are just as impressive as the works within them. If you want to gaze at Renaissance paintings, Greek sculptures and decorative arts, these are the places to be.

That said, Paris is also a great destination for modern and contemporary art lovers. Visit Palais de Tokyo (self-described as “a rebellious wasteland” and “an anti-museum”) for a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, installations and more from both emerging and established artists. There’s also Centre Pompidou. Created in 1969 as “a place where all disciplines could meet”, you’ll find everything from fashion and photography exhibitions to abstract art collections. Since 2022, the esteemed Art Basel art fair has been hosted in Paris, too.

New York City, New York

New York City is known as the art capital of the world for a reason. Okay… several reasons. First of all, it’s packed with world-class museums, including the MoMA, the Met, the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum. Together, these institutions comprise more than 4 million square-feet (!!!). In other words, there’s a lot of modern, Baroque and Renaissance art to view.

But that’s merely scratching the surface. NYC also hosts a number of art fairs each year:

  • The Armory Show has been bringing leading international galleries under one roof since 1994.
  • Frieze, held at The Shed in Hudson Yards, puts the spotlight on pioneering artists and up-and-coming talent.
  • Superfine Art Fair breaks down barriers in the contemporary art world by showcasing affordable pieces and hosting non-intimidating events. 

No wonder it’s called the City That Never Sleeps! Whatever time of year you visit, there’s a cultural event just waiting to be discovered.

London, England

Of all the art cities listed in this blog post, London is the one most akin to a treasure chest. At the British Museum alone, there are 8 million cultural objects to discover across more than 60 great galleries — including bronze castings from Africa, amulets from Egypt and ceremonial masks from the Americas. Founded in 1753, this was the first national public museum in the world. And today, it welcomes more than 6 million travellers, art lovers and history buffs each year.

Would you rather contemplate brush strokes than ancient artifacts? Head over to London’s National Gallery, which boasts paintings by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and other renowned artists. In the mood for more contemporary art? The Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery should do you. 

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about classical art institutions and auction houses — but look a little closer, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the best cities for art in the world. Museums and galleries are scattered across the city and each offers something truly unique. For example: 

  • The Mori Art Museum in the Roppongi district hosts a variety of exhibitions that are intended to engage all types of viewers — from children to senior citizens. 
  • The Calm & Punk Gallery, meanwhile, has a mix of both classical mediums and new media artworks.  
  • The Sumida Hokusai Museum celebrates the work of famed woodblock artist, Katsushika Hokusai; you’ll no doubt recognize “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, which is a standout from the Edo period (1603–1868).
  • The teamLab Planets museum immerses you in colourful koi ponds, crystal universes and gardens using lights, mirrors, music and more.

Mexico City, Mexico

If murals and graffiti are what speak to you, make your way to Mexico City. Bright, bold and breathtaking street art is everywhere here. Whether you want to actively seek out the works of renowned local and international artists such as Diego Rivera, Farid Rueda and ROA or plan to stumble upon them while exploring the city, there’s a lot to discover. (Think of it like the ultimate free-entry museum.)

Don’t be fooled though! Mexico City has also established itself in the international art scene, giving travellers the opportunity to wander through a wide range of contemporary art galleries, including Kurimanzutto, House of Gaga, Museo Experimental El Echo, Museo Jumex, the University Museum of Contemporary Art and others.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa has long been known for its spectacular creative and cultural offerings — but it was the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in 2017 that really earned it global attention. Built inside a former grain silo at the V&W Waterfront, its art galleries span nine floors, showcasing the best contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. This is where you’ll find works by photographer Edson Chagas, painter Chéri Samba, conceptual artist Kendell Geers and other renowned artists from the region.

It'll be hard to tear yourself away, but the Zeitz MOCAA certainly isn’t the only Cape Town museum dedicated to South African artists. In Woodstock, you can wander through the SMAC Gallery, Christopher Moller Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Stevenson, and marvel at the work of local street artists — colourful murals can be found on nearly every corner in this neighbourhood.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne has been dubbed the cultural capital of Australia — and you can fully immerse yourself in it simply by walking through the streets. Each laneway, from Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane to Blender Lane, is essentially an ever-changing canvas of street art; you’ll find something different every time you wander through. Not to mention, it’s easy to stumble upon a public art installation (including sculptures from German-born artists Inge King) or cultural event in the city. The art scene here is truly unmatched.

Given its reputation as being a creative hub, it should come as no surprise that Melbourne is also filled to the brim with art galleries and museums. The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Victoria celebrate international and local artists in the worlds of contemporary art, fashion, design, architecture, sound and dance. ACMI (formerly the Australian Centre for the Moving Image), the Heide Museum of Modern Art and THE LUME, the first digital art gallery in the southern hemisphere, are also worth a visit.

Barcelona, Spain

Is your attention always captured by a destination’s unique architecture? If so, Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world for you to explore. From Gaudí’s fantastical Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà (La Pedrera) and Casa Batlló to Casanovas’s Neo Mudéjar-style Arc de Triomf and Montaner’s Palau de la Música Catalana, the city is filled with one-of-a-kind structures that you need to see to believe.

Of course, there’s a lot of art to see indoors too. Take the Museu Picasso de Barcelona, a museum dedicated to… you guessed it: Picasso! Its permanent collection is made up of over 5,000 works from the Cubist artist — and it hosts temporary exhibitions. If Picasso’s not your thing (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all), you can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona or the Joan Miró Foundation.

São Paulo, Brazil

As an art lover, you probably have a few destinations at the top of your travel bucket list (including many of the ones already discussed above), but have you considered São Paulo? This megalopolis has an art scene that is just as loud and colourful as its annual Carnival celebration — perhaps even more so if you’re visiting during SP Arte or São Paulo Art Biennial art fairs.

To gain a true appreciation of contemporary and modern Brazilian art, check out the São Paulo Museum of Art (known locally as MASP) and Museu de Arte Moderna. The former rivals New York’s Tate Modern and the latter has an incredible outdoor Sculpture Garden. Interested in viewing the works from local, emerging talents? Make your way to Choque Cultural or take in the street art.

Singapore

There’s so much to see, do and experience in Singapore that it can be difficult for an art lover to narrow down options. How can you possibly choose between the Singapore Art Museum, National Gallery, ArtScience Museum and Museum of Ice Cream?!

There’s also a ton of public art just waiting to be discovered:

  • First Generation by Chong Fah Cheong outside the Fullerton Hotel depicts five young boys jumping into the Singapore River.
  • Bird by Fernando Botero at the UOB Plaza represents peace and serenity.
  • 24 Hours in Singapore by Baet Yeok Kuan, located on the lawn of the Asian Civilisations Museum, emits audio recordings of everyday life.
  • Jelly Baby Family by Mauro Perucchetti at Plaza Singapore looks like oversized gummy bears and communicates the preciousness of family.
  • Progress & Advancement by Yang Ying Feng at Raffles Place is an ode to Singapore’s Central Business District (and it weighs a whopping 9 metric tonnes!).

With that in mind, make sure you leave room in your itinerary to roam the streets of this bustling city-state.

Rome, Italy

Ahhh, the Eternal City. Or should we say, the Eternal Art City? In Rome, art and history intertwine in spectacular ways. Do you consider moviemaking to be a form of expression? This is the perfect place to take in world-famous architectural landmarks that have had their moment on the big screen, including the Spanish Steps (Roman Holiday), Colosseum (Gladiator) and Trevi Fountain (The Lizzie McGuire Movie).

Naturally, famous classical and Renaissance art is here, too — and the Vatican Museums are where you can see a lot of it (approximately 70,000 works, to be exact!). Raphael’s School of Athens, Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome, Johann Wenzel Peter’s Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We could go on and on and on about the paintings located here, and that’s not even counting Michelangelo’s work yet! Florence, Italy may have gotten the statue of David but Rome has the Sistine Chapel. Seriously… art lovers cannot be disappointed here.

San Francisco, California

A lot of the art cities on this list are known for their… let’s be honest, ancient masterpieces. (We’re looking at you, Paris, London, Barcelona and Rome.) Each is great in their own way, but if you prefer the works of contemporary artists, San Francisco, California might just be the place for you. 

The collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) includes some incredible work from the 20th century — including paintings from Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo. And across the street from SFMOMA, there’s the YBCA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts). Its exhibits, which span contemporary, performance and film art, help to show how artists are essential to social and cultural movement. Street art is also alive and well in this neighbourhood. 


Ready to discover the world’s greatest art galleries, museums and street art? Check out our current deals, or speak with a travel consultant to start planning your next trip.

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