8 of the world's best cities for art lovers

From historic exhibitions to immersive digital displays, these are some of the top cities across the globe pulling in the creative crowds

5 mins

1. Florence, Italy

Visitors inside the Uffizi Gallery (Shutterstock)

Visitors inside the Uffizi Gallery (Shutterstock)

Florence, home to Renaissance treasures, is a work of art in itself. Its ancient cathedral and churches are designed and built by artistic icons of the past, from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo. Visitors will feel its creative essence just by walking through its streets, and don’t get us started on the artistry of Italian food.

Most tourists will make haste to the iconic Uffizi Gallery, where masterpieces line the corridors of this world renowned museum. Admire ancient sculptures and paintings, with the greatest collections from the Renaissance era and 14th century. Expect to see pieces by Giotto and Simone Martini, among others.

Another must-visit stop in Florence is the Pitti Palace and the Boboli gardens, housing various important galleries including the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Of course, you can't leave the city without seeing Vasari’s The Last Judgment fresco located in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. 

2. Bogotá, Colombia

Streets in Bogota, Colombia (Shutterstock)

Streets in Bogota, Colombia (Shutterstock)

The high-altitude Colombian capital has been the one to watch in recent years. Famous artist names emerged from Bogotá in the 20th century, such as Doris Salcedo and Pedro Ruiz, but for a while the artistic community was kept under wraps in the city. Now, roads and buildings have come alive with politically driven street art, and there are plenty of museums and galleries housing local and international artists.

Head inside of MAMBO – Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, for all your 20th century art inspiration, as well as Museo de Botero in La Candelaria, where Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated more than 200 works, many his own but also a selection from big names such as Picasso and Monet.

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Santa Fe, New Mexico (Shutterstock)

Santa Fe, New Mexico (Shutterstock)

Continuously inspiring artists around the world, Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It’s the light in this desert town which is given credit for attracting crowds of creatives, especially as it's positioned at 7,200ft above sea level.

Here, there truly is something for everyone. For first timers, head to Canyon Road for more than 100 galleries to visit. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a great place to start is the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture for selection of story-filled Native art. For a wackier experience, Meows Wolf House of Eternal Return provides an immersive art installation: expect refrigerators you can walk through, a washing-machine which leads to another world, and trees that glow in the dark. There’s also plenty of contemporary art to explore, and the chance to pay homage to well-known American Modernism artist Georgia O’Keeffe at a museum dedicated to her life and work.

4. Málaga, Spain

Pompidou Center, Malaga (Shutterstock)

Pompidou Center, Malaga (Shutterstock)

Okay, if you want to see the biggest collection of Pablo Picasso art ever, head to overcrowded Barcelona. But real fans of his work will head south to the Costa Del Sol, the artist’s birthplace, where visitors can experience Málaga for much more than a beach destination.

Home to more than 35 museums, the port city is becoming better known for its cultural side. The Museum of Picasso opened in Málaga in 2003, which of course, displays more than 200 works by Pablo Picasso and hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Furthermore, the Carmen Thyssen Museum explores 19th century Spanish paintings. But there is also a more contemporary art scene at the colourful pop-up Pompidou Center, which is the first centre the Parisian institution built outside of France.

5. Seoul, South Korea

Dongdaemoon Design Plaza in Seoul (Shutterstock)

Dongdaemoon Design Plaza in Seoul (Shutterstock)

The historic South Korean capital has been up-and-coming in the world of contemporary art, with the Seoul Museum of Art really putting the city on the map. Here, art lovers can explore a range of permanent art exhibitions by regional artists such as the famous Korean painter Chun Kyung Ja, as well as temporary exhibitions from creatives across the globe.

The rapid growth of Korean art culture has been reflected in a number of new projects across the city in past years. Intimate galleries have been popping up everywhere, the spaceship-like Dongdaemoon Design Plaza was built as a creative hub, and in September 2022, the Gangnam district will host the Frieze Art Fair: the perfect way to celebrate Seoul’s thriving arts community.

6. Melbourne, Australia

The ACMI in Melbourne (Shutterstock)

The ACMI in Melbourne (Shutterstock)

Dubbed the Art Capital of Australia, Melbourne’s streets are bursting with creativity. Between the buildings painted with thought-provoking graffiti is a variety of impressive museums and boutique galleries.

The biggest gallery in the city is the National Gallery of Victoria, which hosts exhibitions from artists around the world. It also displays permanent exhibitions of artists closer to home from Australia. However, you may also catch a glimpse of classics from Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Other top spots around the city include the Ian Potter Centre for indigenous artwork, the ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Image) for audio-visual shows, and more recently The LUME, the first digital art gallery in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, and a place to experience multi-sensory art.

7. San Francisco, California, USA

The SFMOMA museum in San Francisco (Shutterstock)

The SFMOMA museum in San Francisco (Shutterstock)

A trip to San Francisco is not complete without visiting the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). Founded in 1935, this is one of the largest modern and contemporary art galleries in the United States and is solely dedicated to displaying 20th century art. In 2016, the museum underwent a huge renovation, making the space much larger, and the artwork even brighter.

That’s not all though. The city is also bustling with smaller galleries such as the Anglim Gilbert Gallery and the John Fischer Gallery, and if you’re looking for a vibrant arts community, San Fran’s Mission District is painted in brightly coloured murals, drawing in attention to human rights issues and reflecting cultural heritage. 

8. Cape Town, South Africa

Inside the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Shutterstock)

Inside the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Shutterstock)

Cape Town is home to the largest contemporary African art gallery. Zeitz Museum opened in 2017, and is situated on the V&A waterfront, where its concrete and glass structure is a sight to behold. Included in its exhibits are works by South African artists Athi-Patra Ruga and Mary Sibande, along with many other important and influential creatives from across the continent.

But there are plenty of other African art scenes across the city that were here long before the Zeitz Museum. Try the South African National for example, which was founded way back in 1871 and has a fascinating display of apartheid art. The Woodstock District also mustn’t be missed. This edgy neighbourhood is dotted with galleries, vibrant wall murals and hipster cafes which are centred round its pastel pink town hall.

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