For a taste of Europe’s truly eclectic heart, visit a contemporary art gallery. But if you’ve done and redone the most famous of the bunch, it’s time to head off the beaten path for some overlooked gems. Striking the ideal balance between emerging artists and established creators, these dynamic spaces are big players in the quieter corners of the continent.
1. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Art: Oslo, Norway
Astrup Fearnley Museum, Image source: Wikimedia
Art begins on the outside at Astrup Fearnley Museum. Canals, bridges, sculptures, lawns; its airy Fjord-grazing location makes for an unforgettable entrance. Inside the three buildings, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is one of the largest private contemporary art collections in Norway. Intense focus is given to international artworks from the 60s onwards, particularly those that push the boundaries, such as Jeff Koons’ famous sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles.
Where to eat: Book in for lunch at Festningen Restaurant when you’re done for one of the best views over Aker Brygge and the Oslofjord. Just a short stroll from the gallery itself, the elegantly casual brasserie serves up quality dishes using the best ingredients of the season.
2. The Lewis Glucksman Gallery: Cork, Ireland
Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Image source: Wikimedia
Cork is proof that good things come in small packages. The city was named European Capital of Culture in 2005 and its thriving arts scene is worth exploring. One of the most recent gallery additions is The Lewis Glucksman Gallery – the building alone has won multiple awards for its minimalist design. Walk anti-clockwise up through the Gluckman and enjoy modern works from Ireland’s most distinguished artists, including Brian Maguire, Alice Maher and Maud Cotter. Previous exhibitions have featured iconic English artists Damien Hirst and Tacita Dean.
Where to stay: Less than a 10-minute walk away is the perfect retreat after a day in Cork’s galleries. Hayfield Manor is a luxury 5-star period country house boasting fine-dining in a wine cellar, spa treatments, and heavenly afternoon tea.
3. Fondation Louis Vuitton: Paris, France
Image source: Fondation Louis Vuitton
While the sheer scale of The Louvre takes centre-stage in the heart of the city, head west and you’ll find this gallery rooted snugly into the green depth of Jardin d’Acclimatation. Everything looks ship-shape at Fondation Louis Vuitton, a massive boat of a building sealed with a diamond-encrusted ‘LV’ brooch. This ‘deconstructivist’ design is the brainchild of starchitect Frank Gehry, also famous for Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Step inside this nautical-tinged giant to browse permanent contemporary house works by Maurizio Cattelan, Wolfgang Tillmans, Alberto Giacometti and Sigmar Polke.
Where to eat: Stay in the gallery to sample the fragrant French-inspired cuisine in Le Frank, with Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos at the helm.
4. Zentrum Paul Klee: Bern, Switzerland
Zentrum Paul Klee, Image source: Wikipedia
When Swiss-German painter Paul Klee asked Italian architect Renzo Piano for a gallery that wouldn’t distract from the art, he delivered perfectly. With minimalist waves that mimic the gently rolling hills and surrounding Alpine peaks, the Zentrum Paul Klee is a serene sanctuary. Step inside to view more than 4,000 of Klee’s highly individual paintings, drawings and watercolours influenced by Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism.
Where to stay: Make your visit to Bern unforgettable by booking into nearby stately country inn Hôtel de l’Ours. Dating back to 1698, the exquisitely refurbished hotel sits opposite a famous monastery and Bellelay’s cheese museum – it even has exhibitions of its own, staged in the 300-year-old attic.
5. Berardo Museum: Lisbon, Portugal
Berardo Museum, Images Source: Wikimedia
A city break to Lisbon will no doubt include a gallery trip or two. Berardo Museum is a stunning experience, with over 900 contemporary works to discover including pop art-style painter Valerio Adami, Irish artist Francis Bacon and American minimalist Carl Andre. As well as a remarkable permanent collection, the gallery regularly hosts exhibitions from both national and international artists.
Where to stay: Once you’ve filled up on modern art musings, head east along the Lisbon coastline to Solar Do Castelo. Within the walls of São Jorge Castle, the boutique hotel is built on the site of a 17th-century palace – bringing luxurious romance to the historic heart of Lisbon.
6. Castello di Rivoli: Turin, Italy
Where to eat: Head onto the stunning patio of Castello Cafeteria for lunch overlooking the imposing hills of Turin. For something extra special, book a table at Combal.Zero and see for yourself why it’s listed among the ‘100 best restaurants in the world’.