The very foundations of western art and indeed western culture find their roots in the art of Europe. The continent is simply bursting with opportunities to see great art wherever you turn. If you are a student, you’ll be particularly pleased as many of these stunning institutions offer some great student prices where you can enjoy the masters at a fraction of the cost.
The key for seeing the great art of Europe is to do your research beforehand, plan what you want to see and whenever you can, book in advance. No matter the season, these are the “it” places to be and you won’t want to waste your time standing in line.
The Prado, Madrid
Spanish art is not as well-known as French or Italian, but it should not be ignored. The priceless collection of the Prado is home to many of the Renaissance greats as well, in addition to all of the greatest pieces of Spanish art. There are wonderful Titians, a great collection of Roman sculpture and of course, El Greco.
After viewing El Greco’s paintings, you’ll walk away not only with a better understanding of art, but a better understanding of Spain.
British Museum, London
Britain’s colonization of much of the world meant that it had first pick at many of the world’s treasures. It is a controversial subject, particularly for the countries whose national treasures won’t be returned any time soon, but there are so many must-sees.
The Rosetta Stone, the Standard of Ur and the Elgin Marbles are just a few of the truly great world treasures that you’ll find in this mammoth of a museum. They offer a brochure with a map to see ten of their best artifacts which takes about two hours, but consider leaving yourself an afternoon to just wander and enjoy.
If the Mona Lisa isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind, then you need to head for the nearest library and do some research. The Louvre is one of Europe’s largest and most impressive collections of art. Spanning ancient times until the early 20th century, what was once the largest building in Europe is a dream come true for art lovers.
You’ll have to pay homage to the lady herself, but take some time with the hundreds of other treasures that are housed in this space. The French crown jewels on display are worth a peek as well.
Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris
This peaceful enclave on the banks of the Siene may be small, but it is mighty. The gallery features the impressionist masters and while it may look unassuming from the outside, the inside simply glows with the pointed paintings of Serat, the dusky glow of Degas and the vivid colors of Monet.
The main event are two large oval galleries that each feature four mural-sized Monet’s. Sit for a while and soak it all in and then head down the road for a macaron.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
In terms of booking ahead, this is a must. If you haven’t reserved tickets online, chances are you won’t make it in. Just a few steps into the museum and bam – Michelangelo’s David towers above, captivating viewers with his lean torso and casual stance. Take your time to walk slowly around the sculpture.
Consider sticking in your headphones with a Renaissance soundtrack to truly engage in the magnificent piece. You can check out a pretty cool collection of Renaissance-era musical instruments as well.
Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence
Another one you’ll want to book online in advance. Try and get a slot early in the day so you can line up before the crowds come in and take your time through this goldmine of Renaissance art.
You’ll need more than a minute to truly appreciate Botticelli’s Venus in all of her glory.