Archive for March, 2011

I’ve been on a museum-binge lately, checking out some new exhibitions and finally getting to the permanent collections I’ve been meaning to see for a long time. It’s no sense living in a place like London and not appreciating what’s right in your own backyard. When is the last time you went to the Tower of London, visited the British Museum (which is free by the way!) or purposely rode your bike past Buckingham Palace? While many Londoners wouldn’t waste their time with such “trivial touristy things” I had a lot of fun doing it. It got me thinking (to make a long story short) about some of the best museums I’ve been to and ones I’d like to go to as well.

So, here you have it, the top 15 museums in the Western World

  1. The Louvre – An easy first choice? I’ve been once to this mega-art hub in Paris and without a doubt it is the world’s most famous museum. You can even take an online tour of the place! If you’re lucky and the crowds aren’t that big when you visit you might even get up close to the Mona Lisa by the Leonardo da Vinci.
  2. The Met– The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC is one of the best museums in North America. It’s collection is strong with American art from all genres as well as an impressive collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts. You need a whole day (and then some) to see even a part of this place.
  3. British Museum – It’s the big one in the UK and considered one of the best museums in the world for Ancient arts and antiquities from around the world. The collection’s time line starts around Ancient Egypt and goes right up to the Middle Ages.
  4. The Vatican Museum – While I’ve never been it is without a doubt impressive. The Sistine Chapel alone or Rafael’s The School of Athens is worth visiting Rome to see. While Catholic art isn’t my forte, it would be worth seeing.
  5. The Hermitage Museum – Russia’s gem, it holds the largest art collection in the world with more than three million pieces of art. If that alone isn’t impressive enough, this place is huge!
  6. Kunsthistorisches Museum – Vienna is certainly not left out of this equation. This Austrian museum is most famous for its collection of European paintings as well as its stunning collection of antiquities. I haven’t been past the lobby (a little embarrassed to mention this)!
  7. National Gallery in London – Paintings and more paintings! While the British Museum focuses on artefacts the National Gallery has the most complete collection of European paintings ranging from the thirteenth century to the nineteenth.
  8. MOMA – The Museum of Modern Art in New York is where you’ll find the best of the world’s contemporary art and modern art. Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon hangs here as does Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Just these two would be worth a trip to NYC to see, don’t you think?
  9. The Cairo Museum – Most appropriately the Cairo Museum has the most comprehensive collection of Egyptian art and artefacts. The most famous piece is of course Tutankhamun’s Tomb which was first discovered in 1922.
  10. Museo del Prado – As Madrid’ biggest museum, it’s also the best one in all of Spain. You’ll find the most complete representation of Spanish painting traditions in the world behind its doors. Most notable is Velazquez’s Las Meninas.I’ve been several times to this museum but there is always something new going on.
  11. Musee d’Orsay – Paris’ other famous museum is the home of impressionist and nineteenth century French painting. here you’ll find artworks from the likes of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh (although not French, he produced many paintings while he was living in Paris).
  12. Uffizi – Florence, some say, is where European art was born. Hundreds of “masters” came out of this northern Italian city. It’s hard to know why but every art-lover should make a stop at the Uffizi Museum to see Botticelli’s Venus and Giotto’s Ognisanti Madonna as well as pieces by Caravaggio (my favourite on display here is his circular shield with the face of Medusa on it).
  13. Tate Modern – Not trying to play London favourites here but we’ve just got a lot of cool museums! The Tate Modern is iconic for its modern and contemporary art. Not unlike the MOMA in NYC, the Tate Modern has a much more European collection than American. Get your fix of Bacon, Lichtenstein and Pollock and don’t overlook the temporary exhibitions, they’re curated by some of the best in the world.
  14. Art Institute of Chicago – Good art is easy to find outside of New York, head to Chicago’s Art Institute and you’ll find it! Seurat is well represented here. His Island of La Grande Jatte is on display alongside many other famous European and American artists.
  15. Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam has many good museums but this one is the king. Unfortunately I have yet to make it to the Dutch capital (shame on me) to see its collection of Dutch paintings (the most important in the world) [double shame]. Nightwatch by Rembrandt is the main star.

I try to visit a good number of museums when I travel, at least a combination of the major ones as well as some smaller independent art galleries. Which of these have you visited? Which would you like to visit? I’ve been to NYC but alas my trip was short (just a weekend) and I didn’t have any chances to see any museums. It’s really a shame. All the more reason to get out my Lonely Planet book for the USA and start to compare compare cheap flights from London to JFK. There are always sales on this route (good for me!).


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I don’t know whether it’s the spring weather, the latest run of Fashion Weeks in my favourite cities or my thirst for travel right now but I’ve got shopping on my mind. More precisely I’ve got shopping in Lisbon on my mind. While not the first city I think of when it comes to fashion and style, Lisbon has a secret that it can’t keep much longer. This city has style! As for shopping, there is a lot of chic hiding here!

If you think of shopping in London in the 1940s, you’re pretty close to what it’s like to shop in Lisbon’s city centre today. Polished wooden counter tops where dainty hand-embroidered handkerchiefs, bed linens and towels hang behind polished glass. Handmade leather gloves, shoes, hats are all ready to try on, antique display cases shine and your packages are wrapped in kraft paper and twine as you leave.

Romantic isn’t it?

Lisbon’s newly revamped Waterfront is a mecca for design shops which are taking a turn back to the traditional arts and crafts which once made Portugal famous. The city hosts a new generation of hand-crafters and if you’ve got a keen eye for something different, something old yet with a touch of the contemporary, then you’ve got to check out Lisbon.

Top things to buy: leather, linen, silver, Old World trinkets…

Where to shop:

Luvaria Ulisses (Rua do Carmo, 87a) – selling hand-made gloves since 1925

Joalharia do Carmo (Rua do Carmo 87b) – selling 18th century styled jewellery and silverware

Paris em Lisboa (near Rua Garrett) – selling monogrammed linens, starting at £7

Café a Brasileira – the city’s most famous coffee house. Latte and sweet, just £2.20

Casa das Velas (Rua do Loreto) – selling candles since 1789, a pair of ecclesiastical candles for £15

Chapelaria Azevedo Rua (Rossio Square) – hand-made men’s fedoras, £57

As you can see, you can find some beautiful treasures here for a fraction of the price they would cost you in London, even Paris. It’s incredible that Lisbon isn’t so popular among shoppers. Ladies, really you’ve got to get on this. The best time to visit is spring, May of course when it’s not too hot and when the spring flowers are in full-bloom in the streets. The beach is just a 30 minute train ride away as well. As well, Lisbon has plenty of cheap hotels but the real deals are found outside the city centre. For something chic, check out the places within close reach of Rossio.

image from: http://weheartit.com/entry/6261500

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