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Posts Tagged ‘London’

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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If there’s any place I want to be during the holidays, it’s London. Harrod’s window displays ignite the holiday cheer in just about everyone that walks by them (and takes a moment to admire the intricacy), Oxford Street is done up in bows and Regent’s Park looks like something out of a Narnia film once it’s covered in snow.

When the wind really blows, there’s nothing nicer than curling up in a cozy cafe with a mug of apple cider or mulled wine to scare the winter blues away and dry your mittens. London has a lot of charm around the holiday time and a lot of chaos during shopping hours. This is the reason why I love to escape, to the quieter corners of the city.

London Fields

There are a lot of great and very free things to do in London this time of year that won’t freeze your knickers (at least mostly not). If you’re in London this December, I recommend grabbing a room at Tune Hotels London, (£65 a night!) and checking some of these out.

British Museum

As one of the world’s finest museums, it would be a shame to visit the city and skip over it. It’s open from 10:oo until 5:30 in the afternoon. It’s easy to spend a couple of days in there, getting lost and soaking in the history of the artefacts.

Piccadilly Circus

If you hang out here long enough, you’re sure to find some creative minds, street performers and other artists trying to make a living from the crowds. There’s a London saying that goes, ‘If you hang out near the Eros Statue in Piccadilly Circus for 15 minutes, you’re sure to run into someone you know’. It’s where all the action takes place!

Tower of London Tour

Skating at the Tower of London

Yeoman Warders come dresses in “Beefeater” costumes and give free one-hour tours of the Tower of London. Tours leave every 30 minutes from just inside the gate. This is a great way to get a more animated experience of the Tower. Another free activity here is the Ceremony of the Keys, a tradition that has taken place at the tower every night for 700+ years. It starts at 9:30 and ends at 10:05. There’s a trick though to getting tickets, you have to write via snail mail to the Tower of London.

Convent Garden

To get a closer look at London’s street culture, Covent Garden is a right place to be. There is always an abundance of street performers and artists around. Market stalls pop up over night selling handmade wares, fine=crafted jellies, spirits and baked goodness. For the real foodies, Borough Market will definitely satisfy any cravings. Covent Garden markets are just off of the Covent Garden tube stop, while Borough Market is a 5 minute walk south of London Bridge stop.

Speaker’s Corner

Have something to say to the world? Head down to Cumberland Gate Park Lane (the north-east corner of Hyde Park), it’s free! Open Sundays from noon until 7:30. Whether you get your turn in the booth or not, this corner is hopping when it’s open! There’s no other place to hear passionate people express their opinions. This phenomenon started in 182 when the government elected one corner of the city for public speaking on politics, religion and economy.

Platform 9 3/4

This spot in King’s Cross Station is forever popularized by the Harry Potter films but if you’re a fan like I am, it’s no doubt a good place for a photo opp! There’s even a trolly stuck half-way through the wall which was added some years ago when the book series exploded with popularity.

As for London, you can never find enough time to do all the things you want, which is why so many people come back year after year, after year! The city is always changing too, so there is always something more to see around London. As for me, I’m hoping I’ll be there this holiday season to enjoy the festive cheer that’s already hit the streets!

 

 

 

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