Cities like Paris, New York, and Rome conjure up images of big museums and famous art, which makes sense because they’ve got those in spades. If you’re looking to discover masterpieces that reside off the beaten path, have we got the list for you! Here 6 of the best art destinations to satisfy your inner art-enthusiast and case of wanderlust, all at the same time.
Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan)
It may be best known for Motown and motors but Detroit has a horse in the art game and it’s definitely a winner. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was founded in 1885 and its collection is now ranked among the top 6 in the United States. Pieces like Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Self Portrait’ and the larger than life ‘Detroit Industry’ frescoes by Diego Rivera are just some of the incredible art you can take in during your visit. DIA also features cafes, partnerships with local hotels, and facilities to host corporate events, weddings…everything your artistic heart desires.
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan, Italy)
This church/convent located in Northern Italy may seem unassuming, but it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. In addition to hosting events for the Dominican brethren, Santa Maria dell Grazie is the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s mural ‘The Last Supper’. Regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), this piece is one that is worth going out of your way for. No matter how many times you see photographs or creative reinterpretations, there’s just something about being in front of the original that takes your breath away.
Crystal Bridges Museum (Bentonville, Arkansas)
Taking its name from the surrounding Crystal Spring and designed by Moshe Safdie, Crystal Bridges Museum was founded by Alice Walton (daughter of Wal-Mart founded Sam Walton), and thanks to support from her family company, admission is always free. Extensive trails and lush gardens surround the architectural masterpiece and once you’re inside, you won’t be disappointed. The permanent collection includes Norman Rockwell’s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ as well as other remarkable works by Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania)
What is perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright’s most recognized creation began as a family home, designed as the Kaufman family’s holiday retreat in 1935. Turned into a museum in 1964, this architectural masterpiece now draws scores of admirers to rural Pennsylvania (over 150,00 per year). It’s bold lines and material choices lend the home a distinctive look but what really sets it apart from just about every other residence out there is the fact that it’s built on top of a waterfall. Wannabe architects, design fanatics, and general appreciators of cool things will all agree that Fallingwater is worth the detour.
Unterlinden Museum (Colmar, France)
Paintings of flowers and serene landscapes not your thing? Head to the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar to take in the Isenheim Altarpiece, a multi-paneled depiction of plague, madness, monsters, and general suffering. Sculpted and painted by German artists Matthias Gruenwald and Niclaus of Haguenau, the Ishenhein Altarpiece was designed to keep sufferers of the plague and Saint Anthony’s Fire entertained- it even showed Christ with sores on is skin to create connection with patients. Even those who have managed to avoid the plague like, well, the plague will find themselves taken in by the fantastical scenes and graphic imagery. If the violence and horror is too much, just step outside and take in the beauty that is Colmar. The city’s picturesque nature provides the perfect antidote.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain)
The Museo Reina Sofia is a museum that is principally dedicated to Spanish Art (with a heavy focus on Salvador Dali and Pable Picasso) and is housed in what was once a hospital. In addition to an impressive permanent collection, the museum also has a free-access library that focuses on art and gives patrons the opportunity to browse through over 100,000 books. Perhaps it’s most famous resident is Guernica, Picasso’s response to the bombing of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, a painting that was once housed behind bullet and bombproof glass but now hangs in a dedicated gallery. While Madrid is well-known as an art friendly city, the contents of the Museo Reina Sofia are unique to the city, making it a bit of a hidden gem that is definitely worth seeking out.