As you may have seen from our Instagram posts, I was recently in Europe. I had never visited Europe before, and though the main purpose of my trip was to visit my friend in London (and see Benedict Cumberbatch star in Hamlet), I tried to absorb as much art and design as possible in two weeks and five cities.
Visiting new places will always feel fresh and inspiring, and though it may not be fair to say since Vancouver is so young by comparison, our city does seem to lack the type of artistic culture that is so prevalent in many parts of Europe (especially the Scandinavian countries). There are little artistic elements throughout Europe that I appreciate a lot, such as featured art or thoughtfully designed tiles in metro/subway stations, plenty of street and public art, and museum cafés that are as beautiful as the artwork they share homes with.
My time in Europe was not nearly long enough, but here are some of the stops I feel every art and design lover could appreciate.
In Glasgow, soak in everything that is Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His work can be found all over the city. Stop by either of the Willow Tea Rooms for afternoon tea and to look at some of his original pieces.
The Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow features art from local artists and the building is quite beautiful. Spot the Duke of Wellington sporting a traffic cone out front!
Make sure to walk along Buchanan Street, the main shopping district in the city centre, and remember to look up or you’ll miss the art nouveau peacock atop the Princes Square Shopping Centre.
I loved every pocket of London I visited, but for the art lover, I’d recommend a stop in Shoreditch for their copious art galleries and graffiti lining almost every street (you can even book street art walking tours).
The Tate Modern is worth a visit, even if all you’re looking for are some art and design books. Step outside their balcony for a nice view of the city from south of the Thames.
For more classical art, definitely stop by the Victoria & Albert Museum. Though not as massive as the Metropolitan in New York, I would still place the V&A in the same ‘must-visit’ category. Don’t forget to see the Raphael cartoons or stop by the stunning café. If it’s a nice day, grab a snack and sit in the central courtyard just beside the café.
In Copenhagen, visit the SMK for a view of both pre-1900 European art and post-1900 Danish art separated into two distinct and unique wings. Sit in their beautifully designed café for a delicious latte while you peruse an art book.
When travelling, I like to absorb as much as I can like a local (even if I stick out like a sore thumb), so visiting grocery stores is a big thing for me. Grocery stores like Irma in Copenhagen offer a taste of Danish fare and design. (Blå coffee, anyone?)
As with everywhere else I visited on this trip, pretty much anywhere you go in Stockholm will have some stunning old buildings, public art, or beautiful design. The artsy and almost hipster part of Stockholm is Södermalm, which has some great shops and good food.
On a nice day, go for a walk or bike along the Strandvägen or stop by The Old Town, Gamla stan. Although Gamla stan is packed with tourist shops (as well as the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum, etc.) you’ll still find art galleries, a nice café or design store to pop into.
Make a stop at the Hallgrímskirkja church and have a look inside. Take the lift upstairs to the viewpoint – there’s nothing like a 360º view of a city.
Reykjavik has quite a few art museums and galleries, but you can also find bits of art and design scattered throughout the city just along the streets and in shops like I Don’t Speak Icelandic.