A Travel Guide For Art Lovers

an unexpected itinerary

by Darcy Sullivan and Michael Horne

Above: Playful giraffe sculptures on the exterior balcony of a building, Helsinki.


Travel has become more than just an enjoyable getaway, but a means by which to explore one’s interests and passions. Why and where we choose to visit varies from person to person. From history and cuisine to discovering the world’s best beaches and unique hotels, these are motivators that come up frequently. But recently, there has been increased interest to travel for the visual arts.

The arts have always had an ability to shine a spotlight on destinations that we may not have considered otherwise. Traveling through the lens of galleries, museums and architecture shows another side to these locations, to discover a world which gives you a true flavor for the locale, its culture and its people. We traveled the world to find these seven cities, all unexpectedly filled with vibrant visual art.

Above: An exhibition at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town.


Cape Town has always been ahead of the game when it comes to art and culture, but it’s been catapulted onto the world stage thanks to the recent opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), the largest collection of contemporary African art in the world. Located in the newly renovated Silo district, the impressive building (once a grain silo complex) has been reimagined by renowned architect Thomas Heatherwick and is a totally unique space that fits into the African context.

Above: Overlooking the city from a Deluxe Room at the Silo Boutique Hotel, Cape Town.


On Long Street you can browse traditional art and antiques stores and find a treasure to bring home. Stroll towards Table Mountain, a neighborhood that’s packed with bars, cafés and specialty eateries. Make sure to stop by Bocca, La Parada and Chef’s Warehouse for a spot of people watching and delicious small plates. Sleep at the newly opened Silo Boutique Hotel which boasts incredible views and is part of the Zeitz Museum complex, putting you right in the heart of the art-loving action.

Above: The Central Library at UNAM, Mexico City.


On the global contemporary arts circuit, Mexico City is a must. From internationally renowned museums to lesser known architectural landmarks, the 2018’s World Design Capital has much to celebrate. Home to the famous Barragán Houses, named after the eponymous Mexican architect, Mexico City has become a place of art-fueled pilgrimage for many.Wandering between his home studio at Casa Luis Barragán to Casa Gilardi, Cuadra San Cristobal and onto Casa Pedregal, the strength of Barragán’s influence is inescapable. 

Above left: Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico City. Above right: Artwork at ORM Gallery, Mexico City.


Not the only architect making an impression on Mexico City’s cityscape, discover the lesser known works of contemporaries such as Mathias Goeritz, Félix Candela and Mario Pani. Get a sense of the emerging architectural talent by taking a stroll around every neighborhood. For real insight, head to the National Autonomous University of Mexico campus and check out the Central Library adorned in stunning murals by the late Juan O’Gorman. A certified UNESCO World Heritage Site, UNAM is an architectural showpiece that few take the time to appreciate. 

Above: Las Alcobas Hotel Lobby, Mexico City.


Mexico City is not all about architecture, and it would be an injustice to visit the city without stopping by some of its top museums. While Kurimanzutto and OMR attract the international spotlight, José Garcia, a relative newcomer, is doing its part to bring works of leading Mexican artists onto the world stage. Stay at Las Alcobas and rub shoulders with the elite in a privileged location that’s filled with the capital’s top bars, restaurants and fashionable boutiques.

Above: Artwork on a city wall, Zurich.


For those looking for a European art fix, head to Zurich. The birthplace of the Dada Movement and home of Le Corbusier’s final architectural masterpiece, this Swiss capital truly sits at the forefront of contemporary art. Recently celebrating its 20th year, the Contemporary Art Fair of 2018 featured everything from abstract photography to conceptual installations, representing established and emerging artists alike. 

Above: A Widder Hotel Suite overlooks the city, Zurich.


A city for the avant garde, the cutting-edge and the creative, visit Galerie Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann Galerie. Zurich is home to many haute horologists, so stop by Vacheron Constantin or IWC’s flagship to browse exceptionally luxurious timepieces, artworks in themselves.

Above: Art exhibition on view at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich.


Check into the Widder Hotel, a charming boutique establishment, whose medieval facade belies slick contemporary interiors and walls splashed with abstract art. Not only are they nailing interior décor, but the also boasts a seriously impressive restaurant. Encouraging you to “follow the flavor,” the menu is a cacophony of intriguing dishes and themes, including Smoke Signs, Basil Bash and Intro to Cilantro.

Above: Entrance to an exhibition hall at the Larco Museum, Lima.


Lima is rapidly becoming a global cultural hub for arts and cuisine. The city’s museums showcase some of the country’s finest treasures which provide insight into the region’s ancient civilizations and historic sites. These sites can then be explored in greater depth elsewhere in the country.

Above: The entrance to Hotel B, Lima.


Housed in an elegant, whitewashed mansion, the Larco Museum hosts the world’s largest private collection of Pre-Columbian art including ceramics, gold and silver jewelry and an extensive selection of ceramics from the Moche culture, featuring a  memorable erotic pottery. In addition to the museum, the property includes a gorgeous garden and a top notch restaurant. Our favorite places to eat are Central and Maido, numbers 4 and 8 respectively on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Stay in Hotel B Lima, a breezy, elegant Old-World spot for Lima’s well-heeled.

Above: The 798 Art Zone space is a decommissioned military factory, Beijing.


The 798 Art Zone is one of Beijing’s buzziest hangouts. Located in a decommissioned military factory on the outskirts of Beijing, the whitewashed turbine halls and generator rooms now house modern art. Here you’ll discover contemporary Chinese art that depicts the politics, society and culture of China.

Above left and right: Sculptures on display outside of 798 Art Zone, Beijing.


At Originality Square, visitors will admire striking Bauhaus architecture and the mystical Cholima statue. This area is home to numerous galleries filled with exhibitions of innovative paintings, photography, sculptures and the occasional multimedia installations.

Above: A Suite at The Peninsula, Beijing.


Where to sleep? The Peninsula of course.  The hotel boasts an inspiring gallery, The Peninsula Art Journey, showcasing pieces by renowned artist Zhao Ying Chao. The hotel is a perfect complement to a culture-packed visit to the Chinese capital. For a bite in 798, head to Fodder Factory, a little-known restaurant balancing kitsch with industrial-chic and spicy Hunan dishes that are five-star. Tip: be sure to bring a local with you to translate the menu.

Above: The exterior of Delimbo Gallery, Seville.


Seville, long known for its traditional profile, has recently shown a more youthful, modern side. Specializing in local, boutique galleries rather than the big names of Madrid and Barcelona, it’s the place to discover hidden gems. From Fine Arts to Art Nouveau, the galleries of Seville reflect the evolution of the city. Examine distinguished works by Velázquez at the Museo de Bellas Artes, contemporary Andalusian art at Museo de Arte Andaluz Contemporaneo and surrealist and abstract works over at La Caja China. 

Above: An exhibition room at Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville.


For something completely different, head to Delimbo, a former banana warehouse now showcasing urban art from across Europe and the United States. It surely will open your eyes onto a whole other facet of Seville.

A luxurious, modern boutique hotel in the heart of Seville’s historic center, The Mercer effortlessly blends cutting-edge design with its historical surroundings. 

Above: The Lobby of The Mercer Hotel, Seville.


No matter how much Seville modernizes, some things remain, so go for its unbeatable tapas scene. Whether you’re dining at Bodega in Santa Cruz, El Rinconcillo in the Old Town, Sol Y Sombra in Triana ( and we could go on and on), dining in Seville never disappoints.

Above: The facade of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki.


Helsinki has changed a lot over the last few years, repositioning itself to be one of the most exciting cities in Scandinavia. Much of this growth surrounds the arts, and leading the pack has been cultural festivals such as the ever-popular Midnight Sun Film Festival. 

Above left and right: Artwork on view at local galleries, Helsinki.


In tandem, contemporary galleries and exhibitions have been on the up and up too. But, having gone about it in a more subtle way, you may not have noticed. In a world full of mind-blowing contemporary art, Helsinki is geared towards the home-grown and the local.

Set up basecamp at Klaus K, an irresistible hideaway inspired from a traditional Finnish tale, The Kalevala. This spot masterfully combines literary heritage with innovative design in the heart of the city. 

Above: A Deluxe Room at the Klaus K Hotel, Helsinki.


For dining, while the Finnish staples of herring, perch and vendace remain favorites, recent months have seen a flurry of new openings in the capital. The most sought-after reservation in town right now is Chapter, whose innovative pairings of classics with the contemporary have got everyone abuzz. Can’t get a table ? You can’t go wrong with the kitchen-facing seats at Ora or the open-fire grill at Werner.