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An Art Museum Fantasy Road Trip, Part III: Famous Art Destinations from Paris to Istanbul

This winter, each fine art appraiser at Skinner dreamed up her ideal journey to visit fabulous art around the world. There are so many museums I would love to visit on my trip, but these are my top five art destinations.

5. The Prado: Madrid, Spain

Rogier van der Weyden - Deposition | Art Destinations

Rogier van der Weyden, Deposition at the Prado in Madrid


I was overwhelmed with my first visit to the Prado in 2007. This famous museum can be very crowded, but I found that the early evening hours tended to be quieter.

On my first visit, I knew I would finally be able to study many incredible Spanish masterworks, but I was unprepared for the impact of an early Flemish painting that I did not even realize was in the Prado: Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition. I was thunderstruck by its beauty, color, and scale. The figures are almost life size.

After visiting the Prado, I’d recommend a side trip to the nearby Museo Sorolla.

4. Père Lachaise Cemetery: Paris, France

Pere Lachaise Cemetery | Art DestinationsYears ago I saw an exhibit of photographs by Willard Traub of this amazing cemetery on the outskirts of Paris. I had never heard of it before, but I made a point of going on my last trip to Paris. Père Lachaise cemetery opened in the early 19th century, and it is the burial place of many famous painters, composers, authors, and other luminaries, as well as Parisian families.

Frédéric Chopin is buried there, his gravestone bedecked regularly with offerings of flowers, candles, and musical manuscripts. You can also visit the burial places of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, Oscar Wilde, Georges Seurat, Amedeo Modigliani, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison, to name only a handful. What truly charmed me was the very touching sculpture that adorned many of the early gravesites.

When you visit, purchase a map, and you can also rent a little electric cart to get up and down the hills if you like.

3. The Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam, Netherlands

I have never been to Amsterdam, but this is on my list of must-see places. My fantasy includes a lovely barge trip soaking up Netherlands’ culture and landscape, then making my way to Amsterdam to The Rijksmuseum to enjoy the works of Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Steen, and Pieter Claesz.

2. The Hermitage: St. Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg | Art DestinationsThe cultural capital of Russia and traditionally its window on the west, St. Petersburg is home to amazing museums and historical sites. The Hermitage, said to be the largest museum in the world, was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, and it is made up of a collection of buildings along the Neva River including the famous Winter Palace.

This photo shows the nearby domes of the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood, built 1883-1907 on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. The romantic domed architecture harks back to styles of the 16th and 17th centuries.

1. Hagia Sophia: Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia | Art DestinationsI can’t wait to visit Istanbul, the bridge between Europe and the Middle East. First stop: Hagia Sophia. Dedicated in 562, the basilica served for a thousand years as a cathedral, then five centuries more as a mosque, and now, since 1935, as a museum. It’s truly a cultural and historical crossroad. I hear that Istanbul is bidding for the 2020 summer Olympics, which would be yet another reason to visit!

For more fabulous art destinations around the world and even back in time, visit Robin Starr’s Art Museum Road Trip, then add your own destination.

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere to see art? Share your road trip with us on Facebook.

Images: Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400-1464) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Pere Lachaise Cemetary photo courtesy of Madeline Haff; Saint Petersburg Church of the Savior By Александр Гирёв (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; Hagia Sophia by Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2 thoughts on “An Art Museum Fantasy Road Trip, Part III: Famous Art Destinations from Paris to Istanbul

  1. Great list!
    I made a list a few months ago of my favorite European Art Museums and the Prado was number 2, I think they may have the best collection in the world (Louvre/Met may argue that)! The Kröller-Müller Museum is my favorite. Very small and quiet with a world-class Van Gogh collection, set in the middle of Hoge Veluwe national park, about an hour train east from Amsterdam. Embarrassingly enough I have yet to enter the Rijksmuseum! Istanbul is certainly a future destination for me, well see if I can get out to St. Petersburg someday.

    For a medievalist, a great small museum/church/cloister is the Klosterneuberg Priory with the famous altarpiece by Nicholas of Verdun. Only a twenty minute train from Vienna. Only allowed to explore via guided tour (in German) but it was a treat.
    Love what you guys do with this blog.

    • Andrew,
      I will happily add your suggestions to my personal list, especially the Klosterneuberg Priory. It is very special and somewhat rare to encounter these wonderful altarpieces in the context of a church for which they were intended.

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