Best of the EU

The 10 best European art galleries to visit now we have left the EU

From a gallery reached by canal in Venice, to one beautiful enough to bring you to tears, Jenny Eclair reflects on her favourite European art galleries

Saturday 08 February 2020 14:22 GMT
Clockwise top left: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen; Peggy Guggenheim, Venice; Miro Museum, Palma
Clockwise top left: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen; Peggy Guggenheim, Venice; Miro Museum, Palma (Getty/Rex)

I love a good art gallery me. The old man is an art buff, so I pick up a few pearls of wisdom from him as I mooch about. Personally I’m not into the classics, give me anything from the mid-19th century onwards. I can live without the bleeding Jesuses and freaky cherubs, thanks.

I can be a bit picky about installations too, the good ones are great, the bad ones need punishing. I’ve travelled a lot both for work and for pleasure and the first thing I do if I’ve got a couple of nights in the same city is search out the nearest gallery.

Even if you don’t like the art, they usually have a pretty decent cafe, often it’s your best bet locally for a nice moderately priced lunch, who ever said it was all about the culture?


The Peggy Guggenheim, Venice

The only gallery I’ve ever visited by water taxi, this little canal-side museum is a tiny gem – and it’s ideal for ticking off your Venice “to do” list without having to head back to the hotel for a lie down after. Housed in famed art collector Peggy Guggenheim’s old gaffe, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, it comes complete with an adorable little sculpture garden and yes, of course there’s a cafe. Expect to see lots of paintings you recognise including Picassos and Pollocks, Mondrians and Miros. All the big names in a bite-sized space: bliss.


The Picasso Museum, Barcelona

There is only one art gallery I have broken down and cried in, and this is it. I think it was just the sheer volume of work, the guy never stopped experimenting and making stuff. He might not have been the nicest person, but you’ve got to take your hat off to him: he could do anything and everything. And, it’s central location makes it perfect for heading out to lunch after working up an appetite learning all about cubism.


Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

This gallery is situated about 40km outside of Copenhagen which means you get to go on an exciting train ride through the posh suburbs of Copenhagen – all very Borgen. A 15-minute walk from the station, the gallery itself sits in stunning landscaped gardens slap bang on the Danish coast with a view over the Sound across to Sweden. Expect top-class international art, both indoors and outdoors, plus the best open fishy sandwiches on pumpernickel you could hope for. Yum.


Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo

This is a smart little place on the edge of the freezing fjorde waters of Oslo. I visited in January and basically slid over from the hotel next door – which offered free entry along with our stay. Hugely more enjoyable than the Munch Museum, which I found slightly miserable. This is a light-filled modern gallery with ever-changing exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of names that even the most clueless of us have heard of. Hirst cows are in there for example, alongside Jeff Koon’s disturbing Michael Jackson with monkey sculpture. It also has a cafe and shop but prepare to choke slightly over the prices.


Miro Museum, Palma

A must for Miro fans, there are buses from the city centre but we cheated and got a cab. Essentially it’s a massive Miro fest with some lovely quirky architectural details – Miro’s studio for example is a primary colour 1960s design classic. There’s also a sculpture garden, coffee bar and obligatory shop where you can buy all things Miro: mugs; fridge magnets; tea towels… etc.


Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

This was a gallery the old man and I stumbled on whilst strolling around Helsinki, around a decade ago. We were over visiting a production of Grumpy Old Women Live which was being performed in Finnish in the city centre. And after perusing such delicacies as traditional bear pate in the market we needed something a bit more contemporary. Expect cutting-edge modern, colourful and fun, a mix of installation, photography and painting. The exhibitions change seasonally, as does the lunch menu in the cafe, good work Helsinki, though I’d give the bear pate a miss.

(Zoran Marinovic)

The Black Horizon Art Pavilion, Lopud Island, Croatia

OK this one is a bit off the beaten track, for starters you’ve got to get a ferry from Durbrovnik to the tiny island of Lopud, from there you either walk, cycle or golf cart it to this wonderful magical box which basically squats in the middle of nowhere. Basically it’s a wooden shed, designed by our very own David Adjaye, which houses a lighting installation by the artist Olafur Eliasson. It showcases the colour changes on Lopud’s horizon over 24 hours on a repeating 15-minute loop. Expect to have your mind blown, but don’t expect coffee or cake – there is no cafe. I repeat, there is no cafe.


Museum der Dinge, Berlin

This isn’t strictly an art gallery, it’s a collection of things, displayed over 500m in a former workshop. It’s one of my favourite back street hot spots, and features a beautifully curated collection of design and everyday objects from the 20th and 21st century. This might be anything from dolls house furniture to kitchen utensils. Imagine a modern day equivalent of the Victorian collector, where plastic and mass produced household items replace eggs and butterflies. No cafe, but there are lots of cool places to hang out locally. It’s so Berlin it hurts.

(AFP/Getty) (AFP/Getty Images)

Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery, Croatia

A second Croatian gallery, guess where I like to go on my hols? This one is in Dubrovnik and if it’s getting a bit hot out there on the beach, this is the idea place to take shelter. Fabulously cool and blissfully empty, the exhibitions change regularly, but I remember being mightily impressed when I visited a few years ago. I seem to remember some kind of refreshment facility but I don’t think it ran to a decent light lunch menu, so bear that in mind when you visit (or smuggle in a sandwich).


Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery, Berlin

This is a massive gallery housed in an old train station. It’s home to some of the world’s best contemporary art, so you can wander round and tick off all the big names. It’s pretty exhausting but don’t worry, if you need a pit stop there’s a proper restaurant with fancy beers and a comprehensive menu which features the Berlin classic currywurst, chips and homemade ketchup. Oh God, I might just have to catch a plane.

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