10 Must-Visit European Cities for Art Lovers

When planning a city break, modern travelers consider a range of pros and cons. Are the hotels up to standard? Where are the tastiest places to eat? And what exactly is there to do in the city?

A city’s artistic and cultural heritage plays a super important role in how potential tourists view it. Art, style, and architecture influence our booking decisions; as a result, new museums, galleries, and touring shows pop up in Europe’s capitals at an ever-increasing rate. But once everything’s considered, which city comes out on top? What is Europe’s arty capital?

A recent study by posterXXL, a German company specializing in personalized photo products, might have the answers. PosterXXL assigned scores to European cities based on factors including the concentration of art galleries, the number of buildings designed by famous architects, how many contemporary artists were born in the town, and the number of art schools and art festivals. While the continent’s big-hitting fashion capitals appear in the list, a few entries may surprise—and potentially inspire an alternative artistic escape.

10. Paris

The City of Light is a must-visit destination for lovers of art, style and architecture—so much so that a place just within the top 10 shows how much competition there is from other European cities. Gaze upon Monalisa and Venus de Milo in the Louvre, discover Impressionist wonders in the Musée de l’Orangerie, and take time to get lost down the French capital’s back street, looking up at the architectural details fine-tuned over centuries.

Lyon earns its place on the list for its eclectic collection of ferrings, from fine arts to graffiti.

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9. Lyon

What makes Lyon unique is how eclectic its artistic offerings are. In the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, not only are there historical works by Early Modern artists like Gerard David, Peter Paul Rubens, and Simon Vouet, but more contemporary offerings alongside an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts. Lyon erupts in color each autumn for four weeks as the Peinture Fraîche Festival takes over the city, celebrating street art, graffiti, and contemporary art.

8. Helsinki

Finland’s capital doesn’t get as much attention for its artistic and cultural heritage as it should. There are a handful of well-stocked galleries and museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, and architectural highlights like the 20th-century Helsinki Central Station and more contemporary Kamppi Chapel—see many of the sights on a guided tour of the city. What helps the city’s ranking is the annual Helsinki Festival—the largest arts festival in the Nordic countries, held each summer.

7. Milan

Nobody can deny Milan’s influence on Europe’s fashionista circles. Fashion weeks pull the global glitterati into the glitzy Italian city each year for a jam-packed schedule of runway shows and high-profile events. While the catwalk is home to head-turning designer creations, Milan’s historic buildings and galleries are home to some of the most iconic artworks in the world. The hand of Botticelli, Raphael, and Da Vinci can be seen in the fashion capital—perhaps most notably The Last Supper, the fresco in the Museo Cenacolo Vinciano depicting the final meal Jesus shared with the disciples before his crucifixion.

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