Arriving two hours late on the overnight sleeper from Istanbul, after five separate stops for checks by Turkish then Bulgarian border police in the middle of the night, it was bliss to find this cafe. With its worn squashy leather sofas surrounded by a sculpture garden, and a warm unhurried atmosphere, it provided the best hot chocolate I have ever had - pure, smooth, rich, dark nectar which lifted the spirts on a cold, grey October day. The art gallery was not very memorable, the hot chocolate was.
Rouen in Normandy is just far enough away from Paris on a fast train to escape its day-trippers but not so that it would break your alarm clock or budget.
Apart from the wondrous cathedral, it is one of the homes of impressionism. Visit a gallery or see the interesting old town where you can photograph, shop or people-watch from a cafe to your hearts' content.
We visited Tunis in September 2011, mere months after the Arab Spring died down in the country. We weren’t apprehensive about the stability of the place but we were excited about seeing an almost brand new nation. We did all the natural touristy bits but our highlight was stumbling across an art gallery called Palais Kheireddine (transformed into Le Musee de la Ville de Tunis) buried deep in the Medina that was once a former palace. It was virtually deserted but it was filled with artwork by local artists who had enough pent up aggression, borne out of years of oppression, to produce some really earthy art. The setting was perfect: a quiet space to wander around, with tall, white pristine arches framing works that were poignant, relevant and at times showed a zany sense of humour. A kindly caretaker took us under his wing and showed us some of his favourites, which included the gallery's sparkling mosaic tiled roof terrace overlooking the equally deserted square below. Round the corner is another gallery called La Dar Lasram, with subterranean looking arches that housed photographs from the protests taken by local photographers. Tunis felt like the most untouristy place on earth when we visited. Hopefully as democracy settles in, these local artists will reach a wider audience eager to know more about what makes this nation tick.
Rue du Tribunal, Place Kheireddine, 1006, Tunis
+216 71 561 780
If you’re looking for a truly Canadian museum experience, check out the Museum of Inuit Art. Canada’s only public museum located south of the Arctic, it is devoted to preserving and displaying Inuit art from across Canada. The exhibition space features hundreds of works, ranging from sculptures to ceramics, prints and wall hangings, dating back from 1,000 years ago to the present day.
Give yourself about 90 minutes to visit the entire museum and gallery, which sells original works created by contemporary Inuit artists as well as handicraft jewelry and books on Inuit art. The gallery acquires all of its pieces from various Inuit co-operatives representing artists working in Northern Canada and all proceeds from the art sale further supports the work of these artists and their communities.
Open 7 days a week from 10 AM until 6 PM, the museum has very low admission rates -- $3 CDN for adults and $1.50 CDN for seniors and students.
The museum also hosts a Collectors’ Night every Friday night, from 7 PM until 9 PM. Purchase tickets for $10 CDN at the door and this will get you a private tour of the museum followed by a talk about how to select Inuit art. Wine and hors d’oeuvres are served as well.
207 Queen’s Quay West, Queen’s Quay Terminal, Toronto, Canada
+1 416 640 1571
Google map: bit.ly/PIpMzR
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
The stairs and walls are grubby, there are paint drip marks on the floor and it has probably seen better days, but this small art gallery is worth the 10INR entrance just for the works of Raja Ravi Varma. He fused stories from the Mahabharata with European methods and styles of painting. The gallery's in the Botanical Gardens, next to the zoo, so it would be churlish to miss it.
This brand new gallery opened on the Stade, Hastings Old Town, in Spring 2012. The enamel tile facade complements the black fishermens' net sheds - an historic feature of that part of town - beautifully and the design as a whole is a major cultural asset to Hastings and East Sussex generally.
The Jerwood Foundation has been collecting examples of British painting for some twenty years and the work on show at the new gallery features an anthology from the early Twentieth century through to the present day. There are figurative and abstract pieces to suit all interests and the emphasis is on what I call real painting, that is, stuff done with paints, brushes and a sharp visual intelligence.
Works by Maggi Hambling, Frank Brangwyn, Ivon Hitchens, Matthew Smith and all sorts of other fine and delightful paintings to see at the Jerwood Gallery. Highly recommended.
Riva d'Arno is a new wine bar/art gallery on the banks of the Arno, a few minutes from Ponte Vecchio. It's beatifully designed with great views, fabulous food and wine and a new centre for art. It's a peaceful place to have a drink after walking around the city, a nice lunch overlooking the river or a supper as the sun goes down. It's definitely worth a visit.
If you only have time to see one gallery in Milan, make it this one. Set up in 1618, it is home to over 1500 paintings by artists such as Raphael, Luini, Titian, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Brueghel. It also has a large collection of work by Da Vinci including his ‘Codex Atlanticus' and many of his notebooks. The building itself was completely restored in the 1990s and is a fine example of Lombard architecture with mullioned windows, frescoed walls and vaulted ceilings. The visit ends in the impressive library, rich in classical manuscripts, notably Homer and Virgil. Another bonus is the lack of crowds, so you always have a great view without having to jostle with the hordes!
This splendid 10-room gallery on the Grand Canal - inexplicably absent from many online Venice guides - houses a delightful collection of 19th and 20th century art (as well as a smaller Oriental Art Museum on the top floor). While the great majority of the works are by Italian artists possibly less well-known to a general audience, some big international names are also represented, with fine pieces by Bonnard, Chagall, de Chirico, Kandinsky, Klimt, Mirò, Tanguy.
A city with a big heart, from home made chocolate snowballs at The University Cafe (a Glaswegian institution that hasn’t changed since it opened in 1918) on Byres Road, a stroll round the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, lunch in the Merchant City, a peruse down the ‘style mile’ in the afternoon and a candle lit dinner at night. This is a city you can enjoy being lost in. But, ultimately, it’s the people that make Glasgow - even in the rain they have a smile for everyone. I would absolutely recommend No.1 Devonshire Gardens, an indulgent experience, where they will do their best to upgrade your room for free. My boyfriend doesn’t believe in Valentines Day - he says I hoodwinked him into it, but I know this city will always hold a special place in our hearts - may even move there one day.
Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow, G12 0UX
+44(0)141 339 2001
Google map: bit.ly/GYs8vd
24 Candleriggs, Merchant City, Glasgow, G1 1TD
+44(0)141 552 1114
Google map: bit.ly/GYG5FE
Kelvingrove Art Gallery
Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8AG
+44(0)141 276 9599
Google map: bit.ly/Hidn1z
The design shop within the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague 7 stocks stunning glassware, porcelain, jewelry, lighting, furniture and other work by a number of leading contemporary Czech designers.
This bright white, airy, almost clinical space is a refreshing change to some of the more traditional Czech gift stores in central Prague and is still a great place to pick up a souvenir. How about a stylish Czech made mechanical pencil by Versatil or a Merkur construction set?
There’s a lovely café with outside seating, where you can admire your purchases afterwards. Oh yes, and a world class museum of contemporary art is downstairs. Just in case.
DOX, Centre for Contemporary Art
Poupětova 1, Praha 7, 170 000
+420 774 145 434
Nearest tram: Ortenovo náměstí (trams 5, 10, 12, 15, 54)
Nearest metro: Nádraží Holešovice
Google map: bit.ly/zcl7y7
* Helen is our Been there local for Prague. Her page is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-helen-ford.jsp and she has her own blog here: czechingin.wordpress.com/
A welcome spot of culture on an island paradise, the Paul Gauguin museum shows a good collection of the artist's works.
Tahiti became his adopted home after he fled Paris looking for somewhere to 'live on fish and fruit' and explore primivism.
Highlights include some of his unseen sketches and block prints, and some interesting paintings of Tahiti by English artist Constance Gordon-Cumming.
A trip to the colourful Botanical Gardens across the street shows just what inspired these artists.
PK 51, 2 Papeari, Tahiti,
Dining at Mirka is a tasty visual experience. Surrounded by murals by Mirka Mora, you dine on food from the kitchen of Melbourne's famed Guy Grossi. Based widely on a mediterranean style (Grossi is Italian), the menu here is about making one feel cosseted and at home.
The wine list is superb with wines from France and South America as well as the best of Australia. Superb service along the art of the dining room makes 'Mirka' one of Melbourne's best culinary experiences. We will be going back.
42 Fitzroy St
03 9525 3088
100m from St Kilda Light Rail station
Google map: tinyurl.com/pp2mqb
A reasonably-priced and nice lunch complete with a good view of the city can be found on the top-floor restaurant of the Kunstmuseum, a giant glass box that houses the city's art collection.
Kleiner Schlossplatz 1;
tel: +49 (711) / 216 21 88;
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