Much ink has been spilled about Europe’s venerable art institutions…like the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, and the Prado in Madrid. But as European #MuseumWeek gets into full swing on Twitter, we’ve been musing about some of the lesser-known gems that can really add sparkle to a European vacation. Here are some of our top picks, and for even more inspiration, head to Twitter.
Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris. A former hunting lodge at the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris is now a museum with an incredible collection of Impressionist paintings, including Monet’s water lilies. The current exhibit, "Les Impressionistes en Privé", is a rare opportunity to see masterpieces from private collections. Open every day except Monday, from 10 am to 6 pm. Special evening openings until 8 pm on Thursdays. Entry free from 5-10 euros. www.marmottan.fr/uk
Sakip Sabanci Muzesi in Istanbul. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Bosphorus, a white mansion is now a private museum that hosts some of the city’s biggest exhibitions of international artists (recently on view: Anish Kapoor’s first solo show in Turkey). Guarded by a bronze horse statue (from which the museum takes its name), Sakip Sabanci Muzesi also has an extraordinary calligraphy collection and a beautifully-designed café for lunch. Entry free from 8-15 Turkish Lira. Open every day except Monday. Tuesday-Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, open until 8 pm on Wednesdays. http://muze.sabanciuniv.edu
Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London. After you’ve sighed over the collections at the National Gallery, Tate, and Tate Modern, head to Piccadilly to see the RA. An Academy that exists to promote art and artists through education and exhibits, the RA is an independent charity led by some of the generation’s leading artists. Taking place every year since 1769, the Summer Exhibition—the world's largest open entry exhibition— is a highlight of the London social diary. www.royalacademy.org.uk
CentroCentro in Madrid. After a big restoration, the century-old Cibeles Palace now houses a cultural center called CentroCentro. The landmark building itself is like a cathedral, and now it’s been converted into a hub for citizens and visitors to check out temporary exhibits, or browse different media in the brightly-colored lounge equipped with free iPads and Internet access. Not to miss: the rooftop observation deck. www.centrocentro.org
Images: Monet’s painting, “Promenade près d’Argenteuil,” courtesy of the Marmottan Monet museum. Photo of RA Schools via Royal Academy/© Benedict Johnson