Updated: Jul 25, 2022
When you think of European art galleries, a handful of names will automatically spring to mind; whether it's The Louvre or the Uffizi Gallery. While these two, in particular, hold their own spectacular value, the 5 I have hand-selected will offer you just as much satisfaction, without the hustle and bustle of the tourist-packed galleries.
State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg (formally Petrograd) is the second largest city in Russia and easily one of the most aesthetically-pleasing cities in Europe. The city’s Baroque-style architecture mixed with its unique Soviet past makes for scenic views all around. The State Hermitage Museum was founded in 1764 and hosts an impressive 3 million pieces making it the second-largest art museum in the world. It is so large, in fact, that if you were to spend a minute looking at each piece for 8 hours daily, you would finish 15 years later! The museum is also conveniently located in the heart of Saint Petersburg, at the front of the Palace Square.
The impressive collection includes Michelangelo's Crouching Boy, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, The Conestabile Madonna by Raphael or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino and The Boulevard Montmartre in Paris by Pissarro.
The entry fee was most-certainly justifiable and definitely value for money. A one-day entrance voucher will set you back just £12-13, but this allows you to visit all of the facilities in the museum complex. A one-day ticket gives you more than enough time to visit a large proportion of the museum, and to view the famous pieces mentioned previously.
Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid
The Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid is one you may have heard of and it was so good that we just had to include it. Barcelona is Spain's most visited city by tourists and although it is stunning in its own right, a visit to the capital is a must for any European sight-seer. A trip to the Plaza Mayor is a popular attraction for tourists as well as the newest attraction for Money Heist enthusiasts; the Royal Mint of Spain. There is also the Museo Nacional del Prado, which is also worth a visit, but shouldn’t be prioritised over the Reina Sofia.
Here's why you need to visit:
You can experience one of Picasso's most extraordinary paintings: Guernica (1937).
Its permanent collection is home to over 20,000 paintings and world-famous contemporary art.
It is compulsory that you check out the Visage du Grand Masturbateur (we’ll let you translate this one!) which was created by the wonderful Salvador Dalí (1929).
We recommend you give yourself at least 2 or 3 hours to explore the museum which was named after the Queen Sofia of Spain. The best part about the Reina Sofia, is that they have free of charge days, meaning, if you plan properly, you can visit for free. Click here to view the free of charge days.
The Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn
Tallinn is the most underrated city in Europe and that may sound like a bold statement but personally, for what it offers in comparison to the number of tourists each year, its value for money and overall experience there isn’t a city that comes close. Yes Prague, Amsterdam, Paris and London may be brilliant but they are all pretty expensive and gain millions of tourists each year. Tallinn, while on the rise, has nowhere near the same type of visitorship and I truly believe it deserves a lot more.
One of the ways Tallinn would see a greater rise in tourism would be if more people would visit the Kumu Art Museum, which was awarded the European Museum of the year in 2008, instead of the more famous European alternatives. As I mentioned previously, the city of Tallinn, is one of the best in terms of value for money in Europe, and that doesn’t change when it comes to visiting the Kumu. If you plan your trip strategically, you can grab the last wednesday of every month deal where admission is just €3.
The Kumu focuses on art from the 18th century to the present day, including soviet pop art, modernist and contemporary art. The modern architecture of the museum is something worth visiting itself. The ground floor has a cute, little cafe and auditorium. The first floor is where you will find the bookstore, restaurant and often temporary exhibitions. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors are where you will find the classics of Estonian art from as early as the 18th century all the way up until present day. The whole collection is separated by pre-world war 2 and post-world war 2.
National Gallery of Umbria, Perugia
A list of some of the most remarkable art galleries in Europe would simply not be complete without mentioning Italy. Yes, I could have included the Uffizi, Borghese or the Vatican museums, but that wouldn’t be much fun. Instead, I have opted to tell you about the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia which is where the Italian Renaissance was born (not Florence as everyone seems to think).
Perugia is a truly beautiful city in the centre of Italy and although not one of the most popular Italian cities to visit, is one that is definitely worth considering. The city hosts one of the biggest chocolate festivals and has some amazing scenic locations.
The National Gallery of Umbria is home to 40 rooms displaying a range of art from the Holy Art and the Renaissance. The gallery was created using gothic architecture that is truly pleasing to the eye. Due to its links with the introduction of the renaissance, it is well-known as one of the most important art galleries in not only Italy but the world. I made sure to include the National Gallery of Umbria in this list, as it is easily just as important as the Uffizi and Louvre, but gets nowhere near the same credit for its influence and importance of European art.
A full price ticket is €8.00, while a reduced ticket for members of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland aged between 18-25 costs just €2.00. Buy a ticket here.
Located in Bruges, Belgium the Groeningemuseum is a truly remarkable art gallery. It provides a unique insight into the history of Belgium and particularly Flanders as well as its huge collection of Early Netherlandish art. You must catch a glimpse of the masterpieces created by world-renowned artists such as Jan van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes and Permeke. The Groeningemuseum is actually part of the Flemish Art Collection which is an alliance between the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, the Royal Museum for Fine Arts in Antwerp, and the Museum for Fine Arts in Ghent.
Visiting the museum is easy as it is located in the centre of Bruges. It is a walk-away from most of the city’s popular hotels. We found that the best time to visit the museum was in the morning just before noon, before the queues start to pack up in the afternoon. Entry to the museum was €14.00 for adults, making it one of the most expensive on this list but it was still very much worth it. If you own the Musea Brugge card we were told that entry was free not just for yourself but for one of your friends and children up to 12 were also free.
Go and Explore!
This post is by no means telling you not to visit the more popular European art galleries that weren’t listed, instead is to show you a list of just-as-great alternatives. Definitely go to the Louvre, The Guggenheim and Rijksmuseum but absolutely keep these 5 in the back of your mind when creating your next European trip.
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