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Museums in Europe

Can you really call your holiday ‘historic’ if it doesn’t include visiting a museum or two? Our list of the best museums in Europe cover restored palaces, ancient art galleries, Rococo exhibitions... and even one that’s dedicated to cats! A fascinating selection. 

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Austria

Belvedere, Vienna

Two words: Gustav Klimt. Belvedere is an essential part of his story - the Vienna-born artist, alongside others, founded the museum in 1903 and helped mould it into the greatest collection of Austrian art it is today. Two of his Golden Period masterpieces are on permanent display, including the gold-flaked Kiss (Lovers) and Judith. Contemporary exhibitions rolling into 2019 include six funky floor installations from American artist Polly Apfelbaum and tentacle-themed ceramic works by David Zink Yi.

Albertina Museum, Vienna

Gustav Klimt’s wondrous works at Belvedere might be the first museum to spring to mind when you think of Vienna, but art-lovers who venture to Albertina Museum are rewarded with a varied and outstanding selection of works. Some of its mainstay masterpieces include art by Monet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin. 

The Museum of Art Fakes, Vienna

This completely off-the-wall art experience shouldn’t be missed. The Museum of Art Fakes is stuffed with replicas made by famous forgers, this (ironically) one-of-a-kind gallery is totally unforgettable. 

Where to stay: The hosts at Hotel Stefanie consider Albertina the best museum in the capital. We consider Hotel Stefanie the best hotel in the capital. It may have been around for over four centuries, but the Austrian haven’s hospitality is always one step ahead.

Belgium

Groeningemuseum, Bruges

Bruges’ lace-makers aren’t the only creative geniuses to grace the city - its artists have wowed for centuries. Groeningemuseum, located in the Groeninge district, is home to world-famous Flemish Primitive paintings. Art buffs will love masterpieces by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and Hugo van der Goes, alongwith neoclassical paintings by Duvivier, Ducq and Kinsoen.

Where to stay: Slick city living meets nostalgic charm at Flanders Hotel. A splendid boutique base, the Bruges-based gem is within walking distance of the UNESCO-certified city and its museums (including Groeningemuseum). Expect a glorious indoor pool, summery gardens and 50 elegantly comfortable rooms.

Germany

Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Ansbach

Ansbach is famous for its painters and porcelain. The city is Rococo through and through, with hidden art and architecture at every turn. The biggest and best museum is Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Here you’ll find everything from rare folk masks to paleolithic hand-axes - and of course, greats such as Dürer, Cranach and Rembrandt. For something completely different, the German Toy Museum is a hop, skip and a jump away – not just for kids. 

Where to stay: The medieval-meets-modern Hotel Schwarzer Bock sits amid all of these weird and wonderful Ansbach museums. The historic hotel and inn dates back to 1100 and is also within walking distance of Kaspar Hauser Museum and Margrave Gardens.


Müritzeum, Mueritz

One for outdoor lovers. Müritzeum is a mesmerising jumble of nature and multimedia, providing the best introduction to Mueritz’s wind-in-your-air countryside. At the heart of it all, of course, is Lake Müritz: the second-largest lake in Germany. Children and adults alike will have fun exploring the exhibitions, which focus on the fascinating local flora and fauna.

Where to stay: Another Müritz local, Schlosshotel Klink sits right on the edge of Germany’s sparkling beauty. With a sprawling park area, impossibly white beach and adjoining yachting harbour (with boat rental), there’s no grander castle to stay in while visiting the area.

Italy

Frauenmuseum, Merano

Something a little different. Based in Merano, the Women’s Museum is a round-the-clock look at culture and history from a female viewpoint. Exhibits showcase everything from the representation of female ideals (from the 19th century until now) to fashion and books.

Where to stay: Dating back to 1152, Hotel Castel Rundegg is like stepping back in time to an old-age Mediterranean holiday. Only, today you’ll get all that historic glamour with the added bonus of cosmopolitan luxury - saunas, steam baths, beauty treatments and lip-smacking South Tyrolean cuisine.

Latvia

The World of Hat, Riga

It might be tiny, but this unique ethnique museum The World of Hat in UNESCO-crowned Riga is home to one of the largest collections of traditional and ethnic headwear in the world. From Thai hats covered in coins to bonnets made from human hair, it’s one of the more unusual things to do in Europe and makes for a perfect photo opportunity: lots of the headgear can be tried on.

Where to stay: Conveniently located in the centre of Riga is Metropole, a 19th-century bolthole with world-class service and forward-thinking facilities.

Montenegro

Cats Museum, Kotor

From tabbies to tortoiseshells, the curious Cats Museum is dedicated to the furry residents of Kotor’s Old Town. Back in 168 BC, felines flooded the town after being left behind by trading ships. The museum itself it small, but it’s stuffed with everything from cat coins to cat writings to cat postcards from WW1. Art-wise, you’ll see cats rescuing humans, cats selling Rolex watches… even cats breaking the sound barrier. Added bonus - your entry fee (one euro) will go towards the lovely feline locals themselves.

Where to stay: You’ll have the Bay of Kotor as your backdrop at Hotel Cattaro - a perfectly genteel retreat that makes the ideal base for the city’s plentiful sightseeing spots and museums.

Portugal

National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon

Once a former palace, National Museum of Ancient Art provides a riveting insight into history from the Middle Ages, right through to the 19th century. Ponder Portugal through the years, stare deeply into religious paintings and gaze in wonder at the palatial art stash within. If you only have time for one piece, make it the Panels of St. Vincent, six astonishing paintings by Nuno Gonçalves. 

Where to stay: Designed by famous Portuguese modernist architect Cassiano Branco, Hotel Britania is a work of art in itself. Capturing the glamour of the 1940’s, a stay here is like stepping back in time to the spirit and soul of the era. From the cork floors in bedrooms to the Portuguese artworks adorning the bar, every detail surprises, delights, and makes you feel right at home. In alternative, Solar Do Castelo is a pocket of old-world charm among fast-paced Lisbon life. It sits the walls of São Jorge Castle, where the old kitchens of Alcaçova Palace once stood. Expect 18th-century elegance blended into 21st-century luxe… and the odd peacock.


Berardo Museum, Lisbon

A city break to Lisbon will no doubt include a gallery trip or two. Berardo Museum is a stunning experience, with over 900 contemporary works to discover including pop art-style painter Valerio Adami, Irish artist Francis Bacon and American minimalist Carl Andre. As well as a remarkable permanent collection, the gallery regularly hosts exhibitions from both national and international artists.

Where to stay: Once you’ve filled up on modern art musings, head east along the Lisbon coastline to Solar Do Castelo. Within the walls of São Jorge Castle, the boutique hotel is built on the site of a 17th-century palace – bringing luxurious romance to the historic heart of Lisbon.