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Places in Europe to visit if you love museums and history (and how to plan for your trip)

Europe is knitted together by layer upon layer of connections. Art and culture bridges national borders, with some splendid collaborations as a result. British Henry Moore sculptures can be found in the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo. Artworks by French feminist Louise Bourgeois are on display in London’s Tate Modern. The British Museum is run by a German art historian, Hartwigg Fischer. The list goes on….

Here are some suggestions of dream cultural destinations in Europe, sent to me by fellow writers. Have you been to any?

Varldskulturmuseerna (Museum of World Culture), Gothenburg, Sweden

Living Together, Together

Children at Together: an exhibition. pic copyright Museum of World Culture, Sweden

The name of this Gothenburg museum translates as ‘World Culture Museum’, and its new ongoing exhibition, ‘Tilsammans’, or ‘Together’, is particularly apt. Aimed at families, including young children, it’s an interactive exploration of “the wonders and difficulties of living together”, covering questions like: How is it to miss someone? When do I fit into the group? Is it just silly to fight, or do we sometimes need to?

If you want to read more about Varldskultur Museerna, this post by The Bear and the Fox on  Gothenburg with kids is a good place to start.

Picasso Museum, Antibes, France

Pic. copyright Phoebe at Lou Messugo (a gite in the French Riviera)

Picasso Museum, Antibes. Pic. copyright Phoebe at Lou Messugo

Did you know that the first museum dedicated exclusively to Picasso’s art wasn’t in Barcelona or Malaga but in Antibes, on the French Riviera? Picasso used the Chateau Grimaldi as a studio in the 1940s, and donated several works of art when he left. The place became the Picasso Museum in 1966 and is small but atmospheric, boasting luminous views of the Mediterranean and of Nice.

Phoebe at Lou Messugo, a gite set in the French Riviera, has written about her visit to the Picasso Museum here

The Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, Germany

The Bauhaus was an influential art school that punched above its weight. It only ran for 14 years, from 1919 to 1933, but it is said to be one of the most influential currents in modern design and Modernist architecture. The Bauhaus, considered to be dangerously radical, was persecuted and finally closed down under pressure from the Nazi regime.

Working at the bauhaus_lab Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Photo: Nils Hauer

Working at the Bauhaus-Archiv bauhaus lab, Berlin. Photo: Nils Hauer

The Bauhaus-Archiv, or Museum of Design, celebrates the history and influence of Bauhaus. And it’s not just about looking at exhibits: Bauhaus lab was a series of Saturday drop-in sessions for children, young adults and people to design their own creations using Bauhaus as inspiration. Museum Diary posted about the sessions here.

Sunnmoere Museum, Alesund, Norway

Pic. copyright Sunnmoere Museum, Alesund

Pic. copyright Sunnmoere Museum, Alesund

Alesund lies seven hours north of Norway’s capital Oslo, and is known for its art nouveau architecture. The Sunnmoere Museum charts Norway’s history, with preserved houses from medieval times through to the 20th century. It tells a story of hardiness and tough measures to survive the Norwegian winter. Houses are roofed with turf, to insulate their inhabitants; and the museum holds the largest collection of Norwegian boats, including the oldest ship ever found in Norway, and boats sailed by Viking marauders. Jennifer’s Little World visited the Museum, and you can read about her trip here.

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

Pic. copyright Bran Castle

Pic. copyright Bran Castle

Bran Castle is the legendary home of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, but did you know that it was also run as a hospital during World War II by Romanian Princess Ileana, a great-granddaughter of British Queen Victoria? The monarch was exiled to the US in 1948 following the communist takeover of the country, and ended her days in an American monastery. The castle itself is perched on a rock over a deep valley, with unparalleled views across the craggy terrain and deep forests of this area. Visitors can go inside the medieval castle, which is well-preserved and furnished with turn-of-the-century pieces, and visit a traditional peasant village in the valley below.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Ireland

Bunratty 043

Pic. copyright Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Ireland

County Clare’s Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is a one-stop location to see reconstructions of several eras of Irish history. The castle is the most complete medieval fortress in the country; the folk park features 19th century life in action, with everything from a schoolhouse to a doctor’s surgery to a pub inhabited by actors in period costume; and there’s even a Regency period walled garden. Wandering Educators have written here about the folk park.

If you want to scroll back even further in time, and are visiting the east of the country (Bunratty is near Shannon, on the west coast), there’s always the ever-popular Dublin Castle, which began life in 1204, in Norman times. A Little Time and a Keyboard has written about it here.

pic. copyright Dublin Castle

pic. copyright Dublin Castle

 

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36 Comments

  • Phoebe @ Lou Messugo
    July 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for including my post here Nell, you’ve chosen some interesting places that I don’t know. I love the sound of the world cultures museum in Gothenburg. The only place I’ve been (other than Antibes of course!!) is Bran castle in Romania, probably about 25 years ago! Great idea for a post.

    Reply
  • Nicole (The Brightness Of These Days)
    July 10, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Some brilliant places! Great idea. Bran Castle looks fascinating! I would add Lisbon & Tallin, had two amazing long weekends there xx

    Reply
  • Otilia
    July 12, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Thank you so much for featuring my post! Bran Castle is one to visit indeed but it is not the only place to visit there in Brasov and Bran.

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 13, 2016 at 11:06 am

      I did love your posts about the area. Determined to visit some day soon!

      Reply
  • Lolo
    July 18, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Maybe I’m confused but why would these sites be affected by the British Referendum? #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  • Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    July 18, 2016 at 10:31 am

    cool ideas! I’ve done Picasso museum in Antibes but I’ll be able to travel around Europe. I hope it won’t be a hassle to travel to UK #monday escapes

    Reply
  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    July 18, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I’ve only visited the Picasso Museum on this list so thanks for the other museums and castles to add to my list of cultural must-sees, Nell. I love the cultural mix that we have in Europe – we’re so very fortunate to have such artistic and historic riches on our doorstep. #MondayEscapes

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 19, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      I know. It’s such an incredible place.

      Reply
  • Ruth
    July 19, 2016 at 4:52 am

    I really hope that the situation does not get complicated in terms of traveling for residents and visitors. I really like the places presented in here. I will like to visit Bran Castle.

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 19, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      I think that was top of my list too!

      Reply
  • Christine
    July 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I’m sure we’ll still be able to visit these in 2018, maybe just not work there. I went to Bran Castle and Romania back in 1994. I think this is definitely one country that will have changed beyond recognition since my visit. My over-riding memory was visiting the supermarket and only finding rows and rows of tinned tomatoes! #Mondayescapes

    Reply
  • Claire at Tin Box Traveller
    July 21, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Great suggestions. I really hope it doesn’t become any harder to appreciate these amazing places but I fear it might. Sad times! #MondayEscapes

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      I know. Everything feels so uncertain….

      Reply
  • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
    July 22, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Great suggestions Nell. I’ve not heard of most of these. It will be interesting to see the affect Brexit will have. Hopefully not too much for us travellers. Love your shout outs to the other bloggers too! #mondayescapes

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Let’s hope so!

      Reply
      • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
        February 3, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        Re-reading this for #citytripping Nell. Great post. Shame I didn’t get to see the Museum of World Culture when we were in Gothenburg (it was shut). Bran Castle would be amazing too!

        Reply
        • Nell
          February 6, 2017 at 8:59 pm

          Good excuse to return to Gothenburg? 🙂

          Reply
  • Amber
    July 24, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    I’ve been wanting to see the Bran Castle for a long time! I didn’t know it was used as a hospital though, so cool learning about these things!

    Reply
  • Ting at My Travel Monkey
    July 25, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Brilliant post Nell. I think I better get my skates on because I haven’t been to any of those fab places – The Picasso Museum would be something I’d really enjoy. I so hope Brexit still doesn’t happen and then we won’t have to worry! *wishfulthinking* #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  • Babes about Town
    August 5, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    This is a great list of places to explore. I think I’m a little too chicken to visit the home of Dracula, but I’d like to return to Antibes and scope out Picasso’s first museum. Also hoping to discover Norway one day soon with one of my besties who’s Norwegian, so thanks for the travel tips 🙂

    Reply
    • Nell
      August 9, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      Norway’s a fantastic place. We’re going back there early 2017 – can’t wait.

      Reply
  • tots2travel
    January 31, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Never thought of it like that before. Bunratty Castle has an excellent reputation but so far I haven’t visited anywhere on your list. what have I been doing with my time!?
    #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 2, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Me neither! I suspect I could come up with hundreds more ‘must-see’ lists like this though….

      Reply
  • Lolo
    January 31, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    I’m looking forward to visiting Bran Castle as part of our honeymoon road trip through the Balkans. #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 2, 2017 at 11:28 am

      OOh you lucky thing. Enjoy!

      Reply
  • Hilary
    January 31, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    I’m sad that you had to write a post like this. I too am nervous about the impact all this political craziness will have on future travels, but am somewhat hopeful, that although it might be more of a challenge that we will still be able to see amazing places. Lovely ideas and I’m definitely putting some of them on my “hope to visit list…” #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 2, 2017 at 11:32 am

      Yes, let’s hope it doesn’t all make too much of a difference to travel.

      Reply
  • Lydia C. Lee
    January 31, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Lovely pic of the Dublin Castle…

    Reply
  • Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
    January 31, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    I really really want to go to Bran Castle! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 2, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Me too!

      Reply
  • Corey with fifi + hop
    February 1, 2017 at 4:32 am

    The castles sound amazing, and I really want to go to the Picasso museum. Nice round-up! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 2, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Thank you!

      Reply
  • Cathy (MummyTravels)
    February 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    I love your list – I haven’t managed to do a single one (not even visit Antibes itself when I was last in the South of France). Bran Castle is definitely on my list and I love the sound of the Gothenberg Museum – a city which I keep hearing good things about. My daughter keeps coming up with lots of rather deep philosophical questions at the moment (she may just have asked ALL the straightforward ones now) so it should suit her. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

      Yes, I’m desperate to visit Gothenburg now.

      Reply

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