Staycation swaps: Art and galleries

Forget the airport queues. You don’t need to venture abroad to sample the best cultural destinations, see our alternative suggestions.
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If looking at art brings you joy and feeds your soul, then there’s no need to spend hours in airport queues. Here are our alternative UK suggestions to broaden your horizons and deepen your connection with the arts.

Swap Madrid’s galleries and museums for Manchester’s.

Think more industrial than Iberia.

Madrid is high on the list for culture lovers as it’s home to the Prado, the Reina Sofia, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the CaixaForum and more. But if you want to immerse yourself in art and culture, why not consider Manchester’s cluster of museums and galleries instead.

For traditional art you can visit the Manchester Art Gallery which includes some favourite Pre-Raphaelite works in its collection or the Salford Museum. The Lowry has the famous matchstick men painter’s work showcased while you can check out the latest exhibition at the Whitworth.

There’s also some more cutting edge and contemporary art at Rogue Artists Studios and Home. While art informed by East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) heritages can be found at esea contemporary.

If you fancy a bit of arty shopping, there’s the Manchester Craft & Design Centre home to some of the region’s most talented independent designers and makers too. For some live culture you can take in a show at the new Co-op Live Arena. And naturally Manchester has some great places to eat out or go clubbing.

Stay: Best Western Manchester Altrincham Cresta Court Hotel

Swap the Uffizi in Florence for the National Gallery in London.

Find calm in the capital.

Florence is famous for inspiring Stendhal Syndrome where visitors are so overwhelmed by the psychological impact of the great art they see they suffer physical symptoms such as feeling faint or palpitations. Why not avoid the risk of the Uffizi and consider the National Gallery in London instead? 

Must sees include pictures by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Leading British painters like Gainsborough, Turner and Constable are on show too. And as historical women’s work is finally being recognised, you can also spot works by Rachel Ruysch, Artemisia Gentileschi, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Berthe Morisot. The National Portrait Gallery is next door, so it’s easy to take a look at Tracey Emin’s recently installed doors.

If you tire of the old masters, you could visit Tate Modern or one of the many contemporary galleries for a different perspective. And why not pack in a visit to the theatre, opera or ballet too. Plus, you can eat round the world with the food options on offer from street food to three Michelin starred places of pilgrimage.


Swap the Bauhaus Museum Berlin for the V&A Dundee.

Better by design.

If you’ve been thwarted by the closure for the renovation and expansion of this museum celebrating the stylish Bauhaus movement in Berlin for the next few years, why not consider the V&A Dundee. Scotland's design museum brings design from all over the world to Scotland and gives a new platform to Scottish designers.

The landmark building on the waterfront is just five years old, so you can marvel at its cutting-edge modern architecture. The award-winning Japanese architects Kengo Kuma & Associates designed it as a living room for the city. What could be more welcoming than that?

While in Dundee you can also enjoy the McManus Art Gallery & Museum housed in a very different Victorian Gothic building, stargaze at the Mills Observatory and planetarium or get some hands-on-learning at the award-winning Dundee Science Centre.

Stay: Best Western Queens Hotel Dundee

Swap the Kröller-Müller Museum for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

A solid alternative.

The Kröller-Müller Museum has one of the largest sculpture gardens in Europe with over 160 sculptures by prominent artists. It’s located in the heart of De Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands.

Instead, why not visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park situated in the 500-acre, 18th-century Bretton Hall estate in West Yorkshire. In the 100 or so works typically on show outdoors there are sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth together with some site specific works by Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash, Sean Scully and James Turrell. Choose one of the featured trails or just wander and see what you come across.

There are also six indoor galleries which can help if the weather’s bad.

Stay in Huddersfield to take in a show at the Huddersfield Town Hall – it’s on the comedy circuit. Or drive up from Sheffield and go to the Crucible Theatre or live music at the Leadmill.

Stay: Drive across from the Fortune Huddersfield, Sure Hotel Collection by Best Western or up from Best Western Plus The Quays Hotel Sheffield  


Swap the Guggenheim Bilbao for the Towner Eastbourne.

Art that makes waves.

Although on different scales, if you want an architecturally stunning contemporary gallery by the sea, showing thought-provoking work, the Towner could be a great substitute for the Guggenheim positioned on the north Spanish Coast, though the sea may not be as warm year-round.

The Towner Collection has more than 5,000 works of modern British and international contemporary art, with a focus on landscape, women artists and moving image. It has a special collection of Eric Ravilious and there’s a room dedicated to his work. Check to see what’s on with its exhibition schedule and consult the cinema listings too as there’s often an art-related film showing.

You could venture further afield to the Hastings Contemporary gallery or the De La Warr Pavillion as part of the 18-mile Coast Culture Trail featuring the three award-winning galleries. You can walk or cycle the trail and there’s even a train with great views of the coast and countryside.


And remember, every stay you book with Best Western supports our independent, local and family-run hotels. Now that’s a booking good reason to indulge in some culture!

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