03/04/2014 09:08 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 06:59 BST

How to Explore a Place Through its Art

Art and travel, for the most part, go hand in hand. I imagine when you travel you have a fair few museums and galleries listed on your itinerary. But why are people so eager to spend their day inside an air-conditioned building looking at illusions of the world, when they could be out and about actually exploring the real world?

The thing is, museums and galleries can tell you a lot about a places' history, its culture, and the steps it has taken to get to where it is today. Through the portal of an artist's paintbrush or a craftsman's hands, you can experience parts of a place that you might not otherwise get to see. But museums and galleries are not the only ways you can learn about the world through creative forms. New site Wanderarti brings together art and travel, coining the term visual vagabonding for those who like to explore art whilst they wander. It highlights artistic representations of places around the world, local artists and artisans, and guides for creative things to do.

Taking a leaf out of Wanderarti's book, I'm going to share with you a few ways you can get to know a place through it's art.

Street Art

Seems a fairly obvious suggestion, right? But what can you learn about a place through its graffiti and street art? Well, firstly it reveals what trends are popular at that current time. Where museums and galleries might show you fashions from the past, street art is very contemporary, highlighting pop culture and current crazes. It also might show you the political views of the artists, the things they are concerned about, and how they feel about the state of their country.

Living museums

Not your average museum where objects are thoughtfully displayed in a well-thought-out exhibition, living museums offer you a glimpse into the lives of a particular individual or a particular point in time. Take the Rembrandt museum in Amsterdam, for example, that is located in the former home of Rembrandt himself, and which exhibits his easel, paints, and working environment, as well as some of his famous works. Then there's the Village Museum in Bucharest, which allows you to step back to a time gone by and experience life in Romania as it once was through the display of a life-size villages complete with typical houses and churches.


It's easy to miss the architecture of place when you're busy getting lost with your eyes firmly glued to a map. One of my favourite things to do, though, is to put down the map and look up, as a large portion of architectural grandeur is displayed above head-height. Architectural styles can tell you about what trends were popular in what era, as well as religious information and political standpoints. So, next time you're out exploring a city, crane your neck up and get a good look at those rooftops!

Sensory experiences

I recently got back from Bruges where they have a sensory exhibition held in the Historium in Markt Square. Unlike your typical museum, the Historium has a series of rooms that you are led through, each one showing a different part of a love story set in medieval Bruges. Complete with sounds, smells, and sights, this is a novel way to get to know the past of a place.


If you're more of a food and café lover, you can still get creative on your travels. There's a lot you can learn from the interior design of cafes, shops, and restaurants - you can work out what's hot at the moment, as well as trends within pop culture. Look out for particularly old shops and compare them to the newer, more modern offerings


Festivals aren't just great fun, they are also the perfect way to explore a culture and find out more about its beliefs and past. Most of the time, festivals are traditional affairs, with local costumes and parades bursting with homemade design. There are sometimes a set of rituals, too, which can teach you about the past - why is this a ritual? When did it start? How did it start? Even if a festival is not a religious or ritualistic event, you can always check out the clothing that people are wearing. Art isn't just about paintings, it also includes fashion, so take a look at what people have chosen to wear when they aren't working.


Local markets are a great source of produce, homemade specialities, and for getting amongst the local culture. But most markets will have at least one or two craft stands. Sometimes, these can be particularly touristy and cheesy, but if you dig deep enough, you'll find traditional artefacts that can tell you about materials, styles, and processes that are used.

Do you have anymore to add? What's your favourite way to explore a place through its art?