We all travel for different reasons. Some of us want to hop from one vineyard to another, others want to sample local cuisines and (hopefully) most want to get a sense of the local culture. But for some us, traveling transforms into a sort of pilgrimage, not the religious kind, but one which seeks out the homes of some of the most inspirational people in the world. The following is a (by no means comprehensive) selection of famous homes turned museums in order to celebrate and keep alive the memory of some of the world greatest artists, writers, architects and musicians.
The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
Everyone of us seems to have, at some point or other during our childhood, read at least a part of Anne Frank’s diary, which chronicles the life of a young Jew during WW11 and her family’s and her attempt at trying to avoid being captured by the Germans by hiding in a house’s secret annex. Today, the Anne Frank House is one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam.
A visit to the Anne Frank House is a sombre experience for everyone. The building, used as a hiding place for a total of 8 Jews and under threat of being demolished in the mid-1950s, has been restored to reflect what it looked like at the time, before it had fallen into disrepair. Visit the Anne Frank House to see the famous secret annex, hidden behind a bookshelf, and Anne Frank’s original diary, the only article from the annex to have been saved from the German’s confiscation. If you do plan on visiting, it is best to buy your tickets online so as to avoid the commonly long queues to the ticket office.
The Frida Kahlo Museum, Coyoachan, Mexico
Anyone with even a passing interest in Frida Kahlo should consider a day trip to Coyoachan to visit Casa Azul if they find themselves in Mexico City. A striking building with walls painted a bright, cobalt blue, the house was where the famous Mexican artist grew up and lived with her husband Diego Rivera. After her death in 1947, the house was turned into a museum celebrating the tumultuous life of Frida. Born into a wealthy family, Frida contracted polio during childhood, which resulted in her having one leg shorter than another. At age 18, she was also involved in a serious traffic accident which left her with extensive spinal injuries. During the years, the couple filled the house with pre-hispanic artifacts, folk art and colour. The displays in the house include Frida’s colourful traditional clothes which she wore regularly, peculiar touches such as papier-mache Judas skeletons hanging from the ceiling, her studio – preserved as she left it after her death – and a collection of her paintings.
Albert Einstein’s apartment in Bern, Switzerland
In 1903, Albert Einstein, along with his wife and child, moved into a flat on the second floor of Kramgasse No. 49, in Bern, Switzerland. Originally from Germany, Einstein moved to Switzerland in 1895 where he studied, eventually getting a job at the Swiss Federal Patent office in Bern and thus leading him to reside in the Swiss capital, where he also developed his Theory of Relativity. While the famous scientist only lived in this flat for three years, it has nonetheless been restored and preserved for posterity. Much of the heart of Bern, also wonderfuly preserved with its picturesque fountains and elegant buildings, is still how Einstein left it when he moved away from Bern to take up the post of Associate Professor at the Zurich University.
Sherlock Holmes Museum, London, and Death spot, Switzerland
Okay, so Sherlock Holmes is not a real famous person, but his fictional life has nevertheless left plenty of traces in the real world. If you’re a fan of this world-famous detective, your first stop should be at his address, 221b Baker Street, touted by the museum website as being “the world’s most famous address.” Whether this claim is true or not, this small Sherlock Holmes museum is an icon of London, as is the statue of the detective on Baker Street.
True Sherlock fans may also want to head to the Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen, Switzerland, on the 4th of May, when members of the international Sherlock Holmes Society gather at the falls on the day when Conan Doyle chose to kill off the detective on this very spot, only to resurrect him following complaints from his fans.
The Brontë Parsonage, Haworth, England
The Brontë sisters, much beloved by British and foreign classics lovers alike, live on in the heart of England with the preservation of the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, where the sisters lived, grew up, and were inspired to write their novels. Brontë Country, as the area around the place where they lived is collectively known, features a collection of quaint villages and large expanses of moors such as the ones in which the fictional Heathcliff and Catherine, the protagonists of Wuthering Heights, lived out their passionate love. The Brontë parsonage is maintained by the Brontë society, which endeavours to preserve the possessions of the sisters, as well as the house’s original furnishings.
Port Lligat House-Museum Salvador Dali, Cadaqués, Spain
Salvador Dali’s haunting art may be found scattered all around the globe, but for a more intimate glimpse of the artist’s everyday life, try visiting his home in Cadaqués, Spain. Constructed around a small fisherman’s hut, the house is the product of 40 years of Dali’s efforts and dedication. The result is an organic structure with rooms and spaces reflecting the time in which Dali and his wife added them to the house. Port Lligat Bay, ever-present in the artist’s work, is celebrated and framed by windows of different shapes and sizes.
A trip to Cadaqués can be arranged as a day or weekend trip from Barcelona, which is only around a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. On the Spanish Costa Brava, Cadaqués, it is also a very popular Summer retreat for locals and tourists alike.
Gaudí House-Museum, Barcelona
Since you’re already in the area, you might want to check out the home of another super-famous Spaniard, Antoni Gaudí, whose revolutionary aesthetics helped create the wonderful city which Barcelona is today. While we’re all more familiar with his La Sagrada Familia, the Parc Güell, Gaudí’s landscape gardening feat, houses the building in which he lived from 1906 until 1925, after which he moved to the crypt of La Sagrada Familia as a result of his obsession to finish his work. The Parc Güell can be visited for free, while the museum charges an entrance fee.
What are your favorite famous people’s houses turned museums? Let us know, and check out these other unique museums around the world:
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- 8 Alternatives to Museums for Getting Your Culture Fix