Eight Paintings Every Traveler Should See (And Where to See Them)

Many travelers have a bucket list of places they want to go before they, well, kick the bucket. They want to see new sights, scale soaring mountains and tap their toes in exotic seas … and slowing down for a museum tour isn’t always high on that list. But sometimes it should be.

Here are eight classic paintings every traveler needs to add to their list before it is too late.

The Mona Lisa in the Musée du Louvre – Paris, France

Some experts speculate that the Mona Lisa is a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

So maybe you’ve heard Leonardo’s leading lady is a disappointment. The painting is small, it is hard to see and the crowds are overwhelming. Well, it is all true. The painting is small and the crowds are big, but few paintings in the world have stirred as much mystery as this 16th century portrait. And even if she is a tad tiny, the Louvre is the largest national museum in France, the most visited museum in the world and is a 12th century landmark in the City of Lights … it can’t all be disappointing, right?

>>book a hotel in Paris and also read about other Museums in Paris

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Starry Night in the Museum of Modern Art – New York City, New York, USA

Don McLean’s song “Starry, Starry Night” is based on this painting

Although he only sold one painting in his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh is a big star in the artistic world. Arguably his most famous painting, Starry Night is one of the most replicated prints in the world and is a must-see masterpiece for vacationers heading to the Big Apple. Located in Midtown Manhattan, The Museum of Modern Art has been called the most influential museum of modern art in the world.

>>book a flight to New York City and plan your three days itinerary in New York

Guernica in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía – Madrid, Spain

The painting revealed Picasso’s horror at Nazi soldiers in Spain

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica painting depicts the bombing of Guernica, Spain by German and Italian planes during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. The mural was commissioned by the Spanish Republican government to adorn the Spanish Pavilion during the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. It is currently on display at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid where it serves as global reminder of the sobering catastrophes of war.

>>book airfare to Spain and read about free things to do in Madrid

The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy

Botticelli’s political connections saved his painting from fires that destroyed other “pagan” art

The Italian Renaissance was born in Florence and thus, it is only fitting one of the most famous Italian paintings, the Birth of Venus, is housed in Florence’s oldest, and most famous, museum-The Uffizi Gallery. There is much speculation in the art world as to when and why Sandro Botticelli created his masterpiece-which depicts Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, emerging from a seashell and being handed a flowered cloak by the Horae, the goddesses of the seasons. However, there is no denying The Birth of Venus should be added to every art-loving traveler’s list of must-see paintings.

>>read about how to find cheap airfare to Florance and plan your 4 days itinerary in Florance

The Kiss in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere – Vienna, Austria

Klimt liked closeness-similarly nestled couples appear in two of his other paintings

Gustav Klimt’s Der Kuss, or The Kiss, shows a couple in varying hues of gold mosaic-like colors sharing … that’s right, a kiss. Painted during Klimt’s golden period, The Kiss is considered his most famous painting and it is believed that Klimt himself, along with his longtime partner, Emilie Flöge, modeled for the painting. In 2003, a €100 Painting Coin, was issued with The Kiss on one side and a studio-bound Klimt on the reverse. The painting is currently housed in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna.

>>book airfare to Vienna and read our Vienna Travel Guide

The Scream in The Munch Museum – Oslo, Norway

This painting has also been referred to as “The Cry”

If one is good, then four is better … or at least Norway-native Edvard Munch thought so. He created not one, but four versions of his most-famous painting, The Scream, which portrays a tormented sexless figure against a blood-red landscape of Oslofjord. One version of the painting is housed in the National Gallery in Oslo, another is owned by Norwegian billionaire, Petter Olsen and the remaining two paintings are property of the Munch Museum. However, one of the most famous versions, a 32 inch X 30 inch tempera on cardboard, was stolen from the museum in 2004 and has yet to be returned. Now that is something to scream about.

>>find cheap flights to Oslo and read our Oslo Travel Guide

American Gothic in the Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois, USA

Notice how the pitchfork is echoed in the farmer’s overalls

Every traveler has seen a parody of this painting in some form or another, whether it was Kermit and Piggy, Mickey and Minnie or Homer and Marge. But Grant Wood’s original American Gothic masterpiece-who was modeled by his spinster sister and his dentist is proudly displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Interestingly enough, this famous Iowan couple never modeled together for the painting and neither of them ever stood in front of the Carpenter Gothic house that sits in the background.

>>find airfare to Chicago and read about Museums in Chicago

Water Lilies in the Musée Marmottan – Paris France

Monet suffered from cataracts when he completed many of the Water Lilies paintings

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series is a compilation of 250 oil paintings from the flower gardens at his home in Giverny, in northern France. The paintings are dispersed throughout the world in major museums in France, the United States and Japan. The largest collection of Monet’s work is housed in a 19th Century mansion, the Museè Marmottan, that was the beneficiary of more than 130 paintings, watercolors, pastels and drawings when Monet’s son left them to the museum in his will.

>>book a flight to Paris and read about free things to do in Paris

Read about author Cherrye Moore and check out her other BootsnAll articles

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Additional photo credits:
Picasso by Mark Berry on Flickr, Botticelli by MrOmega on Flickr, American Gothic by Opacity on Flickr

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