What do Grayson Perry, a former abattoir and a poetry room have in common? They all make for an inspired city break this summer, says Amy Dawson.
HELSINKI for Grayson Perry
Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry displays a new series of pots and tapestries at this unmissable show Folk Wisdom at Kiasma (£12.20, until Sep 2, kiasma.fi), Finland’s biggest contemporary gallery. It sits just ten minutes walk from the arty new Hotel St George (from £163 per night, stgeorgehelsinki.com), which opens this week [MAY 2].
The boutique design hotel has a stylish greenhouse, a poetry room that holds collections by local and global poets, plus a bakery. There’s even a giant white dragon by Ai Weiwei in the lobby. Head across to Teurastamo, a cultural hub spread around a sunny courtyard in a former abattoir, for a tour around The Helsinki Distilling Company (£13, Fri and Sat, hdco.fi), the first distillery in Finland for over a century.
BILBAO for Marc Chagall
An exhibition devoted to the much-loved avant-garde artist Marc Chagall is as good an excuse as any to visit Frank Gehry’s vast and glimmering Guggenheim in Bilbao (£8.70, June 1- Sep, guggenheim-bilbao.eus). After The Breakthrough Years, it’s time to explore the Basque city.
Stay a ten-minute cycle ride away at the Basque Boutique (rooms from £78, basqueboutique.es), where every room is devoted to a different aspect of Basque culture. From there, you’re well placed to explore the trendy Bilbao La Vieja district. Soak up the sun with a lazy waterside drink at the aptly-named Happy River (beers from £1.04, happyriver.es), a new riverside terrace bar festooned with hammocks and hanging plants.
BUDAPEST for Frida Kahlo
Binge on the phenomenal works of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at the Hungarian National Gallery, when Masterpieces From The Collection Of The Museo Dolores Olmedo opens in July (£5, July 7- November 4, mng.hu). Stay a short journey down the Danube at the Bohem Art Hotel (rooms from £78, bohemarthotel.hu), located in a former 17th-century stationary factory and filled with contemporary works by local artists.
From there, it’s a ten minute walk to Pagony Kert (mains from £5.60, beers from £1.90, pagonykert.hu), an open-air bar and restaurant housed in a J G Ballard-esque empty swimming pool. It’s the best of the city’s many ‘ruin bars,’ which repurpose dilapidated spaces, in which to spend a balmy summer night.
OSLO for Andy Warhol
Head to Oslo this summer for After Munch, an exhibition at the Munch Museum that showcases Pop Art mastermind Andy Warhol’s obsession with Norwegian Expressionist Munch (£2.70, May 26-August 26, munchmuseet.no). From the gallery it’s a quick stroll to the harbour front and SALT (saunas from £17.60, salted.no), a nomadic art project based in various stunning wooden structures and currently parked overlooking the city’s Opera House. Here you can take an urban sauna, catch the occasional performance and soak up the sunny Scandinavian vibes.
Carry on another ten minutes round the harbour for Vippa (Wed to Sun, vippa.no), a new food, music and culture centre in a massive warehouse, located right on the fjord. Sit outside on benches as the sun goes down and sample the little fried delights of Kinabolle (mains from £9, kinabolle.no), Norway’s first dumpling restaurant.
VIENNA for Egon Schiele
Experience the intense, raw works of Austrian painter Egon Schiele at The Jubilee Show, a major exhibit marking 100 years after his passing (£11.30, until Nov 4, leopoldmuseum.org). Stay just around the corner at the wildly-designed, circus-themed 25 Hours Hotel (rooms from £112 per night, 25hours-hotels.com), and kick back after a long day’s culture vulture-ing at their cool rooftop bar with panoramic views over the Museum Quarter and beyond.
From there it’s just a brief stumble to the Volksgarten Pavillion, a picturesque 1950s building in the park which hosts a different musical vibe on each day of the week during summer (glass of wine from £3.30, volksgarten-pavillon.at). Join locals there on Tuesdays for a spot of al fresco, school-night raving at the legendary Techno Cafe (£6, dastechnocafe.at).