Winter is upon us, and as much as it is not my favorite season, I must admit it is a great time to visit some exhibitions and soak up some contemporary art. As 2023 comes to an end and 2024 is about to begin, museums and galleries programs are at their peak, and there are plenty of choices for shorter and longer trips. 

And unless you are planning a trip to ski locations or exotic beaches, the winter months are usually considered low season, therefore the perfect chance for a less crowded trip, at a slower pace, and with much more options to enjoy your destination far from the maddening crowds. 

And since here we primarily talk about contemporary art related travels, I decided to compile a list of five places where you can enjoy your winter vacations at their best while also experiencing great contemporary art. 

And you, where are you going this winter? 

Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

1. Oslo, Norway 

Whether you like Munch or more contemporary art, Oslo is a great destination for art lovers. And in Winter, the city is nothing short of magic. Granted the northern latitudes do not offer a lot of sunshine during the winter months, the city and surroundings are covered in snow and the Oslofjord offers stunning views. If you like the cold weather and want to try something different this winter, then this is your destination. When you get cold, you can always visit one of the many contemporary art museums, such as the newly reopened National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kunsthall Oslo, the world-famous Astrup Fearnley Museet, or the above-mentioned Munch Museum

contemporary art winter - Vienna
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

2. Vienna, Austria

Vienna is always a great idea, in all seasons and with all weather conditions. Ok, I might be a bit too fond of this city, but I truly believe it is a great destination year-round, including winter. During the colder months, the city offers charming Christmas markets and stunning views of the surrounding mountains, and thanks to its proximity to the Alps, it can be the perfect destination if you want to enjoy a bit of city life before heading to some ski resorts on the Alps. When it comes to contemporary art, Vienna needs no introduction. Indulge in the Museum Quartier, visit its KunsthalleMumok Museum, and Belvedere, or take a gallery-hopping tour. You are spoiled for choices in Vienna, and in winter you have the added bonus of mulled wine to help you through a day of contemporary art visits!

3. New York, USA

Take it from someone who used to live there, New York in winter is bloody cold! But it is also magical. With the Christmas decorations, especially between Saks Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center, the beautiful colors of Central Park, and the stunning views over the Hudson, winter is a great season to visit New York, and definitely one of the less crowded times. Much like Vienna, New York’s contemporary art scene does not need any introduction or praise. It is still one of the best cities in the world for contemporary art, and the choices are infinite. Hop on a gallery tour in the Lower East Side, visit the nearby New Museum, and then hop on the subway and head north to the Guggenheim Museum or the Met Museum. Or visit MoMa and MoMA PS1, before scrolling around Greenpoint and Williamsburg, looking for cool local artists and foundations. New York has enough to visit and do for months and I promise you will never get tired of it, not even when the weather is chilly and the wind is freezing your ears! 

contemporary art winter - Zurich
Zurich in winter | Photo courtesy

4. Zurich, Switzerland

The Swiss city of Zurich is a tiny jewel nested among the Alps. With stunning views and many wintery options nearby, this is the perfect destination if you want to pair a fancy ski trip to Gstaad or St. Moritz with some cool contemporary art. Just like close-by Basel and Bern, Zurich offers many options for contemporary art lovers, ranging from world-class galleries to renowned museums, art centers, and temporary exhibitions. You can also opt for a Swiss tour and soak in the amazing Alps, eat great cheeses, and discover pristine locations, while also enjoying contemporary art in cities like Luzern, Geneva, or Lugano. The choices are endless in Switzerland, especially in winter!
If, on the contrary, you are looking for a more relaxed trip, then just head to Zurich and enjoy the city. Walk around its picturesque center, stroll along the lake, or visit its many museums. You will find a relaxed city, hospitable people, amazing shopping opportunities, and great art. 

5. Barcelona, Spain

It is no secret that I love Barcelona and its thrilling contemporary art scene. I have talked about the city at length and we also recently hosted an Ask a Local specifically dedicated to Barcelona. When it comes to winter travels and contemporary art, Barcelona is the exact opposite of Oslo or other Nordic destinations. Almost always sunny, and with mild temperatures also during winter, Barcelona is the perfect destination if you want to escape the freezing temperatures and enjoy a taste of spring. As someone not so fond of winter, this is a great combo for me, and Barcelona’s vast offer of museums, galleries, exhibitions, and all sorts of activities make it an even more interesting destination. 

Cover image by Dre Nieto on Unsplash