Ultimate art lover's pilgrimages

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Art doesn't just live in museums. In this extract from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we show you where you can check out masterpieces of art and design, artists' homes and the inspirations behind the great works, all while avoiding those museums queues…

Monet, Giverny, France

The tiny countryside village of Giverny in northern France is a mecca for Monet fans and devotees of the Impressionist school. Claude Monet lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926, in a rambling house surrounded by flower-filled gardens. The northern part of the estate is the Clos Normand, here Monet's pastelpink house and Water Lily studio stand. But, more than anywhere, it's in the nearby Jardin d'Eau (Water Garden) that you can see where artistic inspiration struck. This is where Monet created his trademark lily pond, as well as the famous Japanese bridge. The light, the colour, the heady scents – it's enough to inspire you to pick up a paintbrush yourself.

Van Gogh, Arles, France

If Arles' winding streets, Roman relics and colourful houses evoke a sense of déjà vu, it's because they were so memorably rendered by one-time resident Vincent van Gogh. Sad to say, not one of the 200-odd canvases Vincent painted here (in only 15 months!) remains in Arles, but the town has made him a starring attraction nonetheless. From the re-creation of his bedroom to exhibitions in the former hospital where he had his ear stitched up, there's a whole lot of Vincent to enjoy. Don't miss the Van Gogh trail, a walking tour of sites where the artist set up his easel to paint canvases such as Starry Night Over the Rhône.

Related article: A dream trip for art lovers

Moscow Metro, Russia

Daily, as many as 9 million people ride this moveable art feast. Not only is the Moscow metro the easiest, quickest and cheapest way of getting around the megametropolis, it's also justly famous for the art and design of its stations. Diversity of theme is not the strongest point – generally, it's all about history, war, the happy life of the Soviet people, or all of the above. The stations of the Ring Line (Koltsevaya) have more dramatic mosaics, marble and military heroes than you can poke a metro token at, but it's the Mayakovskaya stop on the Zamoskvoretskaya line that's the metro's award-winning pièce de résistance, all art-deco stainless steel and pink rhodonite.

Gaudí, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona has been breaking ground in art, architecture and style since the late 19th century, and the eccentric genius of Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) ticks the boxes of all three categories. Architect and artist Gaudí, together with his Modernista mates, left an indelible mark on this city; must-see works include the fantastical Casa Batlló, the rippling Casa Milà (better known as La Pedrera), and the joyously whimsical Park Güell, where Gaudí turned his hand to landscape gardening. But it's La Sagrada Família for which he is best known – this inspired, unfinished cathedral reaches for the heavens and will leave you awestruck.

Kahlo, Mexico City, Mexico

Iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was born, lived and died in Casa Azul (the Blue House), now the Museo Frida Kahlo. The house is littered with mementos and personal belongings that evoke her often tempestuous relationship with famous muralist husband Diego Rivera (two artist pilgrimages for the price of one!) and the leftist intellectual circle they entertained here. Jewellery, outfits, books and other objects from Frida's everyday life are interspersed with art, photos and letters, as well as a variety of pre-Hispanic art and Mexican crafts. It's like dropping in to catch up with a talented artist friend…

Da Vinci, Milan, Italy

When you're done with the earthly delights of superchic Milan (credit cards maxed, tummy full), let the heavens provide a more spiritual delight. Milan's single most famous artwork is Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. The mural decorates one wall of the Cenacolo Vinciano, the refectory adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie; it was painted in the late 15th century and travelled a rocky road to restoration. Book a ticket and decide for yourself whether the apostle to Christ's left is really Mary Magdalene, as author Dan Brown implies in his schlocktastic best seller The Da Vinci Code.

Banksy, Bristol, England

Sacre bleu, Banksy on the same list as Michelangelo and da Vinci?! Why not? Bristol brings you closer to the specialist in stencils, subverted art and stunts: the guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy's identity is a closely guarded secret, but he's rumoured to have been born in 1974 not far from Bristol, and his works feature here. Look for his notorious love-triangle stencil (featuring an angry husband, a two-timing wife, and a naked man dangling from a window) at the bottom of Park Street; other stencils are on the side of the Thekla club-boat, and on Cheltenham Road, opposite the junction with Jamaica Street.

Michelangelo, Vatican City

The museum-free idea goes out the window here. You'll need to get lost in the Vatican Museums en route to the remarkable Sistine Chapel but, hey, there's no way we can leave out the most famous works of art in the world. Michelangelo's spectacularly detailed frescos on the barrel-vaulted ceiling (painted 1508–12) are widely considered the high point of Western artistic achievement. Don't skip the dramatic Last Judgment on the end wall (1536–41). For four solitary years the reluctant artist painted the 800 sq metres of ceiling; the results will give you goosebumps.

Gauguin, French Polynesia

French post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) has become synonymous with tropical
Tahiti. Gauguin arrived in 1891 and spent a few productive years on the island. His second stay in the Pacific was on the island of Hiva Oa, in a house he built and called Maison du Jouir (House of Pleasure), a reconstruction, which is on the island today. Carpeted in lavish flora, cut by crystal rivers and framed by lofty peaks, Hiva Oa could entice even the most conservative folks to paint and fall in love. Romantics and art lovers will find the frangipani-filled Calvaire Cemetery an appropriately colourful place for Gauguin's tomb.

Dalí, Figueres, Spain

A purple-pink building topped by giant boiled eggs and stylised Oscar statues, sitting smack in the middle of a nondescript Catalonian provincial town? This can only mean one thing in these parts: Dalí! Salvador Dalí was born in Figueres in 1904, and in the 1960s and '70s he created the unmissable Teatre-Museu Dalí, a multidimensional trip through one of the most fertile (some would say disturbed) imaginations of the 20th century. Even outside, the building aims to surprise, with bizarre sculptures leaving you in no doubt that this man had imagination. Some 20 or so kilometres away, in the tiny coastal settlement of Portlligat, you can visit (with advance booking) his stylishly kooky home and workshop.

Want more unmissable adventures? Check out Lonely Planet's guide to the world's 1000 Ultimate Experiences.