Public Art In Europe You Can See for Free
Between the art gallery and street art lies public art; official art pieces placed in public spaces that are accessible to all. These pieces can be large or small, sombre or joyful, and a lot of the public art pieces in Europe have become real tourist attractions. The best part is they’re free to enjoy, so even if you’re not a gallery type you can easily add an arty touch to your next Eurail trip.
Here are a few of the best public art pieces on display in some of Europe’s most explorable cities, all reachable by train.
Manneken-Pis – Brussels, Belgium
Manneken-Pis in Brussels in one of the most famous pieces of street art in the world. The small statue of a boy peeing on a small side street in Brussels dates from the 15th century, and is now one of the city’s best known attractions. Before he hit the big time, Manneken-Pis used to be part of the city’s water system. The current statue is a copy; true fans can visit the original Manneken-Pis in the Museum of the City of Brussels. The fountain is a must-see on any trip to the Belgian capital, and if you’re lucky you may catch him on a special occasion dressed up in one of his 900 outfits.
Where to find it: Manneken-Pis can be found on Rue de l’Etuve, two blocks from the Grand Place. Once you find him see if you can find the city’s other urinating statues: Jeanneke Pis, a girl, and Het Zinneke, a dog.
Cascada Fountain – Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is famous for the work of Antoni Gaudí, but visiting much of his most famous work will come at a cost. Early in his career, Gaudí worked as an assistant on the breathtaking Cascada fountain, which is on display in Barcelona’s largest public park, the Parc de la Ciutadella. Featuring dragons and golden horses, the Cascada lets you experience the magic of Catalan art without the cost.
Where to find it: Parc de la Ciutadella is in the center of Barcelona. It can easily be reached by foot or on the metro.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Berlin, Germany
Berlin is known for public art, from the famous East Side Gallery to the street art that covers the city. But by far the most striking is the imposing Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Encompassing a space the size of a city block, the memorial presents a labyrinth of 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights. It’s easy to get lost among the slabs as you navigate through the space and reflect on the what the memorial represents. There is also an underground information centre at the site.
Where to find it: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is across the street from the Tiergarten in Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood. Its an easy walk from the Brandenburg Gate.
Stockholm Tunnelbana – Stockholm, Sweden
The subway isn’t the first place you expect to see art, but the Swedish capital has taken subway design to a whole other level. The Stockholm tunnelbana has been called the world’s longest art exhibition; 90 of the subway system’s 100 stops are designed with art in mind. Some must-see stops include the blue-and-white T-Centralen, rainbow-adorned Stadion, the garden-inspired Kungstädgården and the cave-like Rådhuset.
Where to find it: You can simply take in the art as you travel on the subway. Guided Art Walks are also available in English during the summer months.
The Spire – Dublin, Ireland
The Spire of Dublin, or the Monument of Light, is a needle-like column that stands proudly in the heart of the city. The monument was built to replace Nelson’s Pillar, which was destroyed following a bombing in the 1960s. The Spire is an impressive 393.7 feet (120m) tall and holds the title of the tallest sculpture in the world. During the day the stainless steel surface softly reflects the light, and at night lights illuminate the structure.
Where to find it: The Spire is hard to miss on any trip to Dublin and its just one of many monuments along O’Connell Street, the city’s main thoroughfare.
Sea Organ – Zadar, Croatia
The set of large white steps in the Croatian coastal town of Zadar might not look like much but, if you stop and listen, you’ll hear that they are so much more. Designed by Nikola Bašić, the steps themselves contain a series of pipes which play music as the sea air blows through them. The Sea Organ now attracts tourists and locals alike who sit and swim while listening to the sounds of the sea. The project even won the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2006.
Where to find it: Zadar is in the north of Croatia. The Croatian national rail service operates a service between Split and Zadar via Knin. Zadar is also accessible via ferry from Italy.
These are just a few examples of some of the impressive public art in Europe. A Eurail Pass is the perfect way to discover the public art works that are dotted all over the continent. See what else you can spot on your travels.
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