With the nice weather coming around – let’s be optimistic, it’s here – we could tell ourselves that afternoons spent in museums are over for a while. Onto sunny cafes, green gardens and walks in the park. It’s tempting especially after a long winter, but no reason to abandon museums. There are plenty of reasons to make them part of your summer routine.
First you might find fewer people since many will have escaped city life, though admittedly that difference could be made up by tourists. And then there are those museums that have gardens that will give any sun-drenched café a run for its money. And even if they don’t have a garden, many are nestled alongside parks that can easily become part of the experience. Here are a few museums in Paris, London and New York that could satisfy your desires for the outdoors!
Forget the concrete jungle and time going by in the gardens of the Fondation Cartier and the Musée Rodin. The former is of modest size and the latter is much more generous, but they both make it easy to disconnect from city life. You have Buvette in one to grab a snack and a full café in the other to enjoy a proper lunch. If you haven’t been, head on over!
The Palais Galliera and the Musée du Quai Branly also have nice outdoor spaces to discover after the exhibition. Perhaps less well isolated than the previous two but they’re unique spaces well-worth strolling through. A Parisian square with impeccable green lawns, sandy walkways and benches in the sun or the feeling of a labyrinth between overgrown vegetation, it’s for you to decide.
And for those museums that don’t have their own garden, many could count the public park they’re situated in or next to as their garden. You have the Bois de Boulogne, or even the Jardin d’Acclimatation, to enjoy after your visit to the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Relax or bring your kids to play games in the jardin du Ranelagh after the Musée Marmottan-Monet. Take a walk in the magnificent Tuilerie gardens on your way to the Louvre, the Musée du Jeu de Paume, the Orangerie or the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Lose yourself in the Luxembourg gardens in the shade of the chestnut trees or on the edges of the central fountain after your stroll through the Luxembourg Museum. And picnic on the lawns of the Villette before discovering the latest exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris!
If London is known for its outdoor spaces it’s surprising more of its museums don’t have their own gardens. Only the Madejski Garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum catches our attention. It’s reclusive with what feels like a small reservoir in the middle. Often the site of artistic installations and beautifully illuminated at night, it would be a shame to not take advantage of this space while visiting the museum!
At the Serpentine Gallery there’s the Pavilion, a little garden that’s worth the visit. The spring has a whole array of tall, beautiful plants and flowers, but if you prefer green spaces it’s Kensington Gardens where the museum is located. There’s also the Design Museum alongside Holland Park; when the sun is shining maybe a little nap on the grass before awakening your museum desires.
Central Park attracts both locals and tourists to the heart of New York City, and is surrounded by museums for all tastes. You’ve got the Frick Collection and the Neue Galerie for the classical sensibilities, the Cooper Hewitt and the Museum of Art and Design for those tuned into design, the Guggenheim for those who admire unique architecture and modern art, the American Museum of Natural History for those with kids fascinated by big things, and The Met for the complete experience, from antiquities to modern, Africa to America.
And by heading out of Manhattan towards Prospect Park, you will find strollers, dogs, athletes and of course the majestic Brooklyn Museum. The building might look like it came out of Manhattan but the feel is distinctly Brooklyn.
Finally, we can’t talk about outdoor spaces in New York City without talking about MoMA’s Rockefeller Garden. You won’t completely forget the surrounding concrete jungle, but the trees and water and sculptures will give you a short, privileged respite from the city that never sleeps.