An Art-Lovers Guide to Minneapolis

When you think of artistic cities, Minnesota doesn’t usually come to mine. But maybe it should. Minnesota has a history of producing brilliant artistic minds such as Prince and Bob Dylan, and there are many places in the city of Minneapolis to see beautiful and famous works of art. Here are the Twin Cities’ top five places to see works of art and architecture!

 

  1. Basilica of Saint Mary

 

Reminiscent of the catholic cathedrals it’s modeled after, the Basilica of Saint Mary can’t be missed amongst the modern buildings of downtown Minneapolis. Built in the early 1900s, the building belongs to the National Register of Historic Places as it was the first basilica in the United States! Since the 1990s, an annual weekend music festival called the Basilica Block Party has been held at the Basilica.

 

  1. Cathedral of Saint Paul

 

Overlooking downtown St. Paul stands the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Paul. This Cathedral is one of the largest in the United States, and it is a signature of the St. Paul skyline. Though the current cathedral wasn’t open until 1915, a chapel has been at that location since the early 1800s when St. Paul was a small community known as ‘Pig’s Eye.’ The Cathedral itself is a beautiful work of art, complete with rose windows and a bronze baldachin over a statue of Saint Paul. There is also an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta in the Cathedral, so if you’re unable to make it to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it may be easier to get to St. Paul to see the replica of one of the most famous and moving sculptures of all time.

 

  1. Walker Art Center

 

This modern art museum is home to many well known works of art, such as Andy Warhol’s 16 Jackies and one of my favorite paintings, Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait. It’s location near the Basilica of Saint Mary and the Sculpture Garden make it an ideal place to visit as you can see many different things in this one block area.

 

  1. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

 

Right next door to the Walker Art Center and the Basilica of Saint Mary sits the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Functioning as a sort of outdoor museum, the Sculpture Garden is home to countless famous works of art, the most well known being Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg, which located at the center of the garden.

 

  1. Minneapolis Institute of Art

 

My personal favorite on this list is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, locally known affectionately as the M.I.A.. One of the largest art museums in the country, I still have yet to see all it has to offer despite having been there countless times. The museum has a large collection of paintings, prints, and sculptures from all over the world and often features temporary special exhibits. Right now it is housing the Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibit until the end of May, which allows viewers to catch a glimpse into the brilliant director’s mind.

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Schloss Heidelberg

Nestled into the hills of Western Germany sits the medieval town of Heidelberg. The town is home to Germany’s oldest university, Heidelberg University, which was founded in 1386, and is a popular tourist destination as well. Tourist flock to the Altstadt (aka the Old town) to admire the baroque architecture, wander through the cobble-stoned streets, and see the imposing Heidelberg Castle.

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Me delighting in what I called a ‘Hobbit door’ in the Altstadt, 2013. c. Leah Putz

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View of Schloss Heidlelberg from the Altstadt, 2013. c. Leah Putz

For me, the castle was the main attraction. Heidelberg Castle is situation high on a bluff, overlooking the town, and has stood there since the 1200s. Throughout the hundreds of years it has existed, it’s been damaged and rebuilt many times by fire, weather, and war, but has ultimately stood the test of time.

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Powder Tower, destroyed in 1689 by the French, 2013. c. Leah Putz

The castle ruins are actually comprised of two different castles, the latter being an expansion built nearly a hundred years after the construction of the first castle. The joint castles were turned into a proper fortress in 1401, when King Ruprecht became king of Germany.

The view of Heidelberg Altstadt from the castle, 2013. c. Leah Putz

Due to the length of time the castle has stood and how often sections had to be rebuilt, there are varying forms of architecture that meld together beautiful. The castle maintains a cohesive look due to the various sections are all built using the same color stone, which gives it a unique red-toned look. Germany’s history is also displayed in the castle, as some of the main buildings in the interior have countless statues depicting many of Germany’s past kings and rulers.

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Wall of Schloss Heidelberg and statues of kings, 2013. c. Leah Putz

To this day, I think Heidelberg Castle is the most majestic structure I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. There is an overwhelming sense of beauty and history in this ancient structure, and if you find yourself in West Germany, I highly recommend making a stop in the captivating city of Heidelberg.

My Cardiff Top 5

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, was a only a small town until the 1800s, though its origins date back to Neolithic times. In the 19th century, the Cardiff port began to bustle and the city grew until it became the largest in Wales. Today, it’s known for it’s bustling metropolitan area, and it’s capacity to preserve Welsh culture. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cardiff, and have compiled a list of my top five places to go if you find yourself in this beautiful Welsh capital.

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Cardiff Central Square, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay the area surrounding the water fed by the two rivers in Cardiff. The area around the bay is beautiful, with many shops and restaurants nearby, and is a focal point for many events in Cardiff.

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Cardiff Bay, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

Cardiff Story Museum

The best way to get to know a city is to explore its history, especially a city with as long and rich a history as Cardiff. Thankfully, you can visit the Cardiff Story Museum to learn all about Cardiff through the ages, complete with numerous artifacts and objects to view.

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Wales Millennium Centre, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Wales Millennium Centre

Fans of BBC show Torchwood will recognize the Wales Millennium Centre. Comprised of multiple shops, restaurants, and arts centers, it’s the perfect place to stop and shop in the Cardiff Bay area as it also features the Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre.

 

Bute Park

Once a part of the Cardiff Castle grounds, Bute Park is a whopping 130 acres of park and gardens. It was originally landscaped in the 17-1800s and sits near Cardiff Castle and along the River Taff. The park is dotted with sculptures, bridges, and immense natural beauty that is rare to find in the heart of a city.

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Sculpture on the street in Cardiff, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

Cardiff Castle

If you’re going just about anywhere in the UK your trip isn’t complete without a visit to  a castle, and Cardiff is no exception. The castle, which was built by the Normans in the 11th century, can be found in the city centre, along with a Victorian mansion. It’s not only a main attraction of the city of Cardiff, but of Wales as a country as well.  

Seattle: My Favorites

What immediately struck me about Washington is how green it is. I could even notice the difference from the plane before we landed; I spent the last 20 minutes or so of the flight admiring the evergreens from the window.  It was my first time on the west coast and I instantly had a good impression.

The lush landscape isn’t the only thing that struck me about the natural beauty of the Seattle area. Only about a half hour from the city sits the Snoqualmie Falls. The Falls, which are giant and surrounded by gardens and walking paths, are simply breathtaking. If you have some extra time and are staying in Seattle, I highly recommend taking a field trip out to Snoqualmie to enjoy seeing the Falls.

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Snoqualmie Falls, 2017. c. Leah Putz

However, there is plenty to see in the city as well! Obviously, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the Space Needle, which I saw from the highway as I was coming in to downtown Seattle. It was a particularly cloudy day, and apparently the view isn’t really worth the cost when you can’t see the mountains due to the clouds, so I was content to admire the Seattle staple from afar.

Rather than seeing the city from above in the Seattle, I decided to see it from below, and did a tour of the Seattle Underground. The thing I loved most about the Underground tour was how much history I learned. Going in, I didn’t really know anything at all about Seattle’s history, but the tour taught me all about it’s origins, the fire, it’s time as the ‘gateway to the Eukon’ and much more. The origins of the Underground begin with the Great Seattle Fire that destroyed much of downtown Seattle in 1889. The city was going to have to be rebuilt, and the citizens decided to rebuild the city higher than before to avoid many of the flooding problems they had been having. During the rebuilding process, the Underground was created at the level of the original streets and left open as a sort of underground shopping district before it was condemned in the 1920s, only to reopen in 1965 as a tourist attraction.

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View of a skylight from the Seattle Underground, 2017. c. Leah Putz

After coming up from Underground, my aunt, my cousin, and I began heading towards the famed Pike’s Place Market. The walk was only a few blocks, but we passed the Harbor Steps, the Seattle Art Museum, and many other amazing points of interest. The market was just as I’d imagined it- I got to see the workers throw fish, got the enjoy the fresh scent of the sea, and got to admire the beautiful yellow tulips that are planted all along the outside of the marketplace building.

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Pike’s Place Market, 2017. c. Leah Putz

Right across the street from Pike’s Place Market the first ever Starbucks still stands! The door has ‘1912’ painted on it which is a bit surreal, as well as the logo being uncensored. Considering how long the line was, I didn’t purchase a drink at this particular store, but I did grab a coffee at the airport on the way home to enjoy a Starbucks coffee on Starbucks’ home turf.

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My aunt and cousin outside of the first Starbucks, 2017. c. Leah Putz

The Holy Grail of Scotland- Duone Castle

I’m happy to admit that Scotland is probably my favorite country I’ve ever visited. I’ve loved every trip there and almost as soon as I leave I start looking forward to the next opportunity that will bring me back to it’s rolling green Highlands and magical landscape. And most definitely my favorite site I’ve been to in Scotland is Duone Castle.

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Gates of Duone Castle, 2014. c. Leah Putz

You see, I love Monty Python. I mean, I really love Monty Python. The first time I saw ‘The Holy Grail’ my mind was blown, and I was certain I had just discovered the funniest movie in all of human existence. I’m still of this opinion. There is nothing to me that makes me laugh so hard, even after seeing it a hundred times. Just quoting it (and believe me, it’s incredibly quotable) can have my friends and I in stitches. It is without a doubt my favorite comedy, and has been since I was probably about 8 years old.

Knowing this, it’s not a surprise that Duone Castle had me fangirling and squealing with excitement like nowhere ever had before, because Monty Python filmed a majority of the footage of ‘The Holy Grail’ in or around Duone Castle. The comedy group had little to no budget for the film, which featured several different castles in the script. They could only afford to rent out one castle, and thus filmed every castle scene in Doune Castle, simply dressing up different rooms to make it look like a whole different location in the movie. Nearly every room is recognizable for a ‘Holy Grail’ fan, and the Castle gift shop is full of Monty Python memorabilia (including a large bottle of beer cleverly called ‘The Holy Ail’).

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Standing in the kitchen where Monty Python filmed many of the ‘Castle Anthrax’ scenes, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Since I visited back in 2014, the castle has become even more popular with tourists, attracting not only Monty Python fans, but fans of Game of Thrones (some Winterfell scenes were filmed there) and the Starz series Outlander, in which the castle portrays the MacKenzie home of Castle Leoch.

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Duone Castle courtyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Television and movies aren’t the only reason to visit Duone Castle, though. In remarkable condition for a building that over 800 years old (thanks to Historic Scotland), the castle gives visitors a glimpse into medieval life, and was formerly a hunting lodge for Scottish monarchs. One of the most striking aspects of the castle is the fully restored Lord’s Hall, which now appears just as it would have when the castle was inhabited nearly a millennium ago.

View of the serving room from a high staircase and Castle toilet, 2014. c. Leah Putz

So whether you’re a fan of Monty Python, Outlander, Game of Thrones, or Scottish history, you must put Duone Castle on your bucket list.

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Top of Duone Castle and the Scottish countryside, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Top 10 Things to do in London for First Timers

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London Bridge from the River Thames, 2016. c. Leah Putz

River Cruise with Afternoon Tea

Taking a river cruise on the Thames is a great way to get another view of London, as well as learning a bit of her rich history. It provides excellent photo open opportunities as well as the chance to sail beneath the famous London Bridge. Book a tour that provides afternoon tea as well to get a taste of British culture.

 

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Tower of London, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Tower of London

Built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, ‘The Tower’ is one of the oldest buildings in London. From its perch upon the Thames, the Tower has witnessed history for almost 1000 years, from the murders of two young princes, to the imprisonment and beheading of a queen, and much more!

 

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Trafalgar Square, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a large public square in Central London that is within walking distance of many major attractions, including Big Ben and Piccadilly Circus. There are many public sculptures, museums, and restaurants off the square as well, which makes it an excellent stopping point.

 

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Side Entrance of Westminster Abbey, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Westminster Abbey

Fans of the royal family can’t miss Westminster Abbey, where most recently Prince William and Duchess Kate had their nuptials. The Abbey is also the burial place of many well-known royals, including Queen Elizabeth I and her half sister Queen Mary (better known as ‘Bloody Mary’). The Poet’s Corner is also interesting to see as it’s the resting place of many of England’s literary greats, such as Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer.

 

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St. Paul’s Cathedral facade, 2015. c. Leah Putz

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral to see and climb one of the highest domes in the world. The cathedral has held the funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, the jubilees of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, and the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

 

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View of the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye, 2014. c. Leah Putz

London Eye

The London Eye is one of the newest attractions on this list, having been just built in 2005. As Europe’s highest ferris wheel, the London Eye offers excellent and fare-reaching views of London.

 

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British Museum, 2014. c. Leah Putz

British Museum

Two million years of human history from all over the globe is housed at the British Museum. World-renowned artifacts held there include the Rosetta Stone, the pediment from the Parthenon in Athens, and much more!

 

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Buckingham Palace, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Buckingham Palace

What better way to take part in British culture than to see the home of the Queen? See the famous Royal Guards and tour the palace to get a glimpse of what life in the royal family might be like.

 

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Hyde Park, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is perhaps the largest and most well-known park in London. It’s home to the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, as well as numerous beautiful gardens. It’s also home to the Marble Arch.

 

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Tower Bridge, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Tower Bridge

Often mistaken for London Bridge, Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. Built in the late 1800s, the Bridge has a Tower Bridge Exhibition to be seen in the engine rooms for a small fee, or you can stroll across the bridge free of charge!

Edinburgh- a Haunted City

If you’re intrigued by the paranormal and love traveling to places with a dark and ghostly history, look no further than Edinburgh, Scotland! The Scottish capital has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in the world. The city’s history is full of violence and tragedy, from wars, to an infestation of the black plague, and many more, so it’s not surprising that Edinburgh is rumored to have paranormal energies.

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Greyfriars Kirkyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Greyfriars Kirkyard has been proclaimed the most haunted cemetery in the world. Established in the 1560s, the cemetery is home to thousands of graves, and countless restless spirits. The entrance to the graveyard is marked the by headstone of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who slept on his master’s grave in the cemetery for 14 years in the 1800s, until his own death. The cemetery itself is made up of vaults, tombs, and mausoleums. Many of the graves have mortsafes (iron cages) to deter grave robbers, who had become a serious issue in the early 1800s. The cemetery has many notable residents, but the most notorious is Sir George MacKenzie, who has become the MacKenzie Poltergeist. For those who dare to enter the cemetery and the MacKenzie mausoleum after dark, beware, for many have reported leaving with scrapes, bruises, and sometimes worse, all at the hands of the MacKenzie poltergeist.

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Greyfriars Kirkyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

But not just the cemeteries in Edinburgh are ghostly- beneath the buildings in the Old Town sits Mary King’s Close, which has had a reputation for being haunted since as early as the 17th century. According the legend, the hauntings began with plague victims being quarantined and left to die in the Close. The Close is now a tourist attraction, presenting an accurate representation of Edinburgh as it was from the 1500s-1700s.

The Edinburgh Vaults have generated such buzz that  they’ve been visited by the show Ghost Adventures! The Vaults were built under the South Bridge arches in 1788, and functioned for a period as taverns and storage spaces, and became Edinburgh’s slums. Today, most of the vaults are closed. The few that are left open are used for ghost tours, concerts, and private events. I toured the Vaults with a Ghost Tour, and though I didn’t myself have any paranormal experiences, many visitors have reported strange sounds, cold patches, and there are countless eerie photos from the area.

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Orbs in the Edinburgh Vaults, 2014. c. Leah Putz

TIME magazine has ranked Edinburgh Castle #3 on their list of Top 10 Most Haunted Places. In 2001 when a large scale paranormal investigation of the castle took place, over half of the participants reported experiencing some sort of paranormal phenomena. The castle, having been built in the 12th century, has seen its fair share of war, executions, and death. Today, it is Edinburgh’s most visited tourist attraction, and many of those visitors report paranormal experiences, including seeing apparitions. Greyfriars Bobby is a regular sighting, as well as a headless drummer boy, and a piper.

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Edinburgh Castle and Princes’ Street Gardens, 2014. c. Leah Putz
So if you’re feeling courageous, head to Scotland, and brave the haunted streets of Edinburgh. Who knows, you might meet someone from another century!