We’ve already established that gallery hopping is the certified best way to spend your Friday night—but what about Saturday night, a.k.a. date night?
Allow us to make a case for shifting your romantic weekend plans into the daytime, because museums are basically the universe’s gift to twenty first century dating. For one thing, it forces you to skip the soul-crushing small talk (“so, what do you do?”) and dive straight into each other’s thoughts on art, life and love. All the stuff you need to know right off the bat about a potential suitor because, let’s face it, you’re a busy girl who doesn’t have time to waste four months on some pretty face only to learn one day that you have clashing opinions on Picasso. So save yourself the frustration and the heartbreak and take your new beau to a museum in the early stages of the relationship.
Because we’re deeply invested in your love life and may or may not be living vicariously through the fairytale endings of others (I do a little rain dance each night while I visualize Pete and Ariana growing old and wrinkled together), we’re going the extra mile to make sure your date is an 11/10 on the romance and intellect scale. Here are our top picks for date museums all over the world, sure to inspire both butterflies and some spirited debate. Happy dating!
This charming little museum in the Hôtel Biron in Paris, nestled in the quaint and bougie seventh arrondissement, is the perfect place for your next romantic outing, especially if your date is a horn rimmed glasses-wearing Parisian, well steeped in Sartre and Proust. Inside, there are plenty of sculptures of lithe and gorgeous couples to set the mood, and the sculpture garden that stretches over three hectares means you can take a little stroll once you’ve seen the inside. But lest your date think your taste in art is tacky and low-brown, never fear: The Gates of Hell and The Thinker outside should provide plenty of fodder for a a lively debate.
Tucked away in the sixteenth arrondissement, this former hunting lodge houses an impressive collection of impressionist art, mostly, as you might expect, Monet. There’s just something about the dreamy palette of those haystacks and water lilies that helps soothe those first date nerves, putting you at ease so you can let the conversation wander from what you ate to lunch to your deepest hopes and dreams. In the span of an hour or two, you might just find yourself opening up to each other in unexpected ways. Just don’t blame me if you accidentally tell him about that super embarrassing time in high school when you wet the bed on your volleyball team trip—it’s 100% Monet’s fault.
Ok, hear me out. The Met is obviously huge, somewhat overwhelming and not exactly what you’d call a “hidden gem,” but there are a few reasons why you just can’t go wrong with this classic. First of all, there’s something for everyone, so you don’t have to risk asking your new guy to meet you at the Museum of Sex… only to find out he’s a staunch Catholic and his mother is now scandalized by you. Also, you have full license to judge based on what he wants to see (Edo period Japanese prints? Great—a man with his own tastes. Nineteenth century painting? A novice.) As a bonus, after you’re thoroughly maxed out on art for the day, you can sit on the steps of the Met and share impressions of the work you saw over a hot dog (or a Greek yogurt, à la Serena and Blair).
Google a photo of the Getty Villa and you might think that you’re looking at a quaint and charming Italian country home. Actually, you wouldn’t be far off: this Malibu museum of ancient Greece and Rome was recreated to look exactly like an ancient Roman country home, straight outta the first century A.D. The villa itself, not to mention the breathtaking collection of sculpture and ancient artifacts, will shroud your visit with romance and mystique—not to mention giving you both the chance to show off what you absorbed in your Classics 100 class in college. Hope you made it all the way through Julius Caesar because it’s show time, and neither of you wants to be caught not knowing the difference between an Ionic and a Corinthian column. Afterwards, you can stroll on the beach, or if you’re lucky, your date might take you to Nobu for some of the best Japanese food on the West Coast.
If you’re more the adventurous sort, here’s one museum that’s sure to take you for a trip. This enigmatic artist was know for his eccentricity and his uncanny ability to imitate the work of great masters—and give his customers exactly what they didn’t even know they wanted. His wife, muse, agent and manager, Gala, was a character in her own right, and a trip to her castle, where she spent the last years of her life anxiously undergoing niche beauty treatments to keep her beauty from fading as she took an array of young lovers, is definitely worth a visit if you have the time. The Dalí, however, was designed to suck you deep into the surreal mind of the artist and will definitely spark no shortage of interesting conversations. Warning: you might need a very strong drink and/or a nap after this, so if that’s not your idea of a nice way to get to know a new love interest, maybe just stick to the Picasso in Barcelona. There, you really can’t go wrong… unless you forget to book tickets ahead and have to wait in the endless line of tourists.
You really can’t go wrong with one of the best collections in the world of pre-modern Japanese art and artifacts. From calligraphy to sculpture to textiles to a whole category on wood and bamboo, the Nezu has no shortage of work to excite any art aficionado. But the real highlight of the day is strolling through the garden and, of course, the teahouse. Hard to get more cozy and romantic than that.
Perhaps this one might seem a bit niche to the average dater, but if you and your S.O. both happen to be tea drinkers in a world full of over-caffeinated coffee junkies ever on the brink of another nervous meltdown, this one’s for you. Next time you find yourself in Asia’s art capital, block out a little time between contemporary gallery hopping for the Flagstaff House, a subset of the Hong Kong Museum of Art that also happens to be the oldest example of Greek revival architecture in the city. Come for the tea, stay for the lively debate about colonialism that’s sure to break out at some point in the evening—the former abode of a commanding general, the Flagstaff House is British through and through.
A trendy bastion of contemporary art in a country that has notoriously always favored the traditional, Garage always has an edgy exhibit on that combines interesting aesthetic exploration with pertinent social themes. With robust social critique not exactly easy to come by openly in Russia, that makes Garage somewhat of a black sheep—and a great source of conversation fodder, should you find yourself that far north (just don’t forget to pack your mittens and a parka, even in June!). It also doesn’t hurt that the café is delicious. After, you can debrief as you stroll through Gorky Park, a central hub of the capital city that’s always teeming with festivals, flora and fauna, and because we live in a truly globalized world, teens and tweens vlogging.
This one may be a bit polarizing strictly in terms of date vibes (alas, ear slicing isn’t quite as romantic as, say, Rodin’s The Kiss) but the Van Gogh is one of the most well-done museums devoted to one artist in the world. With three floors that progress through Van Gogh’s life and work in all its ups and downs, including the eventual insanity of his last days, the museum truly gives you an unmatched feel for this artist’s work on not just an intellectual level but also on an emotional one. You might not want to dive straight into a makeout right after, but the experience will definitely test the strength and potential of your relationship. If you can make it through the Van Gogh without wanting to cut off your ear—or your partner’s ear—consider the day a success (and maybe go unwind at one of Amsterdam’s coffee shops after, if you’re into that).
Georgia O’Keeffe, Pedernal (1942)
If you want to talk about atmosphere, you can’t beat a stunning collection of this famous American painter’s work set against the backdrop of the very landscape that inspired her for most of her artistic life. If you ever make it out to Santa Fe—and I highly suggest you do, because the smoky smell wafting through those otherworldly peaks in fall is an experience you really can’t compare with any other place in the world—then this should be a must-see on your agenda. The museum itself is fairly straightforward, but if you happen to be road tripping to get there, you’re looking at the holy grail of all relationship tests. If you can make it through eight plus hours without getting passive aggressive over each other’s music/podcast/audiobook choices, you’re basically soul mates and should probably elope right now. And what better place to elope than Santa Fe?
Photos via WikiArt, Wikipedia, The Paris Review, Hole in the Donut, JW Web Magazine, The Tea Urchin, Iwan Baan, vincentvangogh, Pinterest