The Best Museums to Visit in Each Catalyst City

The Catalyst visits some of the most art-savvy cities in the world: London, Paris, Berlin, and Prague. Each of these locations is home to famous works of art and historical artifacts that are housed in world-class museums. As a Catalyst student, you are perfectly poised to visit these treasure troves of art and culture. Here’s a quick guide to the best museums to hit in each of our four Catalyst cities.

London

  • The National Gallery is home to masterpieces by artists such as Titian, Cezanne, Monet, Bellini, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, da Vinci, and many more. A couple of the most recognizable works in the museum are van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. For art majors and non-art majors alike, this museum holds significant points of artistic interest. Like most London museums, you can enjoy the art in the National Gallery for free.
  • The Tate Modern, London features unmissable works of art by Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Rodin, etc. If you’re itching for some contemporary art after visiting the National Gallery, the Tate Modern is your most-logical next step. The art housed here will challenge you in ways that other art museums won’t, and yes, the Tate Modern is free to enter, too.
  • The National Portrait Gallery is for those of us who aren’t contemporary-art connoisseurs. The museum is home to portraits of important English citizens such as Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, and Queen Elizabeth I. Those inclined toward history and literature will enjoy this free museum. 

Paris

  • The Musée d’Orsay may be lesser known than the more-popular Louvre museum; however, it is home to some of the best works of art in the world. Housed in a former train station, the museum boasts works by Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Pissarro, and van Gogh.
  • The Picasso Museum is small, but it packs a punch. Situated in the picturesque Marais district of Paris, the museum guides visitors from Pablo Picasso’s early works onto his later ones.
  • The Petit Palais is an often-ignored-by-tourists museum near the famous Grand Palais. It’s free to enter and features works by Cezanne, Gauguin, Rembrandt, and more. Escape the crowds at the Louvre for a peaceful, slow afternoon at the elegant Petit Palais.

Berlin

  • The Eastside Gallery is only a quick, five-minute walk from your hostel, The Sunflower Hostel. Take a leisurely stroll up and down the largest standing portion of the Berlin wall and marvel at the artworks that adorn it. After taking in the graffiti-style paintings, sit by the river and enjoy a Berlin delicacy: the currywurst.
  • Found in Berlin’s Museum Island, The Old National Gallery is home to works by Cezanne, Renoir, Friedrich, and more. It’s not to be missed if you’re interested in Romanticism, Neoclassicism, and Impressionism.
  • The Charlottenburg Palace, once home to Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, is a fantastic site to see Prussian jewels, finery, and decor. History majors may enjoy this palace as it is steeped in rich German history and beauty. Make your way through ballrooms, gardens, and mausoleums, all while learning about the history of Prussian Queen consort, Sophie Charlotte.

Prague

  • The National Gallery is one of Prague’s most diverse art museums and features works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet, as well as many Czech artists. As it is the largest collection of art in the Czech Republic, you’ll never be bored while meandering through this treasure trove of art.
  • David Černý is a famous street artist whose work you can find all over the city. His art can be found in parks, on buildings, in shopping centers, and even on powerlines. His most famous work is Saint Wenceslas riding a horse upside down.
  • The Lennon Wall has stood across from the French embassy in Prague since John Lennon’s assassination in 1980. It’s decorated with symbols of peace and acceptance surrounding a portrait of Lennon. The wall is free to see, so take a stroll, and take in its graffiti-style artwork.

 

Faculty Profile: Dr. Wadia

Tell us about your very first travel experience.

I traveled to London in 1997 (I believe) for my first study abroad class. It was the start of something very special and fed my passion for being immersed in a different culture.  Our hotel at the time was very cozy and friendly and had a lot of nooks and crannies for teaching spaces. We were in the heart of London, zone 1.  I was surprised by many different things on my first visit—the ubiquitous sandwich offerings, Marks and Spencer’s orange juice, the gates of Buckingham Palace, the London underground, castles, cathedrals, Hyde Park, my seats for the theater, the wonderful backstage tours of famous dramatic venues. Most of all, I enjoyed the wonder and excitement of the students as they prepared to experience one of the world’s greatest cities. My first travel experience that was perhaps most meaningful was leaving India to travel to the United States to begin work on my doctoral program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. You’d have to call me about that as this was a life-changing, epiphany-filled experience in many ways. This was the summer of 1982 that began it all.  I had not even flown ever before. Dang. Double dang.

What made you decide to teach in Europe’s most moving classroom?

My first meeting in Clarksville was with Doug Mackaman who was extremely amiable, very informative, and interesting. I love good communicators. Period. Doug is that guy.  As I researched Catalyst online, I realized that this was a program offering great independence to the students in several aspects. I liked the “daring” model of Catalyst. My previous experience has been more with a “hand-holding” model with everything orchestrated down to the last detail with extraordinary safety considerations at the top. 

I sense Catalyst is a more open model allowing freer expression and exploration while learning the material.  It’s a program that would teach a student some of the exploration and discovery skills and allowing them perhaps to use their own best judgment on figuring out how to get from A to B. There’s good communication, good groups to join, people participate [and they do it with enthusiasm].

 What makes your class on The Catalyst different than a course set in a traditional classroom?

I love being outdoors with my students, and when Doug explained that we don’t use traditional classroom settings, I was intrigued, but also excited to try a new model (actually, it’s very old school to sit at the feet of the guru at the base of a large tree).  It will be fun not to worry about projectors and laptops.  I look forward to being out and about in London and Paris just talking about Shakespeare, his life and times, and the works that have cemented his reputation (arguably) as the greatest playwright in the English language. London is a perfect location for studying the business of theater and the options for field trips are endless. Why spend them within 4 walls? Walking 6-9 miles a day is de rigueur for me in London with my students.  Who knew weight loss would be an added bonus?

What is your favorite city on The Catalyst and why?

I have visited Paris more as a tourist rather than as a professor and have not been to Berlin or Prague.  So, for now, I would have to say London would be my favorite city because you could not ask for a more natural fit between the world of Shakespeare and the metropolis that is London.  England is a naturally picturesque location in so many aspects. As Dr. Johnson noted so aptly, “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Tell us about a travel moment that changed your life perspective or worldview.

While study abroad can be a lot of fun, it works best when learning and knowledge also become part of the equation. One great travel moment was the day we had a class with Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Being taught Shakespeare by Wells is like having Stephen Hawking teach your physics class. That was truly a magical day because we also got to see some of the amazing treasures and rare artifacts of the Birthplace Trust that are locked in a vault. 

How long have you been going overseas to teach? How do your travels enhance the way that you teach and what you have to offer to Catalyst students?  

I grew up in India and have traveled to Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Australia.  I am a true international professor in every sense of that word, so I have much to offer in terms of (I have taught now for 37 years) leadership, knowledge, and experience.  What I have to offer Catalyst students is a friendly, yet scholarly, approach to learning. I challenge my students intellectually and hope their curiosity never wanes when it comes to learning about our world.  The one word people associate with me quite often is “passionate” when it comes to my subject and “enthusiastic” when it comes to my style. 

I love making connections with the world around me, whether it’s a cathedral misericord or a tiny statue of Peter Pan, Little Ben, or the smallest version of St. Paul’s in London. I can see tourist boats on the Thames and can instantly launch into a lecture on the historical importance of this mighty river relative to London and connect all of that with merchant trade with the rest of Europe!  Walking around with students, and stopping along the way to have micro lectures: Priceless!

A Guide to Your First Catalyst Neighborhood: Bloomsbury, London

For most Catalyst students, London is the perfect place to begin their European journey. The locals speak English, the food is varied and fantastic, and the museums are free! What makes the first week even more wonderful is the centrally-located and historical neighborhood that students will live in for a week in the British capital. What makes Bloomsbury the best place to stay in London? Read on to find out.

The British Museum is right at your fingertips.  

Perhaps the most stunning part of Bloomsbury, the British Museum is one of the jewels of London, and of the world. This free-to-enter museum is home to heavy-hitting artifacts like the Rosetta Stone (yes, that Rosetta Stone), the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, and ancient Egyptian mummies galore. All of these wonders are yours to see for free, and the museum is located only steps from your hostel doors.

It’s the most literary of neighborhoods.

Virginia Woolf, author of the classic Mrs. Dalloway, lived in Bloomsbury for a time. Walk through the streets she roamed, and take in a scene that has inspired many authors during their times in London. Bloomsbury is also home to Harry Potter publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing. Charles Darwin also had a residence in Bloomsbury, and so did Charles Dickens. The Catalyst’s London neighborhood is the perfect place for the English major to connect his or her studies with real-life locations.

Study in picturesque parks or cafes.

Bloomsbury is home to some of the most beautiful parks in all of London. Benches and lush green grass are abundant in Russell Square Park, so you’ll never be hard pressed to find a study spot. Take a nap, dog watch, or read a book; Bloomsbury’s parks have something for everyone.

You’ll have direct access to the Russell Square Tube Station, so you’ll never be far from the best attractions that London has to offer.

You’ll be a true Londoner when you visit Russell Square station. You won’t take the 175 steps down to the trains; use the elevator instead. You’ll be able to ride the Piccadilly line, one of the busiest and best tube lines in the city.