Whether it’s because of a particular landscape, a rich resource, or a funny quirk of history, many kinds of art and crafts are forever linked to one particular place. Here are the unique local art forms to look out for on your travels.
1. Masters of Glassblowing
In about the year 1000, Venice’s government ordered that all glassblowing workshops be moved to the nearby island of Murano. Not only were officials afraid of starting a fire in Venice’s city center, they also wanted to help the city’s glassblowing geniuses keep their secrets from prying foreign rivals.
To this day, glassblowing secrets in Murano are passed down from artisan to apprentice. Tourists can, however, tour many glassmaking factories if they’re willing to take the boat ride into Murano.
2. Masters of Murals
Mexico City, Mexico
Diego Rivera was one of the leading artists to use muralism to express complex ideas related to Mexican history, politics, and identity. His most famous mural, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central, is located in Mexico City’s Diego Rivera Mural Museum. Measuring 15m-long, this 1947 mural shows iconic figures from Mexico City’s past...as well as Rivera himself!
The tradition of muralism in modern Mexican art has only grown since Rivera’s time. Mexican artists both in Mexico City and beyond continue to use this traditional art-form to promote dialogue about Mexican history, identity, and politics.
3. Masters of Sword Making
Dubbed the “City of Blades,” Solingen has been hailed since the Middle Ages for the high quality of its swords, daggers, and knives. Believe it or not, this tiny city still produces about 70 percent of Germany’s cutlery.
Tourists walking around Soligen will find evidence of the city’s famed sword making industry everywhere they look. In addition to old stone grinding wheels, there are plenty of statues, and even graffiti, of swords throughout the city’s center.
Solingen now has numerous museums where guests can learn about the city’s swordsmith heritage. The most popular museums include the Deutches Klingenmuseum, which tells the story of the region’s sword-making tradition, and the Balkhauser Kotten, where guests can make their own knives on an authentic stone wheel.
4. Masters of the Ballet
St. Petersburg, Russia
When the Mariinsky Theatre was built in the 1860s, St. Petersburg became the go-to place for classical ballet. It was in this theatre that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky premiered two of his most famous ballets: Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892). Tchaikovsky also presented his celebrated revival of Swan Lake (1895) at the Mariinsky Theatre after his initial 1877 version flopped in Moscow.
Today, the Mariinsky Ballet is considered one of the finest troupes in the world and is recognized as an official ambassador for Russian culture. Mariinsky’s dancers perform at least 200 shows per year to packed houses.
5. Masters of Flamenco
The best place today to see this passionate art-form (which combines dance, guitar, and singing) is in the capital of Madrid. Some of Spain’s oldest and most respected flamenco clubs, most notably the Corral de la Moreía, are still thriving in the capital city.
In addition to performances at Madrid’s clubs, locals share their passion for flamenco every year with a city-wide festival. It features some of the world’s best flamenco artists dancing around Madrid’s most beautiful sites.
6. Masters of Classical Music
The 19th century was also the era in which the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was formed, performing its first concert in 1842. Nowadays, the Vienna Philharmonic is the most lauded classical orchestra in the world.
Every year in May, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra invites the world to a massive outdoor concert in front of the Schonbrunn Palace. This “Summer Night Concert” attracts at least 100,000 spectators per year, making it one of Europe’s most popular classical music events.
7. Masters of Fashion
Parisian fashion blossomed in the 19th century thanks in large part to the Englishman Charles Frederick Worth who, while working in Paris, invented haute couture. In the 20th century, Coco Chanel opened her famous studio and forever changed female fashion industry, particularly by abandoning the fashion for corsets.
After World War II, Christian Dior further invigorated the Parisian fashion scene with his “new look.” Yves Saint Laurent again revolutionized global fashion in the 1960s with his ready-to-wear lines.
Although cities like Milan and New York have emerged as significant rivals, high fashion has become an indelible part of French identity. Ever since it began in 1976, Paris Fashion Week remains one of the most popular fashion shows in the industry.
8. Masters of Filmmaking
Before 1886, what we now know as Hollywood was little more than an agricultural community. After real estate investor H. J. Whitley visited this area, however, he immediately purchased the land and began transforming it into America’s movie capital.
Although the natural scenery was a major draw for young filmmakers, one of the more interesting reasons Hollywood attracted so much talent had to do with Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931). While he was alive, Edison held numerous patents for filmmaking equipment. This made it nearly impossible to create movies on the East Coast without getting Edison’s approval. Filmmakers who wanted freedom of expression decided to flee to California mainly because the cross-continental time lag disrupted Edison’s monopoly.