Arts & Culture tours... travelling with an art expert

| February 19, 2015

Do you love art and architecture? Are you curious to discover whether travelling on a specialist tour, complete with an art expert, is really worth it? Today, you can find out.

Rome. Needs credit: Thinkstock/ iStock

The opportunity to explore a subject that's close to your heart is one of the many exciting facets of travel. Art is one that inspires fascination and passion, and one that is naturally aligned with discovering the culture of a destination. If art and architecture are topics that strike a particular chord with you, it is worth bearing in mind that there are special itineraries designed for those keen to delve into these subjects: our Arts & Culture tours.

These specialist itineraries give you the exciting opportunity of travelling to various destinations around the world in the company of an art expert. Today, we speak to Cox & Kings' Nigel Hosking to find out what the advantages of this kind of itinerary and, more specifically, travelling with an expert are.

How do the art tours work?

A leading art expert in their field represents the core of our art tours. Of course, who your expert is depends on where you go and what you want to see. What is consistent throughout these tours, Nigel explains, is their input in the planning stages of the tour, as well as their presence throughout it. So, each expert, will look over the itinerary that our team at Cox & Kings is producing to make suggestions and offer advice. This means that their expertise is woven into the fabric of the trip itself.

The expert will then be present for the duration of each tour. On a week-long itinerary, you can expect to hear two or three formal lectures, in addition to informal talks at key sites and perhaps even during coach journeys.

The key benefits of travelling with an expert


The major benefit of travelling with an expert is, of course, the chance to enrich your holiday experience and artistic discovery with their knowledge. Credentials typically include a lifetime of research into their particular area of expertise or a PhD. "They really are the leaders in their field," Nigel comments.

She also stresses that depth of knowledge is not their only skill: "They also have good experience communicating that knowledge… They've often led a lot of these tours before; they're very experienced in it."

Learn more regardless of your existing knowledge

Another advantage Nigel highlights is that lecturers can enlighten people of any knowledge level, which means that you by no means need to be an expert yourself – or even to possess any prior knowledge about the artworks you will see and the places you will visit – to enjoy these tours.

Equally, if you are very knowledgeable already, perhaps having studied particular artworks, buildings or movements at university, your lecturer will be able to answer more advanced questions you might have – or simply be able to accompany you in a more in-depth discussion of their history and merits.

Formal talks

The formal lectures your expert will give are optional to attend, and offer wonderful insight into the places you will visit and things you will see. These talks usually last approximately 40 minutes and are ideal for finding out all sorts of fascinating facts and anecdotes about the destination and its artwork or architecture.

But don't expect the sharing of expertise to end there. In addition to these formal lectures, your expert will usually provide short talks at many of the spots your visit, and perhaps even enliven your coach journeys with more. These unscheduled yet informative talks are another important and attractive layer in these itineraries.

Informal conversation

Equally exciting, if not more so, is the prospect of informal conversation with the lecturer. As they will accompany you on the full tour and even often eat meals with you, there are plenty of chances to chat to them about your mutual interests. This is a wonderful opportunity for people of all knowledge levels; those new to the particular artistic movement or architectural style being focused on can pose any questions they have about the basics, while those with a more in-depth knowledge can look forward to lively discussions, a fresh perspective on topic they love and a deeper insight.

Excursions and experiences not available to the public

One of the most exciting advantages of a tour like this is the prospect of sights and experiences that are unavailable to the public. These special excursions can involve anything from out-of-hours to behind-the-scenes access – even in some of the world's most prestigious attractions.

For instance, on our Renaissance Rome tour, we have a private out-of-hours trip to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, while in Istanbul, you can enjoy a special visit to the Crimea Memorial Church. "And that's an example where the lecturer has a real input into the itineraries, because that's led by the Reverend William Taylor, who has contacted that church himself," enthuses Nigel.

The unexpected advantages 

The advantages of taking this kind of tour and travelling with art expect go beyond those you might expect – advantages such as gaining insights from extensive expertise.

Meeting like-minded people

When asked whether there are any additional advantages to this kind of travel, Nigel immediately points to the chance to meet like-minded travellers. Indeed, special interest holidays such as this naturally draw together people whose interests are keenly aligned. This shared passion not only makes a good ice breaker, but fuels lively discussions that can widen your knowledge of the subject as well as forging lifelong friendships.

Learn about current life and culture

The majority of Cox & Kings' art tours will not only feature expert areas, but local guides as well. Nigel explains that there will usually either be a local guide in each destination, or a tour manager who travel with the group. Both impart local colour and knowledge that help you learn more about current life and contemporary issues in your chosen destinations.

"It's not just the art and the history – you're actually learning about the country that you're travelling in, and what life is like now," Nigel comments.

Impromptu detours

Another advantage of travelling in this way is all the little unscheduled, unadvertised extras you can enjoy. Both the local guides and lecturers have in-depth knowledge of the destinations you're visiting, and will typically do more than take you to the planned stops.

"Lecturers have a real insight into the destinations they are going to; they have visited many times previously. There are lots of little favourites that they may have, so they may make a little detour down a side road, down an alley, to see a particularly wonderful Renaissance church – it's that kind of thing," explains Nigel, adding that this makes each tour that little bit different.

View all Cox & Kings' Arts & Culture tours.

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