Add these 2020 must-see cultural happenings to your diary


There’s nothing quite like building a weekend break around a fabulous exhibition—these cultural highlights are the perfect excuse to pack your carry-on and make a trip of it.

Sonia Petroff loved to travel, and as the daughter of a diplomat, her interest in exploring and living in new places never waned. As well as smaller trips, she spent extended periods in Paris, Argentina, Sicily, Switzerland and Romania. It was her curiosity and habit of always being in the right place at the right time, that made her stories so rich!

Naturally, her interests extended to culture and the arts, which she adored—she always saw a visit to a gallery as a chance for finding inspiration for new jewellery designs, and she could appreciate the people-watching opportunities and glamorous atmosphere of a film festival. She was also a voracious lover of reading and learning—particularly fascinated by the history of her native home, Bulgaria, which changed so much after she left—and of course, she liked to bring home eclectic little trinkets from every trip.

That sense of curiosity remains with us today, and so with the new year upon us, we’re taking a look at some of the best exhibitions, festivals and markets taking place across Europe throughout 2020. The promise of a trip organised around one of these highlights makes us want to pack our bags (and our jewellery cases) and jump right in.

Ben Willikens: Spaces of Modernity at Museum Kampa, Prague, Czech Republic, until 2 Sept 2020

The uncannily realistic large-scale works made by German painter Ben Willikens are on display until early Autumn, creating the perfect excuse for a late-summer trip to Prague. These works, like so much of Willikens’ oeuvre, portray architectural spaces like living rooms or office buildings that look and feel deeply familiar, even on first view.

Steve McQueen at Tate Modern, London, 13 Feb-11 May 2020

The first major UK exhibition of the works of artist, director and photographer Steve McQueen makes this Tate Modern show a must-see. The London Underground has already been populated with teasers of one of his latest works set to feature; an ambitious and super heartwarming series of portraits of schoolchildren from every school in the city, plastered up on the walls.

70th Berlin International Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, 20 Feb-1 Mar 2020

Whether it’s in Venice, London or Berlin, there’s nothing quite like the renewed vibrancy of a city when the red carpets are rolled out for the visiting actors, directors and film lovers come to feast on new cinema. The Berlin International Film Festival is the most publicly accessible in Europe, making it an exciting knees up for cinephiles for all walks of life.

Cindy Sherman at Fondation Vuitton, Paris, France, 1 Apr-24 Aug 2020

The shape-shifting American photographer is the focus of a new exhibition at the impressive Fondation Vuitton gallery in Paris. Known for her cinematic fascination with costume, it’s sure to offer audiences plenty of fascinating insight into how even small sartorial adjustments can transform a whole look.

35th International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Fashion Accessories, Hyères, France, 23-27 Apr 2020

With well-dressed crowds from the fashion and art scenes gathering en masse, Hyères Festival is surely one of the best European festivals for people-watching. It’s always a stylish affair—unsurprising, given its location in a picturesque hillside Provençal town overlooking the sea. Make a weekend trip of it, and be sure to pack swimwear, espadrilles and statement earrings to pair with artfully faded vintage denim.

La Braderie de Lille, Lille, France, 5-6 Sept 2020

This huge annual flea market is famous among vintage lovers and magpie-eyed braderie-trawlers, and is a yearly highlight for those wishing to return home with anything from a vintage bureau to a fabulously unique lamp or some sun-bleached French denim. Sprawling across the northern city of Lille, it’s full of antiques sellers ready to barter over some of the year’s best finds. Sharpen your elbows and enjoy the haggle!

Wares at the annual La Braderie de Lille

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain, from 25 Sept 2020

One of the greatest artists working today, British painter and writer Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s intimate figurative works are such a treat to witness up close. This exhibition, also showing at Tate Modern, London this year, is held at the dramatic Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, making it hard to resist a weekend to the Basque capital.

Aliza Nisenbaum at Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK, from 27 Nov 2020

Informed by the Mexican mural movement, artist Aliza Nisenbaum’s paintings depict real communities, so that peering at her works feels a bit like sitting on public transport and taking in the faces of those around you. A new commission, on display at Tate Liverpool, UK depicts local residents with great intimacy. Take a trip, indulge in Liverpool’s lively food scene and take the iconic boat trip along the River Mersey.

Aliza Nisenbaum, London Underground Brixton Station and Victoria Line Staff 2018-19 Courtesy the artist and Art on the Underground, London; Mary Mary, Glasgow; Anton Kern Gallery, New York © Aliza Nisenbaum

Night Fever: Designing Club Culture at V&A Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, from 31 Oct 2020

Looking at the history of the nightclub from the 1960s to today, this exhibition takes a peek into nighttime hedonism via fashion, club design, vintage posters and music. For anyone who adores soaking up the glamour of old photographs of Studio 54, this show will delight, and remind you of the enduring sartorial power of statement earrings or a 70s oversized belt under the sparkling light of a revolving disco ball.

Bill Bernstein, dance floor at Xenon, New York, 1979. Credit Text © Bill Bernstein David Hill Gallery, London

£$