Art Deco Europe: Exploring the Architectural Gems of Kaunas, Lisbon, and Amsterdam
Experience the vibrant exuberance of Art Deco, a testament to the early 20th-century fascination with technology and progress. Embodied by straight lines and bold shapes, this iconic architectural style has left its indelible mark across 10 captivating cities in Europe. Step into a world where artistic expression meets modernity, and discover the captivating allure of these urban landscapes that perfectly showcase the spirit of Art Deco.
Art Deco emerged in France during the First World War and became synonymous with the vibrant era of jazz, iconic personalities like Josephine Baker, glamorous cocktail parties, sleek convertibles, and the advent of talking pictures. In contrast to the curvaceous and nature-inspired Art Nouveau movement, Art Deco embraced symmetry, layering, pyramid shapes, stepped forms, and zigzag lines. Its significance was further recognised and celebrated at the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925.
While European cities couldn’t compete with the towering steel-framed skyscrapers of the United States, they developed their own distinctive streamlined architectural style. These buildings featured art-deco geometry infused with national motifs, resulting in exotic facades that exuded a sense of sophistication and modernity. Drawing inspiration from cubism, futurism, and the widespread fascination with ancient Egyptian art following the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, Art Deco brought a dynamic and colourful aesthetic to urban landscapes. It embodied the spirit of the times, blending technological advancements with artistic expression.
Discover the hidden gem of Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas, where Art Deco architecture thrives in unexpected splendour. Once the country’s capital, Kaunas experienced a period of rapid urban growth in the 1920s and 30s, giving rise to a unique blend of Art Deco infused with traditional Baltic folk elements. Prepare to be captivated by the city’s architectural landscape, where simplified yet characteristic versions of the style can be found at every turn.
The Christ’s Resurrection Basilica stands as a striking testament to Kaunas’s Art Deco legacy. Originally built between 1932 and 1940, this grand church had a tumultuous history, serving as a storehouse during the Nazi occupation and later as a factory under Stalin’s rule. Finally consecrated in 2004, it now proudly showcases Art Deco design elements, resembling a magnificent skyscraper that soars toward the heavens.
As you explore the city, be sure to visit the central post office, a prime example of solid Art Deco architecture. Immerse yourself in the city’s history at the Great War Museum, housed in a magnificent Art Deco building dating back to 1936. These architectural wonders reflect Kaunas’s rich heritage and its pivotal role in the inter-war period.
Kaunas’s exceptional architectural landscape has garnered international recognition, making it the first city in Central and Eastern Europe to be designated as a UNESCO Design City. This prestigious accolade celebrates the city’s commitment to preserving and showcasing its remarkable inter-war architecture, including its awe-inspiring Art Deco structures.
During your stay, indulge in the charm of Hotel Metropolis, a stunning accommodation exemplifying the early 20th-century “Lithuanian baroque” style. Immerse yourself in the ambiance of a bygone era while enjoying comfortable and affordable doubles starting from just €36 per night. For a culinary experience that perfectly complements the Art Deco surroundings, treat yourself to a memorable dinner at Movido restaurant. Nestled within a beautifully restored 1930s cinema, the Romuva, this dining venue offers a seamless fusion of delectable cuisine and captivating Art Deco ambiance.
As you wander through the streets of Kaunas, let the city’s Art Deco treasures transport you to a bygone era of elegance and artistic flair. From architectural marvels to culinary delights, Kaunas offers a truly enchanting experience for art and design enthusiasts alike. Prepare to be enthralled by this captivating destination where Art Deco reigns supreme.
Embark on a journey through Lisbon’s rich architectural tapestry, where Art Deco flourishes amidst the city’s charming streets. While some of these architectural gems have suffered neglect over the years, they still retain an undeniable allure. Lisbon unveils a delightful blend of stunning Art Deco designs and forgotten structures, providing a fascinating contrast for architecture enthusiasts.
One of the most remarkable Art Deco treasures in Lisbon is the Teatro Eden, masterfully designed by Carlos Florêncio Dias and Cassiano Branco. Located on the vibrant Praça dos Restauradores, this iconic theatre now serves as the elegant Orion Eden hotel. Step inside and immerse yourself in the opulent ambiance that showcases the architectural splendour of its time.
A visit to the Cais do Sodré station is a must for any Art Deco aficionado. Dating back to 1928, this station stands as a true landmark of the era. Its distinctive geometric layering, intricate checkered stained glass windows, and a mesmerising piano keyboard marble floor transport visitors to a bygone era of glamour and sophistication.
Venture into the Parque Mayer, an area awaiting redevelopment but steeped in history. This vibrant space opened its doors in 1922, welcoming visitors with carousels, a lively fairground, a bustling boxing ring, and two prominent Art Deco cinemas: Variedades and Capitólio. While awaiting its transformation, the Parque Mayer retains an air of nostalgia and intrigue, inviting you to imagine the vibrant scenes that once unfolded within its walls.
Lisbon boasts several other notable Art Deco landmarks worth exploring. The National Statistics Institute stands as a testament to the architectural ingenuity of the time, while the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima offers a serene sanctuary adorned with Art Deco elements.
For a truly immersive experience, indulge in a stay at the luxurious Hotel Britania, exquisitely designed by Cassiano Branco. Immerse yourself in the captivating ambiance of its fabulously opulent lacquered cabinets, elegant white marble floors, and stylish striped furniture. Offering rooms starting from €159 per night, this remarkable hotel provides a haven of comfort and sophistication, capturing the essence of Art Deco allure.
In Lisbon, the intertwining threads of past and present weave a captivating tapestry of architectural wonders. Uncover the city’s stunning Art Deco legacy while immersing yourself in the charm and allure of its neglected yet captivating buildings. Lisbon’s art-deco treasures await your exploration, promising an unforgettable journey through time and architectural splendour.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
European art deco may not have reached the flamboyance of its American counterpart, but Amsterdam offers a glimpse into the enchanting world of this architectural style. One of the city’s standout gems is the Tuschinski cinema, a marvel that comes close to matching the grandeur of its American counterparts. Step into its opulent foyer adorned in rich autumnal shades, where every detail, from the matching carpets to the mesmerising special lighting effects, exudes elegance and sophistication.
Amsterdam proudly boasts other art-deco cinemas that are equally captivating. The Rialto, The Movies, and the former Ceintuur, which now houses the trendy CT Coffee and Coconuts, showcase the distinctive aesthetics of the era. Immerse yourself in the glitz and glamour of these cinematic experiences, transported back in time to an era of glamour and silver-screen magic.
Venturing into the southern De Pijp district reveals a treasure trove of art deco and expressionist-inspired brick architecture, influenced by the renowned Amsterdam School. During the 1920s, the Amsterdam School was a radical design centre, pushing the boundaries of architectural innovation. Marvel at the intricate details and unique blend of styles as you wander through this vibrant neighbourhood. Among the notable structures, the De Bazel, constructed in 1926 for the Dutch Trading Company, stands as a testament to the era’s visionary design. Additionally, the stadium built for the 1928 summer Olympics showcases the city’s commitment to creating stunning venues that combine functionality with artistic flair.
For a truly immersive experience, retreat to the enchanting Banks Mansion hotel. Indulge in the comfort of your room, adorned with stained glass windows, geometric fabrics, and elegant wooden furniture. Each element is carefully curated to transport you back to the golden age of art deco. And if you’re looking for a touch of relaxation, take a leisurely 20-minute stroll along the picturesque Herengracht to Sauna Deco. Here, the original art-deco stairs and gilded decorations from Paris’s iconic Le Bon Marché department store create a luxurious oasis where you can unwind and rejuvenate.
Amsterdam’s art deco wonders offer a captivating glimpse into a bygone era. From the mesmerising cinemas to the architectural marvels, the city’s rich heritage will leave you awe-inspired. Immerse yourself in the beauty and sophistication of art deco, and let Amsterdam’s charm transport you to a time of glamour and artistic expression.
Stay: Banks Mansion Hotel (doubles from €209, room only) or the NH Flower Market
Experience: Sauna Deco, a haven of art deco elegance