One of Louise Bourgeois's Maman Sculptures of a giant spider outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada

Public Art found on our travels – Part 1

In Life, Our Journeys by JanisLeave a Comment

Novelists, ladies and spiders

We wrote a post a short while ago on Street Art we’d found on our travels. This then led to a bit of a discussion then a debate then an argument, on what you’d say was street art, public art or statues.

A view from The Leas to the pebble beach below where 6 large red poppies are marked on with painted stones to remember the departure point of soldiers during world war one.

Poppies from the clifftop, Folkestone, Places to visit in Kent, Visit England

Needless to say, it is still up for contention, and who is really to say which is right and which is wrong. 

Surely as the old adage goes ‘you like, what you like’ and does it need to be pigeon-holed anyway. Personally, I love art in any form.

So, boxing gloves aside I’ve chosen some of our favourite pieces we’ve seen on our travels.

Quick Links

Though, lo and behold, I had quite a few to choose from, as I’m always asking Gary to take more photos. Therefore, this ‘Public Art’ post is going to be a two-parter.

Authors, Poets and Artists

James Joyce

While visiting the historic Roman city of Pula, on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, I didn’t expect to see James Joyce sitting outside a café.

During the Irish novelist time in Pula he taught English at a nearby school. His scholars were Austro-Hungarian naval officers, at a time when Croatia was part of the empire.

A black and white shot of a seated statue to the Irish novelist James Joyce outside a cafe in Pula, Croatia

The statue to James Joyce, Pula, Croatia

Geoffrey Chaucer

While strolling through Canterbury High Street in the southeast of England, we came across a sculpture to the English author Mr Geoffrey Chaucer. Not that this was a complete surprise as he is famed for ‘The Canterbury Tales’.

This is a collection of 24 tales around individual pilgrims’ journey’s, to Thomas Becket memorial in Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer was the first writer to be buried in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.

A statue to Geoffrey Chaucer, dressed as a pilgrim, sharing his Canterbury Tales, in the High Street of Canterbury, Kent.

The Canterbury Tales monument, Canterbury

Fernando Pessoa

Strolling past Lisbon’s beautiful ‘Brasileira’ the Art Nouveau coffeehouse. You’ll do a double-take when you see the bronze figure of the poet, Fernando Pessoa sitting amongst the clientele.

The local Portuguese poet used to frequent Brasileira regularly along with other writers.

A brass statue to the seated Portuguese poet, outside A Brasileira cafe/bar in Lisbon, Portugal

The statue of Fernando Pessoa outside A Brasileira, Lisbon, Portugal

Antoni Gaudí

Amazingly this lovely piece of public art of Antoni Gaudí was not in Barcelona. It was sitting outside Casa de Los Botines in León, northern Spain. One of the few buildings designed by Gaudí outside of Catalonia.
You can share a seat with Gaudí himself and sit and watch the world go by. People also liked to leave flowers on his bronze sculpture.

A bronze statue of Antonio Gaudi, seated on a bench, in front of a building he designed, in Leon, Spain.

A monument to Antoni Gaudi on a bench, León, Spain

Amy Winehouse

A young lady that left us far too soon at the age of 27 was the incredible singer Amy Winehouse. This beautiful piece of art can be touched and admired by all.
Created by Scott Eaton, this bronze statue was unveiled in 2014 and is located in Camden Market in north London.

A statue to the late music artist Amy Winehouse, complete with beehive hairstyle, in Camden Market.

Amy Winehouse statue in Camden Market

Characters from novels

There are no prizes for guessing whose characters were dotted around the lovely town of Stratford-upon-Avon, yes, William Shakespeare’s.
There are some wonderful bronzes in the parks and gardens; however, the ones I really liked was the ‘Jolly Jester’ from Shakespeare’s play “As you like it”. Also, the little sculptures perched on top of a lamppost, “Bottom” the Ass from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Topol” from “Fiddler on the Roof”.

A statue to Jester Touchstone from Shakespeare’s play ‘As you like it'

The Jester, Stratford-upon-Avon

Three figures decorating a lampost in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Bottom from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer night's Dream', Topol from Fiddler on the roof and the owl from 'The owl and the pussycat'

Bottom & the Fiddler, Stratford-upon-Avon

When we visited the windmills of Campo de Criptana across the wide-open Spanish plains in La Mancha, we saw a statue of Don Quixote.

This energetic character is brought to life by the author Miguel de Cervantes. You can just imagine him ready to fight off the stretched-out arms of the windmills, with his side-kick Sancho Panza.

A rusty iron statue to Cervantes hero, Don Quixote, preparing to take on the giants(windmills!) of Campo de Criptana, on the plains of La Mancha, Spain

Don Quixote, Campo de Criptana, Spain

A helpful guide

There are so many incredible places to discover in Spain and I love planning road trips. I often use the DK Eyewitness books, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Spanish road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.

Town signs

Now, would you say that a town or city signs are public art? Well, I think I do, as I feel that if it is something that you or I could touch or interact with, then it’s a winner.

The waist-high town sign for Évora, with each letter depicting a facet of life in this hidden Portuguese gem.

Évora, Portugal

In the historic UNESCO city of Évora in Portugal, we came across their city sign, and it depicted all the elements that make Évora so unique. The arches of the aqueduct, the regional cork trees and the pillars of the ancient Roman Temple.
Janis seated on a giant hashtag I Love Nice sign overlooking the blue water of the Cote d'Azur in the south of France


And who doesn’t love having their photo taken next to the “I Love Nice” sign, certainly not me? In the sun-kissed city of Nice in the South of France, there is no escaping its popularity. Especially when it has the spectacular view of the Côte d'Azur beyond.
An elderly gentleman is standing next to the waist-high bronze town sign for León in Northern Spain.

You're in León, Spain

Last but by no means least is León, the picturesque city in northern Spain. León is a fantastic city to visit as the tapas is incredible, and so are the prices. You also feel like it hasn’t entirely made it onto the tourist must-see list yet.

A reference guide

Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.

It's all about the Ladies

When we headed to the Champagne region of France for a road trip, we chose to base ourselves for a couple of nights in the charming town of Troyes.
Troyes is full of half-timbered houses and some eye-catching public art too. This elegant lady was just crying out for some company.

A brass statue of a lady seated on a stone bench with a broad-rimmed hat known as La Dame au Chapeau in Troyes, France

La dame au chapeau –  on the bench in Troyes

A brass statue of a young Dutch girl in traditional dress with her eye closed, lips puckered ready for a kiss in the centre of Alkmaar in the Netherlands

The kissing girl, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

In Alkmaar in the Netherlands, it wasn’t all about cheese here, this cheeky little Dutch girl was teasing passers-by for a kiss on the cheek.
A piece of public art a little closer to home in the Kent seaside town of Margate is a shell lady. Margate is synonymous with Chas and Dave, and also JMW Turner. This lovely lady is Mrs Booth, the English artist’s landlady while he stayed in Margate.

A bronze statue of a woman made of shells, known as 'The Shell Lady of Margate' by Ann Carrington at the end of the Harbour Arm in Margate's Old Town.

Mrs Booth in shells, Margate, Kent

I couldn’t leave out the beautiful ladies at Ronda in Andalusia, Spain the ‘Dames Goyesca of Ronda’. Every year since 1954, Ronda holds an annual fair in September and several ladies from Ronda are chosen to be Dames Goyescas.
These women represent the ladies seen in Francisco de Goya’s paintings and is regarded as a great honour in the town to be chosen.

A statue to the Dames Goyesca, in traditional dress outside the bullring in  Ronda, Spain.  The ladies of Ronda have been the official representatives of the city since the 1950s

A statue to the Dames Goyesca, Ronda, Spain

Tempted to?

Discover search out those unique pieces of public art for yourselves? You can do it all on a road trip, Rental Cars cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Town maps

I love these town maps they are so touchy-feely and are great for children to interact with. We’ve seen quite a few of these bronze maps on our travels, and we particularly noticed quite a few in Germany.

The one in the Bavarian city of Regensburg can be found nearby the Historische Wurstküche (Sausage Kitchen) next to the river.

Looking down on a brass 3D map of the Old Town of Regensburg with the River Danube dominating the layout.

Regensburg town map

One can also be found in Heppenheim, in the wine-growing Hesse region of Germany. A stroll up through the old town is a must here, as when you reach the historical square, you’ll be astounded how stunning it is.
A tactile brass 3D map of the Old Town of Heppenheim with the cathedral dominating the town

Heppenheim town map

Let us know!

Have you discovered a town that embraces public art, drop us a comment below as we’d love to take a look?

Public Art, part of everyday life

We’ve found a few towns and cities that have truly embraced public art, and the ones we selected are Folkestone (England), Oviedo (Spain) and Rotterdam (Netherlands).


Considering Folkestone is more or less on my doorstep in the southeast of England, I’m surprised I hadn’t returned sooner.
Folkestone on the Kent coastline is home to the UK’s largest urban contemporary art exhibition. It is accessible 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.

The art installation Rug People – by Paloma Varga Weisz in the old Harbour Railway Station.  The five heads represent the different emotions of people using the station.  Some departing for war, others in luxury on the Orient Express and some arriving in the country for the first time.

Rug People – by Paloma Varga Weisz

Looking from behind the Antony Gormley installation "Another Time XVIII” in the harbour arm onto the water and the white cliffs.

Another Time XVIII” by Antony Gormley

The urban art exhibition is on display through the whole town and currently, there are 74 artworks to be found, by 46 artists.


The amount of public art that is on display in Oviedo is unbelievable. Honestly, you’ll be tripping over it, with the incredible number of pieces here. So much so I wrote a post just on Oviedo’s sculptures and statues.
A brass statue of a milkmaid, along with her donkey, on the way to market in a square in Oviedo, Spain

La Lechera, Oviedo, Spain

What I loved was that it is so accessible to everyone, you could have a seat next to them, give them a hug, have a selfie or just sit and admire them from a distance.
While you’re in Oviedo be sure to look out for the Sidrerias and the unique way that a glass of cider is poured out.


Rotterdam is another city that has truly taken public art to its heart. Once again dotted here and there through the town are some fantastic pieces. Some a little more obscure than others, take this Santa for example, is he really holding what I think he is?
A larger than life brass Santa statue in Rotterdam holding an object that could represent a Christmas tree, but in reality, it's a sex toy.

Santa with a suprise, Rotterdam, Netherlands

An eight-metre tall sculpture named 'Cascade', of eighteen stacked oil drums, which appear to descend from the sky like a waterfall.  From the life-size drums drips a syrupy mass in which one can make out the shapes of a score of human figures.

Cascade - Public Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands

A helpful guide

If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

Something a little different

It’s wonderful when you witness those pieces of art or a pictorial display that you have discovered either unintentionally or intentionally, that truly stay with you.
It could be slightly debatable whether these are public art; however, it is undoubtedly a public display for all to enjoy free of charge.

The entrance to Reims Cathedral at night, with a projected art installation depicting the history of this French City

The story of the Cathedral in lights, Reims

Another scene projected onto Reims Cathedral at night.

Different phases of the story of Reims

When we visited Rouen and Reims in France, each evening during the summer months, you would be in for a treat.

The cities would project a story of their ancient history across the towers and façade of their magnificent cathedrals.
It was amazing, and they would last around 30 minutes each.

The Maman bronze spiders that are located at various cities around the world are incredible sculptures. We visited the Maman outside the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
One of Louise Bourgeois's Maman Sculptures of a giant spider outside the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain

Maman outside the Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

However, we’ve also been lucky enough to see one of the other permanent pieces, and that was in Ottawa, Canada in 2010.

One of Louise Bourgeois's Maman Sculptures of a giant spider outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada

Maman outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada

Ahh, last but by no means least one of my favourite pieces.

I loved this beating heart at the historic town of Troyes in France.

During the day it glistened by the fountains in the sunshine, and by night Le Coeur de Troyes came alive and pulsated into the evening.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Share this post

Inspired by public art?

Pack your bags and start on a road to discovery?

Search for your flights in one easy place with and open up a world of options. Over 400 airlines are scanned for your favoured routes and chosen dates.
Have a peek at the latest offers from, our preferred hotel booking website.
The Pin image for our post - 'Public Art found on our travels - Part 1'

(Why not Pin It for Later?)

If you enjoy what you see, and you’d like regular updates then join us for a monthly newsletter.

Our big monthly newsletter
Weekly round-up
Each new post - on the day it's posted
Unable to locate Global Block : 59232
Unable to locate Global Block : 59232

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.