Classical Music Buzz > Classical music | The Guardian > The sights and sounds of summer

What's your favourite gallery, painting, building or song? Artists, writers and musicians reveal what cultural highlights they associate with the holiday season

• What are your cultural summer highlights? Share your tips by posting a comment

MUSIC

One of the things I missed when I was living in Portland, Oregon was the art scene in the UK. Martin Creed's just refurbished the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh, using beautiful marble slabs. I though his Mothers sculpture [shown in London this spring] was amazing – a huge neon sign saying Mothers spinning on a pole. My friend asked him what was the inspiration for it, and he just said: "Mothers are scary."

Johnny Marr, musician, on the UK arts scene

THEATRE

The memory of walking through the dark, slightly sinister, narrow streets of the Spanish Quarter in Naples always stays with me. I climbed a hill to a small church in a back street called Pio Monte della Misericordia where there were no guards, no entrance fee and no security. But, on entering, there is a glorious Caravaggio over the altar waiting to be enjoyed in total silence and peace.

Sonia Friedman, West End and Broadway theatre producer

The 798 Art District in Beijing, set in what used to be factories, in the east of the city. It's like arriving in a small town. The buildings vary in scale; spaces like the Tate's Turbine Hall sit next to galleries the size of sheds. I occasionally found myself unsure whether I was looking at an installation or an abandoned bit of machinery. Some of the artwork is perplexing, some of it is really beautiful and quite wild, but what's most exciting about the place is that you get to go really deep into the imaginations of lots of young Chinese artists. I found China hard to get under the surface of but this place was a real eye opener.

Bijan Sheibani, associate director, National Theatre

It's hardly unknown, but the Uffizi in Florence is a treasure: endless corridors filled with beautiful paintings. The light in the city is extraordinary but my tip would be to go towards the end of the day when the crowds have receded and the heat is not so great. The first time I went, just as I emerged into the dusk from seeing Giotto's incredible works, a violinist in the courtyard began playing [Samuel Barber's] Adagio for Strings. It was a breathtaking moment – you could have put it in a play, but no one would believe you.

Michael Attenborough, artistic director, the Almeida theatre

Austria's Felsenreitschule, which is a glorious old writing academy built into a mountainside, is the most amazing place to be during the Salzburg festival. Max Reinhardt resurrected it in the 20s and established it as a place to stage operas. It remains a beautiful space. I directed Romeo and Juliet there last summer and there was a great tradition of going to the Triangel afterwards, which is the restaurant opposite where everyone goes to eat and people-watch.

Bartlett Sher, director, South Pacific, Barbican

My favourite district of Paris is Montmartre and it's there, nestling in front of a beautiful tree-lined square, that you'll find Théâtre de l'Atelier. It's a gorgeous Georgian theatre, wonderfully intimate, and dating back to 1822. It makes me wonder what Bristol Old Vic was like when it was built 50 years earlier. Then, the theatre was an unlicensed playhouse, prevented by law from staging anything so subversive as a play. It was more like a speakeasy or a rave than the kind of bourgeois entertainment we now think of when we say theatre.

Tom Morris, artistic director, Bristol Old Vic

A trip to Harmony Hall, Brown's Mill, on the east coast of Antigua is well off the beaten track but worth the bumpy ride to get there. It was an old sugar plantation and is now an art gallery and restaurant overlooking Nonsuch Bay. It's secluded, the setting is picture-perfect and the food absolutely delicious. You can take a dip before lunch or a boatride across to Green Island nearby. The cocktail bar serves the best rum punch on the island and the art gallery displays the work of the most prestigious local artists so you can pick up a Caribbean print to remind you of the sunshine when you get home.

Nikki Amuka-Bird, actor

BOOKS

Seattle residents check out more books than people in any other US city, so don't miss their matchless new library, opened in 2004. Rem Koolhaas's extraordinarily bold design in glass and steel has surprises all over, from shocking yellow escalators to vertiginous viewpoints. But it's welcoming, efficient and comfortable, has all a library needs, and is appreciated by everyone from the tired, bag-toting homeless to the passionate child reader. Best of all, it's a shining rebuke to anyone who thinks the public library's day is done.

Anne Fine, writer

Thessaloniki is an amazing city, with some great Byzantine treasures. There's a building there called the Rotunda which is an absolute must-see It's a round, beautiful, reddish stone building, built around 300AD by emperor Galerius to be his mausoleum. But when he died, Constantine said it should be a church. In 1590 it became a mosque, then in 1912, when the city became Greek again rather than part of the Ottoman empire, it was reconsecrated as a church. You look at it and think, this tells the history of the city.

Victoria Hislop's new Greek-set novel The Thread is published in October

The Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp has become one of my favourite museums in the world. It's a museum of printing. Christoffel Plantin was a 16th-century printer, and it was his family home as well as his place of business. It's a house from the late middle ages, built round a courtyard, where the family lived and worked for generations. Plantin was interested in philosophy and religion and his house became a centre for humanist thought, discussion and debate. I love the atmosphere of the place. You can sit in the courtyard in the sunshine and let what you've seen sink in. The museum gives a history of printing, but it's very personal because it was Plantin's home.

Val McDermid, writer

The Musée Marmottan is an unbelievable museum which I only really discovered when writing Paris Revealed, looking around for hidden cultural gems. It's on the edge of Paris and features all of the impressionists but especially Monet, including a lot of the paintings he himself had in his home. Even the painting that inspired the name impressionism is here: an impression of a sunrise in the north of France, a wonderful foggy picture of water with what looks like a dab of Marilyn Monroe's lipstick in the middle. All this is just 10 minutes extra on the Metro, and you get to see all these paintings without having to queue at the Musée d'Orsay.

Stephen Clarke is the author of Paris Revealed

Last year I realised a long-held ambition to go to Russia and took a cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow. Passing through lakes, rivers and canals, the trip takes in rural villages, towns and cities ranging from epic grandeur to rustic simplicity. There were many highlights to the trip – the White Lake, Kizhi Island, Red Square, the Tretyakov Gallery – but a genuine stand-out moment was the Peterhof in St Petersburg. Inspired by Versailles, Peter the Great took the best of European and Russian architecture and created a palace of monumental proportions. Be warned, this is not for the faint-hearted: this is the baroque on a jaw-dropping scale.

Erica James's Promises, Promises is published on 18 August

ART

I always go to Venice for the Biennale at the end of August with my family, when it's not so hot. By then we've already heard other people's favourite picks so we know where to head. Then we always go over to the Giudecca, the island opposite, and have a glass of wine. And we always check out the Museo Fortuny – especially the James Turrell room. My daughter, who's about to turn 10, loves it. It's a light installation and it changes all the time, so we like to have a nice quiet moment in the top of the museum watching the lights change. Venice itself is very visual and just a lovely place to be.

Cornelia Parker, artist

The West Kennet long barrow in Wiltshire is a great free attraction – a neolithic burial site, opposite Silbury Hill, clothing optional. It's a great day out for the family, just a half-mile walk to this burial chamber – built in a time before shopping – which you can enter before you walk back. It's not Alton Towers, that's for sure; there's not much to do apart from walk around and get fresh air.

I first went there in my early teens. Silbury Hill is an iron age manmade hill, and the long barrow is almost in its shadow – the whole area is full of these ancient pre-Christian sites. There's a certain mystery to them which I like. Silbury Hill is an amazing structure, the biggest manmade hill in Europe – an engineering feat the equivalent of the Pyramids, but in Wiltshire. It's not clear what the long barrow was used for, and it's that lack of clarity that's interesting and in a way inspiring, because you can make up your own stories.

Jeremy Deller, artist

I love the Greek islands and have done so since the early 80s when I went backpacking. Hydra especially resonated with me – it didn't have cars but donkeys, it had a fantastic club called Disco Heaven, and it was also incredibly beautiful. I went back there several times, and then in 1999 I was invited to exhibit at Hydra Workshops, a gallery owned by the art collector Pauline Karpidas. You might think it an unlikely place to find contemporary art, but Hydra has a long history of artistic patronage. Leonard Cohen lived there and it's where he met Marianne, who inspired the song So Long Marianne – I saw her on the island in 1999. The painter Brice Marden has a house there and now the art collector Dakis Joannou has opened a branch of his private museum the Deste foundation on the island. I can't think of any other small island boasting that much contemporary culture.

Gillian Wearing, artist

I fly to Madrid as often as possible and stay within shouting distance of the Prado. I go every day and look at the same paintings until I have them secure in memory. After my last trip I can conjure Goya's paint choices and techniques for royal clothing, numberless scabrous defeated demons, El Greco's favourite flesh colours, and Velásquez's reworked horse legs. I walk the Prado for hours so I'm marginally fitter and blissful by the time I leave.
Jenny Holzer, artist

I'm not keen on holidays; I find tourism sad. Visiting places that have become a fake version of what they really were, seeing how small and standardised the world is becoming since tourism became the main industry. It's a trancelike state. Tourists want their home comforts, en suite, burger and chips . . . There's no real adventure in it. Of course there are many interesting things to see in the world, but wandering around gawping and taking snaps is not my idea of really being somewhere. I travel a fair bit, for work, and that's preferable. A real engagement – with real people – that's about something.

Sarah Lucas, artist

CLASSICAL, WORLD AND JAZZ

2011 is the bicentenary of Franz Liszt, the great composer and pianist and perhaps the biggest pop star of the 19th century. Now that I have a chance to take a break from playing and recording his music, I will be spending my summer reading about him. Alan Walker's monumental three-part biography is a reference I return to again and again. Apart from the meticulous research, I love how he includes so many interesting stories and writes with such great enthusiasm. I am also looking forward to dipping into Oliver Hilmes's new German biography, with the help of my German dictionary. Subtitled Biographie eines Superstars, I am hoping for lots of colourful anecdotes.

Lang Lang, pianist

The main thing I've been listening to lately is the wonderful English singer and pianist Liane Carroll and her new album Up and Down. There's so much life and love and happiness that goes into her music, which I believe is fundamental, to what we do as jazz musicians. There's so many different moods in the album, but the emotion she puts into the ballads especially is very naked. There's one particularly beautiful track, Turn Out the Stars, which features the wonderful flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler, who's 82 now. But the whole album is wonderful - full of standards that we know and love, and it's amazing to hear Carroll sing them.

Gwilym Simcock, jazz and classical pianist

Whether I'm stageside or poolside I listen to a lot of Imogen Heap's music. Parachute's album Losing Sleep is a favourite too. The three things I've listened to most this summer are Dario Marianelli's music for 2005's Pride and Prejudice. Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona is my perfect hot summer Latin-lover-esque soundtrack, also genius is the soundtrack from the brilliant film that Zach Braff wrote and directed, Garden State which is my poolside must-listen. There is another film staring Braff, The Last Kiss. The film is OK, but the soundtrack is wonderfully mellow, and perfect for relaxed inspiration.

Danielle di Niese, soprano

I'm not going on holiday this year, but I will hopefully be spending a good deal of time in the back garden by my daughter's paddling pool, probably listening to her making up dirty versions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She is two, so this usually involves either bogeys or her bum. To play through the back door or open window I am still very fond of Paolo Nutini's last album, or if I'm feeling authentic, some good old ska compilations or something in a field recording selection like Southern Journey: "Sheep sheep, dontcha know the road?". As the evening draws in I'll listen to Sam Amidon, or Laura Veirs's first album The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, as I am a sucker for a strange fiddle and a sad old banjo. With gin.

Eliza Carthy, folk musician

TELEVISION

I'm off to Cape Cod to a coastal village of wooden houses and a white wooden church with a spire. There's very little culture that doesn't involve the freeway. But every Wednesday something comes along to perform beneath the spire – I avoid the Scottish pipers, but the pianist who plays Brahms will light my fire. By the end of three weeks, having exhausted the drive-in cinema, we may head for Boston and take in the amazing, eclectic Gardner Museum. But in truth we go for the culture in the dunes, the sea, and the sky. We do it ourselves and paint watercolours.

Jon Snow, Channel 4 News presenter

I went to Madrid for the new year with a friend who new his way around, and he took me to what they call the Golden Triangle: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and La Reina Sofia. You can literally walk to them all in 10 minutes We saw Guernica, which is awesome. It's fascinating because Picasso knew he was making a masterpiece before he even painted it. The Thyssen collection is the biggest personal art collection in history: you have to go back a few times. I found myself in front of a Frank Auerbach, one of the north London set. You have to pay an entrance fee – we don't realise how lucky we are that you can just wander into the Tate for free in this country - but it's worth every euro.

Russell Tovey, actor

Interviews by Kate Abbott, Nosheen Iqbal, Alison Flood, Daniel Martin, Imogen Tilden and Richard Vine

Kate AbbottNosheen IqbalAlison FloodImogen TildenRichard Vine
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