The modern culture junkie’s travel guide

Posted Date: 26 May 2016
Modern culture sights

If you’re a modern culture junkie, you’ll probably agree that there’s more to popular culture today than art galleries and Disneyland. Of course, these places are great fun too, but have you ever thought about turning your art gallery experience on its head with a quirky tour voiced by children?

You could consider a Game of Thrones tour in Northern Ireland, or lose yourself in the Venice Film Festival, before exploring the city itself. We’ve gathered a few suggestions for modern culture experiences that could turn your next trip into an adventure!

1. Game of Thrones, Ireland

Why not pay a visit to the rugged north from Game of Thrones? Northern Ireland’s wild and occasionally hostile landscape is the perfect setting for the likes of Winterfell and the Iron Islands. The show is filmed in remote locations around Ireland and you can visit some of the most memorable settings by bus and on foot.

Cruise along scenic country roads, before stepping out to access hidden areas where you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a scene from the show. Don your cloaks and use shields for protection, as you venture into landscapes famous for hosting Stark armies and birthing shadow-children.

Stop at some breathtaking landmarks along the way, including the ancient Giant’s Causeway. Explore a true wonder of the real world, walk among the incredible naturally formed rocks and hear stories of Finn MacCuhal; the giant who, in Irish myth, built the causeway.

Visit the haunting Dunluce Castle – an ancient ruin that was once a proud stronghold. It’s perched on a sheer cliff face and can only be reached by a swing bridge from the mainland. Not only was it the foundation for the Greyjoy castle on the Iron Islands, it was also the inspiration for Cair Paravel, the fictional castle from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Learn about the real history of this castle and decide for yourself if it measures up to the stories from Game of Thrones. Just make sure you don’t miss the bus back home, because ‘winter is coming…’!

2. Museum Hack, USA

If you’re visiting New York, Washington DC or San Francisco, you simply have to book a tour with Museum Hack. Described as ‘not your grandma’s tour,’ the non-traditional guided tours combine interactive team activities with intriguing facts about exhibits in the museum.

These are museum tours with a difference; your guide is fun, energetic and engaging, and they know how to mix history with hilarity. If you find museums to be overwhelming and occasionally hard to navigate, these tours will appeal to you.

Think of it as a whirlwind 2-hour journey of offbeat insights and hidden facts about some of the world’s most famous and not so famous displays. Even true art buffs will learn a thing or two on these tours, which focus on the unusual.

In New York, you can grab a tour of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History, in Washington DC the National Gallery of Art, and in San Francisco the De Young Museum of Fine Art. With edgy tour names such as “Big Gay Met” and “Badass B*tches of the Met,” it’s clear these tours are for adult culture junkies who aren’t easily offended!

3. Welcome to the world of Harry Potter, England

You don't have to be a huge Harry Potter enthusiast to enjoy this experience. Even the most die-hard fans won’t be disappointed by the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour! A guide will take you around Leavesden Studios, where all eight films have been made. Step inside some of the movie’s most memorable sets, which have such incredible attention to detail, they will leave you enchanted for hours!

The first studio tour takes you into the Great Hall, the potions classroom and Dumbledore’s Office. You can even ride a broomstick and take a drive in the magic flying car – remember to bring your camera, you’ll want to take plenty of photos!

After all that excitement, grab a pint of Butterbeer in the courtyard before climbing aboard the triple decker Knight Bus.

The second studio is home to the creature effects department, displaying some of the 200 mythical creatures created over the past 10 years, including everyone’s favourite elf, Dobby.

Don’t leave without making a stop in Diagon Alley, where you can walk in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione by taking a stroll along the cobbled streets, lined with magical wizard shops - including Ollivanders where Harry chose his very first wand! The grand finale is the amazingly detailed 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle, which was used for exterior shots during filming and will leave you absolutely mesmerized.

Make sure you book in advance, especially during school holidays. There are allotted time slots for the tours and the best bet is to choose an earlier tour so you can beat the crowds.


4. Stargazing Hollywood-style, USA

There are so many Hollywood tours out there, from bus rides to see stars’ homes, to strolling along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But if you want one that is current, full of gossip and takes you to places where celebrities actually hang out, then the TMZ Celebrity Tour is the one for you.

This bus ride fills you in on all the recent star trivia and gossip, just like the online show that’s made TMZ famous. See the side of Hollywood only shown in tabloids, with hilarious guides straight from the show who will entertain and inform you. Visit all the celebrity hot spots, see where famous and infamous celebrity incidents have happened, learn some history about the area and have a lot of laughs.

You may even be lucky enough to spot a star in the flesh! There have been sightings of many celebrities on this tour, including Kourtney Kardashian, Gary Oldman and even Justin Bieber skateboarding next to the bus.

Most importantly, prizes are given out for spotting stars and if you do, your host will engage them and even try to get them on board for a chat!

It’s not just a tour - it’s a 2-hour show on wheels, with songs, games, videos and prizes, and an insight into Hollywood that you can’t get elsewhere.

5. National Museum of Cinema, Italy

Torino is the film capital of Italy. It’s where the movie The Italian Job (the original) was filmed and throughout the streets you will recognise many scenes where the minis drove through at high speeds.

The National Museum of Cinema (Museo Nazionale del Cinema) is a fabulous museum dedicated to cinema throughout the ages, set inside the stunning tower of the Mole Antonelliana building. Catch the elevator to the top and work your way through the beginnings of early cinema and the evolution of film.

Wind your way down the through the exhibition where each level has a different theme, along with interactive displays where you can be the star of the show, the producer and the audience.

Once you’ve reached the bottom you will experience what they regard as the future of cinema and how it may be viewed. Here they have an open theatre with two screens. Lie back on the lounge chairs where you can relax with surround sound speakers built into the chairs and watch one of the movies.

The museum is located in a picturesque building with a viewing platform at the top, offering views over the whole city. Pay the extra to go up there and take in the beautiful scene. When you’re done, why not hire a mini yourself and explore the beautiful streets of Turin?

6. Titanic exhibition, Ireland

The RMS Titanic is one ship that has captured the imagination of many due to countless books and films on that fateful sinking on April 15th 1912. The Titanic was the most luxurious ship of its time and conjured up images of grandeur, wealth, new beginnings and the pride of a booming economy. 

The exhibition and building in Belfast’s Titanic quarter capture that majesty and attention to detail.

The building’s exterior represents the Titanic’s bow and is built at the same height as the ship to give you a scale of how big it was. The exhibition has multimedia experiences to create a feeling of being there in real-time, introducing you to the buzz and excitement of building the largest ocean liner of its time.

Immerse yourself in virtual tours of the decks and the grand staircase. You can also ‘meet’ the designers and builders of the ship and see an underwater view of the remains of the Titanic - now lying at a depth of about 12,500 feet in the Atlantic Ocean.

Rooms have been recreated, along with lifeboats and the different classes of cabins - you can almost imagine Jack and Rose running through the hallways. Along with the sense of pride and celebration with building the Titanic, there is also great respect for the hundreds who lost their lives on this tragic maiden voyage, along with stories from the survivors.

7. MoMA Unadulterated, USA

Here is an audio tour with a difference! MoMA Unadulterated is an unofficial audio tour of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, created by kids! These ‘experts’ are between the ages of 3 and 10, and they share their unique and honest perspective on modern art.

You will be treated to pieces by the finest modern artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Pollock and Johns - only to hear what kids really think of these masters of the 20th Century. These are some of the most unpretentious views on art you will ever hear and they will leave you in stitches.

Change your perceptions and open your mind, as you see modern art through the eyes of a child. Be prepared for strangers staring at you because you’re laughing so much. You won’t pick up this audio tour at the entrance of MoMA - you will need to download the tour from this website or get the app from the same site.

8. Venice Film Festival, Italy

While there are film festivals around the globe, only in Venice can you get the fairy tale experience, with endless canals, gondolas and painted masks.

Tickets only go on sale to the public a week prior to screenings, so be prepared to be flexible. The films are screened on the Lido, which is a famous film venue that can be reached by vaporetto, or water taxi, from Venice.

While you’re there, make sure you check out famous spots in the city itself. From Casino Royale and Moonraker, to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the Italian Job; there are plenty of spots you’ll recognise straight from the silver screen.

Click here for a full listing of all movies set in Venice and other major cities around the world.

If you’ve had your fair share of film and celebrity spotting, you can also head to the Peggy Guggenheim Art Museum where you can see the works of Duchamp, Miro, Picasso and Pollock. It’s the perfect location right on the banks of the Grande Canal.

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