Best travel apps for lovers of art and design

What can art and design-loving travellers looking for cultural highlights do if they want to spend more time actually looking at beautiful things rather than search for them? And, how can they stay ahead of the pack of other travellers who just rocked up on that location and are looking at the same things, too?

The answer is to get an app, of course. But while there are dozens of mobile apps out there for travellers, not all merit space on your phone. Here’s a handful of apps we recommend here at Hotel Indigo – you’ll want to use again and again to plan and tailor your visit to both on- and off-the beaten-path cultural activities in cities around the world.

Prepare your own art trail with ArtRabbit

Like the digital equivalent of that friend who mysteriously manages to turn up to every gallery opening, ArtRabbit(free on iOS and Android) lists exhibitions and art events in some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, (almost all of them Hotel Indigo locations) from which you can easily compile and share your own arty itinerary.

Why the app’s herbivore reference, though? “We wanted to create a platform that allowed users to prepare their own ‘trails’, hopping from one place to the next, armed with the curiosity, playfulness and confidence of a rabbit,” says Tom Elsner, the app’s founder and director.

ArtRabbit aims to cater to both the planners and pouncers of art exploration, or, as Elsner puts it, “adventurers who live in the moment [and] are looking for a spontaneous cultural outing or travellers… who want to carefully compile lists of exhibitions to see and track what they have already visited.” Which one are you?

Artsy: A collector’s dream

Artsy (free on iOS and Android) is mainly designed for you to follow artists and buy their work—but, through a slick interface, it also provides comprehensive listings of exhibitions and art fairs worldwide if you’re just looking at the moment, thank you very much.

Gallery and “architours”

For actual gallery tours, the apps from MoMa (free on iOS) and the Tate (free on iOS and Android) are intuitive, visually delightful things that are way ahead of the museum pack if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on an art crawl in New York or London.

If you’re one of those travellers who likes to visit a tempting interiors store on, at the latest, day two of your visit, you might find the layout of your average guidebook, electronic or otherwise, not particularly suited to your priorities. Wallpaper‘s individual city guide apps (paid-for on iOS) are likely to be a much better fit: two clicks away from the opening screen, they contain dedicated sections on art and design, as well as “architour” guides to standout buildings and snappy recommendations from arty locals.

If you don’t want to cough up, though, Time Out’s Discover Your City app (free on iOS and Android) comes a close second to Wallpaper’s guides for aesthetically-inclined travellers.

Hyper-local city guides

Speaking of cultured locals’ recommendations, Cool Cousin (free on iOS) has them on tap. “Information overload turns finding… things to do to suit your taste into a time-consuming and challenging task,” says the app’s co-founder Nada Saadia. He aims to provide you with “a trusted insider who’ll point you to places you’ll love,” and save you time and money in a new city.

The app recruits residents (aka, “cousins”) in some of the planet’s top tourist cities to share cultural and other recommendations that you can then display on a map to visit yourself. Planning a trip to Tel Aviv, for instance? Mine the local cultural wisdom of book shop owner Ellie, fashion designer Maytar or film producer Mika. In Rio de Janeiro, journalist Luna or costume designer Luiza are there to show you, virtually, around. The connection between you and your chosen arty cool cousin is pretty unmediated: you can even message them for more bespoke recommendations before you travel or when in the locale.

Tailored and hyper-local, these apps separate the pickled sheep from the goats when it comes to reaping cultural rewards from your travels.