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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Europe's Arts Scene Always a Big Draw

London: A Changed Thames and a Millennium Dome

Down by the riverside is not a place that Londoners and tourists have made much of until now. Twentieth-century London largely turned its back on the Thames, leaving the shoreline hostage to shipping, warehouses, dreary postwar housing projects and dereliction. But all that has changed dramatically with the coming of the millennium.

Britain will celebrate the event on New Year's Eve with the opening of the huge $1.2 billion riverside structure called the Millennium Dome. It sits astride the First Meridian at Greenwich, where time is said to begin, and will house under its record-setting 8-hectare roof a world's fair-like pageant showcasing 21st-century Britain. It will also anchor the far-flung development of the river that makes the Thames suddenly the place to see and be seen.

The old Bankside power station is undergoing a $210 million refurbishment to become the Bankside branch of the Tate Gallery, scheduled to open in May. Next door is Shakespeare's Globe, the open-air Elizabethan-style theater that made its debut in 1997 presenting Shakespeare plays in authentic settings. The South Bank Center, billed as Europe's largest culture complex, has spruced up its riverfront promenades and taken down the concrete walkways that used to make going to concerts and theater there like a visit to a penitentiary.

A 135-meter Ferris wheel, promising 40-kilometer views over the city from its 32 enclosed capsules, is being mounted on the shoreline near the South Bank Center, and a $25 million bridge, the first to be built over the river since the construction of Tower Bridge in 1894 and the only one devoted solely to pedestrians, will connect the Tate Bankside with St. Paul's Cathedral. The span's designer is Sir Norman Foster, Britain's most famous architect, whose passion for the river is such that when he was ennobled this year he chose the title Lord Foster of Thameside.

The dome is the creation of London's other marquee architect, Richard Rogers, who when he became a peer called himself Lord Rogers of Riverside. Lord Foster has also designed a glass-encased new riverfront home for London's soon-to-be first elected mayor and a vast and sleek new subway station for the extended Underground line. It will connect the city center with the Canary Wharf complex on an old dockside area in East London that has become a financial center; the line will then continue on to the Millennium Dome.

One thing that kept people away from the water in London was that it was hard to get to. The subway line will help address the problem, and so will a number of new riverboats and renovated piers being introduced this year. White Horse Fast Ferries has been running boats since June from the Embankment across from the South Bank Center to Canary Wharf and in the year to come will add other city stops and a shuttle to the Millennium Dome. City Cruises has started circular runs between five piers with a jump-on, jump-off service that allows passengers to wander around all these new shoreline attractions.

- Warren Hoge, chief

of the London bureau

of The New York Times.

Paris: A Gondola View and an Advertising Museum

Many visitors come to Paris simply to look at it, and where better to do so than the viewing platforms at the Arc de Triomphe, the Georges Pompidou Center (which reopens on Jan. 1 after renovation) and, of course, the Eiffel Tower? Now, as part of millennium celebrations through the end of next year, the city's rooftops and monuments can be seen from a new angle. Four times an hour, a gondola attached to a large tethered balloon rises 150 meters above the Parc Andre Citroen, beside the Seine in western Paris. And, yes, the view is spectacular, weather permitting.

As the giant balloon rises silently, familiar sights come into focus: the Bois de Boulogne, the Arc de Triomphe, the high rises of the Defense business district, the Sacre-Coeur presiding over Montmartre, the Tuileries Gardens, the Eiffel Tower, the golden dome of Les Invalides and the embarrassingly ugly Tour Montparnasse. Slicing through Paris is the Seine, with its barges and tourist boats. And immediately below is the Parc Andre Citroen itself, one of the city's most beautiful new landscaped spaces.

Alas, there is no chance of floating away. The cheerfully decorated yellow helium balloon is attached to the ground by a cable that allows it to rise (helium being lighter than air) and then winches it down. At present, the gondola reaches the same level as the second platform of the Eiffel Tower, but the balloon's organizers are awaiting permission for it to climb to nearly 300 meters. The open-air gondola, with room for 30 adults or 60 children, sways gently but not alarmingly: No "flights'' are permitted when the wind is stronger than 40 kilometers per hour.

Parc Andre Citroen, 2 Rue de la Montagne de la Fage; (33-1) 44-26-2000. Metro stop Javel Andre Citroen or Balard, or shuttle boat from the Eiffel Tower. Open daily 9 a.m. to sundown. Admission $11.

In this city of museums, there is also always something new in the air. On Nov. 18, a Museum of Advertising, claiming to be the first of its kind in the world, will open as part of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in the Rohan Wing of the Palais du Louvre. The museum has a vast collection of advertising posters dating to the 18th century as well as film, television and radio commercials from the 1930s to today. And the interior has been designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel to be cutting-edge, both through inter-active screens and displays of avant-garde video techniques.

Palais du Louvre, 107 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001; (33-1) 44-55-5750. Open Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday. Admission prices not yet determined.

- Alan Riding, the European cultural

correspondent for The New York Times.


Van Gogh's Museum,

Rembrandt's House

People apparently cannot get enough of Vincent van Gogh's vibrant and enigmatic work, and the museum dedicated to him in Amsterdam opened a whole new wing in June to please the unending stream of visitors.

The striking annex adds an architectural thrill and a new sense of vitality to the home of the world's largest van Gogh collection. Now there is room for display of the more than 200 paintings the museum owns while the extra space makes it possible to put on related temporary shows.

Amsterdamers make up only a small portion of the museum's 1.2 million annual visitors. But many have joined the passionate arguments about the new annex, a striking appearance on the otherwise staid Museum Square. For the $21 million building, Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa used forms and materials that look like nothing else in Amsterdam; he made a curving facade of granite, put titanium on the convex roof and lined protrusions from the wall in aluminum. The main building from 1973 has itself had a $14.5 million overhaul, with new lighting, air-conditioning, offices, a more spacious lobby and the inevitable, sprawling gift shop. A series of ambitious shows have been planned, mostly dealing with 19th-century themes to provide the context in which the artist lived. One, for example, will examine the impact of gaslight and electricity on 19th-century culture.

Van Gogh Museum, 7 Paulus Potter Street; (31-20) 570-5200. Open daily. Admission $6.10.

Across town, the refurbished quarters of the Netherlands' other great artistic icon, Rembrandt, are ready and will reopen for visitors Sept. 25.

The master's house, built in 1606, and one of the finest examples of a 17th-century Dutch bourgeois home, was closed a year ago to return it as much as possible to its original state. The house had been transformed early this century when it became a museum, but restorers have brought back 17th-century furniture and stripped away the wood paneling to make it look again like the home it was. Walls and ceilings are now in the original ocher yellow and burgundy. The second-floor artist's studio has been given leaded windows, similar to those Rembrandt drew of his own workplace. The curators uncovered fireplaces, brought back ancient tiles and put in box beds, one of them after Rembrandt's own rendering of his wife, Saskia, in bed.

The results are handsome and have an air of authenticity. Although the objects are not Rembrandt's own - he went bankrupt and all his belongings were confiscated and scattered - the curators are proud of the result because they obtained furniture,and other accouterments of the era from a range of Dutch museums.

Until Jan. 9, the Rembrandt House will show "Rembrandt's Treasures,'' a display of the type of artifacts the painter collected, including costumes, helmets, shells, musical instruments and porcelain. Where possible, the exhibition will show how Rembrandt used these and similar objects as props in his own work. Rembrandt House, 4-6 Jodenbree Street; (31-20) 520-0400. Open daily. Admission $6.10 for regular visits, $8.55 for special exhibits.

- Marlise Simons, a correspondent

in the Paris bureau of The New York Times.


Renovated Galleries,

a New Spot for Tapas

The Prado Museum inaugurated in July its "definitive'' hanging of its unmatched collection of Velazquez paintings, in preparation for a winter exhibition celebrating the 400th anniversary of his birth.

The five renovated Velazquez galleries have new illumination, including more natural light, and gold-colored wall coverings replace the former dark red. Now, the 1656 masterpiece "Las Meninas'' (The Maids of Honor), depicting King Philip IV's family, again dominates the semicircular Gallery XII, which is exclusively Velazquez.

Prado Museum, Paseo del Prado, (34) 91-330-2800, closed Monday. Adult admission is $3.20.

Across town at the majestic Plaza de Oriente, which boasts the Royal Palace and the Teatro Real opera house, a plaque at No. 3 marks the former buildings where Velazquez lived and painted "Las Meninas.'' Next door, at No. 4, is a new tapas and wine bar, La Botilleria, whose owners also run the venerable Cafe de Oriente, at No. 2.

La Botilleria, (34) 91-548-4620, with classic dark wooden tables and green leather benches and chairs, serves 125 Spanish wines and pours a dozen by the glass daily. A light meal with wine is about $20. Open weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. weekends 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Downstairs is El Aljibe, (34) 91-548-4620, a new bar specializing in cocktails and fancy coffees. Its floor of thick, well-lighted glass strikingly reveals underneath it the remains of the city's medieval Arabic stone wall. The decor includes Arabic tapestries and archways. Open daily from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Madrid's newest luxury hotel, the 32-room Hotel Orfila, is also among the smallest. The Orfila, 6 Calle Orfila, (34) 91-702-7770, fax (34) 91-702-7772, a 20-minute walk from the Prado, occupies a cream-colored 1885 stone building that was the home of a wealthy family. Horse-drawn carriages used to pull into a courtyard that is now the lobby. Each room in the six-story hotel has distinctive antique furnishings. There is a restaurant and 24-hour room service. Doubles start at $290.

- Al Goodman, a frequent contributor

to The New York Times from Madrid.

Berlin: Century of Art,

Up-to-the-Minute Dining

It is now a decade since the Berlin wall fell, time enough for the tremendous discharge of energy resulting from this city's unification to find expression in a host of new museums, restaurants and developments occupying the space that was long the cold wilderness of Europe's fault line. To wander this area is to discover Berlin's essential fascination: the city's restless flux.

From an unused railroad station that once abutted the west side of the wall, the Hamburger Bahnhof museum of contemporary art emerged three years ago. As bold in conception as that other junction-turned-gallery, the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, it has a remarkable collection, including some of the finest works of Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer.

Since Sept. 4 and until early next year, the museum is housing part of a show called "The 20th Century: A Century of Art in Germany'' that is as ambitious as the Whitney's current evocation of the American century. The Bahnhof exhibition, "Collage-Montage,'' groups works using these techniques by artists including Jean Arp, Oskar Schlemmer and Jean Tinguely. Other parts of the show are at the Altes Museum and the Neue National-galerie. From Beckmann to Baselitz, nothing has been omitted. Hamburger Bahnhof, 50-51 Invalidenstrasse, Tiergarten district; Altes Museum, Am Lustgarten, Mitte district; Neue Nationalgalerie, Matthaikirchplatz, Tiergarten district. All open Tuesday to Sunday. Admission $6.70 at each museum or $11.10 combined entry. Telephone for all three: (49-30) 266-2690 or 266-2651.

Just to the east of where the wall stood, the area called Mitte is still very much a construction site. Restaurants, clubs and bars open daily, burying without trace the drab uniformity and culinary stodginess of the former East German state. Try Cantamaggio, where Italian generosity in the kitchen meets German minimalist design; Angela Giampa of Como and Noemi Anastasi of Genoa prepare their own pasta and it is memorable. The bar is always packed.

On the banks of the Spree, the Standige Vertretung, or Permanent Representation (as the West German diplomatic presence in the East was once called), has become an institution in less than two years. The restaurant serves such German classics as knuckle of pork and, on a lighter note, delectable Flammekuchen, thinly rolled, flame-cooked dough covered with anything from ham and onions to perch. With them, beers from east or west, perhaps a Kostritzer from Saxony or a Cologne lager, Kolsch.

Cantamaggio, 4 Alte Schonhauser Strasse; (49-30) 283-1895. Standige Vertretung, 8 Schiffbauerdamm; (49-30) 282-3965.

The biggest single development on the former no man's land between East and West is the Potsdamer Platz, the heart of prewar Berlin. Lacking grandeur and unabashedly commercial - a McDonald's and a Tony Roma's are prominent - it has proved hugely popular. A Walt Disney musical, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame,'' whose world premiere took place here in June, is proving a big attraction. The theater stands on a part of the development called the Marlene-Dietrich-Platz. Although this is still a more provincial place than in the time of its most famous daughter, the message of such lavish productions is clear enough: Berlin rising.

Musical Theater Berlin, 1 Marlene-Dietrich-Platz; (49-180) 54-444. Tickets, $44 to $97.

- Roger Cohen, chief of the Berlin bureau

of The New York Times.