If you’re a fan of art or history, museums are sure to be a must-see on any vacation. But with hundreds of museums around the world, it can be hard to know where to begin. Museums are often a must-see for lovers of art and culture. They provide an insight into our history and cultural evolution that is almost impossible to see elsewhere.
This list compiles 22 of the most magnificent museums and art galleries from around the world, filled with incredible collections that are sure to take your breath away. With some of the largest and most important art and antiquities collections on the planet, these museums are well worth a trip.
Tate Britain, London
Together with the Tate Modern, Tate Britan holds much of the national collection of British art from the 1500s to the present, including a large collection of the works of William Turner.
LOOK OUT FOR: Millais’ Ophelia, Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shallott, Rossetti’s The Beloved, Turner’s Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth and A Disaster at Sea
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Opened in 1879, The Art Institute of Chicago has over 300,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection. One of the oldest museums in the country, it houses the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries of art history and architecture. It also hosts a variety of rotating exhibitions and hundreds of gallery performances.
LOOK OUT FOR: Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Chagall’s America Windows, Toft’s The Solitude of the Soul, Dzeron’s A Daughter of Armenia, Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (pictured), van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks
National Palace Museum, Taipei
This museum houses a permanent collection of nearly 700,000 ancient Chinese imperial art and artefacts. Many of these were evacuated to Taiwan after World War II, and are connected to the Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Zong Zhou Zhong (Bell of Zhou), Guo Xi’s Early Spring, and Huang Gongwang’s Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.
Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo
The oldest Japanese museum, the Tokyo National Museum houses collection of art and archaeology from all over Asia. It has one of the best collections of Greco-Buddhist art, as well as ancient Japanese art.
LOOK OUT FOR: Gandhara Standing Buddha, Calligraphy in the National Treasure Gallery, and Samurai Armor in the Honkan Japanese Gallery.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Housed in a former railway station, Paris‘ Musée d’Orsay is known for its vast collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works. Seminal artists like Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rodin, Renoir, and Monet are displayed here.
LOOK OUT FOR: Whistler’s Mother, van Gogh’s Self-portrait (1889), Manet’s Olympia, Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette, Monet’s Women in the Garden, Cézanne’s The Card Players, Courbet’s The Artist’s Studio, and Degas’ The Ballet Class.
National Museum, New Delhi
Established in 1949, New Delhi’s National Museum chronicles the history of the Indian subcontinent from the Indus Valley Civilization to modern times. It includes personal effects of Gautama Buddha, jewellery, antique coins, arms, and armour.
LOOK OUT FOR: Harappan Bronze Dancing Girl, Chola Nataraja in Bronze (pictured), Buddha’s relics, and the Gupta statues of the Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna
Natural History Museum, London
In the late 19th century, Britain’s collection of artefacts were split into the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. The former focused on human history, while the latter featured natural history. Today it houses the Geological Museum, the Darwin Center, and the Attenborough Studio. Its collection includes well as over 70 million specimens.
LOOK OUT FOR: “Dippy” the Diplodocus, the Archeopteryx, the animatronic T-Rex, The 3D Virtual Reality experience, Archie the Giant Squid, and the life-size model of a blue whale.
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Popularly known as MoMA, this art museum located in Midtown Manhattan has one of the most comprehensive collections of modern art in the world. Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, Magritte, Picasso, Pollock, Dali, and Warhol are all represented here.
LOOK OUT FOR: van Gogh’s The Starry Night (pictured), Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Cezanne’s The Bather, Matisse’s The Dance (I), Monet’s Water Lilies, Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, and Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl.
The Rijksmuseum displays thousands of objects of Dutch art and history. 8,000 objects of art and history are generally on display here — just a fraction of the museum’s collection of 1 million objects. It is Located in Amsterdam‘s Museum Square (Museumplein) near the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Among its masterpieces lies a vast library, and a collection of exquisite doll houses and porcelain.
LOOK OUT FOR: Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Early Self Portrait, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, The Doll’s House of Petronella Oortman, the Cuypers Library, Anthonius Mor’s Portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham Franz Hals’ Wedding Portrait Of Isaac Massa and Beatrix Van Der Laen And Van Gogh’s Self Portrait (1887).
The National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
In Chapultepec Park, Mexico‘s National Museum of Anthropology has a definitive collection of archaeological artefacts (originals or replicas) from the many pre-Columbian Mexican cultures like the Olmec, Mayans and the Aztecs, among others.
LOOK OUT FOR: the Aztec calendar stone (pictured), Pakal’s tomb, the mask of the Zapotec Bat God, Moctezuma II’s Headdress, Statue of Xochipilli, and the Codex Borbonicus
The Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Perhaps most famous for Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums house some of the finest works of the Italian Renaissance in the Pinacoteca with works by Italian masters. It also has the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Pio Clementino Museum, the Map Gallery, and the Raphael Rooms.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Bramante Spiral Staircase, The Laocoon, Apollo del Belvedere, The Sala Rotonda, The Borgia Apartments, Raphael’s The School of Athens, The Transfiguration, and Adoration of the Magi, Caravaggio’s Entombment, Michaelangelo’s The Last Judgement (pictured) and the Pietà (in St. Peter’s Basilica)
National Gallery, London
Founded in 1824, the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square has a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating back to the 13th century. Though a comparatively small collection, it features representations of most major developments in Western painting. Its lack of space led to the establishment of the Tate in 1897.
LOOK OUT FOR: Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks, van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Rubens’ Le Chapeau de Paille, Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, and Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus.
The Acropolis Museum, Athens
Built to house artefacts found on the slopes of the Acropolis of Athens (which is undergoing renovation), the New Acropolis Museum is built over Roman and Byzantine ruins revealing layers of history. It has one of the greatest collections of ancient Greek statues in the world. But, only half of the pieces on display are originals. The rest are plaster copies. These missing pieces currently sit in the British Museum in London.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Caryatids of Erechtheum (pictured), Goddess Nike, and the Parthenon Frieze
Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Cario’s Egyptian Museum features some of the greatest archaeological finds from all over Egypt. It is technically known as the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. It has over 120,000 items, though only a fraction is on display at any given point. However, by November 2018, many of these will be relocated to the new Grand Egyptian Museum near Giza.
LOOK OUT FOR: Tutankhamun’s Mask (pictured), The Narmer Palette, Statue of Menkaure, Bust of Akhenaten, The Seneb Statue, Mummy of Hatshepsut, The Merneptah Stele, and The Statue of Amenhotep III and Tiye
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
This vast museum has over two million items, though only a small part is on display. Spread out over five palaces, it would take you weeks to cover the entire collection. Apart from the displays of coins, antiques, sculptures, and artefacts, it houses the largest collection of paintings in the world.
LOOK OUT FOR: Titian’s Penitent Magdalene, Matisse’s The Dance and Music, the Kolyvan Vase, Raphael’s Madonna Conestabile, da Vinci’s Madonna Litta, Canova’s Three Graces, and the Hermitage cats.
The Prado, Madrid
The Museo Nacional Del Prado commonly referred to as just “The Prado,” contains the world’s greatest collection of Spanish art. Based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, it has works by masters such as Velasquez, Goya, and El Greco. It also has an excellent collection of other European art.
LOOK OUT FOR: Velázquez’s The Triumph of Bacchus (pictured) and Las Meninas, Goya’s The Executions, La maja desnuda, and La maja vestida, El Greco’s The Fable and The Flight into Egypt, Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, Rubens’ The Judgement of Paris and The Three Graces, and Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Sitting on New York’s Upper East Side, the ‘Met’ contains works from the past 50,000 years of human creativity. Its collection has paintings, sculptures, photographs, antiques, and costumes from all the continents and nearly every time period. Housing over 2 million pieces, it is also one of the largest museums in the world.
LOOK OUT FOR: Egyptian Temple of Dendur, Armor of King Henry VIII, Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, Canova’s Venus Italica, Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X, David’s The Death of Socrates, Caravaggio’s The Denial of Saint Peter, and the Sphinx of Hatshepsut
The Uffizi Gallery is to Italian art what the Prado is to Spanish. It features a rich collection of Italian Renaissance art cultivated and curated by the Medici family over centuries. The Uffizi is one of the most celebrated art galleries in the world.
LOOK OUT FOR: Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus (pictured), da Vinci’s Annunciation, Caravaggio’s Medusa, and Bacchus, Raphael’s Pope Leo X and Cardinals and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Fra Angelico’s Coronation of the Virgin, and numerous versions of the Adoration of the Magi
Berlin‘s “Museum Island” comprises of five large museums that are each spectacular in their own right. The Pergamon Museum houses treasures from the Ancient Near East and Islamic art; the Bode Museum exhibits late Antique and Byzantine art and sculpture; the Neues Museum holds Egyptian, and prehistoric collections; while the Altes Museum displays its Greek antiques. The Alte Nationalgalerie serves as an art gallery.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon (pictured), the Aleppo room, Robbia’s Virgin with Child, the ‘Berlin Golden Hat’, Bust of Nefertiti, Portraits of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra VII, Wounded Amazon, and Friedrich’s Der Mönch am Meer.
The British Museum, London
Established in 1753, the British Museum is one of the largest in the world. Its collection of over 8 million objects is one of the most comprehensive ever. Focusing on human history and culture, its size is mostly due to the expansion of British colonization.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Rosetta Stone, Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs, the Nereid Monument, Lamassu of Khorsabad (companion of one in the Louvre), the original Parthenon Marbles, the Standard of Ur, the Portland Vase, Cat Mummies, Granite Head of Amenhotep III, the Halikarnassos horse, Hoa Hakananai’a Easter Island Statue, and the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial.
The Smithsonian, Washington D.C.
Considered the world’s largest museum and “the nation’s attic,” the Smithsonian Institute houses almost 150 million items; in over 19 museums (and a zoo). Detailing American history and culture, it also serves as a research centre and a vast archive of books and films.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Apollo 11 command module and the Wright Brothers’ 1903 plane, the Spirit of St. Louis at the National Air and Space Museum; the Hope Diamond and the Crystal Skull at the National Museum of Natural History; and the original Star-Spangled Banner and the dresses of the First Ladies at the National Museum of American History.
The Louvre, Paris
Once a medieval fortress and royal residence, The Louvre in Paris is now one of the most famous museums in the world. Its wealth of treasures include Classical sculptures, Egyptian relics, Mesopotamian antiquities, Renaissance paintings, and medieval artefacts.
LOOK OUT FOR: da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Virgin of the Rocks, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace (pictured), The Seated Scribe from Saqqara, Botticelli’s Venus with Three Graces, The Code of Hammurabi, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, Great Sphinx of Tanis, and Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker
Of course, there are tons of other magnificent museums around the world. If we’ve missed any, do share them in the comments below.