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10 Must-Visit Museums Across the World

By Sandra Roussy May 25, 2023 Travel

Do you love museums? Do you choose your travel destinations prioritizing the museum scene? If so, join the club!

Getting lost in a museum for hours is one of my favorite pastimes, whether it’s pondering the stories of the past and present or uncovering the vibrant world of contemporary artists and experiencing the world through their eyes.

Although there are numerous remarkable museums scattered across the globe, I’ve curated my ultimate list of world-class museums. Having already visited four of these 10 gems, I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to explore many more of them in the future.

  1. The Louvre, Paris, France – The Louvre is a world-famous museum in Paris that houses an extensive collection of art and artifacts from ancient times to the present day.
  2. The British Museum, London, England – The British Museum is a world-renowned museum in London that houses a vast collection of cultural artifacts and art from around the globe.
  3. The National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico –The National Museum of Anthropology is an acclaimed museum that is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the cultural heritage of Mexico’s pre-Columbian civilizations and indigenous peoples.
  4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, United States – The MET is a famous museum that houses an extensive collection of art and artifacts from ancient to modern times, representing various cultures from around the world.
  5. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., United States – The Smithsonian Institution is a research and education center consisting of 19 museums and galleries, a zoo, and numerous research centers and programs, dedicated to preserving and promoting American history, art, and culture.
  6. The Vatican Museums, Vatican City – The Vatican Museums are a collection of art and cultural museums located within the Vatican City, showcasing an extensive collection of art and artifacts collected by the Catholic Church over the centuries.
  7. The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain – The Prado Museum is a distinguished museum showcasing an extensive collection of European art, including works by Spanish masters as well as notable works by other European artists.
  8. The Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece – The Acropolis Museum is dedicated to showcasing the archaeological findings from the Acropolis, including the famous Parthenon sculptures and other ancient Greek artifacts.
  9. The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt – The Egyptian Museum is known for its extensive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, including mummies, sarcophagi, and the iconic gold death mask of the boy King Tutankhamun.
  10. The National Museum of China, Beijing, China – The National Museum of China is a museum dedicated to presenting the country’s rich cultural heritage and history, featuring over a million artifacts, including ancient Chinese bronze sculptures and vessels, calligraphy, paintings, and ceramics.

What Makes a Museum World-Class

There are several factors that contribute to a museum becoming internationally renowned.

Unique Collections

A museum with rare, unique, and well-preserved collections is more likely to attract visitors from around the world.

Historical Significance

A museum that preserves and displays historically significant artifacts, documents, or artwork can attract visitors interested in learning about history and culture.

Expertise and Scholarship

Museums with curators, scholars, and researchers who are experts in their field can offer more in-depth and accurate information about the collections.

Interactive Exhibits

Museums with interactive exhibits that engage visitors and provide a hands-on learning experience can make the visit more memorable.

Architecture and Design

The architecture and design of a museum can also contribute to its reputation and popularity, as they can enhance the visitor experience and make the space more aesthetically pleasing.

Location

The location of a museum can also play a role in its popularity, especially if it is situated in a popular tourist destination.

A combination of these factors, along with effective marketing and management, can make a museum internationally renowned and worth the visit.

Must Visit Museums in the World

These museums offer a range of collections and exhibits covering different aspects of art, history, culture, and science. Out of the lot, the first four are the ones I have visited, and on multiple occasions, for some.

The Louvre – Paris, France

The Louvre – Paris, France

The Louvre is one of the world’s most iconic and largest museums. Originally built as a fortress in the 12th century, it was transformed into a museum in the late 18th century.

The Louvre houses tens of thousands of pieces of artwork, ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary art, including the world-famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

The museum’s impressive collection is spread over eight different departments, featuring works from various regions and time periods. With its magnificent architecture, stunning artworks, and fascinating history, The Louvre remains a must-visit destination for art lovers and history buffs alike.

The British Museum – London, England

The British Museum – London, England

The British Museum is one of the world’s oldest and most extensive museums. Founded in 1753, the museum boasts a collection of over 8 million objects, spanning from ancient times to the present day.

The collection includes objects from all continents and covers a wide range of subjects, from art and culture to history and science. The museum’s most popular exhibits include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures, and the Egyptian mummies.

With its stunning architecture, vast collection, and rich history, The British Museum is a must-see destination if you are interested in culture and history.

The National Museum of Anthropology – Mexico City, Mexico

The National Museum of Anthropology – Mexico City, Mexico

The National Museum of Anthropology is one of the world’s most comprehensive museums dedicated to the study and preservation of Mexican culture and history.

Opened in 1964, the museum’s collection includes over 600,000 artifacts, including archaeological and anthropological exhibits from Mexico’s indigenous cultures, such as the Maya, Aztec, and Toltec civilizations.

The museum’s most significant exhibit is the Aztec Hall, featuring the famous Aztec calendar stone. The museum’s stunning architecture, which features a massive outdoor courtyard with a cascading waterfall, further enhances the experience of exploring its impressive collection.

The National Museum of Anthropology is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Mexican history and culture.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, United States

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, United States

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) is one of the world’s most prominent and comprehensive art museums. Founded in 1870, the museum’s vast collection includes over 2 million artworks, spanning from ancient times to contemporary art.

The collection includes art from all parts of the world, with works from Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas, as well as iconic works from European and American artists. Some of the museum’s most famous exhibits include the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, the American Wing, and the Costume Institute.

The museum’s impressive collection and stunning architecture make it a must-see destination for art lovers and visitors to New York City.

The Smithsonian Institution – Washington D.C., United States

The Smithsonian Institution – Washington D.C., United States

The Smithsonian Institution is a collection of 19 museums, galleries, and research centers. It is the largest museum and research complex in the world, and houses over 154 million objects and specimens in its collections, including historic artifacts, artworks, and natural specimens.

Some of the most famous exhibits at the Smithsonian include the Hope Diamond, the Wright Brothers’ plane, and the original Star-Spangled Banner.

The Smithsonian’s mission is to increase and diffuse knowledge, and its extensive collections and research facilities make it a vital resource for both scholars and the public.

The Vatican Museums – Vatican City

The Vatican Museums – Vatican City

The Vatican Museums are a collection of museums and galleries displaying some of the world’s most significant works of art and artifacts. Founded in the early 16th century, the museums house a vast collection of art and antiquities collected by the Popes throughout the centuries.

The museums include galleries such as the Raphael Rooms, the Gallery of Maps, and the Sistine Chapel, which features Michelangelo’s famous ceiling. The collection includes works from ancient civilizations, Renaissance masterpieces, and contemporary art.

With their incredible art and rich history, the Vatican Museums are a must-visit destination for anyone interested in art and culture.

The Prado Museum – Madrid, Spain

The Prado Museum – Madrid, Spain

The Prado Museum is one of the world’s most renowned and visited art museums. It houses a collection of over 35,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings, with works by some of the greatest European artists from the 12th to the 19th century.

The museum’s collection includes masterpieces by artists such as Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez, and Hieronymus Bosch, among many others.

The museum’s architecture, with its Neoclassical façade and elegant interior, adds to the experience of viewing its impressive collection.

With its vast collection and historical significance, The Prado Museum is a must-visit destination for art lovers and visitors of Madrid.

The Acropolis Museum – Athens, Greece

The Acropolis Museum – Athens, Greece

The Acropolis Museum is a modern museum dedicated to the preservation and display of artifacts from the Acropolis of Athens, one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world.

The museum’s collection includes over 4,000 objects, including sculptures and artifacts from the Parthenon, Erechtheion, and Temple of Athena Nike. The museum’s most notable feature is the Parthenon Gallery, which houses the original frieze from the Parthenon, an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.

The museum’s architecture, with its stunning glass walls and top-floor restaurant offering panoramic views of the Acropolis, adds to the overall experience of visiting this impressive museum.

The Egyptian Museum – Cairo, Egypt

The Egyptian Museum – Cairo, Egypt

The Egyptian Museum is a notable museum dedicated to preserving the ancient history and civilization of Egypt. The museum’s collection includes over 120,000 artifacts, including sarcophagi, mummies, and ancient Egyptian artifacts spanning over 5,000 years of history.

The museum’s most notable exhibit is the Tutankhamun Gallery, which houses the treasures of the boy king’s tomb, including his famous gold death mask.

The museum’s architecture, with its classical Egyptian design and spacious halls, adds to the experience of viewing its impressive collection. The Egyptian Museum is a must-see destination for anyone interested in the rich and fascinating history of ancient Egypt.

The National Museum of China – Beijing, China

The National Museum of China – Beijing, China

The National Museum of China is one of the largest museums in the world, dedicated to preserving and displaying China’s long and rich cultural history.

The museum’s collection includes over a million artifacts, covering the country’s history from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum’s most notable exhibit is the bronze artifacts gallery, showcasing ancient Chinese bronze sculptures and vessels.

The museum’s architecture, with its blend of modern and traditional Chinese design, adds to the experience of exploring its impressive collection. The National Museum of China is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the fascinating and diverse cultural heritage of China.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you visited any of these museums? Which ones are you the most interested in? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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nlbknitter

It’s very interesting to compare the Etruscan exhibit at the British Museum with the Museum in Tarquinia in Italy, in the heart of the Etruscan civilization. The Etruscans were very “natural” as our German guide told us. And by “natural” she meant they were downright randy. The collection at the British Museum has been completely sanitized to appeal to the Victorian sensibilities.

Linda

I used to visit the British Museum frequently as I lived in London for 20 years. My favourite museum in London is the V and A because of the costume galleries.

The Prado in Madrid has a huge collection of religious and pastoral scenes. There is also a private room with nudes – years ago it was kept locked so as not to cause offence to visiting nuns. Barcelona has an interesting number of modern art galleries.

For Caravaggio fans, I recommend St John’s Cathedral in Valetta, Malta (a very friendly island where English is spoken freely because of the connection to the British Commonwealth).

Basel city has some wonderful galleries (Basel Kunstmuseum), Art Basel annually in June and the lovely Fondation Beyeler Gallery at Riehen a short hop from the city centre by tram. It’s set in beautiful grounds and faces towards Baden Württemberg in Germany. Weil Am Rhein in Germany (a short tram ride from Basel) has the fabulous Vitra Design Museum campus. It has a terrific furniture collection and they manufacture furniture designs by the late Charles and Ray Eames. You can do a walk between Fondation Beyeler and Vitra (or vice versa!) looking at modern installations along the way. For anyone wanting to revisit their inner child, Vitra even has a huge helter skelter in the grounds.

Copenhagen also has a design museum that was so good I went twice.

Last but not least, my favourite in Venice was the Peggy Guggenheim collection based in her piazza. She really was an extraordinary lady who championed modern artists. Last week I had the pleasure of seeing some wonderful art in Milan, both classical and modern. For religious art I recommend the Brera Gallery based at the University of Milan.

The Author

Sandra is the middle-aged woman you hear about who sheds everything she owns and sets out into the world to rediscover and redefine herself. After more than twenty years spent in the fashion industry designing collections for brands such as La Senza, Victoria’s Secret, and JACOB Lingerie, she shifted her path and pursued her longtime passion for writing, traveling, and photography. Sandra was published in the NY Times best selling book Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. A deeply personal essay hand-picked by Elizabeth Gilbert about loss, facing fears, and going after dreams. Visit her website: www.sandraroussy.com

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