Almost every major city around the world offers a cultural and peaceful escape from the city pollution, traffic, car honking and wild nightlife. Museums and art galleries all over the world hold some of the most amazing treasures made by humankind, preserving history, displaying humanity’s creativity, and providing unique insights across cultures and identities.
Of course, we couldn’t add them all to our list, but here are some of the very best that the world has to offer.
1. Musée d’Orsay – Paris, France
Sitting on the left bank of the Seine River, this is considered one of the best museums in Paris and was voted top in the latest TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for museums around the world. Just the building itself is a stand-alone piece of art. It is housed in a former railway station and hotel which opened for the 1900 Universal Exhibition.
The museum curates mainly French art dating between the years 1848 to 1914, including sculptures, paintings, furniture and photography. It’s regarded as having one of the richest collections of impressionist post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, with all the big names such as Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh found here.
The museum had more than 3 million people through its doors in 2019 and although it’s dwarfed by the Louvre in terms of visitors (which recorded 9 million in 2019) you certainly won’t feel that you are roaming on your own among the exhibitions.
Tickets: €14. musee-orsay.fr/en
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, USA
Located on Fifth Avenue, this is the biggest and most visited art museum in all of the United States, with almost 7 million visitors to its three locations in 2018. It’s constructed out of a permanent art gallery across 17 different art departments and has more than 5,000 years of art from across the world including collections from Ancient Egypt, classical antiquity, artefacts from medieval Europe and Greek and Roman art. It’s impossible to see what The Met has to offer in a single day, but you’ll experience, learn and get inspired by paying a visit to one of the greatest art museums in the whole world.
Tickets: $12–25 metmuseum.org
3. The British Museum – London, United Kingdom
Smack bang in the heart of London, this museum is considered by many travellers as the best museum in the city, and was the first public national museum in the whole world. It’s absolutely free to visit and dedicates most of its exhibition to human history and culture, from its beginnings to the present through 8 million objects including the Rosetta Stone, sculptures from the Parthenon sculptures and Egyptian mummies.
Tickets: Free! britishmuseum.org
4. Prado National Museum – Madrid, Spain
Originally this was planned as a museum of natural sciences, but by the time it opened up the plan had changed and now it’s the home of the world’s greatest collection of Spanish art. Here you’ll find El Greco, Velazquez and Goya as well as fine examples of artists from the Flemish School, such as Van der Weyden and Bosch. As with many of our museums on our list, it is impossible to run through the Prado in a single visit, but it is worth having a taste of Spanish art history while visiting Madrid.
Tickets: €15.5 museodelprado.es/en
5. Acropolis Museum – Athens, Greece
The new Acropolis building museum is a replacement for the original 19th century structure located on the Acropolis itself. It was built to accommodate the seemingly never ending amount of archaeological findings uncovered the area, as well as the marble sculptures of the Parthenon.
One of the most amazing things about this museum is that as opposed to others that are housed in old buildings flooded with artificial lights, this one lets natural light come in through its vast glass walls in the daytime, making the building an attraction on its own.
Tickets: €5 theacropolismuseum.gr/en
6. Louvre Museum – Paris, France
What else can we say about the Louvre that hasn’t been said already? Let’s just summarize it with few interesting facts:
- It is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument
- More than 10.2 million people passed through the Louvre Museum in 2019, making it the world’s most visited fine art museum
- It is the home of one of the most famous paintings The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo de Vinci
- If you wish to see all art items in the Louvre, you’ll need to ask your boss 100 days off
- The recent glass pyramid addition is 21 metres tall, and was created by a Chinese architect by the name of IM Pei
- There are close to 7500 paintings hanging in the Louvre
Tickets: €15 at the museum, €17 online louvre.fr/en
7. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – New York, USA
Located in the heart of Manhattan, this museum is hard to ignore as it plays a key role in curating, collecting and developing modern art. It’s recognized as one of the most dominant and biggest institutions as well as the first in North America devoted to avant-garde modern art. Along with the $450m investment in a radical expansion to the building, this definitely makes it to our 10Best list of museums in the 21st century.
Tickets: $14–25 moma.org
8. The National 9/11 Museum and Memorial – New York, USA
Americans are known for honouring their legacy, moreover for building impressive commemorations for their loved ones who died serving their country and under terror attack. These same efforts can be seen well invested in this breathtaking museum located just right of where the World Trade Center was located once before destroyed by the events of 9/11.
The museum honours those who were killed in both the 2001 and 1993 World Trade Center bombings and tells the story of attacks, personal stories of loss and recovery through videos, archives and artefacts. The museum contains an inner hall and a breathtaking garden with a memorial pool, engraved with all names of all the people who died in the attacks. Visiting the memorial pool is free, but you’ll still need to get a ticket.
Tickets: $24. 911memorial.org
9. Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center – Jerusalem, Israel
Visiting Yad Vashem isn’t like any other museum experience: this is not a place to visit for fun. Situated on the slopes of the Mount of Remembrance on the outskirts of Jerusalem, this is the largest Holocaust memorial institute in the world. Right after entering the hall of remembrance, an overwhelming sensation may start to envelop you and many people feel a sense of unease. Here you’ll discover stories of Holocaust victims and the atrocities that they went through during the time of Nazi Germany. It’s a commemoration of all 6 million Jews that were killed by the Nazis, but it also brings stories of survival, hope and peace for humankind.
Tickets: Free yadvashem.org
10. The State Hermitage Museum – Saint Petersburg, Russia
Rounding out our list and adding Russia to the map is the world’s second art and culture museum, which was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great as a place to store her private art collection. For almost 200 years this amazing building was used by czars as their private sanctuary and part of their former private art collections are displayed here still. It opened its gates to the public in 1852 and since then it’s been considered one of the most interesting museums in the world, presenting art from greatest names such as Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci. Like any other gigantic museum on our list it would be impossible to see even a small portion of the art exhibits in a day, with almost 3 million works of art and artefacts housed here. Opt for a two-day ticket if art really runs in your veins!
Tickets: RUB 300–730 hermitagemuseum.org