There are plenty of sites around this vast world of ours that are worthy of attention. Here we breakdown our list of the top must-see museums for Art and History buffs, so whether you’re into classical paintings, ancient artifacts, natural history, or anthropology, there is likely one or more museums on our list that you’ll want to go out of your way to visit.
TMS List of Must-See Museums
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (or ‘the MET’ as it is sometimes referred) is one of the most renowned must-see museums in the world, and one of the largest museum in the United States. Located in New York City, the collection includes paintings, drawings, and sketches, a vast collection of musical instruments, armour, weapons, statuettes, and figurines all ranging from the ancient to the modern eras. The MET is also home to an extensive library of original manuscripts. All together, the MET houses more than two million pieces of art and antiquities from all around the world, making it a must-see museum for art buffs and historians. The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors in 1870 and remains open to the public to this day. Its exterior has featured prominently in many blockbuster films, and as such, the building itself has become an attraction for many visiting New York.
2. The British Museum (London)
The British Museum houses over 8 million objects of art and history, but is perhaps best known as the home of the Rosetta Stone. One of the finest collections of antiquities in the world, the British Museum houses relics from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Middle East, and of course ancient Britain. The collection also includes prehistoric bones, tools, and other objects giving visitors who come to this must-see museum an opportunity to discover and learn about a vast array of ancient and pre-historic cultures. Open daily to the public, and with free or by-donation admission, the Museum is the leading attraction in the U.K. drawing in over six-and-a-half million visitors annually. If you intend to visit, give yourself a few days to browse lest you be run off your feet trying to view its massive collection in a single afternoon – that would be very unlikely. The libraries of the British Museum alone house more than 350,000 manuscripts, essays, journals, and pamphlets!
3. The Acropolis Museum (Athens)
Located in the shadow of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, the new (opened in 2009) Acropolis Museum is dedicated to housing and displaying the ancient artifacts found on the Acropolis site as well as other sites throughout Greece. Its dedication to the archaeological digs across the country is best reflected by the glass floor which covers the archaeological dig below the museum itself, giving visitors a chance to see the Byzantine ruins first hand. The modernity of the museum wonderfully contrasts the ancient history it displays in its halls, and for visitors to Athens, or Greek history and art buffs, the Acropolis Museum should no doubt be on the top of your list of destinations.
4. National Museum of Anthropology (Mexico City)
The National Museum of Anthropology (or Museo Nacional de Antropologia) is the largest museum in Mexico and contains a vast collection of pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico and South America, including the Sunstone, the ancient Aztec Calendar. While much of its display is of Mexican heritage and culture, it also contains artifacts and art pieces from the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca cultures which predate modern Mexico. The Museum also includes a display of Mexican heritage post-Spanish colonization. The museum, the most visited in Mexico, also regularly houses foreign collections from around the world, so repeat visitation to this must-see museum is well worth it.
5. Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (Washington D.C.)
The Smithsonian is the worlds largest museum. Its impressive structure alone makes it a must-see museum, but its contents solidify it to our list. Part museum and part research centre, the Smithsonian houses a whopping 138 million objects which are viewed by more than 30 million visitors annually. While the Smithsonian consists of nineteen separate museums it is perhaps the Air & Space Museum that tops many visitors lists with the world’s largest collection of air and space craft. Viewings of this aeronautics and space display account for a fifth of all visitors to the Smithsonian. It is said that the Smithsonian Institute is so large that if you were to spend just one second in front of each exhibit, after ten years you would have only viewed ten percent of the entire Smithsonian collection. A lifetime can be spent viewing and researching the objects on display at the Smithsonian.
6. State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg)
Formally home to the Tsars of Russia, the State Hermitage Museum now attracts visitors from around the globe to its art collection, considered to be one of the finest in the world. While the collection boasts approximately 3 million pieces, only a small selection is on public display through its six buildings, including the famed Winter Palace, home of Russian Emperors of the past. The museum, founded by Catherine the Great, holds a collection of art that spans from the Stone Age to modern times, including several works by Rembrandt, da Vinci, and van Gogh.
7. The Louvre (Paris)
The Louvre is considered a landmark in Paris, beyond being the world’s second most visited museum. The Louvre is named after the Louvre Palace, a 12th century fortress which now houses the museum, and the remains of the ancient structure is visible in the museum basement. When the Louvre Museum opened in 1793 it contained just over five hundred pieces of art. Now the display boast 34,000 objects reaching from the Prehistoric era to the 21st century, including many pieces of Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Islamic art. For many visiting Paris, the Louvre is a must-see museum not only for its collection, but its historical landmark status and stunning architecture.
8. Accademia Gallery (Florence)
Best known as the home of Michelangelo’s Statue of David, the Accademia Gallery, or Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, houses a stunning collection of Renaissance paintings from Italian masters. The museum itself is not that large, and the works of art found here, spread over two floors, can be viewed easily in just one afternoon. Originally founded as an Artist Academy, the museum holds many masterpieces, including Michelangelo’s Slaves Statue, and ‘Rape of the Sabines’, a masterpiece sculpture carved from a single block of marble. Beyond the artwork and statues, the Accademia also contains a collection of musical instruments from various periods in history, sure to delight any theatre and opera buffs.
9. Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)
The Rijksmuseum is dedicated to the art and culture and is home to over one million pieces of art, although only a small percentage of those are on public display. Those available for viewing by the public include works from many Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, whose painting ‘The Night Watch’ is displayed in a gallery all to itself, a tribute to this masterful piece of art. The Rijksmuseum also includes a collection of Asian antiquities which are on display in a dedicated wing of the museum. Located centrally in the city, the Rijksmuseum is a must-see museum for anyone visiting Amsterdam who wishes to view the art, history, and crafts of the Netherlands and the Dutch Golden Age.
10. The Vatican Museum (Vatican City)
The Vatican Museum displays a vast collection of many of the most renowned sculptures and artistic masterpieces in the world. The Sistine Chapel, with its famously decorated ceiling and ‘The Last Judgement’, both by Michelangelo, are just a small part of the many highlights visitors are able to view during their visit to this must-see museum. In total, the Vatican Museum boast 54 galleries, including the Raphael Rooms, named for the master artist who painted the interiors. The Vatican Museum holds one of the largest, most breathtaking collections in the world. Whether you’re an art buff or not, no trip to Rome or Vatican City would be complete without touring through its halls – in fact, over 6 million visitors tour this museum annually.
Whether you’re a history or art enthusiast, the museums on our list should not be missed. We’d love to hear if you have visited any of these museums, or if you think there are more we should add. Let us know in the comments below!