The 18th of May is the International Museum Day and we wanted to help you celebrate by giving you the run down on the world´s best museums. Some of them you might have already visited. Others will come as a surprise. They not only exhibit some of the largest and most important art and antiquity collections on the planet, but they also safeguard these art objects for future generations to come. Unfortunately, we can´t list all of our favourites such as the TATE MODERN, London (4th most visited museums in the world), NATIONAL GALLERY, London (5th most visited), Tokyo National Museum, Japan, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the MoMA in New York or the National Palace Museum in Taipei. But we hope you enjoy our selection. Here are our picks!
The Louvre in Paris, France is ranked as the #1 most visited museum in the world. It´s main attractions are undoubtedly the “Venus de Milo” and the “Mona Lisa”. The building that makes up The Louvre is an art work in itself: a medieval fortress and what was once the palace of the king of France has been enhanced by Chinese architect I. M. Pei when he decided to add a pyramid in 1989 as the new entrance. The museum’s collections are amongst the most important in the world.
Ranked second in the list of the world´s most visited museum is The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Met as it is also called, is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere and items cover the entire planet and its´ history. The Egyptian Collection is stunning and the European paintings are a must. Don´t forget to see the Albrecht Dürer engraving of “Adam and Eve.”
The Prado in Madrid, Spain features one of the world’s finest collections of European art, from the 12th century to the early 19th century and is undoubtedly the best single collection of Spanish art: Velázquez, Goya, Ribera, Zurbarán, El Greco, Murillo… the list is endless. The Prado also houses collections of Italian and Flemish artists. It´s permanent collection is one of the largest in the world consisting of 9,000 paintings, 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and approximately 2,000 decorative objects.
The State Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, Russia has amassed a spectacular collection of art from the Stone Age to the early 20th century. With more than 3 million items on display, the Museum has had to occupy a total of six buildings. The Winter Palace, one of the 6 buildings, was the former state residence of the Russian emperors and it was Catherine the Great who founded the museum to house the paintings and art she had acquired over the years. The Museums highlight is Western European art with work from masters such as Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt, Picasso, Gauguin, Cézanne, van Gogh, and Da Vinci. Another attraction is car Nicolas II´s private collection.
The British Museum in London, England is Britain´s largest and is the 3rd most visited museum on Earth. More than eight million objects and entire Assyrian palace rooms. The Egyptian gallery is the world´s second finest outside of Egypt and includes the famous Rosetta stone, carved in 196 B.C. The British Museum is free and open daily!
The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. is the world’s largest research and museum complex, with 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and various research stations. There´s so much to see, you´d need a lifetime. They say that if you if you spent one minute day and night looking at each object on exhibit, ten years from now, you’d see only ten% of what is on display. If you have a day or two, make sure you plan ahead and don´t miss the Gem Hall at the National Museum of Natural History, the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, and the Apollo 11 command module at the National Air and Space Museum.
The Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Italy is the 6th on the list of the most visited museums in the world and one of the most spectacular. It houses 22 separate collections, sculptures, entire rooms painted by Raphael and of course the medieval and Renaissance paintings including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Between May and October there will be more than 20 Friday evenings open to the public. These special evenings are dedicated to Art and Music. Make sure you stay for a concert. The setting couldn´t be better. For more information visit their website in English.
At the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece you can literally walk over history thanks to the surprising glass floor with views of the excavation, the Acropolis and the sanctuaries. The Archaic Gallery displays it´s art objects in the open air so you can truly indulge in seeing how they change with natural light. Check out the Cup of the first modern Olympian games in 1896 and see how museum conservators delicately clean the caryatids with laser technology.
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. Housed in the beautiful Palazzo degli Uffizi, built in the 16th century, are some of the best and most exquisite collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures, including The Birth of Venus by Sandro Boticelli. Another curiosity in the Uffizi Gallery is the “Vasariano” corridor, built to link the “Medici” offices to the “Palazzo Pitti Galleria” when the family still owned the buildings. It´s a narrow passage that begins on the second corridor and runs along the Arno River stretching over the old bridge and eventually reaching “Palazzo Pitti”. The corridor has spectacular view of the river, the Santa Felicità church and private gardens.
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands is famous for it´s paintings by 17th-century Dutch masters, including Vermeer, Frans Hals, and of course, Rembrandt van Rijn. But the Rijksmuseum, recently renovated also houses art from the Middle Ages. Make sure you visit the Night Watch Gallery, specially designed to showcase Rembrandt’s famous civic guard portrait – a painting that was a turning point in his career and an example of his creative genius. More information, visit their website.