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Need a culture fix? No matter where your vacation itinerary leads, you’ll find a unique, fascinating museum. Packed with artistic masterpieces, historical treasures or a world of science and technology, a museum can be as impactful an attraction as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It also offers the opportunity to consider different ideas, values and societies — and isn’t that why we travel in the first place? Here are some of the world’s top museums that could add new dimensions to your vacation memories.
The Louvre, Paris More than 70,000 pieces of art nest in the world’s largest, most visited art museum. Once the Louvre Palace, a 13th century fortress, the museum opened in 1793. The museum’s iconic glass pyramid was added in 1989, and serves as the museum’s main entrance. Originating from places as diverse as ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe, the museum’s most famous exhibit is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Vatican Museums, Vatican City Founded in the 6th century, the Vatican Museums attract 5 million tourists a year. Showcasing ancient Egyptian artifacts, Roman sculptures, and medieval tapestries, the museums also present both modern and contemporary religious art. Don’t miss the famed spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo. The staircase, which spirals gracefully down to the renowned Sistine Chapel, is considered to be legendary artist Michaelangelo’s crowning achievement.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC The largest, most visited U.S. art museum, The Met, as it’s affectionately known, is located on Manhattan’s Central Park. Opened in 1872, the massive gothic-style building encompasses more than 2 million permanent artifacts from every field of art. Exhibits span 5,000 years, from ancient Egypt to Europe’s classics, as well as American and modern work, showcasing artists like Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh.
Rijksmuseum, Netherlands Originally founded in The Hague, The Rijksmuseum opened in Amsterdam in 1885. Among its collection of 1 million objects from 1200–2000, are masterpieces of Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. Wandering through the museum’s homage to Amsterdam’s arts and history, be sure to glimpse its most famous painting "The Night Watch."
British Museum, London The world’s first national public museum of human history and culture, this museum, founded in 1759, holds some of the most sought-after objets d’art. The museum is known to showcase the most comprehensive collections in the world. The Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures, and the largest acquisition of Egyptian mummies are among the museum’s jaw-dropping 8 million item collection.
Museo Nacional Del Prado, Madrid The Museo del Prado holds one of the largest art collections in the world, including works by Velasquez, Goya, and El Greco. Comprising nearly 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints, and 8,200 drawings, the museum features 12th to 19th century European art. One of the oldest national museums, its masterpieces also include the awe inspiring Majas of Goya and Las Meninas by Velázquez as well as the work of foreign masters such as Van Dyck and Rembrandt.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence Housed in the 16th century Palazzo degli Uffizi, this iconic museum possesses collections of exquisite Renaissance paintings and priceless, classical sculptures. Art of Giotto, Fra Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Correggio, Leonardo, Raffaello, Michelangelo and Caravaggio adorn the museum. From gazing at Sandro Botticelli’s timeless Birth of Venus to the museum’s majestic architecture, you won’t want to miss a visit to the famed Uffizi.
Museum of Modern Art, NYC Known worldwide as MoMA, the museum opened nine days after the 1929 Wall Street crash, and is considered one of the most influential contemporary art museums in the world. The MoMA possesses more than 150,000 pieces of work, including those of Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, Magritte, Pollock and Warhol.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC Within its astounding 161,145 sq. ft. space, the Smithsonian holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft artifacts in the world. Where else could you ogle at the original 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, or the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia?
The National Museum of China, Beijing Located in historic Tiananmen Square, the museum opened its doors in 2000 and is now one of the largest in the world. Masterpieces include Neolithic treasures as well as the flag raised by Mao Zedong at the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. If your travels transport you to Beijing, expansive exhibitions of both ancient and modern Chinese history should bring you to the city’s National Museum of China.
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