The 26 Best Museums In The World

Aug 22, 2014

Category: Living

We’re not recommending this as a project, but if you were to spend the rest of your life visiting all the museums in the world, it would take you… well, we don’t actually know how long it would take you, but for sure you’d be gone a while. People would soon start to realize you weren’t at the pub. After 30 million years or so of walking around the planet, give or take the odd millennia, we’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. Museums are where we keep the best of it. Most of the time. Now we’re not simply hoarding because we’re slightly nuts, like your neighbor. Museums showcase who we are. They reveal our identity, the great art, our discoveries. They celebrate our most worthy achievements, and the bad things we did, too. There are a lot of those. They are the display cases of our endeavors. And they serve as important research centers for our history as well as our future. In short, they show you what we’ve been up to since we first arrived, and as such, they are amazing places to visit. Our pick of the most amazing museums in the world have been chosen for both their contents, and for how they look from the outside.

Smithsonian National Museum Of American History Washington DC

Smithsonian National Museum Of American History, Washington, D.C.

Open 364 days a year and the most visited natural history museum in the world. Unless it’s the one in London, then it’s not. The Smithsonian also houses the biggest number of scientists who are studying natural and cultural history all assembled together in the same spot. They’re not on display, though. They’re working. [Details]

National Gallery London

National Gallery, London

Located at the top of Trafalgar Square in London, The National houses many of the world’s great art treasures. This is good of course, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, but the best thing is that it’s totally free to get in. They just open the doors and in you go. Bloody brilliant. [Details]

The Vatican Museums Vatican City

The Vatican Museums, Vatican City

If you’ve had Michelangelo over to paint your ceiling, there’s a good chance the neighbors are going to want to pop round and take a look when it’s done. And if on top of that you’ve managed to get hold of Raphael to draw frescoes over your bedroom wall, not just one room but four rooms for goodness sake, then you’d better put the coffee on because you can probably expect a few visitors. [Details]

Topkapi Museum Istanbul

Topkapi Museum, Istanbul

For almost half a millennium, the Ottoman monarchs lived here. It’s now a museum where you can find Muhammed’s coat and some bits of John the Baptist, including his hand, arm, and part of his head. If you remember, Salome asked Herod to chop it off. No, we’re still talking about his head. Topkapi was built over 500 years ago. [Details]

Salt And Pepper Shaker Museum Tennessee

Salt And Pepper Shaker Museum, Tennessee

Usually museums house the masterpiece works of the great artists, or they may celebrate our greatest discoveries and endeavors. They reveal our origins and histories, and offer insight into what may lie ahead. But not always. Sometimes they show that we’ve made one heck of a lot of salt and pepper pots. Andrea Ludden has collected 22,000 sets of them, and they’re on display for you to go and look at, which might be something to do if you’ve just had a lobotomy. [Details]

Musee dOrsay Paris

Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Unlike the Louvre, which is just down the road on the other side of the Seine and originated in the 12th century, the Musee d’Orsay only opened in 1986. It used to be a train station, but now holds the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world, most of it French, and includes painters like Renoir, Degas, Monet, and his older brother More Monet. Some people don’t seem to have realized this, and are still waiting for the number 9 from Lyon to come in. [Details]

The Uffizi Florence

The Uffizi, Florence

The Uffizi was completed in the 16th century, 1581 to be precise, and as such is one of Europe’s oldest and most famous art museums. It houses Botticelli’s Birth of Venus – who looks remarkably mature for someone just popped out of an oyster shell – as well as Michaelangelo’s David, who after all these years still hasn’t put any clothes on. There are other works on display at the Uffizi, of course. We just mentioned those two because they’re quite important. [Details]

Museum Of Modern Art NY

Museum Of Modern Art, New York

On Saturdays MOMA offers free programs for children and their families to view and discuss modern art and some of the works on display. This is a good way to get in and look around without paying the somewhat over the top adult entrance fee of $25. But you’ll need to borrow some children and pretend to be responsible. Another way to avoid the fee is to go Friday night between 4 and 8pm when entry is free. It might be crowded, but you’ll get to see Dhali’s Persistence of Memory, which like the Mona Lisa is probably much smaller than you think it ought to be. [Details]

Hanoi Museum Hanoi

Hanoi Museum, Hanoi

A thousand years of the history, culture, architecture and heritage of Vietnam are located inside this museum that was only opened just a few years ago, in 2010, in celebration of the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi. Also, it looks like someone’s made a mistake and put it in upside down. [Details]

National Archaeology Museum Athens

National Archaeology Museum, Athens

The original aim of the National Archaeology museum was to secure all the finds from the 19th century in and around Athens, a goal likely inspired by the actions of Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, who’d made some dodgy arrangement with Turkey some years before and made off with the Parthenon Marbles, more famously known now as the Elgin Marbles. Understandably, Greece didn’t want to be looted of all their history and needed a place to put it. This is the largest museum in Greece and considered one of the great museums, housing the world’s richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity. The current building was completed in 1889. [Details]

The Guggenheim New York City

The Guggenheim, New York City

The Goog, as no one we’ve ever heard of calls it, is a Frank Lloyd Wright design and located across the road from Central Park, just a few blocks uptown from The Metropolitan. This is a perfect spot if you’re looking to go on some kind of museum binge. Before it opened, twenty one artists signed a letter protesting the fact that their art was being displayed in such a funny looking building, one, according to some, completely unsuitable for displaying a box of cornflakes, let alone art. [Details]

The Louvre Paris

The Louvre, Paris

Everyone heads straight for the Mona Lisa, which if you’re not expecting it is surprisingly small. Actually, it’s small whatever you’re expecting. It just is. Da Vinci unarguably did a wonderful job, but if he’d had any foresight he would have made it twice the size, because the perpetual crowd around it makes viewing difficult. A few more inches of smile would have really helped. The Louvre is said to be the most visited museum in the world, and was the home of Louis XIV until he decided to upgrade and moved out to the Palace of Versailles. [Details]

The curved ceiling of the Hall of Names is pictured during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

Museums are not always about our triumphs. They also serve as reminders of our history’s darkest pages, and as memorials. The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem shows photographs reflected in the water below of some of the holocaust’s victims, those whose names remain unknown. [Details]

British Museum London

British Museum, London

Two and a half miles of galleries and seven million objects, including the Elgin Marbles, pinched from the Greeks when they had their backs turned. The Marbles aren’t the only stolen artifacts. In fact, if you were holding onto this kind of stash, you’d have the police banging on your front door faster than you could say Rosetta Stone which, by the way, the Egyptians would also very much like returned. [Details]

American Museum Of Natural History New York

American Museum Of Natural History, New York

The Natural History museum is located on the other side of Central Park from the Metropolitan. So you could visit one, walk across the park, and visit the other. This is the more fun one of the two. It’s got dinosaurs, and poisonous spiders, and the Planetarium where you get to journey through the far reaches of space and time. All without leaving your seat. Unlike the Smithsonian Natural History in Washington, it’s not free. But if you’re young and looking to embark on a career in the sciences, you can volunteer here, and maybe get an internship. Which could be pretty damn cool. [Details]

National Museum Of China Beijing

National Museum Of China, Beijing

The museum is actually two museums that in 2003 merged into one, a kind of museum tryst that turned into something special. In 2013 it was the third most-visited museum in the world. This strikes us as a bit misleading, because practically anything in China automatically ranks high on the most-visited list purely because there are so many people living there. The museum’s goal is to teach people about China’s history and artistic endeavors. It runs along the east side of Tiananmen Square. [Details]


The Egyptian Museum, Egypt

If you missed Tutankhamun’s world tour, you can still catch him and the artifacts on permanent display at the Egyptian Museum, which just happens to house the most comprehensive collection of Egyptian art anywhere in the world. The Mummy Room is especially popular. [Details]

International Cryptozoology Museum Portland Maine

International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, Maine

If it’s been seen countless times by oddball people in remote parts of the world, possibly photographed, and fallen into legend and local folklore, there’s a good chance it’s in this museum. The Cryptozoology museum is a showcase of our greatest creatures that don’t exist, but that could have, and possibly still might. We’re talking Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, The Abominable Snowman, and probably a whole lot more that you’ve maybe never heard of. Or maybe you have. [Details]

Tate Modern London

Tate Modern, London

Hardly the most beautiful museum from the outside, Tate Modern looks like it was built out of an old distillery. This is not far off the mark, in fact, as it used to be a power station. Recently, the museum put on what is the most comprehensive collection of Matisse’s Cut Outs ever assembled, a display that is unlikely to be repeated. As we write this, the exhibit is still running. If you’re lucky enough to be in London at this time, we urge you to visit this once in a lifetime collection, created by Matisse during his final years. [Details]

State Hermitage Museum St Petersburg

State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

So far as entry to St. Petersburg’s museum of art and culture, it’s better to be Russian, as you’ll pay more if you’re foreign. But entry is free if you’re a student or a child, or if it’s the first Thursday of the month, no matter what kind of passport you’re carrying. The Hermitage was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, but not opened to the public until 1852. It holds the largest collection of paintings in the world. [Details]

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Bears a strong resemblance to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is probably not surprising since it was also designed by Frank Gehry, who must have had a ton of aluminum sheeting lying around at the time and needed something to do with it. Actually, it’s made partly from titanium, and the concert hall from steel, but they look very similar. The building was opened in 1997 and houses an art collection from the mid twentieth century to the present day. [Details]

Natural History Museum London

Natural History Museum, London

80 million items are housed here, including some brought back from his voyages by Charles Darwin. 17 million insects and 3 million plant species are looked after at the Darwin Centre and its Cocoon building, where you can learn how new species are named, even talk to scientists about their work. Or visit the Attenborough Studio for talks with scientists and to get up close with chameleons and snakes. On the last Friday of every month, there are also night time tours and activities, and a sleepover if you’re a bit short on this month’s rent. Entry to the museum is free, which with all that’s available to visitors is really just amazing. The origins of the Natural History Museum go back to 1753, but the present Waterhouse Building opened in 1881. [Details]

Denver Art Museum Denver

Denver Art Museum, Denver

We’ve included the Denver Art museum because we wanted you to know that Denver isn’t only about John Denver and heaps of snow. It also has this amazing looking building that houses a renowned collection of American Indian Art, as well as modern and contemporary works and lots of other artistic goodies from around the world for you to feast your eyes and learning appetites on. [Details]

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

One of the most amazing things about the Rijksmuseum is that you can ride your bicycle through it. Not past the exhibits, of course. They don’t want the risk of you ripping a hole in the paintings with your handlebars. But it is possible to get from one side of the building to the other without going around the outside, and without leaving your seat. That’s one of the nice things about Holland, you can go practically anywhere on your bike. The inside of the Rijks is pretty good, too, displaying works of Rembrandt and Vermeer, among many others. Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is housed here. The area is a kind of cultural hotspot. Nearby is the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Concertgebouw. [Details]

Metropolitan Museum New York City

Metropolitan Museum, New York City

You could spend a lifetime in here. Or, because there is such an incredible wealth of history and artifact on display, you could visit every day for a year and not see half of it. If you’re in New York and have an interest in anything, The Met is a must. Big building with pillars. On the east side of Central Park. [Details]

Smithsonian National Air And Space Museum Washington DC

Smithsonian National Air And Space Museum, Washington DC

From our absurd early attempts to fly like birds, to the Wright Brothers’ first flight, to the first moon landing and on to the Space Shuttle, it’s all covered at the Air and Space. Get your hands on Lindbergh’s Spirit Of St. Louis, the 1903 Wright Flyer, moon rock, and the Apollo 11 Command Module. It brought Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin back to earth. [Details]

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