What makes an art museum outstanding? Depending on who you ask, you’ll probably get a dozen different answers. Some people like lots of explanatory text but many others don’t want to have to read their way through the exhibits. Interactive features can be either enhancing or distracting, and most visitors really just want to look at the paintings. Our listing of a few of the world’s best art museums tries to strike a balance between the quality of the exhibits and the effort that’s gone into giving visitors a truly memorable experience. Hopefully, you’ll be able to add a few hidden gems of your own.
Musée du Louvre, Paris. An enormous treasure-trove of masterpieces that spans centuries of paintings, sculpture and historical artifacts. Yes, this is where you’ll find the Mona Lisa.
Vatican Museums, Rome. An unbelievable display of papal wealth and artwork displayed along the corridors leading to the Sistine Chapel.
The Victoria & Albert Museum, London. A city landmark and the world’s biggest museum of decorative arts and design, home to over 2.2 million objects and artworks. While in London, be sure to also take in the iconic Tate Modern.
The Prado Museum, Madrid. All the Spanish masters plus an impressive permanent display of Italian and Flemish paintings.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. The world’s largest collection of Van Gogh pieces including his famous sunflowers and self-portraits.
The Uffizi Galleries, Florence. Italy’s most famous art gallery with works by Botticelli, Michelangelo and the other stars of the Italian Renaissance.
Musées Royaux de Beaux Arts, Brussels. A showcase of Belgium art through the ages, from the Flemish primitives to the modern masters.
Museumsinsel, Berlin. Five museums housing artworks from every corner of the world on a UNESCO World Heritage listed island.
Louisiana Museum of Art, Denmark. A gorgeous setting for a large collection of Giacomettis and other European masters, enhanced by a serene sculpture park.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. MoMA is a perennial favorite with a huge range of artwork from around the globe and an unparalleled film collection.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The largest in the country with a collection exceeding 2 million pieces that includes most of the great European masters.
Getty Museum, Los Angeles. The Getty Villa in Malibu houses antiquities while the Getty Center in Brentwood is home to an impressive collection of European artworks.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. This is where Ferris Bueller took his infamous day off and is home to such classics as Nighthawks and American Gothic.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. The West Building is a who’s who of European artists while the East Building has a large contemporary art collection.
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Bueno Aires. Malba houses a world-class collection of 20th century Latin American art, temporary exhibits, and an art-house theater.
ArtScience Museum, Singapore. High-tech art installations and home to a series of world-class travelling exhibitions.
Shanghai Museum, China. The best place to get a complete overview of Chinese art from ancient times to contemporary masterworks.
Chichu Art Museum, Japan. Most of the galleries are underground and include works from Monet’s Water Lilies series. Complemented by a beautiful garden filled with the plants that inspired Monet’s paintings.
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, South Africa. Showcasing modern art from all over the continent with a vast permanent collection, temporary exhibits and five screening rooms.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Over 75,000 works of art including indigenous pieces, colonial works and a large permanent exhibition of Asian art.
No matter where your next adventure takes you, be sure to check out the local art gallery. You can learn a lot about a country by seeing it through the eyes of its artists, and the exhibitions of native works always tend to be the most interesting. Enjoy!