SL’s Guide To The Best Museums In The World

In honour of International Museum Day, we’ve rounded up our very favourite galleries across the globe. From modern art museums that have won awards for their own architecture, to centres dedicated to natural history and ancient wonders, this list of cultural hotspots has something for everyone. Start booking those flights…

The Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC

This isn’t one place, but 19 museums, nine research centres and a zoo spread down and around the Mall in Washington DC. Established in 1846, the institute now comprises the Natural History Museum, African American Museum, Air and Space Museum, American Indian Museum, the Hirshorn modern art gallery and the Postal Museum, among others. We recommend starting at the Castle, the institution’s visitor centre where guests can get a feel for the scope of each gallery and preview museum highlights – which include the original star-spangled banner, Dorothy’s ruby shoes and Michael Jackson’s fedora.

Various locations, Washington DC, USA


The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The second-largest museum in the world, the State Hermitage Museum was founded in 1793 by Empress Catherine the Great. Consisting of six historic buildings – each featuring a rotating display of the collection’s 3m objects – the most significant gallery is the Winter Palace, the former imperial residence. Within this elegant estate, you’ll find European and Eastern paintings, sculptures and decorative artworks, although the architecture of the building itself is worth the visit alone – picture plenty of gold embellishments and dramatic sweeping staircases.

38 Palace Embankment, St Petersburg, Russia


Guggenheim, New York

An internationally renowned art museum and one of America’s most significant architectural icons of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum in New York is a cultural centre, educational institution, and the heart of an international network of museums that stretch from Venice to Abu Dhabi. Built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959, the building became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2015. Within its infamous rounded walls, permanent exhibitions include the likes of Pablo Picasso’s Three Bathers and Henri Matisse’s Nude in a Forest.

1071 5th Avenue, New York USA


Le Louvre, Paris

The home of the Mona Lisa, Le Louvre is the world’s largest and most-visited museum, attracting almost 10m people through its doors each year. Originally a fortress and royal residence, the building became a museum in 1793. Today it features collections that span Roman antiques, Islamic art and Greek sculptures, while the Department of Paintings includes Italian masterpieces by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci. Below its distinctive pyramid, the auditorium hosts lectures and events on contemporary art and archaeology.

Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France


British Museum, London

Bloomsbury’s British Museum is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection numbers some 8m works, and is among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. Among its most famous artefacts are the controversial Elgin’s Marbles, its selection of ancient Egyptian mummies and original sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. Unlike many museums on this list, the British Museum is free to get into (although certain temporary exhibitions do have an entrance fee). The British Library next door is also worth a visit.

Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG


Galleria Dell’Accademia, Florence

It might not be as popular as the neighbouring Uffizi Museum, but as the home of Michelangelo’s David, the Galleroa Dell’Accademia contains Florence’s most famous exhibit. Throughout, the academy hosts other sculptures by Michelangelo and a large collection of paintings by Florentine artists, mostly from the period 1300-1600. Queues for the gallery are always long (and, as they snake outside, extremely hot and sticky), so we recommend booking in advance to avoid the line, or taking advantage of the late-night openings on Tuesday evenings.

Via Ricasoli, Florence, Italy


MoMA, New York

Located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art is home to an unparalleled collection of modern and contemporary art — from Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon to cutting-edge photography, film, design, and performance. Within, the gallery displays the most thought-provoking pieces – upcoming exhibitions for 2018 include Bruce Nauman and Charles White retrospectives. Experimental art and work by emerging artists can be viewed at MoMA PS1, the museum’s other site in Queens.

11 W 53rd Street, New York, USA


Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum has over 8,000 objects on display, selected from its total collection of 1m objects from the years 1200-2000, among which are masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. The museum also has a small Asian collection on display in the Asian Pavilion, which opened in 2013. If you only see one thing, make it Rembrandt’s Night Watch, which has its own room at the end of the Hall of Fame.

Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

More a monument than a museum, this striking tribute to the victims of the Holocaust is a must-visit. Formed of 2,711 concrete slabs right in the very centre of the German capital, the installation invites visitors to walk among the structures and contemplate the sheer scale of loss. Below, in the Place of Information visitor centre you’ll find the names of 3m victims and information about their families and lives through powerful photographs, diaries and farewell letters. The museum also has rooms dedicated to what went on in the concentration camps.

Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, Berlin, Germany


Acropolis Museum, Athens

The Acropolis Museum is a fascinating archaeological institution focused on the findings of the ancient site of the Acropolis of Athens. Opened in 2007, after its former site became too small for the vast number of visitors, this high-spec gallery houses finds from sanctuaries founded on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as objects Athenians used in everyday life from all historic periods. Our favourite section is the Archaic Acropolis Gallery, where sculptures that were once against a wall are now able to view in their full 360-degree glory.

15 Dionysiou Areopagitou, Athens, Greece


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