The 10 Best Museums In The World (with Photos)

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Museums are one of the main attractions of cities, especially those that house important works of art, knowledge and culture in general. Although the top ten of the most recognized museums worldwide can vary depending on the year or season, There are certain museums that we can consider the best museums in the world, due to their size, their number of visitors and the quantity and/or quality of the works they keep. Do you dare to take a tour of the 10 best museums in the world?

What are the 10 best museums in the world?

A very difficult question. Fortunately, around the world there are numerous museums that are justly famous for the very high quality of the works they keep, or for their number. It must be taken into account that, although when we think of a museum we usually evoke those that contain art and archaeological remains, we also have museums of natural history, mechanics, crafts, and even things as curious as chocolate or erotic objects.

Anyway, in order not to lengthen the list too much, we have decided to include only museums where works of art (mostly painting and sculpture) and archaeological remains are housed, which are closely linked to history and also to art. Join us to discover 10 of the most recognized museums worldwide.

1. British Museum, London

This London museum has the honor of being the first national and public museum in the world. In 1753, the physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) wrote in his will that he donated his entire collection (made up of no less than 80,000 items, including books and objects) to the state. These were the times of the Enlightenment, and European governments were very interested in promoting culture and knowledge. Thus, spurred by the enlightened environment and supplied by Sloane’s collection, the British Museum was inaugurated in 1759, thus kicking off the museum fever.

The building that we can see today is not the original headquarters. In 1759 the museum was opened in Montagu mansion, a beautiful classicist building located in a privileged neighborhood of London. By the middle of the 19th century it had become more than small, so a new neoclassical-style building was planned, to which successive extensions were added to the present day.

British Museum, London

2. National Prado Museum, Madrid

The Madrid art gallery is one of the most visited museums in the world and, according to the Hispanist Jonathan Brown, the most important in terms of European painting. And, indeed, although the Prado has certain gaps in terms of periods and artists (remember that its collections initially drew from the royal collections, directed by the tastes of the monarch in power and not by historical interest), painters from the likes of Velázquez, Goya or Rubens, among many others.

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The building was a project by the architect Juan de Villanueva to house the Natural History Office, promoted by the Count of Floridablanca, secretary of Charles III. Again, We find ourselves in an enlightened context, which places special interest in the advancement of science and the arts and their dissemination.

The War of Independence ruined the project; After serving as a barracks, the beautiful neoclassical building of Villanueva was almost in ruins. It was not until 1819, and under the impetus of Queen Isabella of Braganza, that it was opened again, this time as an art gallery, with the name of the National Museum of Painting, the seed of what would later become the Prado Museum.

National Prado Museum, Madrid

3. Louvre Museum, Paris

In 1793, in the midst of the revolutionary din (remember that that year was the year of Terror), the Louvre Museum was officially inaugurated, located especially in the Grand Gallery of the old palace. The project fit perfectly with the revolutionary ideals of giving the people what was previously the exclusive heritage of the elites. Thus, the Louvre became the third public museum in the world, after the inauguration of the British in 1759 and the Uffizi in Florence in 1769.

The collections were nourished by the acquisitions that the monarchy, the Church and the nobility had made over the centuries. In reality, the one who began planning a museum in the building that had once housed the kings of France (in those years already moved to Versailles) was the Count of Billarderie d’Angiviller; Ironically, the project only materialized after the Revolution.

The building where the museum’s magnificent collection is currently located (which includes works of art and archaeology) has its roots in the medieval fortress of which the foundations are still preserved and which can be visited on the ground floor of the museum.

Louvre Museum, Paris

4. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

One of the greatest merits of the MET in New York is that it is one of the few museums that had to start from scratch, with practically no works for its collection. By 1870 the Civil War was almost a memory, and the United States was feeling optimistic. It was then decided to inaugurate a museum in New York in imitation of the great European artistic centers, which would give a charter of cultural dignity to the city and the country.

The official reception took place in February 1872 and enjoyed great acceptance by the public. Through donations (especially from the great magnates of the Gilded Age of the United States) and various acquisitions, the MET managed to obtain works of art of indisputable quality, from all continents. In 1905, a didactic mission began, led by figures such as Frances Morris (1866-1955), the first woman to work at the institution.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

5. Pergamon Museum, Berlin

This is the name given to the set of Berlin collections that span from the Greek Hellenistic era to Islam, passing through Mesopotamia and the Middle East. The name comes from the impressive reconstruction, stone by stone, of the altar of Zeus in the city of Pergamon, located in modern-day Turkey. The main attraction of this impressive museum is that the architecture is reconstructed within its walls, which causes the visitor understandable amazement.

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The other great jewel of the museum, which opened in 1930, is the Ishtar Gate, the entrance to ancient Babylon, which gives us an idea of ​​the splendor that the Mesopotamian city enjoyed. However, this and the other reconstructions of the Pergamon Museum have been the subject of considerable criticism regarding their historical rigor.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin

6. Egyptian Museum in Cairo

It is the largest collection of Egyptian art and antiquities in the world, with more than 100,000 pieces from all periods of Egyptian history: ancient, Hellenistic and Roman. The institution is contemporary with the fever for everything Egyptian, which developed since the mid-19th century. Among the greatest treasures housed in the museum is Tutankhamun’s treasure, discovered in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter.

Its history dates back to 1835, when the Egyptian Antiquities Service was founded with the aim of protecting Egypt’s heritage from European plunder. As often happens, the museum changed its headquarters on several occasions, until, in 1900, Marcel Dourgnon, a French architect, designed a new headquarters in an eclectic neoclassical style, which was not officially inaugurated until two years later.

Egyptian Museum in Cairo

7. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Its peculiar name (literally meaning “hermitage”) referred to the palace adjacent to the Winter Palace, where, in 1764, Catherine the Great placed her first paintings. The empress was an enlightened woman and, following the ideas that came from Europe (and, let us not forget, she was of German origin) she planned to create an important collection of works of art, which she acquired little by little in Europe.

Thus, the first nucleus of the Hermitage was located in the Winter Palace, the official residence of the Tsars of Russia, and then it expanded until it occupied the six buildings that currently comprise it. Visiting the Hermitage is not only about being enraptured by the magnificent works that are preserved there (not only painting, but also sculpture and Roman and Greek antiquities), but it is also an opportunity to delight in the rooms of the old palace, which are a museum. In themselves.

When the Revolution began in 1917, the Hermitage was declared a national museum and admission was completely free for a time. The safety of its works was seriously compromised during World War II. In 1941, with the advance of the German army, the museum was evacuated, in what would be the second largest artistic evacuation along with the one the Prado experienced during the Civil War. Currently, The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg is one of the most visited and important museums in the world.

Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

8. Uffizi Gallery, Florence

As a building, the Uffizi in Florence is one of the oldest of those that constitute a museum. It was designed by the architect Giorgio Vasari in the last decades of the 16th century, with the aim of creating a headquarters for the city offices (hence the name, Galleria degli Uffizi, “Gallery of the Offices”). From the beginning, the Medici, at the head of the government of Florence, arranged in their spaces works of art that they had been acquiring and which were the seed of the later museum.

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One of the oldest parts of the building is the so-called Eastern Corridor, where a large part of the collection of ancient sculpture that the family had owned since Lorenzo the Magnificent founded the famous Garden of Statues of Saint Mark, where they were going to copy the greatest artists (among them, a very young Michelangelo).

In 1769 the museum opened as a public entity, after the last Medici in the city, Anna Maria Luisa de Medici (1667-1743), wrote in her will that she wished to give the works contained therein to Florence. Today it is one of the most important museums in the world, housing, among other masterpieces, some of the best examples of Quattrocento painting.

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

9. Acropolis Museum, Athens

The withdrawal of the Turks from the Acropolis and the independence of Greece caused, in the 1830s, the possibility of placing the preserved works of art in a suitable museum. Thus, between 1865 and 1874, the Greek architect Panages Kalkos designed a building large enough to house the collection of Greek antiquities from the Acropolis and other places in Greece, which spanned from the archaic period to Hellenistic Greece.

The initial museum quickly became small and successive expansion and remodeling works have been undertaken since then. Today, the Acropolis Museum in Athens is one of the most important archaeological museums in the world, and without a doubt one of the main references in terms of ancient Greek art.

Acropolis Museum, Athens

10. Vatican Museums, Rome

The enormous museum complex that makes up the Vatican Museums is one of the largest and most important in the world. The collections are property of the Catholic Church and are open to the public; In the Vatican, very important pieces of ancient art are preserved (such as the famous Laocoön or the Apollo Belvedere), as well as notable pictorial works, among which the Sistine Chapel complex, executed by Michelangelo, stands out.

Cardinal Giulio della Rovere already owned a considerable amount of works of art from antiquity before being named Pope Julius II. When he received the title and moved to the Vatican, he took with him his collection of Roman and Greek sculptures, which he arranged in the Belvedere courtyard, the original core of the current museum.

On the other hand, and as is the case with the Hermitage, the Vatican Museums are a work of art per se, not just their pieces. The walls of the rooms house paintings by such renowned artists as Raphael and Perugino, and the aforementioned Sistine Chapel is one of the largest paintings in the world.

Vatican Museums, Rome