Cultural heritage informs and defines the identity of any society. It is the expression of a society's history and values. That's why, no matter what country you go to, its museums will be high on your list of interesting places to visit. Here are 10 of the world's most significant art museums. If you are a traveler, they should all be on your 'bucket list'.
1. Musée du Louvre - Paris, France
Once the fortified palace of France's ruling royalty, the Louvre is the world’s most famous museum. It's home to some of the finest works of art in the world, including the ancient Greek statue known as Venus de Milo, and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
2. The Vatican Museums - Rome, Italy
Spanning nearly nine miles, the Vatican's art collection is one of the largest and most stunning in the world. Estimated to have more than four million visitors annually, the Vatican museums feature the art of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and of course, there's Michelangelo’s spectacular Sistine Chapel ceiling.
3. Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, New York
'The Met' is the largest museum in the United States, and one of the largest museums in the world. From ancient artifacts, to contemporary artists like Picasso and Jackson Pollock, there are over two million works of art, and enough variety for any enthusiast. Admire its impressive collection of ancient Greek sculptures, and visit the display of arms and armor. You will also find more than 2,000 works of art by the great European masters, all contained in a magnificent Beaux-Art facade building.
4. J. Paul Getty Museum - Los Angeles, California
Once J. Paul Getty's private collection, the Getty Museum features many world-renowned artworks, including the works of Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne. The museum’s building is a work of art in itself, and the grounds feature beautiful gardens, and splendid views of the city.
5. Musée d’Orsay - Paris, France
One of the world's most beloved paintings, Van Gogh’s 'Starry Night', is located here at the Musée D’Orsay. With a dramatic glass roof, it was originally a train station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. It specializes primarily in French art from 1848 to 1914. Of particular note is its collection of Impressionist art including works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Degas.
6. Uffizi Gallery - Florence, Italy
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest art museums in the world, and houses many important examples of Renaissance art, including works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as Botticelli’s famous 'Birth of Venus'. Located in the heart of old Florence, this region of Tuscany is a must for any visitor.
7. Art Institute of Chicago - Chicago, Illinois
The 2nd largest museum in the U.S., the Art Institute of Chicago boasts more than 300,000 works of art. It also houses the largest Impressionist collection outside of France. You'll find iconic works by Claude Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, George Seurat, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh. For those with more modern artistic tastes, the Art Institute also has some of the finest examples of post-war Pop art ever assembled. Among them, you'll see works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein.
8. Tate Modern Art Museum - London, England
The Tate Museum houses an extensive collection of British art, from the 16th century to the present. Also, it is home to one of the largest collections of Surrealism in the world. The museum is actually located in four separate locations, each with its own specialty. The Tate Britain and Tate Modern are both located in London, one housing it's collection of British art (ie., John Constable and William Turner), and the other, Modern art (ie., Robert Delaunay and Paul Klee). There is also the Tate Liverpool, and the Tate St. Ives.
9. Prado Museum - Madrid, Spain
The Prado Museum houses one of the world's largest and most impressive collections of Spanish art. The collection includes iconic works by Goya, Velasquez, Murillo, El Greco, and more. There are also numerous works by Renaissance and pre-Renaissance masters, such as Fra Angelico, Heironymus Bosch, Titian, Raphael, Rubens, and Rembrandt.
10. National Gallery of Art - Washington, D.C.
The National Gallery of Art features an eclectic collection of artworks, including artistic treasures from the 12th century, works from masters of the Middle Ages (ie., Jan van Eyck), early American art (John Singleton Copley and James Whistler), and iconic modern artists (Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock). The museum also features a wonderful outdoor sculpture garden. And if the time is right, be sure to check out its Jazz in the Gardens Series every Friday evening from May through August.