Although there are 55,000 museums currently in operation, only a select few have earned the distinction of being world-renowned. Those that have are a gift to everyone from seasoned scholars to grade-schoolers. A good museum is, at once, a treasure trove of secrets and an illuminating account of the past. Despite the fact that most people can view ancient artifacts with only a few keystrokes and a good search engine, millions still choose to travel across continents to see them in person and stand in the presence of history. The museums below have proven themselves to be the Top 10 Museums in the World.
10. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, U.S.A.)
It all started when a group of Americans, visiting Paris in 1866, decided to bring some of the French appreciation for art and education to the United States. Four years later, they made their vision a reality and founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today, the Met is the largest museum in the nation, with a collection of over two million works, spanning every major period from classical antiquity to modern art. While the main collection is undoubtedly impressive, consider visiting the Cloisters, a collection of medieval artifacts, nestled in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park.
9. Hermitage Museum (St.Petersburg, Russia)
The Hermitage Museum consists of six main structures, including three wings, a theater, a porcelain factory and the Winter Palace, former home to Russia’s sovereigns. But it is impressive in more than size, featuring a collection of over three million works, dating back to the Paleolithic period. Western European art makes up the largest section of the museum; however Russia’s history is also heavily represented. In the late 1990s, the Hermitage discovered secret collections of French art, stolen by the Nazis during World War II. An exhibition, entitled “Hidden Treasures Revealed,” included works by Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh.
8. The British Museum (London, U.K.)
Despite the suggestion of its name, the British Museum is devoted to the story of all mankind. The collection of artifacts housed here includes some of the most famous pieces from human history, including remnants of Nineveh Palace and the Rosetta Stone. Civilizations come to life here, from Mesopotamian antiquities, to Greco-Roman statues, to collections of drawings by great masters of the arts. Beyond standard classification, this is a museum of history, of art, of archaeology, of science, going back to our literal beginnings.
7. The Louvre (Paris, France)
Although it is not the largest, the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. Even those that do not have any experience with art or art history can appreciate the importance of some of the pieces housed here. There are precious few people that have not heard of the Mona Lisa or the Venus of Milo. The museum is home to almost one million works, although only about 35,000 are ever displayed at one time.
6. Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)
Although in comparison to some of the other selections on this list, the Uffizi is small, it is one of the oldest and most beloved museums in the Western world. Built in 1560, this popular Florentine attraction features one of the best collections of Renaissance art in the world. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were not only major contributors to gallery, but were known to be frequent visitors.
5. Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)
This spectacular structure has seen many reincarnations; it has been a Greek Orthodox basilica, an imperial mosque, a Roman Catholic cathedral and, in its final version, it has been designated a World Monument and a museum. An impressive remnant of Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia is itself an artifact, however within it are numerous mosaics, frescoes and religious relics that will impress both religious and secular visitors. Much like the city that surrounds it, this ancient structure is an amalgam of the many cultures that have found a home here.
4. Acropolis (Athens, Greece)
More than a museum, the Acropolis was founded and established on an archaeological site. As new artifacts were excavated, they became part of an extensive catalog that featured pieces from the Neolithic Period, Greek Bronze Age as well as Roman and Byzantine Greece. A beautiful piece of classical history, this citadel brings Ancient Greece to life again and has the potential to inspire a new generation of archaeologists.
3. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, D.C., U.S.A.)
Unlike others on the list of top 10 museums in the world, the National Air and Space museum does not showcase art, presenting instead an array of aircraft and spacecraft. In fact, this is the best collection of its kind in the world. It is also a research center that continues to delve deeper into aviation and planetary sciences. Anyone interested in the history and future of space exploration should make this museum a priority.
2. Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oswiecim, Poland)
Auschwitz-Birkenau allows visitors to walk through one of the most devastating places in human history and imagine the terrors faced there by prisoners. Serving as a memorial and an educational center, the museum offers three-hour tours through the authentically preserved grounds. The Holocaust is something that the global community has vowed to never forget, and museums such as this one are essential to that vow.
1. Museum of Modern Art (New York, U.S.A.)
Frequently cited as the most influential collection of modern art, the MoMA earns its place on the list of the top 10 museums in the world. Many flock to see the Picasso, Matisse and van Gogh pieces, but just as many are moved and inspired by recent exhibitions such as the Rain Room, which allows visitors to walk through the rain without getting wet. MoMA also has an institution devoted solely to contemporary art installations as well as a theater.
What do the top 10 museums in the world have in common? They are unique and varied. The top 10 museums in the world must be as they carry on the tradition of history and exploration.