If there’s one thing Europe is known for, it’s our rich history, specifically that which is centred in the arts. Whether it’s painted on a ceiling, hanging on a wall, or locked in a glass case, the museums here boast some of the finest artistic artefacts the world has ever seen. Here are our must-see museums that represent everything from ancient civilisations to world class artists to imposing architecture.
LOUVRE Paris, France
Perhaps one of the most famous museums in the world, the Louvre is home to one of the most famous paintings in the world—the Mona Lisa. Originally a fortress for Philip ll, in 1989 the famous glass pyramid of I.M. Pei was added to the facade, causing quite a stir. Today the museum gets nearly 9 million visitors a year. The grounds are so vast, however, that it would take 3 months to get through the entire space if you spent a mere 2 minutes on each piece.
SAMMLUNG BOROS Berlin, Germany
Housed in a former WW2 bunker (turned fruit storage, turned techno club), Sammlung Boros is one part private contemporary art collection and one part private residence (the owners live on the very top floor). Every four years the collection is switched out to feature new pieces. Right now you’ll find works by Ai Weiwei, Awst & Walther, and Alicja Kwade. Not to be missed, this museum is viewable by appointment only.
THE BRITISH MUSEUM London, United Kingdom
The largest museum in the United Kingdom, the British Museum is home to the Royal collection of archaeology and ethnography. Spend most of your time in the Egyptian Gallery — it is considered the best Egyptian ensemble outside of the country itself. The Rosetta Stone (196 B.C.), which provided a foundation to decode hieroglyphics can be found in one of the museum’s many galleries.
THE VATICAN MUSEUMS Rome, Italy
Twenty-two collections comprise the impressive Vatican Museums. The most well known are the Museum Pio-Clementino (classical sculptures), The Raphael Rooms (giant murals painted by Raphael), the portrait gallery of Pinacoteca (jewels from medieval and Renaissance paintings), and of course, the famed Sistine Chapel.
RIJKSMUSEUM Amsterdam, Netherlands
This Amsterdam must is the ultimate dream of any Dutch painting enthusiast. Among the 900,000 works at Rijksmuseum, you’ll find paintings by all of the local masters— Frans Halls, Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Ruysdael. The most famous painting in the museum is probably The Night Watch by Rembrandt.
GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM Bilbao, Spain
The building itself is just as famous as the modern and contemporary paintings inside and it’s regarded as one of the most important and iconic structures of the modern era. Works found in the Guggenheim span from the mid 20th century to the present day, with a strong focus on postwar painting and sculpture from America and Europe. The museum presents large scale pieces of art and installations, notably Richard Serra’s ‘Snake‘, which takes up the entirety of the largest gallery hall.
MUSEO NACIONAL EL PRADO Madrid, Spain
Originally built as a museum of natural sciences, the Museo del Prado is now one of the world’s greatest art museums (and it’s first public museum). The walls of the el Prado house the expansive collections of Spain’s royal families over the centuries. El Prado has one of the largest Rubenesque collections in the world — the most famous painting being ‘The Three Graces’ by Rubens. The space is so large, it’s impossible to see everything. Luckily, the museum offers multiple routes to focus on different masterpieces by Goya, Ribera, Velázquez, and Zurbarán.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY London, United Kingdom
Located at the heart of Trafalgar Square, a frequent gathering place for political and community events, is London’s most famous public art museum; The National Gallery. Its galleries of over 2,300 paintings belong to the citizens of the United Kingdom and therefore, entrance is free of charge. The collections are organised like an encyclopedia, with highlights including ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ by da Vinci, ‘The Water Lily Pond’ by Claude Monet, and van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’.
LOUISIANA Copenhagen, Denmark
Probably one of the most Instagrammed museums—thanks in part to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit—the Louisiana first opened it’s doors in 1958 as a home for modern Danish art. Artists such as Jackson Pollack, Henry Moore, and Arne Jacobson have all shown here. Nowadays it’s an international museum with some of the most renewed modern works housed in it.
THE UFFIZI GALLERY Florence, Italy
Italian culture has birthed a wealth of intellectual thinkers, artists, and inventors and the Uffizi holds some of their finest works, including pieces from the early Medieval, Baroque, and Mannerist periods. A former office building for Florentine magistrates, the Uffizi holds some of the most recognised paintings in the world, include Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’, Caravaggio’s ‘Bacchus’, ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli, and Da Vinci’s ‘The Annunciation’.
MUSEE D’ORSAY Paris, France
Housed in a former railway station that was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the Musee d’Orsay in itself is a work of art. Inside, you’ll find works from 1848 to 1914, including works from some of the most famous Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Gaughin all call the d’Orsay home on Paris’s famously artistic Left Bank.