Museums say a lot about a city’s culture, heritage and architecture. As a traveler I love to visit the museums not only to see famous works of art, but to feel more connected to humanity and the qualities that make us unique. And let me tell you no two museums are the same, and I have learned to identify and admire the art works of each of the museums I have visited. I put together a list of my top ten museums from around the world in order of priority.
Without a doubt Musee d’Orsay is my favorite museum in the world. All other museums don’t even come close. The building itself is a piece of art. Located on the left bank of the Seine, the formerly Gare d’Orsay was commissioned for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. It officially opened to the Public as a museum in 1986, and it’s now home to an impressive collection of art.
Why I love it: The high ceilings and the open space that allows you to view the entire museum from the top floor. The glass ceiling allows for natural light to come in, which is rare for many museums that go from gallery to gallery without natural light. From the terrace, one can enjoy a view of the louvre and the right bank of Paris as well as Sacre Coeur in the distance. Don’t forget to take an iconic picture next to the giant clock and dine in style.
The highlights: The large collection of impressionist paintings on the fifth floor. The multi-levels of the galleries and staircases. The collection of sculptures along the second level’s open space. See the Ballerina paintings by Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait and the always beautiful Monet.
- The Luncheon on the Grass – Edouard Manet
- Starry Night Over the Rhone Arles – Vincent van Gogh
- Bal du moulin de la Galette – Pierre-Auguste Renoir:
- The Floor Scrapers – Gustave Caillebotte
- The Origin of the World – Gustave Courbert
National Museum of Anthropology (Mexico)
This museum bumped all others down the list, and it quickly became one of my absolute favorites. The collection of prehispanic archeological and anthropological artifacts is impressive. The design is simplistic and sleek, except for the giant umbrella roof supported by a single column that serves as a fountain. Located in Chapultepec, the museum is nearby many other attractions such as Chapultepec Zoo, and Chapultepec Castle.
Why I love it: I was blown away by the rich history of my country. I perhaps never paid that much attention to history class, and once I set foot in this museum my mind was blown away. The prehispanic history of Mexico is so rich it would take many months to take it all in. There were so many cultures that existed within the territory, Teotihuacan, Toltec, Aztecs, Olmecs and Mayans
The highlights: I must admit, I have a hard time focusing when it comes to anthropology and history, but this museum held my attention the entire time. Each section of the museum is devoted to a particular region and culture, which makes easy to follow. The artifacts are displayed in such a way it makes you want to learn more.
- The Aztec Calendar or Piedra del Sol (stone of the Sun)
- Model Scale of Teotihuacan
- Olmec Colossal Head
- The Mayan Room
The Art Institute of Chicago
In 2014, TripAdvisor named the Art Institute of Chicago number one museum in the world. It’s easy to know why. The museum is located in the heart of downtown Chicago, in between Grant Park and Millennium Park, in one of the most famous Avenues in the country.
Why I Love it: I probably sound like a broken record, but I love the architecture. Starting with the two iconic bronze lions, the Beaux-Arts architectural design and the contrast with the most-recent Modern Wing, making the design unique and iconic to the city of Chicago. It also houses one of my favorite paintings, Picasso’s Old Guitarist and several from Salvador Dali.
The highlights: The Modern Wing houses contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century. The Nichols Bridgeway that connects Millennium Park to the Modern Wing offers spectacular views of the city. As the second largest museum in the U.S., it houses a large collection of European Decorative Arts, African Art and Indian Art of the Americas, photography, drawings and textiles.
- Water Lilies – Claude Monet
- The Old Guitarist – Picasso
- A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – Georges Seurat
- Paris Street; Rainy Day – Gustave Caillebotte
- American Gothic – Grant Wood
- Nighthawks – Edward Hopper
The Museum of Modern Art MoMA
Located in the heart of Midtown, MoMa has a lot to offer for every taste. Whether you are a true art lover or you just went there to see Starry Night, this museum will not disappoint. There is a wide variety of exhibitions to pick from including, modern sculptures, paintings, furniture, and video installations.
Why I love it: This museum has a lot of character overall. There’s a 70s retro vibe going around in the museum. Most of the artwork symbolizes a period of artistic expression that is unique and has to be seen with an open mind.
The Highlights: I’d have to say the Pop Art works are the greatest highlight. With bright deep colors, and an overload of pop culture, you’ll be walking into one of the tripiest exhibitions I have ever seen. Visit MoMa and take a walk down the cultural revolution of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
- The Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh
- The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali
- Ma Jolie – Pablo Picasso
- George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr – Richard Avedon
At one point in our life, we all dream about visiting the Louvre in Paris, as it is perhaps the most famous museum in the world. One could spend hours in the museum and never see it all. The collection is extensive, extending from European paintings, to sculptures, middle eastern artifacts and decorative arts. The list goes on.
Why I love it: The Louvre is a Museum within a Museum, one only has to look at the architecture, frescoes on the ceilings, and marble to appreciate the symbols of luxury and power from the Monarch era of France. The Louvre is staple to be seen if you find yourself in Paris. As the largest museum in the world be prepared to spend at least three hours, and even then you won’t be able to see it all.
The Highlights: The glass pyramids on the main courtyard. The Mona Lisa of course, although only famous because it was stolen in 1911. You will have to fight the crowds to get a picture. Once you leave the Mona Lisa Gallery the museum is quite pleasant. Crowds are dispersed and it’s easy to walk around and enjoy more art. I particularly enjoy seeing the Dutch painters.
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC, Ancient Greece)
- Mona Lisa – Leonardo DaVinci
- Liberty Leading the People – Eugène Delacroix’s
- Venus de Milo
- The Coronation of Napoleon – Jacques-Louis David
Accademia Gallery Florence
Located in the heart of Florence, this museum is home to the most impressive sculpture in the world in my opinion, Michelangelo’s David. Unlike some of the larger museums, this one is quite cozy and you’re able to absorb more of it. The museum blends in within the city of Florence. You won’t find a large courtyard to identify if, which is the best part. The most impressive part is walking in and seeing the sculpture of David in the middle of the gallery.
Why I love it: If I had to say of the top of my head, it would be all because of the sculpture of David. It is the master piece of masterpieces. Once at the museum you will discover hidden treasures and come to find out the museum has a lot of charm and class.
The Highlights: The Hall of the Colossus, a large hall where visitors are welcome with paintings decorating the walls and an impressive sculpture in the center. Don’t skip the museum of musical instruments, which date back to the 1600s and an original Viola by Stradivari. Don’t let your focus to solely be on David, also take a look at Michelangelo’s slaves.
- David – Michelangelo
- Rape of the Sabines – Giambologna
- Madonna of the Sea – Botticelli
Metropolitan Museum of Art
This Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States. The MET has become and icon not only to New York City but around the world. Who hasn’t heard of the MET Gala? An event that symbolizes status and glamour. The MET is an iconic building located on the edge of Central Park in the Upper East side.
Why I love it: Might be a little bit embarrassing to admit, but Gossip Girl might be responsible for part of my obsession with the MET. Remembering Blair and Serena sitting on the steps deciding who gets to sit with them. If you find yourself there, stop at one of the food trucks and eat it on the steps and feel like a million bucks.
The Highlights: The Arms and Armor hall is a must see at the MET enjoy seeing vintage armor. The Greek and Roman Hall is a nice contrast from the armor room and you can get your fill of marble sculpted art. Also, the spacious great hall is an architectural masterpiece.
- Gertrude Stein – Pablo Picasso
- Madame X – John Singer Sargent
- Death of Socrates – Jaques Louis David
- The Temple of Dendur – Gallery 131
- Venus Italica
National Gallery London
The National Gallery of London holds priceless treasures. Located only a few steps from Trafalgar Square, just across from the giant lions, the building itself is in the Neoclassical style. And did I mention it’s free? That’s right, just walk right in, but make sure to make a small donation in one of the donation boxes. The National Gallery is also located walking distance from Piccadilly Circus
Why I love it: I love the National Gallery due to the impressive collection of paintings which seem to come to life with the artists’ brush. I found the National Gallery to be quite peaceful to walk around in without the large crowds of the Louvre or MET.
The Highlights: Free guided tours are offered every hour, something to take advantage of. The tour usually lasts about an hour and it takes you through some of the most famous art-works with an explanation of the artwork and artist.
- Sunflowers – Vincent van Gogh
- The Arnolfini Portrait – Jan Van Eyck
- Whistlejacket – George Stubbs
- Madame Moitessier
Picasso Museum Barcelona
Museu Picasso is located on Montcada Street in the Bank district of Barcelona. The museum occupies 5 buildings in the district and follows the Gothic civic Catalan style. Is the only museum dedicated to the Picasso’s work that opened during his lifetime.
Why I love it: Museu Picasso takes you on a journey through the evolution of Picasso as an artist. It holds one of the largest collections of works by Picasso. The gothic architecture of the museum makes it quite unique, and different than some of the more classical museums.
The Highlights: Picasso is known for some of his famous styles of painting, cubism, blue period, among others. And you’ll be able to see the early works of Picasso while he was still a student in a more classical level. This is prove the great artists first master the basics before developing their own style. Walk through the timeline of Picasso’s work and style.
- Science and Charity – Picasso
- Portrait of Jaume Sabartés with ruff and cap – Picasso
- The Walt (Margot) – Picasso
Frida Kahlo Museum
Who doesnt love Frida? With her iconic style and a symbol of feminist courage and strength. And if you saw the movie Frida featuring Salma Hayek, then you remember the iconic house where Frida spent most of her life. Well step back in time and experience first hand how the artist lived.
Why I Love it: I love the authenticity and the way the museum honors the life of the artist. And it’s located in the vibrant and colorful neighborhood of Coyoacan in Mexico city. The courtyard is a contrast of vibrant blue walls, plants, and flowers pots.
The Highlights: Each room has original furniture and artifacts from the Kahlo family and their ancestry. Pay attention to the bedrooms, old school kitchen and art supplies in the studio.
- The collection of dresses and accessories
- Taking your picture and pretending to be Diego and Frida
- The details and artifacts in each of the rooms