Ancient Greeks were the first people to appreciate and contemplate art through their museums and their patrons of creation deities, who they considered the source of inspiration and knowledge. Nowadays, the Greek word mouseion, which once signified a temple dedicated to the muses, stands at the origins of the term museum. The first museum known to history was Plato’s museum in Athens. Ancient Greek and Roman temples, as well as the pyramids in Egypt, became museums in themselves. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that some of the greatest museums opened their doors to the public, and the world’s first modern museum, the Louvre, was inaugurated in 1793. Nowadays, they have become famous landmarks and important tourist attractions. They are majestic buildings housing mankind’s culture under their roofs, represented by various exhibits of fine arts, science, and archeology.
Museums are tangible representations of the history of the human civilization. There’s no better way to learn about a country’s past, traditions, and views than by visiting its museums, which tell the story of both its glorious and tumultuous moments. We have put together a list of the biggest, most spectacular, and most luxurious museums in the world, boasting large collections and extremely rare exhibits. While some are quite expensive to visit, but nevertheless worth it, others are quite cheap or have no entry fee at all, despite their grandeur and priceless possessions.
5. The British Museum
One of London’s symbols, together with Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, the British Museum is one of the oldest and most valuable landmarks of its kind in the world. Founded in 1753, it boasts an inventory of over 7 million works of art. Dedicated to history and culture, it has managed to put together over 13 million exhibits from all corners of the world, from the Middle East to Ancient Egypt, Sudan, Ancient Greece, the Ancient Roman Empire, Asia, Africa, Oceania, America, and of course, Europe. In addition to paintings, sculptures, and archeological relics, the British Museum also has an impressive collection of coins, medals, and ancient literature. It is simply gigantic and welcomed 5.5 million visitors in 2012 alone. Proud of their inheritance, the Brits know how to protect their assets and the security measures visitors go through when entering the museum stand as proof to the latest technology they’ve adopted. Although incredibly famous and the second most visited museum in the world after the Louvre, the British Museum is free to visit.
4. The Vatican
The biggest museum in the world, the Vatican Museum welcomes 5.06 million visitors in 2012, quite a spectacular number if you consider that the state’s population counts just over 900 people. Located within the Vatican city’s boundaries, the museum is in fact a tour of the city’s most exquisite buildings. It is, a complex of museums that house the art works of the city-state. The very first collection of exhibits was purchased by Pope Julius II in 1506, and was put on display in the Borgia palace. Later, a space designated to house a museum was built, which developed over time, and now includes the Barberini Palace, which hosts the National Gallery of Ancient Art, the Ancient Sculptures Museum, the San Pietro Cathedral with Saint Peter’s tomb, and of course, the centerpiece of the Vatican is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, covered in Rafael and Michelangelo’s frescoes. Don’t forget to climb up San Pietro Cathedral’s Dome for a spectacular view of the city and the entire museum, and to stroll down the luxurious Vatican Gardens. The Vatican Museum is one of the most luxurious and most expensive museums in the world. The admission fee for an adult is $20.
3. The Louvre
Located in the very heart of Paris, on the right bank of the Seine, the Louvre is one of the largest and most renowned museums in the world. The origins of the spectacular building can be traced back to the 12th century, when it served as a citadel. After the French Revolution in 1789 it was reorganized as a museum, and was inaugurated on August 10, 1793. At the time, it had 537 paintings on display. Now, the Louvre has no less than 35,000 works of art on display on a total surface of almost 200,000 square feet. Among its most valued exhibits, the Mona Lisa is protected by unbreakable glass, a precautionary measure taken after a visitor threw acid over the paining in the 20th century, and after it had been stolen from the museum in 1911. Visitors can also admire the works of Rembrandt and Titian, as well as the massive Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese and the famous Venus of Milo, an ancient Greek sculpture dating from the Hellenic period, carved in Paros marble toward the end of the 2nd century BC.
The Louvre shelters the history and culture of mankind, from ceramics, jewelry, and archeological relics to engravings, paintings, and sculptures from all over the world. In 2012, it won first place in the top ten most visited museums in the world after welcoming 9.7 million guests. Although it is the most famous museum in the world, it is cheaper to visit than others. Entrance fee is $12 and access to temporary exhibitions costs $15.
2. Metropolitan Museum of Arts
Located in Manhattan, the unofficial center of the United States, at the corner of 5th and 6th Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum of Arts has been exhibiting modern art for many years. In fact, it is considered the most influential museum of its kind in the world. Its collection of over 2 million art works offers an interesting insight into modern and contemporary art, including architecture and design exhibits, drawings, paintings, photography, prints, picture books, and movies. Its massive library is one of the biggest in the world, boasting over 300,000 books and the individual sheets of over 70,000 artists, as well as modern art historical sources. The Metropolitan Museum also houses an award-winning five-star hotel, The Modern, run by Gabriel Kreuther, a famous chef. New York’s number one museum is the perfect combination of luxury, style, and culture, welcoming more than 6 million visitors each year. However, it all comes for a price, as the entrance fee is one of the highest in the world for a museum, at $25 for an adult ticket.
1. The Buehrle
Renowned for its priceless works of art signed by Cezanne, Degas, Vincent van Gogh, and Monet, the Buehrle is the most expensive museum in the world, charging $29 per adult. Plus, admission is made via appointment, both for groups and individuals it is the most expensive museum in the world. Located in the heart of Zurich, the museum opened in 1960, displaying Emil Georg Buhrle’s collection, a Zurich industrialist and proud owner of one of the largest private art collections of the 20th century. It includes some of Europe’s finest paintings, from classic to modern art, as well as the representatives of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Dutch paintings dating from the 17th century, Italian paintings dating from the 16th through 18th centuries, and Gothic wood sculptures. There are rare paintings of Europe’s greatest painters: Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Renoir, Vincent van Gogh.
Switzerland is renowned for its collections of rare paintings, and also for its poor security measures that guard these patrimony treasures. However, in February 2008, three armed men entered the Buehrle Museum, threatened the guards, and stole four paintings signed by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh, and Monet, worth an estimated $160 million. The art works have since been recovered, and the museum improved its security systems.