10 of the Best Museums in the World

Whether you’re on holiday in an exciting destination or simply have free time to kill in your hometown, museums can be a wonderful activity. Part of what makes museums so exciting is that each one is unique, with incredible pieces and artifacts that allow you to delve into history and modern times. There’s no such thing as seeing too many museums in a lifetime, instead why not try to visit as many as possible?

Each year on May 18 people around the world celebrate International Museum Day. It’s a chance to recognize what they offer to people both from an educational and interest standpoint. So in honor of International Museum Day, we’ve got a list of the 10 best museums in the world. These would be ideal additions to a bucket list.

Louvre Museum, Paris, France

A scenic view of the Louvre Museum at the heart of Paris, France in daylight
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Not only does the Louvre Museum in Paris house an extensive collection of jaw-dropping pieces, but even the museum itself is a display to behold. The museum was originally a fortress in 1190 and then in 1364 it became a royal residence. Throughout the centuries it went through several changes and then the Grande Galerie was constructed between 1595-1610. It wasn’t until 1791 that it was labelled a museum of the arts, and then opened in 1793 to the public.

As for the world-famous Pyramid that sits in front of the museum, is made from 70 segments of glass all triangular shaped, and was finished being built in 1989. The collections span more than 500,000 works and they are always being updated. As well, numerous temporary exhibitions are displayed throughout the year.

Vatican Museums, Vatican City

Aerial view of Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican located in Rome, Italy
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Here’s another historic museum to visit and that’s the Vatican Museums in Vatican City. When visiting the Vatican Museums the first thing you’ll notice is that there are multiple museums – not just one. Each one features unique collections and includes such museums as the Pio Clementino Museum, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Niccoline Chapel, the Christian Museum, and many more. The archaeological areas are also stunning, giving visitors a more in-depth view of world history.

To experience the Vatican Museums the way they are meant to be enjoyed, you may want to look into a guided tour. These tours range in ticket price and focus on different features of the Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt

Egyptian Museum or Museum of Cairo building in Cairo downtown, Egypt
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Speaking of history and archeology, it doesn’t get better than The Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The museum features more than 170,000 artifacts and has the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities that you’ll find. The museum was founded in 1902, making it the oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East.

If you’re planning a visit to Cairo, you simply can’t leave without visiting this iconic world-class museum. In terms of what’s on display, you’ll find exhibits that cover the Pre-Dynastic Period up to the Graeco-Roman Era (c. 5500 BC-AD 354).

Museo Nacional de Antropologia / National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico

The courtyard inside the Anthropology Museum, with sculpture, pond and modern architecture
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While it’s true that Mexico as an independent country has only existed since 1810, its history of early humans dates back an astonishing 30,000-40,000 years ago. What this means is that the country offers a wealth of information where artifacts are concerned. This is a big part of why the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, in Mexico City, appears among the top 10 best museums in the world list. This is the National Museum of Mexico, so you won’t find a more complete or immersive collection elsewhere.

Some of the most notable pieces in the museum include the Jade Mask of the Zapotec Bat God, the recreation of Pakal’s tomb, and the Sun Stone – the Aztec calendar. There are 23 permanent halls in the museum and temporary exhibits come and go.

Vasa Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

People in front of model of Vasa, viking ship.
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When in Stockholm, Sweden, the Vasa Museum is a must-visit attraction. This is a maritime museum so everything is dedicated to maritime history and artifacts. The museum is home to the world’s only almost fully intact 17th-century ship named Vasa. It is a 64-gun warship that sank back in 1628 on its maiden voyage. The site is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The museum is now one of the most-visited in Scandinavia.

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa

Famous Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa
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The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg holds significance for so many different reasons, this one offers an educational and emotional experience for visitors. While this one isn’t as old as some others on this list, it doesn’t make it any less important.

It was opened in 2001 and since then has become one of the most important museums in terms of South African history. It depicts the apartheid and the 20th century in the country. Even the doors to enter the museum hold historical significance and set the tone of the museum. Visitors are taken on a journey that shows the rise and fall of apartheid with both permanent and temporary exhibits.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The outside of the Van Gogh Museum from Museumplein during the early evening.
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Whether you are deeply familiar with Van Gogh’s work or you just have a passing interest, The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands should still be on your must-visit list. As you’d expect, the museum houses the works of Vincent van Gogh and other famous artists from his time. It was founded in 1973 and has seen a steady flow of visitors since then.

Some of Van Gogh’s pieces in the permanent exhibit include Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters, The Bedroom, and Almond Blossom. The museum takes things a step further by also displaying his letters and drawings so you get a better sense of who he was.

American Museum of Natural History, New York City, United States

American Museum of Natural History
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The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is a well-known and well-loved museum. For fans of the movie series A Night at the Museum, this is the museum that was depicted in the movies. This museum was founded back in 1869 and since then it has made its way to the top of many lists when it comes to premier culture and scientific institutions. The exhibits aim to educate people on the natural world, human cultures, and the universe as a whole.

Many exhibits are included in the admission fee, but then there are a handful that require an additional ticket. Some of the permanent exhibitions include the 94-foot long blue whale model; the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Collections Core with over 3,000 items on display; the massive Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil on display; and one of the biggest collections of minerals and gems on display in the world at the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

The British Museum, London, England

 Tourists visiting the British Museum
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The UK has its fair share of top museums as well, but the first that comes to mind has to be The British Museum located in London. This museum’s exhibits are dedicated to human culture and history with a permanent collection of eight million pieces. This makes its collection the largest in the world and can take visitors through the history of human culture from the beginning to the current day.

The museum was founded in 1753, which helps explain its massive collection. Be sure to visit both its permanent and traveling/touring exhibitions. Two million years’ worth of human culture and history is a lot to take in, so expect to spend a full day exploring.

New Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

 Acropolis Museum is archaeological museum focused on findings archaeological site of Acropolis of Athens in Greece.
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The Acropolis Museum in Athens, also known as the New Acropolis Museum, is the second iteration of the museum. The original was founded in 1874 and remained open to the public and remained that way until 2007. The New Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 and features a large display of Greek ancient artifacts and relics.

Everything contained in the museum however is from one archaeological site, which makes it unique. Everything was found on the Athenian Acropolis.

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