The world is full of beautiful things and, thankfully for us, a lot of those beautiful things have been cataloged and displayed in some of the world’s best museums for our viewing pleasure.
Here at Museum Hack. we are dedicated to bringing the museum experience to new audiences and we won’t stop until we enjoy an entire world’s worth of f***ing awesome museums.
So, sit back and get comfortable as we go Around the World in 80 Museums.
Opened in 1997, The Getty Center is best known for its gorgeous views, stunning gardens, and for being a great place for nannies and au pairs to take celebrity kids. This branch of the Getty Museum features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts, and photographs from the 1830s until today from all over the world.
Located in the heart (ish) of Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum has welcomed visitors from all over the world for the last hundred years. Boasting the title of “the most copper covered building in the world,” this museum features American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, textile arts, and art of Africa, Oceania, the Americas, and more.
Reopened in 2016, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art spans a whopping 170,000 square feet, making it one of the largest museums in the United States period and one of the largest in the world dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
Designed by architect Louis I. Kahn, this house of art is recognized as one of the most significant works of architecture of recent times. So basically, the museum should be in a museum.
Celebrating the achievements of the United States to the Allied victory in World War II, this museum contains artifacts, models, and interactive exhibits. Uncle Sam wants you… to come to this museum.
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States. Housed in this big old building are big namepieces like Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
If you like your museums well-rounded, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is for you. The MFA has over 450,000 works of art under its belt, from Dutch Golden Age paintings to Japanese pottery. It’s also the museum on this list parked closest to Harvard Yard, if that’s something you’re into.
If you want to get an up close and personal look at the world famous 1903 Wright Flyer or Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, this museum is literally the only place you can do that without some kind of time machine.
Another one of the largest museums in North America, the National Gallery of Art is the only place in the Americas where you can see a real live Leonardo da Vinci painting. You can take a gander at that bad boy before you take a stroll through the museums’ contemporary sculpture garden for a full day of museum fun.
They say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere, and the same is true for the artwork displayed at The Met. Representing over 5,000 years of art from all times and places, this museum is at the top of most “must see” museum lists for good reason. Plus, it holds a special place in our hearts since it’s where Museum Hack was born, kicking and high fiving into the crazy world.
This 5th Avenue hotspot is home to Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art. It was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright as a “temple of the spirit” so be sure to pay your respects the next time you’re in NYC.
Perhaps to be avoided by arachnophobes, the National Gallery of Canada is a glass and granite masterpiece guarded by its own giant Louise Bourgeois spider. Focusing mostly on Canadian art, this museum is not to be missed by lovers of the Great White North.
The Museo Nacional De Antropología in Mexico City is one of the largest and most visited museums in Mexico. Here, you’ll enjoy some a rich collection of Mexican art and artifacts including Stone of the Sun, an Aztec calendar stone that weighs 14 tons and definitely cannot be smuggled out of the museum in a large tote bag.
One of the most colorful museums on our list, the Museo Frida Kahlo is also known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul) because its bluer than a sad smurf on a clear day. This museum contains work by Frida Kahlo (duh), as well as her husband, Diego Rivera, and other Mexican folk art and artifacts.
The Instituto Ricardo Brennand contains a variety of artwork from European paintings to artifacts representing colonial and Dutch Brazil. This museum also contains one of the largest collections of armory in the whole world so if you’re thinking of starting a fight here… don’t.
Inhotim is not so much a museum as it is a sprawling art city. Topping out at 5,000 acres, this artistic exploration was started when former shipping magnate Bernardo Paz began collecting contemporary art and decided to turn his passion into a place where local artists could come create and display large-scalework. It’s like the Jurassic Park of museums. #artfindsaway
The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino displays primarily pre-Columbian artworks and artifacts from Central and South America. Started by Chilean architect and collector, Sergio Larraín García-Moreno, the museum began as a way for him to show off his own impressive collection of pre-Columbian goods and has blossomed into a huge collection today.
The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires’ mission is to educate, display, and promote artwork by Latin American artists. And if Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires is too long to say, it’s also known affectionately as MALBA.
Although it’s being restored from a fire in 1995, you can still tour the Rova of Antananarivo, otherwise known as the Manjakamiadana Rova, or the “Queen’s Palace.” This former royal palace complex is located on the highest point in Analamanga. Speaking of pointing, it’s considered taboo to point directly at the Rova, so keep your directions verbal.
This South African museum contains exhibits of African zoology, paleontology, and archaeology. Founded in 1825, this museum has had its fair share of controversy, but today strives to represent and celebrate South Africa’s people and cultures.
#21 – Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is the first major museum in Africa dedicated solely to contemporary art. Nicknamed “Africa’s Tate Modern,” the Zeitz showcases artwork and installations by underrepresented African artists.
The House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves) in Gorée Island, Senegal, serves as a memorial and museum to the Atlantic slave trade. Located off the coast of Dakar, this museum is a reminder and tribute to those who passed through the “Door of No Return” and endured the horrors of slavery.
Located in Dar Menebhi Palace, the Museum of Marrakech is filled with decorative mosaics, stained glass, and intricate tile artwork. The building itself serves as the main piece of artwork (especially the original courtyard) but pottery, calligraphy, old gravestones, coins, paintings, clothing, and historic documents are on display as well.
Formerly a department store, the Museum of Modern Art of Algiers is one of the baby museums on our list, having just opened in 2007. And if that description isn’t familiar enough, this modern and contemporary art house also goes by the nickname, MAMA.
Considered one of Egypt’s finest museums, the Alexandria National Museum used to house the United States Consulate and is now home to artwork and artifacts that chronicle the history and culture of Egypt and Alexandria.
The Egyptian Museum, not surprisingly, houses one of the largest collections of artifacts from Ancient Egyptian history. What started as a way to get looters to stop stealing ancient artifacts (thanks Indiana Jones) is now a popular tourist destination.
Considered one of the greatest art museums in the world, The Prado Museum is home to an extensive collection of European and Spanish art from the 12th century until the early 20th century. What sets the Prado apart from other museums is that fact that its collections were not started with making a cohesive collection in mind, but by collecting as many pieces by one artist as possible. Kind of like a Pokemon technique but for art.
The Reina Sofía Museum, in Madrid, Spain is a national museum of 20th-century art. If you’re a fan of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, welcome to the club; if there is a club, they probably meet at this museum.
Completing the “Golden Triangle of Art” with the Prado and the Reina Sofía, is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. This pretty place will pique your painting passions with over 1,600 of them under its roof.
#30 – MACBA, Barcelona, Spain
The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, or MACBA, showcases around 5,000 modern art piece from three time periods; forties to sixties, the sixties and seventies, and contemporary. Unlike other museums, MACBA had no art when it was built but was planned as part of the 1992 Olympics. However, the museum didn’t open until 1995, art included.
If you think our list so far has been a little too dry, head on down to Lanzarote, Spain for the world’s only underwater sculpture museum! Here you’ll join a licensed diver as they help you explore the sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor. It’s a chance to live out your very own Little Mermaid fantasy without the sea witch or voice curse.
If you’re craving some impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces then the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France is the place to be. If you’re craving a croissant Paris, France is also the place to be.
Get ready to fall in Louvre with the world’s largest art museum. Originally built as a fortress, The Louvre protects some of the world’s most important art pieces like the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa which you’ll recognize by the mob of people waiting to talk selfies in front of it.
If you love all things Claude Monet it stands to reason that you will also love a museum dedicated to his life and work. With over 300 of his pieces, this museum is so Monet and it doesn’t even know it.
Another museum dedicated to one artist, the Musée National Rodin contains 6,600 sculptures, 8,000 drawings, 8,000 photographs, and 7,000 art objects. A stroll through the museums garden will having you thinking with The Thinker, feeling romantic with The Kiss, and heading to The Gates of Hell like a bat out of it.
The Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles (The Museum of the City of Brussels) is dedicated to the history and folklore of Brussels (the city not the sprout). On display are paintings, sculptures, tapestries, engravings, photos, and models, including a scale-representation of Brussels in the Middle Ages.
This museum was born much like little George, Charlotte, and “insert future royal baby’s name here,” from royalty. By a royal decree in 1845, the Musées Royaux de Beaux Arts (The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium) must showcase artwork from Belgian artists, or else. Okay, there was no “or else” but it made it more exciting…
The Musée des Instruments de Musique (The Museum of Musical Instruments) is full of puppies! Just kidding. This museum contains over 8,000 musical instruments with over 1,200 on display. In addition to exhibitions, this museum focuses on education with workshops and classes offered throughout the year.
Founded by former Belgian King Leopold II, The Cinquantenaire Museum is one of the largest museums in Europe. This Belgian beauty contains thousands of pieces from many time periods and locations.
National Gallery of Ireland started in 1864 with only 125 paintings. Through grants and gifts that number today is more than 14,000 piece of art including an extensive collection of Irish artwork. Not bad for 154 years.
From the time it opened its doors in 1885, the Rijksmuseum has seen over one million art pieces pass through its collection. On display are works from Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, and more of your favorite Dutch dudes.
Located close to the Rijksmuseum, The Van Gogh Museum was created to showcase the work of Vincent van Gogh and fellow Dutch contemporaries. This museum was also the home to the largest art theft in the Netherlands with 20 paintings stolen and later recovered. So don’t try anything shady, they’re ready for it.
Opened in 1960, the Anne Frank House serves as a tribute and museum to Anne Frank who hid in the house during Nazi occupation and kept a diary of her life. Visiting this historic landmark is a reminder of the terror of the Nazi-controlled Europe and the resilience of a young girl’s spirit.
The Mauritshuis has the elegant distinction of housing the Royal Cabinet of Paintings featuring mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings of its 841 objects. This is also where you’ll get to gaze upon The Girl with the Pearl Earring and buy a rubber duck version of her immediately after.
The Louisiana Museum of Art contains modern and contemporary art from WWII until the present day. By its name, you might think this museum was located in New Orleans, Louisiana but you would be mistaken. This museum got its name from the original owner of the property Alexander Brun who had three wives. All. Named. Louise.
If you want to live out your 17th century pirate fantasies, The Vasa Museum is the place for you. The Vasa ship was a real treasure ship build in the early 1600s that set out to sea in 1628 and sank that very day giving it one of the shortest maiden voyages in history. In 1961 the ship was rescued from its watery grave and you can now explore the almost fully intact 17th century ship at your leisure.
#47 – Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden
The Bildmuseet in Umeå, Sweden houses international contemporary art, sometimes along with art historical retrospectives. Its seven stories of art and artifacts just waiting to be perused.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is London’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. It’s the namesake art house of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and British Kardashian, is set to become a royal patron in 2018.
#49 – Tate Modern, London, UK
Built on a former power station, Tate Modern is one of the largest modern and contemporary museums in the world. Today Tate Modern is part of four Tate family museums with real-life sugar daddy (he was a sugar refiner) Henry Tate to thank.
The National Gallery was founded in 1824 and like all almost 200-year-old things, has seen its share of history. Housing mostly paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900, The National Gallery was faced with a dilemma during WWII when many paintings were being evacuated for safety. Winston Churchill was having none of this and remarked: “bury them in caves or in cellars, but not a picture shall leave these islands.” This led to gallery workers realizing temperature affect paintings and now we have air-conditioned galleries. So the next time you’re freezing in a museum, thank Churchill.
The British Museum is dedicated to human history and culture all the way from the dawn of mankind until the dawn of the selfie. It was started in 1753 by physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane’s collections of books, manuscripts, natural specimens, and some antiquities, and has been educating and delighting audiences ever since.
The Design Museum in London explores product, industrial, graphic, fashion, and architectural design. The museum was originally housed in an abandoned banana warehouse, but split from that location and moved to its current one for more space and less banana smell.
The Sir John Soane’s Museum is the former home of neo-classical architect John Soane. He used his house as a place for exploration and experimentation in his own work so the museum is a result of three houses that were bought, demolished, and rebuilt by Sloane. When he died Sloane fought to preserve his house and work just as it was so that future generations could learn and be inspired by his sometimes wacky architectural practices and collections.
The Pergamon Museum is conveniently located on Museum Island in Berlin Germany. The museum showcases restored historical ruins like the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Mshatta Facade, as well as a Middle East museum, and museum of Islamic art. It’s one of the most visited museums in Germany and is great for running up and down stairs like Rocky.
Also located on Museum Island, The Altes Museum (German for old museum), is known as one of the most important buildings of the Neoclassical era because of its massive columns, delightful atrium, and exquisite staircase that leads up to the top of a rotunda that makes one feel like they could win a gladiator fight with anyone no matter how strong or naked.
Under the octagonal dome of the Kunsthistorisches Museum occurred the biggest art theft in Austrian history! In 2003 the Cellini Salt Cellar sculpture by Benvenuto Cellin was stolen and later found buried in a box in the forest three years later. Were the thieves hoping if they buried a piece of art an art tree would grow? We’ll never know.
If you love standing in line and the Italian Renaissance, the Uffizi Gallery is for you. Because of the priceless and delicate art housed within these walls, only small groups are let in at a time so during peak seasons you could be waiting longer than you’ve ever waited for brunch or a cronut. But it’s all worth it when you set your eyes their gorgeous collection.
The Palazzo Medici Riccardi is a Renaissance palace that may look modest from the outside but inside is full of opulent frescos and artwork worthy of royalty. It’s also seen some stuff. In 1983 Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler met and had dinner here, if these frescos could talk, they would sure have some stories to tell.
If you’ve had your fill of beautiful, traditional museums, then La Specola is your next stop. This natural history museum is full of always interesting, sometimes terrifying, wax anatomical models from the 18th century. It also contains fossils, animals, minerals, exotic plants, zoological subjects, medical instruments, and more unique oddities.
You’ve seen him in books, movies, cartoons, and your dreams if you’re into that sort of thing; now see the Michelangelo’s sculpture of David live and in person at the Galleria Dell’Accademia. There’s also other paintings and sculptures but let’s be real, David’s the star.
There’s no place like Rome and there’s no museum like the Galleria Borghese. Here you’ll enjoy art from a collection started by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a lover of art and nephew of Pope Paul V. Uncle Pope would be a great name for a reality show if Bravo or E! is looking.
The Acropolis Museum focuses on the artifacts from the Acropolis of Athens. Here you’ll enjoy getting up close and personal (well not too up close and personal) with ancient Athenian buildings and objects in the very location they were used.
Considered another one of the greatest museums in the world, The National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most important artifacts and pieces of Greek art. If Uncle Jesse from Full House entered the museum they might display him, too, as he is, in our opinion, a very important piece of Greek art.
Another place to view Greek art from the prehistoric to the modern (Uncle Jesse still not included) is the Benaki Museum. Located in the Benaki family mansion, it celebrates Greek culture throughout the ages.
Yad Vashem translated to “a monument and a name” and is dedicated to the family and victims of the Holocaust. It is located on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem and memorializes as well as celebrates individuals who fought against the Nazis.
The Shrine of the Book is the wing of the Israel Museum that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient religious Jewish manuscripts. The scrolls are so old and delicate they can only be displayed for months at a time before they are rotated out and go into hibernation in a storage facility like an ancient paper bear.
Whether you’re recently heartbroken or just know what it feels like, The Museum of Broken Relationships is the place to go for closure, healing, and maybe some crying. Here you can view personal object left by former lovers with short descriptions about the person or relationship. From axes to underpants, this museum is a graveyard of haunted love.
The State Hermitage Museum in Russia houses the largest collection of paintings in the world including most of artwork collected by the great Catherine the Great, a woman who loved art just as much as she loved being Russia’s longest-ruling female leader. #BAB
Imagine you’re a farmer in China in 1974, minding your own farmer business, when suddenly you discover thousands and thousands of buried Terracotta warriors just waiting to come to life and beat you up. They may not spring to life just yet, but these warriors were built for protection, specifically to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, in the afterlife.
Founded in 1953, The Shanghai Museum contains over 120,000 pieces, including bronze, ceramics, calligraphy, furniture, jades, ancient coins, paintings, seals, sculptures, and more. It’s considered to be China’s first world-class modern museums and is built in the shape of an ancient bronze cooking vessel called a “ding” so if looking at the museum makes you hungry for some ancient delicious delicacies, that’s why.
The National Palace Museum houses over 8,000 years of Chinese art and history dating way back to the Neolithic age. If being in this museum makes you feel like you’re in an Emperor’s palace that’s because a good amount of artifacts and art pieces were collected by Chinese Emperors themselves who lived and loved and occasionally stubbed their toes on the corners of things just like us.
The ArtScience Museum in Singapore is the world’s first of its kind. At first glance, this museum resembles a large lotus flower ready to be picked up and sniffed by King Kong but it’s also known as “The Welcoming Hand of Singapore.” Here you can enjoy traveling exhibitions that exemplify the marriage of art and science.
The neofuturistic Dongdaemun Design Plaza is home to conventions, trade shows, exhibitions, fashion shows, concerts, and other performances. Here you can enjoy unique and innovative showcases and events. Plus you might even be featured as an extra in one of the many Korean shows and films filmed here if you wait long enough and look cool enough.
The Chichu Art Museum translates to “art museum in the earth” but you don’t need to dig a tunnel to get there. This museums goal is to explore the relationship between people and nature and is built mostly underground so as not to affect the surrounding environment and scenery.
Unlike a lot of museums who receive their art through grants, donations, and gifts from several individuals, The Tokugawa Art Museum is comprised mostly of the art of one family, Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan, who once ruled the Owari Domain during the Edo period of Japan. Makes Grandma’s pearls seem pretty useless, doesn’t it?
The National Museum contains around 200,000 works of art, both of Indian artists and from around the globe, representing 5,000 years of history. Established in 1949, this museum is the same age as Meryl Streep, Billy Joel, and Twiggy.
Te Papa Tongarewa translates to “container of treasures” and that’s just what is housed on its six floors. The museum is mainly dedicated to preserving the art and culture of the current inhabitants of New Zealand, the Māori people, and other Pacific cultures. They are currently housing a Jim Henson retrospective complete with puppet workshop so go now if you’d like to be immortalized in felt.
A trip down under might land you in the loving arms of The Melbourne Museum. This museum features exhibits that explore nature and all her mysterious workings as well as celebrates the rich and diverse culture of Australia’s history and Aboriginal people. There’s even giant IMAX screen where you can sit back and enjoy a 3D documentary or Black Panther for the 10th time.
The owner of the Museum of Old and New Art, David Walsh, once described Mona as a “subversive adult Disneyland.” If that excites something inside you it’s time for a trip to Tasmania. At Mona you’ll experience unique, innovative installations along with live art performances and large-scale public art, mostly coming straight from David Walsh’s private collection.
You may have seen art and artifacts from Papua New Guinea at other museums around the world but nowhere can its history and tradition come alive more easily than where it all started. At the National Museum & Art Gallery you’ll explore over 50,000 years of history including artwork, tools, and even war artifacts like a P-38F Lockheed Lightning aircraft, the oldest P-38 in a museum in the world.
We’ve just gone around the world in 80 museums and boy are our arms tired. Love a museum that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments! We might need to make another trip soon…
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- Getty Center: Photo courtesy of Nancy-D, Discover Los Angeles Flickr pool
- Kimbell Art Museum: Public Domain
- Smithsonian National Art And Space Museum: Photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely via Flickr
- National Gallery of Canada: Photo Courtesy of Tullia on Wikimedia Commons
- Museo De Arte Latinoamericano: Photo Courtesy of Gobierno de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
- Museum of Modern Art of Algiers: Photo Courtesy of Rvince on Wikimedia Commons
- Museo Atlántico: Photo Courtesy of CACT Lanzarote
- Musée National Rodin: Photo Courtesy of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
- Musée du Cinquantenaire: Photo Courtesy of M0tty on Wikimedia Commons
- Rijksmuseum: Photo Courtesy of Marco Almbauer
- Anne Frank House: Photo Courtesy of dronepicr via Flickr
- Bildmuseet: Photo Courtesy of Rikard Fröberg
- The British Museum: Photo Courtesy of Eric Pouhier
- Kunsthistorisches Museum: Photo Courtesy of Manfred Werner - Tsui
- Galleria Dell'Accademia: Photo Courtesy of Clayton Tang, 2011
- The Shrine of the Book: Photo Courtesy of Chris Yunker
- The Museum Of Qin Terracotta Warriors And Horses: Photo Courtesy of Maros M r a z
- ArtScience Museum: Photo Courtesy of William Cho
- Tokugawa Art Museum: Photo Courtesy of Gryffindor on Wikimedia Commons
- National Museum & Art Gallery: Photo Courtesy of Bauple58 on Wikimedia Commons
- Above licensed under creative commons with attribution.