40 Best Museums in Europe
No visit to Europe is complete without taking in some of its masterpieces of art. And no visit is complete without exploring its extraordinary history, marked by everything from circa-1200s architecture to hotels older than the United States.
Combining the two — great art, fantastic history — are iconic museums that have become must-visits on European travel lists. Here, we unveil the 40 biggest and best of them in the continent's most heavily visited countries.
Add them to your to-do list now!
Andorra: Museum of Miniatures
Tucked away in the small country of Andorra, between Spain and France, is a museum celebrating small things. The Museum of Miniatures, located in Ordino, features an entire collection of micro-art such as Russian Dolls, religious artifacts and even pieces small enough to rest on a grain of rice.
Most Famous For: Nicolai Syadristy
All of the miniature work on display has been created by Mykola Syadristy (Nicolai Siadristy), who is considered the world’s best “microminiaturist.” Born in the Ukraine, the artist is said to do his work between heartbeats and hold his breath, as creating such delicate – and intricate – art requires an extremely smooth hand.
A film shown at the museum spotlights Syadristy’s life, as well as how he works.
Tickets: 4 Euro
Austria: Belvedere Museum
If Vienna’s Belvedere looks like a palace, that's because it is. Built as the summer palace for the Prince of Eugene of Savoy, it is so ornate and beautiful that the prince decided not to live in the palace, but to instead live in a second palace on the lower grounds so he could look up at the original. (You can tour the Lower Belvedere, as well.)
Becoming a museum in 1907, the Belvedere is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains the world’s largest collection of Austrian Gustav Klimt’s paintings, as well as the greatest collection of Austrian art in the world.
Famous For: “The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt painted “Der Kuss,” his iconic piece, using gold leaf to bring the golden hues to life on the 6-foot by 6-foot canvas. Painted in 1908, the Art Nouveau painting was the high point of Klimt’s Golden Period. Considered pornographic when it was first displayed, the oil painting became and remains a favorite, holding a commanding space in the Belvedere.
Tickets: 16 Euro, Upper Belvedere; 14 Euro, Lower Belvedere; 22 Euro, combined ticket
Belgium: Magritte Museum
One of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, this Brussels museum features the largest collection of work by surrealist Rene Magritte. More than 200 works by the esteemed artist, including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and films, have been on display since the museum opened in 2009, garnering awards while welcoming more than 300,000 visitors per year.
An exhibit on Magritte’s “vache period,” which the artist referred to as "surrealism in the sun," highlights paintings from the 1920s through the 1960s.
Famous For: “Son of Man” by Rene Magritte
Even if you don't know the name of Magritte’s most famous paintings, you certainly know his work by the man in the bowler hat. This gentleman appears in a number of Magritte’s works, and has become iconic the world over.
Although this particular painting is privately owned, you’ll see similar work at the Magritte Museum.
Tickets: 10 Euro
Belgium: Oldmasters Museum
In the heart of Brussels, the Royal Museums collection features more than 20,000 pieces of art dating back as far as the 15th century. The Magritte is one of the national museums; another must-visit is the Oldmasters Museum.
Here, you'll find works of art by Peter Paul Rubens, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Robert Campin, to name a few of the famed Flemish artisans who painted, drew and sculpted between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Most Famous For: "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus"
Pieter Bruegel’s paintings inspired poetry, including “Musee des Beaux Arts” by celebrated English poet W. H. Auden.
Although Bruegel's “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” had been the museum’s highlight, a 1996 examination uncovered the work to be a very good copy of his original oil painting from 1560.
The museum admits the current copy was painted in the 1500s, with a composition attributed to Bruegel.
Tickets: 15 Euro
Croatia: Museum of Arts and Crafts
While Croatia is experiencing an insurgence of hip, unique museums that focus on broken hearts, frogs and war photography, one of its oldest and most popular museums remains the Museum of Arts and Crafts.
Established in 1880, the Zagreb museum houses more than 100,000 pieces from the 14th to 21st century, zeroing in on the traditional values of the crafts of Croatians. The museum’s library is one of the finest in Eastern Europe, with more than 65,000 volumes of books and journals.
Most Famous For: “Deer Wedding” by Ivan Generalic
Croatia’s most famous artist,Ivan Generali?, was a prolific naïve artist (lacking professional training). Considered more childlike than traditional folk art, his most famous piece, “Deer Wedding,” is one of many he painted from his village.
Tickets: 40 kn
Croatia: Museum of Broken Relationships
One of the most interesting museums you’ll stumble across on your travels through Europe is Croatia’s Museum of Broken Relationships, in the heart of its capital city of Zagreb. Dedicated to failed relationships, the museum features letters, music, trinkets and personal items from those with broken hearts.
Love is a common theme, but the broken relationships include families separated by war, long-lost parents and siblings, and mothers who have lost children. It’s a moving and intimate collection of donated items, where others have expressed their grief for visitors to relate and connect with.
Most Famous For: Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic
The idea of a broken-heart museum came from two Croatian artists who broke up after four years together. Deciding to relocate their personal items into a museum and asking for donations of similar items from friends, the duo’s broken relationship became an instant partnership hit, opening in Croatia, touring the country and growing to receive accolades for originality.
Tickets: 40 kn
Czech Republic: Museum of Communism
While Prague may offer more traditional museums filled with art, archaeology and history, the Museum of Communism is one visitors should not miss.
The museum recounts fascinating moments in Czech history, from when it was made a communist country in 1948 to its freedom following the Velvet Revolution in 1989. This new museum is one of the most original across Europe, offering a deep-dive look at how Communism affected the country.
Most Famous For: Communist Artifacts
The collection of more than 1,000 artifacts from Communist Czech Republic is organized in three exhibits: the ideals of communism, the reality of communism and the nightmare of communism. More than 267,000 people were killed or sent to work on camps during the 49-year reign of terror. Visitors can sit in a secret police interrogation room and imagine the fear.
Tickets: 290 Kc
Denmark: Thorvaldsens Museum
Denmark's most famous sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen, was also a passionate art collector. Housing not only all of his works, this museum showcases his personal collection of art and antiquities from around the world.
After spending the majority of his life studying and working in Rome, the artist created sculptures of marble and plaster reminiscent of Roman works. He was so masterful as a sculptor, he completed pieces for Napoleon and the Pope.
Thorvaldsen returned to Denmark in 1838, and construction began on a building to house his works. Considered a work of art in its own right, the museum's architect was Golden Age designer Michael Gottlieb Birckner Bindesbøll, who built the Historicism-style building with Thorvaldsen's input next door to the royal palace, Christiansborg Palace.
Most Famous For: Christus Consolator
Perhaps Thorvaldsen's best works can be found in the gallery rooms he designed for the first floor. Plaster copies of some of the sculptor's most famous works placed in European capitals can be viewed all in one place, including casts of Christ and the Apostles statues found in the Copenhagen Cathedral.
Thorvaldsen was buried with his art; his gravesite is located in the museum's courtyard.
Tickets: DKK 70
England: The British Museum
London is home to a number of fantastic museums, but it is the British Museum which receives the most annual visitors – 6 million, in fact!
Sir Hans Sloane, a physician, naturalist and collector of more than 71,000 objects that he bequeathed to King George II upon his death in 1753, is the one we can thank for this magnificent establishment. The museum opened in 1759 and today showcases antiquities from around the world, further collected over the last 250 years.
Most Famous For: Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone, added to the British Museum in 1802, dates back to 196 BC. Made of granodiorite stele, it is inscribed in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic script and Greek script, and unlocked a code to deciphering hieroglyphics.
England: The National Gallery
When you think of London, you may think of Trafalgar Square and the four-lion sculpture standing guard around Nelson’s Column. Two of the lions also rest before the National Gallery, the museum housing paintings from the 13th to 20th centuries.
Opened in 1824, the museum showcases more than 2,300 paintings in a free setting, allowing all citizens of the United Kingdom and its visitors to witness art that was once upon a time only viewed by royalty.
Most Famous For: The Leonardo Cartoon
In 1501, Leonardo da Vinci drew the Virgin Mary being blessed by Saint John the Baptist as children while on the lap of Saint Anne. The sketch, also called a cartoon, was the basis for a famous final painting that you can find at The Louvre.
England: Victoria & Albert Museum
Considered one of the world’s largest museums, the V&A (as it is called) features 145 galleries and spans across 12.5 acres. Named for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the museum began as a collection of the royal couple’s decorative arts, china, furnishings, sculpture and house materials.
Opening in 1852, the museum holds more than 2.2 million items – it’s impossible to see everything in a quick visit.
Most Famous For: Tippoo’s Tiger
Of all the 2.2-million-plus items in the V&A, one of the most talked-about items is Tippoo’s Tiger. The wooden sculpture displays a tiger mauling a British soldier. Actually a container, inside the tiger is an organ that operates by hand-turning it – which makes the soldier move as he flails in the face of the tiger!
France: Louvre Museum
The world’s largest art museum, the Louvre in Paris is a must-visit for any art or history lover. Originally a palace, the museum spans 783,000 square feet and displays more than 38,000 pieces – it is so large, wings of the museum may be closed on various days due to the inability to fully staff the building.
Originally opened in 1793 following the French Revolution, the museum's collection spans from prehistoric times through the 21st century, with much of the art amassed by Napoléon during his quest to conquer other nations. You’ll find Napoleon’s apartments in the Louvre, as well as the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Cairo.
Most Famous For: "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci
Everyone wants to see that famous Mona Lisa smile, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s. Worth more than $820 million, the painting is one of the most valuable works of art in the world. Alas, so many visitors make it difficult to see the painting — you will queue behind velvet ropes that keep viewers at a distance.
Tickets: 17 Euro
France: Musee d’Orsay
The painters of the Impressionism movement were not considered true artists and had to sell their works at a train station on Paris’ Left Bank. Today, this train station is a museum holding the largest collection of Impressionist works by such luminaries as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézzane and Vincent van Gogh.
The train station’s lighting is ideal for the open gallery filled with sculptures from end to end, and views of Paris can be seen from the museum’s clock windows, as well as a rooftop patio. This is considered one of the best museums in all of Europe for very good reason.
Most Famous For: "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years"
Edgar Degas’ paintings and sculptures often focused on ballerinas, with one of his most-renowned sculptures, "La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans" ("Little Dancer of Fourteen Years"), made with a wig of real hair and costumed in an actual tutu, hair ribbon, ballet slippers and bodice. There are 28 additional versions of the ballerina found across the world, but this is the largest and the artist’s favorite.
Tickets: 14 Euro
France: Musee Picasso
Located in the Marais of Paris, this mansion-turned-museum dedicated to Spaniard Pablo Picasso (who spent much of his nearly 70 years of life in France) houses more than 5,000 pieces of the artist’s collection.
Much of Picasso’s works on display – paintings, drawings, sculptures – were donated by the artist’s family. The family also donated his personal notebooks, photographs, letters and other intimate items that can be found within the walls of a building that dates back to the 1600s and was fully renovated and expanded in 2014.
Most Famous For: Picasso Self-Portrait
At age 20, Picasso began his Blue Period with this self-portrait, painted in hues of blue on a blue background. The painting followed the suicide of a close friend and highlighted the pain and depression Picasso felt during this time.
Tickets: 14 Euro
Germany: Pergamon Museum
An amazing institution too often ignored by Americans is Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.
The complex features an antiquity collection, a museum of Islamic art and an entire museum devoted to the Middle East, as well as impressive monuments like the Roman Market Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate.
During World War II, the Germans hid many displays for safekeeping, but the Russian Soviet Red Army was still able to seize a lot of the collection, which it held onto before returning the art in 1958. (St. Petersburg and Moscow still retain some of the items, though.)
The building survived severe damage from WWII bombing, but today is Germany’s most-visited museum.
Most Famous For: Pergamon Altar
The Pergamon Museum’s name comes from its most-famous and largest artifact: a monument constructed in the first half of the 2nd century BC as the top of the ancient Greek acropolis in Pergamon.
The Altar's exhibit hall is in the throes of a complete remodel, and is slated to reopen in late 2019/early 2020.
Tickets: 19 Euro
Greece: Acropolis Museum
When you think of a trip to Athens, visions of the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill are surely on your mind. Rightfully so, as the hill is the most oft-visited attraction in Greece, receiving 7.2 million travelers a year.
To experience the Parthenon, you’ll need to visit the Acropolis Museum, which was made to house every artifact found on Acropolis Hill, extending from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.
Most Famous For: Parthenon
The Parthenon was constructed in 447 BC, originally housing an idol to the goddess Athena for 900 years. The ruins of the marble temple comprise one of the most recognizable monuments in the world.
Tickets: 10 Euros (summer); 5 Euros (winter)
Greece: Benaki Museum
Founded by Antonis Benakis, the Benaki Museum was established to celebrate Greek culture and art and began as the wealthy man’s personal worldwide accumulation of items.
Housed in a neo-classical mansion since 1931, the collection spans across 36 rooms and shows off more than 20,000 objects from the Stone Age through modern day.
Most Famous For: Treasures from Greece
The museum contains items dating back to the Stone Age, including cups from 3000 BC made of gold and silver, a sign of the transition between the Stone and the Bronze Age.
Tickets: 9 Euro
Hungary: Hungarian National Museum
Budapest is filled with iconic palaces and museums showcasing the history of Hungary, which was a stronghold in Europe during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. One of the best ways to uncover its history, as well as its works of art, is at the Hungarian National Museum.
Founded in 1802, originally as a library, the museum has grown to include both Hungarian and international historic pieces, archaeology and art. It is said the museum was part of the 1848 revolution, following the reading of works on its front steps. One reading was of Sándor Petofi's "12 Points;" the other, his Nemzeti dal (National Song). Today, Petofi remains an icon of history as a statue on the steps.
Famous For: "Picnic in May"
One of Hungary's most notable painters, Pál Szinyei Merse was of Hungarian nobility and created work beloved by Emperor Franz Joseph. Trained in Germany, the artist became known for his plein-air paintings, including "Picnic in May," which was painted in 1873.
Tickets: 1600 HUF
Italy: Doge’s Palace
This former palace was home to the Doge, the most powerful representative of the Republic of Venice. It dates back to 1340 and became a museum in 1923.
The palace overlooks both St. Mark’s Square and the Venice Lagoon, connecting to the prison by way of the Bridge of Sighs. You'll feel its power from the moment you enter and see the Golden Staircase, followed by marble, gold-leaf, sculptures and paintings.
You can visit the Doge’s apartments, opera house and prison as well.
Most Famous for: "The Lion of St. Mark"
As the Doge’s Palace overlooks St. Mark’s Square, it is fitting that one of its most famous paintings is Vittore Carpaccio’s “The Lion of St. Mark.”
Painted in 1516, the background is made up of Venice, with St. Mark’s Basilica visible. The lion is the symbol of St. Mark, and the winged animal holds a Bible as he stands on both land and sea as an emblem of power.
Tickets: 20 Euro
Italy: Galleria Borghese
Formerly the home of Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 1600s, the Borghese Gallery contains one of the most extensive collections of artwork in Rome and Italy. An avid collector, the Cardinal himself amassed most of the pieces in this villa, along with more than 100 paintings given to him directly by the Pope, Borghese's uncle. The Borghese collection of sculptures was so vast, many were taken to the Louvre in the 1800s.
You'll find works by Raphael and Caravaggio here, as well as the third-largest public gardens in Rome. (They are free to visit.) The Spanish Steps lead up to the nearly 200-acre park, which was home to equestrian competitions during the 1960 Olympics.
Most Famous For: "The Rape of Proserpina"
Then 23-year-old Gian Lorenzo Bernini created this amazingly detailed sculpture depicting the abduction of Proserpina by the god Pluto, who brought her to the underworld in Roman mythology. Sculpted in 1621-22, the work was immediately praised after its unveiling and continues to attract crowds to the Borghese Gallery.
Tickets: 13 Euro
Italy: Uffizi Gallery
You could spend hours in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, taking in original Renaissance work by artists who called Tuscany home during the period, including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The collection of work grew so large that a renovation project, called Nuovi Uffizi, began in 1989 to provide more space for its myriad paintings, drawings, sculptures and more. That renovation project has already expanded the museum, which includes some 50 rooms, and there's plans to add more space in the coming years.
Most Famous For: "The Birth of Venus"
Botticelli’s famous painting of the goddess Venus standing naked in a scallop shell following her birth from the sea was painted in the 1480s and is considered a Renaissance masterpiece. Botticelli was commissioned to create the painting, which moved to the Uffizi in 1815, by Florence’s powerhouse Medici family.
Tickets: 12-20 Euros
Luxembourg: Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art
There is much to see in the 998 square miles that comprise Luxembourg, a small country found nestled between France, Belgium and Germany. The most popular museum, for good reason, is the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art (often referred to as Mudam) in Luxembourg City.
It is the city's history at every turn that makes the modern art collection such a draw. You'll find nearly 700 pieces of work, from paintings to photography, arts and crafts to fashion and textiles, and furnishings to films.
The modern art found under the glass-roofed modern building stands in stark contrast to the site it was constructed on, which was originally Fort Thüngen. From certain vantage points, it appears as if the museum has been built into the stones of the fort. But it is entirely new, with construction completed in 2006.
Most Famous For: "Darkytown Rebellion"
One of the most stunning visuals at Mudam is by American Kara Walker. Her 2001 work "Darkytown Rebellion" is displayed as a series of black silhouettes on a corner wall, with a colorful protection adding your shadow into the work as you stand before it. The piece, as well as many others by the African-American artist, depicts the history of slaves in the Deep South.
While the silhouettes may appear to be dancing and playful figures, closer inspection reveals the horrors taking place in the antebellum South. Combined with its life-sized graphics, the visual is extremely moving.
Tickets: 8 Euro
Monaco: Top Cars Collection
In a principality known for its Grand Prix, it should come as no surprise that you'll find a museum of automobiles from the private collection of Prince Rainier III. The collection, amassed over 35 years, features 100 classic cars from both the U.S. and Europe.
Within the collection are names such as Alpha Romeo, Lotus, Rolls Royce, Packard, Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. Visitors can even see the car used for the Prince's own wedding in 2011.
The museum is located within the Prince's palace, Palais Princier de Monaco, which also offers a glimpse into the State Apartments.
Most Famous For: Grand Prix Cars
The Prince's collection includes a number of Formula 1 cars that raced on his streets. Race-lovers will see Bugatti Type 35B, driven by the first winner of the Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, as well as Renaults, Ferraris, Mercedes and Toyota from the rally races.
Tickets: 8 Euro
The national museum of the Netherlands, located in Amsterdam, is one of a number of museums within Museum Square. Its predecessor, the National Art Gallery, opened in The Hague in 1800, and the museum's collection spent time inside Amsterdam’s Royal Palace as well.
Today's Rijksmuseum is the largest museum in the country and holds more than a million objects of art – but only 8,000 pieces are on display, as the museum cannot showcase every piece it owns. Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer are highlights of the collection you can marvel at during a visit.
Most Famous For: "The Night Watch"
One of the most famous Dutch artists is Rembrandt, and of his works, “The Night Watch,” is his most recognized work appearing at the Rijksmuseum. The painting of Captain Frans Branning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenhurch before their troops is actually entitled “Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenhurch” but was incorrectly identified for nearly 200 years.
Painted during the 1600s, the piece has called Rijksmuseum home since 1850.
Tickets: 20 Euro
Netherlands: Van Gogh Museum
You won’t find “Starry Night” at this Amsterdam museum dedicated entirely to its native son, Vincent van Gogh. (It’s at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.) You will, however, see many of his finished masterpieces, rough sketches and artifacts from his life, as well as works by many of his contemporaries.
Home to the largest collection of van Gogh work in the world, the museum includes 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters by the artist.
Most Famous For: "Almond Blossom"
Between 1888 and 1890 in Southern France, when he was feeling particularly healthy, van Gogh made a series of calming almond blossom paintings. You’ll find one of them, “Almond Blossom,” a highlight of the Van Gogh Museum.
Tickets: 19 Euro
Norway: Viking Ship Museum
Part of the University of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History, the Viking Ship Museum allows visitors to dive into Viking history.
Uncover preserved ships found in the ocean, as well as unearthed skeletons and artifacts from Viking burial mounds. With a collection of viking ships, household goods, clothing and textiles from the 800s, the museum is truly unique. A series of documentaries and special exhibits add to the fun.
The neighboring Historical Museum explores more worldly exhibits, with collections and artifacts from around the globe.
Most Famous For: Oseberg
The Oseberg was a 30-oarsman Viking ship, intricately designed and made in 820. Discovered buried beneath the ground in 1903, it is believed the ship was a burial ship. Inside the burial mound were the remains of two women, along with clothing, household items, animals and more, indicating they were prominent during their time.
The ship is one of three that can be examined during a visit to the museum.
Tickets: NOK 100; free for children under 18
Poland: Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Many travelers make a pilgrimage to Poland in order to see Auschwitz, a terrifying complex comprised of 40 former concentration camps, where more than 1.1 million people, 90 percent of whom were Jews, lost their lives.
This edifying museum was created in 1947 as a memorial and educational center that more than 2 million people visit each year.
Most Famous For: The first gas chamber
While every part of Auschwitz is disturbing, perhaps the most horrific is Gas Chamber 1, the first gas chamber and crematorium at the camp, which opened in 1940.
Tickets: Free with advanced registration
Portugal: Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Housed in a 17th century palace overlooking the Tagus River, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is one of Portugal’s most important museums. You’ll find everything from Middle Ages-era religious sculptures to art from the Baroque period to Portugal's largest collection of gold and silver ware in this museum that dates back to 1884.
Most Famous For: Saint Vincent Panels
The Saint Vincent Panels feature 58 people gathered around St. Vincent, painted by Portugal’s own Nuno Goncalves in the 1450s. The work was once housed in the Cathedral of Lisbon, but today is a standout attraction at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.
Tickets: 6 Euro
Portugal: National Coach Museum
Much as cars are a symbol of status today, carriages and coaches once denoted prestige. Showcasing mainly the carriages belonging to the royal family of Portugal between the 16th and 18th centuries, the National Coach Museum offers guests the chance to see the interior paintings and posh stylings of this old-fashioned transit.
Queen Amelia created the museum in 1905 in the former Belem Palace’s Horse Riding Arena in Lisbon.
Most Famous For: Pope Clement XI Coaches
King John V of Portugal, known as the Sun King, received a ceremonial coach by Pope Clement XI in 1715. Following the gift, the Pope received three coaches from the Portuguese ambassador in 1716. All four Baroque-designed coaches are on view at the museum.
Tickets: 6 Euro
Russia: Fabergé Museum
Russia is famous for its Fabergé Easter eggs, created for the Russian Tsars by artist Peter Carl Fabergé. See nine of these eggs, along with more than 4,000 items “lost” during Communism, at this one-of-a-kind museum in Saint Petersburg.
Created in 2013, the museum showcases decorative and fine arts along with paintings and jewelry.
Most Famous For: Fabergé Eggs
These ornately detailed enameled eggs open to display hidden jewels and surprises. They were created between 1885 and 1917 for the wives and mothers of Russian rulers.
Tickets: 300 rubles
Russia: State Hermitage Museum
One of the most gorgeous museums in Europe is Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum, simply known as the Hermitage. The second-largest museum of art in the world, it is housed in a former palace of the Russian emperors, founded by Catherine the Great in 1764.
More than 3 million items are part of the collection – too much to display all at once for visitors, who have been welcome to the museum since 1852. Multiple buildings create the full complex: the Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, Small Hermitage, Winter Palace and Hermitage Theater.
Most Famous For: "Madonna Litta"
Painted in the 15th century, "Madonna Litta" was originally credited to Leonardo da Vinci, although there are suspicions that the artist’s student actually created it based on da Vinci's drawing of the figures of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. (That drawing is displayed at The Louvre.)
The painting is named for the Milanese Litta family, for whom the work was created.
Tickets: 700 rubles
Scotland: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Built specifically to be a Palace of Arts for the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition, this beautiful museum and its collection of some of the world's most coveted pieces is a high point to anyone's trip to Western Scotland. The most-often visited museum in the U.K. outside of London showcases priceless works by Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Dalí and Rembrandt, to name only a few.
Scottish and European history remains a focus, as well, with a collection of armor, decorative arts and jewelry from around the continent. The museum received a multi-million dollar, three-year restoration in 2006, adding more rooms for displays. Today, 8,000 pieces are available to view.
Overlooking Kelvingrove Park, the international exhibition palace's main Centre Hall was meant to serve as a concert hall for 3,000 people, and features a walnut-encased pipe organ that's a top attraction.
Most Famous For: "Christ of Saint John of the Cross"
Salvador Dalí's painting, "Christ of Saint John of the Cross," was added to Kelvingrove personally by the artist. The painting, completed in 1951, is based on a 16th-century drawing by a Spanish artist. The drawing inspired a dream of Dalí's and depicts a surrealist view of the crucifixion of Christ.
Partly destroyed in 1961, the refurbished and controversial painting was voted Scotland's favorite painting in 2006.
Spain: Dali Theatre-Museum
In the hometown of noted Spanish artist Salvador Dalí is a museum not only housing his artwork, but serving as his resting place. Specifically requesting a museum that would be a theatrical space for visitors to “leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream,” Dalí is buried in a crypt just below the stage.
The museum features the world's largest collection by the artist, who donated items from his personal collection, including paintings, sculptures, 3D collages and works by Dalí’s friends.
Most Famous For: Mae West Living Room
Inside the theatrical museum is a basic living room that, when looked at from a certain vantage point, creates the optical illusion of being the vaudeville actress Mae West. Dali created the room in the 1930s, during the height of the actress's career.
Tickets: 14 Euro
Spain: Museu Picasso
Born and raised in Spain, Pablo Picasso is honored at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, where more than 4,000 pieces by the artist are on exhibit.
Housed in a collection of five medieval palaces connected by a palm-filled courtyard, the museum showcases paintings, sculptures, drawings, letters, notebooks, and finished and incomplete works. It opened in 1963, while the artist was still alive to contribute to the collection.
Most Famous For: "First Communion"
Although Picasso is most known for his cubism style, his earliest paintings during his schooling include this 1896 painting that first garnered the artist notice in the art world.
Symbolizing a girl’s transition into adulthood, Picasso painted his own father as the father figure in the piece, perhaps indicating his own transition from boy to man.
Tickets: 12 Euro
Spain: Prado National Museum
The national art museum of Spain can be found in the heart of beautiful Madrid, with works from the 12th century to modern day on display.
Spain’s royal family filled the Prado with their private collection before it eventually became a museum for the public. Today, it showcases 1,000 sculptures, 7,600 paintings and 8,200 drawings, among other works across more than 235,000 square feet.
Most Famous For: "Las Meninas" by Diego Velázquez
Painted by Spain’s native son Diego Velazquez in 1656, “Las Meninas” ("The Ladies-in-Waiting") is a Baroque classic work of art. Painted in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid, the oil piece highlights the Spanish Golden Age during the reign of King Philip IV.
Tickets: 15 Euro
Sweden: Vasa Museum
In a Nordic country known for its Vikings and maritime history, it makes sense that the best museum focuses on both.
Located in Stockholm, on an island, this museum is one of the nation's numerous Swedish National Maritime Museums, and welcomes more than 1.5 million annual visitors.
Most Famous For: Vasa
The museum is named for a 64-gun ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Fully salvaged after 333 years at the bottom of the ocean, it provides a rare glimpse into 17th century maritime life.
Tickets: 150 SEK
Switzerland: Kunsthaus Zurich
What began in 1910 has become one of Switzerland’s largest art collections, emphasizing Swiss art from the Middle Ages to modern-day times.
Although Switzerland’s famed artists Alberto Giacometti, Ferdinand Hodler and Peter Fischli are displayed, you’ll also find Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Claude Monet prominently featured.
Most Famous For: Alberto Giacometti Sculptures
The Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti is the main feature of the Kunsthaus Zurich. More than 150 of his sculptures, drawings and paintings are on display, and were presented to the museum by the artist himself. His bronze sculptures famously feature elongated persons, such as that featured on “The Chariot.”
Tickets: 23 CHF
Turkey: Hagia Sophia Museum
Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia has stood on the city’s horizon since 537 AD. Featuring a massive dome, the building began as a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, then became an Ottoman imperial mosque, before being converted into a museum in 1935.
Called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” Hagia Sophia features collections of church, tomb and stone objects.
Most Famous For: Hagia Sophia
The interior collection may be interesting, but the majority of visitors to the Hagia Sophia come to explore the ancient domed structure where emperors have been crowned. The structure contains 104 columns, including some brought in from the Temple of Artemis, and features magnificent marble and tiled mosaics.
Tickets: 60 TL
Vatican City: Vatican Museums
Throughout the centuries, Catholic popes, priests and royal families have amassed an extraordinary collection of artifacts and art.
Inside the Vatican Museums are some of the most important Christian and Renaissance masterpieces in the world. Up to 20,000 people per day explore the collections and St. Peter’s Basilica during the peak of summer, making this the fifth-largest art museum in the world.
Most Famous For: The Sistine Chapel
A visit to the Vatican Museums includes the chance to see the Sistine Chapel, of which the ceiling was painted by Michelangelo more than 500 years ago. The ceiling, which took four years to complete, includes Michelangelo’s religious fresco “The Last Judgment,” as well as tapestries by Raphael.
Tickets: 17 Euro
Wales: National Museum Cardiff
Although the National Museum Cardiff has been open since 1927, its National Museum of Art is a recent addition, opening in 2011. Despite its new position, it houses some of the world's most renowned artists, from the Masters, such as Rembrandt, to Impressionists, like Claude Monet, to contemporary artists, including Pablo Picasso.
Of course, the Welsh museum is also home to works by Wales' best artists throughout the generations, including spectacular paintings and sculptures.
The building itself is much more than an art museum. Inside, visitors may explore archaeology, geology, botany and zoology, as well. The Clore Discovery Centre, also opened in 2011, provides hands-on exploration of items often in storage at the museum. In total, the museum's exhaustive collection encompasses 7.5 million items.
Most Famous For: "La Parisienne"
Of the fine works of art found at the National Museum of Art within Cardiff's National Museum, the most sought-after piece is Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "La Parisienne." Nicknamed "The Blue Lady," the painting is actually of French actress Henriette Henriot.
Renoir first showed the oil painting at the very first Impressionist exhibit in Paris in 1874, where a collector paid just 1,500 francs. Bequeathed to the National Museum of Wales in 1952, the painting is considered the most popular of the museum's collection.