World's Most Museum-Packed Cities
Any great city worth its salt is going to have a variety of illuminating, inspiring museums to explore. But which metropolises have the most to offer culture-buffs?
According to statistics compiled by the World Cities Culture Forum, the following cities are among the most museum-packed on earth — starting and ending in Europe and traveling through the United States and Asia in between.
The city with the greatest number of museums has nearly 300 to check out. So get to it.
Number of museums: 83
Often regarded as a giant open-air museum, Stockholm flaunts intriguing museums covering a variety of interests, ranging from music to photography to spirits.
Best Museums in Stockholm
The stunning 17th century home to the Swedish Royal Family, The Drottningholm Palace is one of Stockholm's three World Heritage Sites. A large part of the magnificent palace is open to visitors through guided tours.
Relive the magic of ABBA's scintillating music in the ABBA Museum. Watch clips and videos of the band’s performances from around the world, and check out their colorful, delightfully over-the-top costumes.
At the VASA Museum, see the beautifully restored 17th century ship that sank on its maiden voyage of the Stockholm harbor in 1628. Walk through the ship on specially built platforms, almost within touching distance of the original structure.
Number of museums: 90
Admire Bellini or Caravaggio's works without having to deal with the massive crowds that mob Rome, Florence and Venice. Milan, Italy's design capital, has a number of special-interest museums dedicated to the arts, fashion and design.
Best Museums in Milan
Second only to the Uffizi in Florence, the Pinacoteca di Brera has a stunning collection of paintings from the Middle Ages to the Romantic period. Apart from the museum's fabulous collection, get a rare chance to see restoration work in progress in the glass-walled restoration laboratory.
Delve into the mind of the genius Leonardo da Vinci at the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci. Explore his work covering science, material, transport, communication and art through a range of interactive displays and hands-on workshops.
The Museo del Novecento attracts large crowds for many reasons. Apart from its vast collection of art, the museum is housed in a fascist-era building from where Mussolini would address large crowds, and offers spectacular views of the Piazza del Duomo.
Number of museums: 93
Multicultural Brussels is home to an array of exciting and eclectic museums. Chocolate, beer and comics are all on tap.
Best Museums in Brussels
At the small but delightful Horta Museum, explore the personal home of Belgium's master architect and the father of Art Nouveau Design, Victor Horta.
Tintin and Smurfs' fans are in for a treat at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, where comics and their genius creators are the focus. Housed in an Art Nouveau building designed by Horta, the museum is spectacular inside and out.
The Musical Instruments Museum is a music lover’s delight. Browse through the museum’s collection of over 9,000 musical instruments from around the world, and attend concerts, workshops and demonstrations.
Number of museums: 120
Bustling Shanghai, known for its many Michelin-starred restaurants, pulsating nightlife and dazzling skyline, is also home to an impressive array of captivating museums.
Best Museums in Shanghai
Walk through 6,000 years of traditional artwork, including ceramics, bronzes, calligraphy, ink painting and furniture making, at the Shanghai Museum.
Get a chance to understand the history of the city before it boomed at the Shanghai History Museum. Through a mix of exhibits and interactive displays, go back in time to when this bustling metropolis was a small port trading in cotton, silk, fish and tea.
Intrigued by Shanghai's transformation, find out more at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, which further traces this journey to greatness through models, photography and multimedia displays.
The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a one-of-a-kind museum that transports viewers to a time when communication in China was doctored. View posters from the early 20th century, during the heyday of the communist regime.
Number of museums: 131
Taiwan's museums offer something for everyone, from world-class art and ancient history to exhibits that are delightfully wacky.
Best Museums in Taipei
At the National Palace Museum, see some of the finest Chinese artifacts and art in the world, including ceramics, laquerware, paintings, calligraphy, bronzes and religious objects. One of the most sought-after viewings is that of a cabbage head carved from a piece of jadeite, also known as the jadeite cabbage.
The modern Taipei Fine Arts Museum showcases the best of local and international art, and hosts a number of interactive events for children.
For a quirkier experience, explore the wonderful miniatures at the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan, founded by a couple who had a passion for all things small. The museum's impressive collection of miniatures was compiled over several years during the couple's travels across the world.
10. San Francisco
Number of museums: 132
San Francisco has its share of splendid museums as diverse as the city itself. There are museums focused on art, of course, but also one that recreates the magical world of Walt Disney (The Walt Disney Family Museum) and another set inside a former prison (Alcatraz).
Best Museums in San Francisco
Located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum's collection spans artworks from America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and beyond. A big draw is the museum's expansive costume exhibits that feature over 14,000 textiles and costumes from around the world. There's also an exciting multimedia space that allows children to interact with art in innovative ways.
One of the largest modern art museums in the country, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) boasts of a collection of 33,000 works of art, including photography, paintings, architecture, media arts and design. A large living wall with over 19,000 plants is a highlight, featuring nearly two dozen species native to California.
At the Children's Creativity Museum, children rule, and are given plenty of opportunity to unleash their creativity and imagination. From making music to shooting their own videos to writing code to playing with clay, there's something for children of all ages and interests.
9. New York City
Number of museums: 140
The cultural capital of the United States, New York showcases some of the best museums in the country (among many other attractions). From contemporary art to Jewish art to photography to natural history, the city has you covered.
Best Museums in New York
The best place to start is at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, popularly known as “the Met.” Located in sprawling Central Park, the Met's exhibits span the globe from Egyptian treasures, to Roman and Greek sculptures, to African, Indian and Oceanic art. This is one of the largest museums in the world, so set aside ample time to explore as much as you can.
Equally impressive as its collection of contemporary art are the events held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Special screenings, talks, workshops and even a one-night-only beer garden — a special outdoor event that brings together music, local food and brews, plus exclusive after-hours access to galleries — beckon. With its curated activities for children from the age of 4 onwards, the museum is also an ideal option for family time.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum is a poignant reminder of the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001, when the iconic twin towers fell. French photographer and video director Stephane Sednaoui witnessed and filmed the towers crashing from the roof of his building in Lower Manhattan. An exhibition titled Ground Zero draws on his collection of 500 images captured between the 12th and 16th of September.
Number of museums: 144
The Dutch masters — Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer — understandably dominate Amsterdam's museum scene. But in a city with nearly 150 museums, you can bet there’s a lot more on offer as well.
Best Museums in Amsterdam
At the Anne Frank house, view the attic where Anne and her family hid during World War II for nearly two years, and where young Anne penned her now famous diary.
In another canal-house setting, look through a collection of purses and handbags — from 17th-century leather pouches to the latest Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton luxury items — at the Museum of Bags and Purses. What started as a private collection is today a cultural institution housing over 4,000 pieces.
The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedeljik Museum are the holy trinity of art museums in the city, with exhibits spanning from medieval times to today.
Besides art, the city's museums and galleries dedicated to photography are also worth a visit. The Huis Marseille, Museum of Photography, located in a stunning 17th-century canal house in the center of the city, regularly holds special exhibitions, while showcasing works from its collection of 550 contemporary photographs.
Number of museums: 150
Known for its pandas, famous hotpot meals and laidback tea houses, Chengdu has an impressive array of museums capturing Chinese history and culture.
Best Museums in Chengdu
The five-story Chengdu Museum is packed with artifacts and relics from the ancient Kingdom of Shu, the Qin Dynasty, the revolutionary era and modern times. A highlight of the museum is the puppetry and shadow-play gallery.
At the Guanghan Sanxingdui Museum, view over 4,000 relics unearthed in 1929 from the site of Sanxingdui, the ancient capital 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.
Take a break from all that history by visiting the Teddy Bear Museum, which showcases over 1,000 teddy bears. In the China Hall, ancient Chinese stories are recreated and retold using teddy bears — a whimsical, one-of-a-kind experience.
Number of museums: 173
Considering the richness of Japan’s culture and history, it's no surprise that its capital city, Tokyo, touts a long list of fabulous, diverse museums.
Best Museums in Tokyo
Begin at Ueno Park, a large public park located in the center of the city, that’s home to a dizzying array of museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Museum of Nature and Science.
The Tokyo National Museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of Japanese and East Asian art, antiquities and artifacts, including ceramics, calligraphy, swords, paintings and Buddhist treasures. At the National Museum of Nature and Science, delve into the history of civilization in Japan, discover the secrets of flora and fauna evolution, and get your mind blown with an education on the solar system.
Change things up with a visit to the Ghibli Museum, which showcases anime classics such as "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Spirited Away," among other works made by Japan's much-loved Studio Ghibli. Delve into the minds of the creators in a mock-up animation studio. Later, watch one of Ghibli’s short films at the museum’s Saturn Theatre, designed with small children in mind.
At the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, learn a thing or two about mingei, or folk crafts, an essential part of the local culture.
Number of museums: 192
Not only does London have fabulous museums, but most of them are free! On a rainy day, which London gets its fair share of, the city's museums offer much-needed respite.
You’ll be spoiled for choice, as there are museums of every kind here, including ones dedicated to transport, science and Sherlock Holmes.
Best Museums in London
The British Museum has a collection of over 8 million objects, of which 50,000 are on display. Most of these are prized artifacts uncovered by British explorers during their exploits across the world.
Housed in a former power house, the Tate Modern on South Bank showcases thought-provoking modern and contemporary art. All the big names — Picasso, Rothko, Dali, Matisse, you name it — are on display.
The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum building draws attention to both its awe-inspiring Victorian facade and its varied exhibits spanning contemporary fashion, art, ceramics and textiles.
A favorite with both the young and old, the Natural History Museum makes learning fun. (We promise!) Explore its thematically designed galleries dedicated to dinosaurs, creepy crawlies, human evolution and more. Watch out for the life-like Tyrannosaurus that moves and growls.
Number of museums: 201
South Korea's stunning capital, Seoul, has a wealth of museums offering information on the rich culture and fascinating, troubled history of the country. There's even a museum dedicated to Korea's favorite food item: kimchi.
Best Museums in Seoul
Spread over three floors and containing over 320,000 artifacts, the National Museum of Korea is a cultural standout in the city. Go here to see artifacts and exhibits showcasing Korean history and culture, from the prehistoric period to modern times.
At the National Palace Museum of Korea, learn about the Joseon Dynasty, which reigned for five centuries. Exhibits introduce the viewer to the architecture, clothing, royal life, education, culture, paintings and music of this powerful dynasty.
The War Memorial of Korea, located on the former site of the city’s army headquarters, has indoor and outdoor exhibit areas that trace the history of the many wars the country has seen over 5,000 years. Along with the exhibits, you can get a feel for what real-life combat situations are like in the “Combat Experience Room.”
3. Los Angeles
Number of museums: 219
Los Angeles' museums hold their ground and are totally worth a visit, despite the many other competing attractions the city offers. No surprise here: Film, music and visual-arts aficionados in particular are in for a treat.
Best Museums in Los Angeles
The California Science Centre is a magical place for both adults and children. Explore a variety of interesting topics through interactive exhibits, live demonstrations and films. Don't miss the star attraction: the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
At the Grammy Museum, peek behind the curtains to learn how music is made, from inception to recording to completion. Get an inside look at the lives of iconic performers like Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton, to name just a few. Memorable wardrobe pieces are also on display.
The entire collection displayed at The Broad, one of LA's best contemporary art museums, is privately owned. The giant balloon animal by Jeff Koons is not to be missed.
Number of museums: 261
Moscow's museums are a great place to learn about the country's complex history, famous rulers and compelling culture.
Best Museums in Moscow
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow's leading art gallery, boasts of over 180,000 exhibits. Go here for a crash course on Russian art. Guided tours in English are a popular way to explore the museum.
If you've had your fill of seeing the Kremlin from the outside, then step into its museum to view an impressive collection of Russian state regalia, arms and armour.
The red-brick State Historical Museum showcases the history of the people of Russia and the land. Its ornate interiors are a visual delight.
History buffs will love the Cold War Museum, located 65 meters underground in what was once a secret underground military complex.
Number of museums: 297
Paris is the undisputed museum capital of the world, home to masterpieces spanning centuries and the globe.
Best Museums in Paris
The most popular museum in not just Paris, but the entire world, is the Musee du Louvre. Here, the sheer volume of exhibits inspires awe. Classical sculpture, Renaissance paintings, Egyptian antiquities, Islamic art — there’s so much breadth and variety at this cultural institution that it’s estimated it would take roughly nine months to explore it in full.
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece “Mona Lisa” is famously displayed here, but often mobbed by crowds. The artist’s other paintings on display, including “St. John the Baptist” and “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne,” are equally worthy of a visit.
Resembling an amusement park, the Centre Georges Pompidou is known for its extensive collection of modern art as well as its unique architecture. The building has been designed as an "evolving spatial diagram," and pays homage to the iron structures of the Industrial Age.
Step back in time as you visit the Musee d'Orsay, a former railway station that now houses one of the world's largest collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art by the likes of Monet, Renoir, Manet, Cezanne and other greats.
More Great Museum Cities
The World Cities Culture Forum doesn't include stats on a few other cities known for their wealth of museums.
If you want to add to your bucket list, you should start with Mexico City. The cultural hub is home to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, one of the finest archaeological museums on the planet, as well as museums focused on the works of national favorites like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
In the U.S., Washington, DC's museums are notably all free, and provide an exemplary education on American history, air travel, spycraft, the Holocaust and so much more.
History buffs will marvel at the institutions in Athens, Greece, where ancient Greek artifacts abound at the National Archaeological Museum, and you can also step back in time at the Byzantine and Christian Museum and Museum of the Ancient Agora.
And then, of course, there's Rome, where museums devoted to history, art and even cuisine (there's a museum dedicated to pasta!) meet; Beijing, which hosts museums both traditional (the Beijing Museum of Natural History) and not (the Tank Museum; the Bee Museum of China); and Barcelona, where you absolutely can't miss CosmoCaixa, one of Europe's most extensive, spectacular science museums.
The world is, in short, full of cities touting a fantastic array of museums. You can't possibly fit them all in over your lifetime. But you'd be wise to see as many as you can.