Many cities the world over are a treasure trove for art, both classical and modern, and the world’s museums and galleries ensure this heritage is accessible to locals and travellers. Everyone has their own opinions on which are the best, and others are defined as being most popular based on visitor numbers. For the art lovers amongst you, we offer, after much debate and in no particular order, a list of our own top ten art galleries around the world. We’d love to hear your own suggestions!
Tate Modern, London, UK: Itself an incredible example of urban regeneration, the Tate Modern has transformed a former Bankside Power Station into one of the world’s most popular galleries, and it offers views of the Thames and St Paul’s to boot. It is home to one of the largest collections of Surrealism in the world and the changing installations in the awe inspiring turbine hall are always unique and memorable. A hop on the Tate to Tate boat takes you down the river to Tate Britain and it’s equally fine collection of British art. Friday Late at Tate nights mean they are both open until 10pm enabling you to dedicate an entire day to your cultural enrichment. And best of all, entrance to both galleries is free.
Musee D’Orsay, Paris, France: We know Le Louvre is possibly the world’s most famous art gallery, attracting a whopping 9 million visitors each year, but we’ve chosen Paris’s Musee D’Orsay as most find it less overwhelming and we love the building, a stunning former train station on the banks of the Seine built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, with a dramatic glass roof. The museum houses a striking collection of Impressionism, including famous works by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Degas.
The State Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia: Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, the State Hermitage occupies a large complex of beautiful historic buildings along the Palace Embankment, including the famous Winter Palace. A day isn’t really enough to do justice to the Hermitage’s vast collection of art, which includes masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso and Rembrandt. Indeed, with over three million items, including the world’s largest collection of paintings, officials say it would take 11 years to examine every single exhibit.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA: Another of the world’s largest museums the iconic ‘Met’ on Fifth Avenue is home to over two million pieces of artwork from around the globe and enough variety for any enthusiast. The building itself is also beautiful, with tall columns, immense stairways and water fountains.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy: Italy is synonymous with art, and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” is one of the many iconic pieces you can admire in the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest museums in the world and Italy’s most celebrated gallery, featuring works from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in a beautiful sixteenth century building in the heart of Florence, originally built as Medici’s administrative centre. The gorgeous internal courtyard is open to the River Arno at the far end.
Prado, Madrid, Spain: One of the largest and most impressive collections in world, the Prado Museum is most famous for its assortment of works from Spanish artists such as Goya, Velasquez, Murillo, and El Greco. There are also fabulous Italian and Flemish collections as well as regular and wonderful temporary exhibitions.
Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy: Spanning nearly nine miles, you can combine exercise with art appreciation at the Roman Catholic Church’s vast collection built up over centuries, which welcomes more than four million visitors annually. The museums feature the art of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo’s famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. The museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in 2006.
Musee Royaux de Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium: Surprisingly understated, this collection is a showcase for the brilliance of Belgian art. It’s collection begins with the late-medieval Flemish pioneers in oil painting, and leads through Pieter Brueghel the Elder and the Younger to Rubens, van Dyck and Jordaens. Other great names in the history of art are represented too, but it is the Belgians who make the deepest impression. The modern art section, displayed over no less than eight floors undergorund, includes works by van Gogh, Matisse, Dalí and Miró.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia: Australia’s oldest public art museum has two magnificent galleries located a short walk apart, both with free entry to the permanent displays, which house one of the most impressive art collections in the Southern Hemisphere. You can wander amongst superb collections of Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous art from the colonial period to the present day as well as collections of European, Asian, Oceanic and American Art. It’s also home to Picasso’s Weeping Woman , which was the victim of an art heist in 1986. The building itself, with its water-wall facade, was completed in 1967, one of Australia’s most controversial but ultimately respected Modernist icons.
Art Institute of Chicago, USA: Located in Chicago’s Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago is another of the USA’s largest galleries and boasts extensive Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections, including more than 30 pieces by Monet, as well as American art, Asian art and a number of Old Masters. The third floor contemporary sculpture garden is always free, and offers great city views.