Earlier this year, I took a look at Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards for 2016 and their top 25 destinations across the world, many of which are perfect candidates for a short break. This time round, I’m concentrating on the top 25 museums in Europe, an ideal way in which to spend an hour or two whilst in your city of choice.
1. State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
An absolute pre-requisite, the State Hermitage Museum commands a reputation as one of the finest institutions worldwide, containing an unrivalled collection of over three million artworks housed in a sumptuous palace set on the banks of the Neva, from which the Romanov tsars ruled the Russian Empire. The collection covers all the main European movements, with works on display by a veritable who’s who in the roll call of artistic greats including Canaletto, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, El Greco, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Degas. There’s also an impressive selection of Oriental and Middle Eastern art, as well as treasures from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and Persia.
2. Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Rivalled only by the Louvre for its popularity, the Musée d’Orsay is devoted entirely to French art from 1848 to 1914 and its extensive Impressionist collection is considered the finest throughout the world. Converted from a huge railway station and hotel and opened to the public in 1986, the Orsay is home to a wealth of masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Manet, Sisley and Dégas, in addition to the best van Gogh collection outside Holland.
3. Museo del Prado, Madrid
The Prado is famed as Madrid’s premier tourist attraction and houses one of the oldest – and greatest – art collections in the world. Indeed, of the 16,000 paintings, drawings and prints owned by the Prado, only a fraction are on display at any one time. Highlights include the world’s largest ensemble of paintings by Goya and close to the entire portfolio of Velázquez. The museum also contains an impressive collection of works from the Dutch, Flemish, German and Italian Schools.
5. Acropolis, Athens
The Museum of Acropolis is the newest architectural jewel of the city of Athens and was founded to exhibit all the significant finds from the sacred rock upon which the Acropolis sits, as well as its foothills. The Museum hosts its collections across three levels, as well as in the archaeological excavation that lies at its foundations.
6. Vasa Museum, Stockholm
Centred round its star attraction, the Vasa Museum pays homage to the ill-fated Vasa Warship which sank just 10 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628. Lifted from the seabed in 1961 and faithfully restored, this impressive galleon remains almost intact, despite spending over 300 years underwater and today represents one of Stockholm’s most popular attractions. As well as the ship itself, the museum’s exhibits also recreate life on board and tell of the painstaking savage mission.
8. Musée du Louvre, Paris
Unquestionably the greatest collection of art worldwide, the Musée du Louvre is as renowned for its glass pyramids as it is for the wealth of treasures contained within its palace walls. As well as its vast archaeological collection, Egyptian antiquities and sculptures, the most famous of which must surely be the Venus de Milo, you’ll find a wealth of Italian, Flemish and French masterpieces including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Botticelli, Rubens, van Dyck and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa.
9. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Set in the heart of Museum Plein, the Rijksmuseum is not just considered Amsterdam’s jewel in the crown, but one of the greatest museums worldwide. Best known for its outstanding collection of 15th to 17th-century Dutch paintings, most notably those of Rembrandt and Vermeer, the Rijksmuseum has an extensive portfolio of over one million artworks and enjoys a long and distinguished history, having being founded by Louis Bonaparte, the King of Holland and brother of Napoleon, in 1808.
10. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Home to the world’s largest collection of van Gogh’s masterpieces including some of his most recognisable works of art including Starry Night, The Bedroom and Sunflowers, the Van Gogh Museum provides the most fascinating overview of this intriguing artist’s work. In addition to some 200 paintings, there’s also letters, sketches, drawings and prints by van Gogh, complemented further by a number of works created by his contemporaries including Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso and Pissarro.
11. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Undisputedly the jewel in Florence’s artistic crown, the Uffizi boasts the world’s finest collection of Renaissance art, bequeathed to the city by the mighty Medici family and on display to the public since 1591. Amongst the 1,500 masterpieces exhibited, many dating back as far as the 12th century, you’ll encounter timeless Renaissance classics by a wealth of formidable names including Titian, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli and Da Vinci.
12. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Krakow
A name synonymous with tragedy, persecution and mass genocide, Auschwitz was the largest of the World War II concentration and extermination camps and has come to symbolise one of the most horrific acts in recent human history, And yet today, it represents a poignant and profound place of homage that makes for a most compelling and moving visit for anyone wishing to visit. A rather sombre excursion maybe, but undoubtedly one that will resonate for years to come.
16. Museo Egizio, Turin
Housed in the Palazzo dell’Accademia delle Scienze, this museum opened in 1824 and presents the finest ensemble of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo. Highlights include a statue of Ramses II and the world’s largest collection of papyrus.
17. Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence
Florence’s Accademia has much to rival the Uffizi in terms of artistic brilliance, its star attraction being Michelangelo’s masterpiece of marble, the statue of David. Once you’ve braved the crowds surrounding David and his marble contemporaries, take in the Accademia’s collection of Florentine paintings featuring works by Lippi and Botticelli as well as the Museum of Musical instruments also situated here, its Stradivarius being the prize exhibit.